Sex During Pregnancy: What Works, What Doesn't

sex during pregnancy - pregnant couple kissingCongratulations on your pregnancy! The next several months will be a time of growth (literally and figuratively), wonder and change.

Speaking of which...you're probably already wondering about lifestyle changes. Hopefully, you've committed to a smoke-free, alcohol-free pregnancy both for your own health and that of your baby. And, hopefully, you've talked to your health care professional about diet and exercise, your work routine and any signs or symptoms that might spark worry.

But have you thought about your sex life? Yes, sex. Believe it or not, there can be Sex During Pregnancy: What Works, What Doesn't!

First, let's talk about Sex During Pregnancy: What Works, What Doesn't, as in, "Will I want it?" One study found that 82 percent of women thought sexual activity should occur throughout the entire pregnancy, and an analysis of several studies found that only about 10 percent of women abstain entirely throughout their pregnancies. Clearly, sex is happening, it can be satisfying and safe, and it can strengthen the bond between a couple.

Some women seem to want to have more sex during their first and second trimesters-although not their third. That's not to say that late pregnancy sex is entirely out of the question! One study of 188 women found that 80 percent participated in sexual activities (including intercourse) during their third trimester. And, during their birth week, 39 percent had intercourse. However, when women actively avoid sex during their third trimester, studies find that it is mainly because they fear bringing on early labor or hurting the baby. Interestingly, other research finds that women tend not to have as many orgasms during their third trimester, and that their clitorises are not as sensitive (which could account for the orgasm decline). Women also report more vaginal discomfort as pregnancy progresses.

However, if you want to have sex throughout your pregnancy and your health care professional gives you the green light, rest assured that you and your baby should be just fine. Moreover, there is no evidence that sexual activity in late pregnancy increases the risk of preterm delivery between 29 and 36 weeks gestation. Research found that women who had orgasms during late pregnancy also reduced their risk of preterm delivery.

So, while sex may be considered good and good for you during pregnancy, you may have some surprising "side effects" from certain sexual activities during pregnancy—particularly late in pregnancy. You might notice leaking of a milky substance from your breasts, mild abdominal cramps if your partner fondles your breasts, changes in vaginal lubrication, discomfort and soreness in the vagina, cramping, or a little urine leakage. These are all relatively normal. You may also find that some sexual positions are more comfortable and satisfying than others. However, if the cramping continues for hours after having sex or if bleeding occurs, call your health care provider just to be on the safe side-it is never a bad idea to check with your provider for any symptoms that you find worrisome.