Sex During Pregnancy: What to Expect

by Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D. Health Professional

When you are pregnant, you may have questions about having sex: Is it safe? Will it feel different? Fortunately, most women can continue to have sex throughout pregnancy with no problems. It can, in fact, be healthy for you and your partner to continue to have a rich sex life. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t normal changes that can occur, such as changes in frequency. Read on to learn everything you need to know about sex during pregnancy.

Man talking to pregnant woman in brightly lit home

Will Sex Hurt the Baby?

One thing many couples report is that the father is worried about hurting the baby during sex. In one study, as many as 80 percent of men said they had this concern, although that concern did not cause a noticeable decrease in their sexual satisfaction. The good news is that this fear is unfounded: The baby is safely tucked away in the amniotic sac and won’t be hurt during sex, according to March of Dimes.

obgyn doing sonogram

Medical Reasons to Avoid Sex

There are times in pregnancy when you should not have sex. This may be for a short period of time, or it can last longer, depending upon the reason. According to March of Dimes, reasons to avoid sex include: Your water has broken, you are bleeding vaginally, you are experiencing or have experienced preterm labor, you are pregnant with twins or more, and you are not yet at full term. Your doctor or midwife can give you details about when to avoid sexual intercourse during pregnancy.

Pregnant lesbian couple relaxing on sofa

Other Sex Acts May Also Be off Limits at Times

If your doctor has told you to avoid sex for a specific medical reason, you might think they only mean sexual intercourse. Be sure to clear what physically intimate activities are OK during this time. Sometimes those off-limits activities can include nipple stimulation or play, or orgasms, either alone or with a partner, even outside of sex. Don’t hesitate to ask about the specifics as many practitioners don’t always offer them outright.

couple in bed, man asleep and woman awake

Sexual Appetites Change in Pregnancy

If you haven’t been told to avoid sex for a medical reason, it’s perfectly safe. However, it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that your desire for sex and intimacy in pregnancy might vary. The truth is that most people’s sex lives wax and wane, and that’s no different during pregnancy. It should also be noted that these changes don’t just affect you — they can affect your partner as well.

woman on top of man in bed

Sex During the First Trimester

Your body may not undergo much physical change during the first trimester, but a perceptive partner might notice that your vagina feels a bit fuller as the area becomes more engorged with blood or more lubrication. This can mean orgasms for the first time or even multiple orgasms. The real hurdle in the first trimester is how you’re feeling. If you are feeling good — not too tired and no morning sickness — you and your partner may be able to enjoy birth control-free sex. (But remember: Being pregnant does not protect you from getting sexually transmitted diseases.)

smiling couple in bed

Sex During the Second Trimester

The second trimester is sometimes called the “honeymoon phase” of pregnancy. You’re usually feeling better than you did in the first trimester, and your belly isn’t yet in the way. That said, you and your partner might enjoy second trimester sex without too many noticeable changes. Sometimes, as your belly starts to grow, your partner might voice concerns about the baby being bothered by sex — but remember, it won’t hurt the baby.

man's and woman's hands around pregnant belly

Sex During the Third Trimester

The third trimester can be hit or miss when it comes to sex. You might feel sore and achy, and your belly is bigger. These factors can present physical challenges. Don’t hesitate to use more woman-on-top positions, side entry, or hands and knees positions for sex. Be sure that you tell your partner what feels good and what doesn’t. For example, more shallow penetration might feel better for you as you get closer to having the baby. It is normal to experience a decrease in sex in the later part of pregnancy.

Sleeping husband wide awake pregnant wife.

Mismatched Sex Drives

Something that plagues all couples is the potential for a mismatched sex drive. This can mean that you disagree on the frequency or simply the timing of sex. Remember that there are other things that you can do to enjoy each other’s company, including those of a sexual nature. For example, perhaps you’re not interested in intercourse, but snuggling and mutual masturbation work well. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

clothed pregnant couple kissing

Sex at the End of Pregnancy

At the very end of pregnancy, you may notice that you don’t have much desire to have sex. But you may have also been told that sex at the end of pregnancy can help put you into labor. This has been studied a lot; one study showed that when one group was told that sex at the end of pregnancy was safe and a second group was told that not only was is safe, but that it may help start labor, the second group had more sex. However, both groups had similar rates of labor inductions.

pregnant couple in kitchen talking and laughing

The Importance of Communication

In the end, what matters most is what you and your partner want and agree to do. This might be something you discuss often as the variables change throughout pregnancy. You may notice that you have intercourse less frequently as the pregnancy goes on, but that the pleasure you derive from sex is greater than it was pre-pregnancy. Be sure to talk to your doctor or midwife if you have concerns, and until further notice — enjoy yourselves!

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D.

Robin Elise Weiss, Ph.D., LCCE, CLC, AdvCD(DONA) is a childbirth educator, doula, founder of, and the award-winning pregnancy and parenting author of “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Pregnancy” and more than 10 other books. Between her nine children, teaching childbirth classes, and attending births for more than two decades, she has built up an impressive and practical knowledge base. You can follow Robin on Twitter @RobinPregnancy, Instagram @Robineliseweiss, and Facebook @childbirthtrainings.