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Sex During and After Pregnancy

Sex During and After Pregnancy

By Barb Dehn, NP

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Many women have questions about whether it's OK to have sex during pregnancy, if intimacy will lead to labor or bleeding and whether it's normal to be lots more interested in sex or completely turned off. 

The trouble is, very few of us are comfortable asking our health care providers and so rely on friends or the internet for information.

The truth is:

  •  Everyone is different, and it's completely normal and natural to have hesitations about being sexually active while being pregnant.
  •  Unless you're bleeding or have an infection, sexual activity is OK and won't hurt the baby.

Feeling Frisky—or Not

Many women experience a happy surprise with an increased interest in sex when they're pregnant. This may be a result of the increased blood flow to the pelvic region leading to more spontaneous lubrication and more powerful orgasms.

As the hormones increase, the breasts also start getting larger. Women and their partners can be turned on by the changes in the breasts or find that the rapid growth results in pain and tenderness in the breasts and nipples, leading to hesitation or avoidance of intimacy. Both experiences are normal.

Often the combination of nausea, fatigue, anxiety and hormone fluctuations make sex seem like the last thing you want to do. You may feel so tired that all you want to do is sleep. Some couples avoid intercourse because they feel like the baby is watching, or because your new figure, stretch marks or other body changes are less than flattering.

Celebrity photos of perfect post-pregnancy bodies may also cause women a little body image concern. All these feelings are normal.

Whatever your desires, or lack of desires, the most essential aspect to your sexuality while pregnant is open communication with your partner

After the Birth

Giving birth, whether vaginally or by cesarean section, is difficult on your body. After a woman delivers a baby, It typically takes four to six weeks until she is ready to have sex. Talk to your  health care provider for an individualized timeline.  

Even after you are given the "OK," you may  feel too fatigued for sex. Don't worry—you can enjoy intimacy in other ways.

  •  Exchange romantic text messages with your partner throughout the day.
  • Cuddle in bed before going to sleep or before getting up.
  • Take time to kiss.
  • Verbally affirm each other. Saying "I love you" goes a long way.
  • Be creative. Try different positions. Lying side-by-side, or spooning, may be more comfortable than traditional positions.
  • Intercourse isn't the only way to be intimate. Oral and manual stimulation are wonderful ways to stay connected.

Red Flags

There are certain things to be on the lookout for. If you experience any of the following, do not have sex. Consult your health care provider if you have:

  • Vaginal or abdominal pain
  • Blood or fluid leaking from your vagina
  • Yellow or green discharge from your vagina
  • Pain and/or frequency with urination 

Your provider might also recommend avoiding sex if:

  • You're carrying multiples
  • You have a history of preterm labor
  • Your placenta partially or fully covers the cervical opening.

This blog originally appeared on Nurse Barb's Daily Dose. Barb Dehn is a women's health nurse practitioner, award-winning author and nationally recognized health expert. She practices with Women Physicians in the Silicon Valley of California.