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Sex and Pregnancy

Most sexual activity is normal and healthy throughout pregnancy. However, changes in your body and your hormones may affect your sex drive, causing it to increase or decrease. This is normal and not anything to worry about. It’s important to talk with your partner about how you are feeling. If you aren’t interested in sex, remember that there are many other ways to be intimate together.

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

When is sex not safe?

How soon after my baby is born can I have sex?

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Pregnancy

Is it safe to have sex during pregnancy?

  • If you are having a healthy, normally progressing pregnancy, sex is considered safe during all stages of pregnancy. Your baby is safely protected and cushioned, floating in the amniotic fluid inside your uterus and closed off by the cervix. Sexual activity will not harm your baby.
  • Desire for sex will be different for each pregnant person and may vary during the different trimesters.
    • In the first trimester, you may be less interested in sex. This may be due to nausea (morning sickness), tender breasts and/or fatigue. For some couples, the anxiety of becoming a parent may also affect sexual desire. Sex does not increase the risk of miscarriage.
    • In the second trimester you may become more interested in sex as you may be feeling better and have more energy. The vagina becomes engorged (swollen) with the extra blood flowing through the area and vaginal lubrication increases. You may orgasm more easily and intensely. For some, a new heightened sense of their changing bodies makes them more sexually expressive.
    • During the last trimester you may feel tired and “awkward” as your belly size increases making some positions uncomfortable. Some couples are thinking about the upcoming birth and become less interested in sex.
  • Talking to your partner about your sexual relationship is important. Talk about other ways to satisfy sexual needs such as kissing, caressing and holding each other. You may want to experiment with other positions for sex to find the ones that are most comfortable. Pregnant person on top, side-lying or on all fours may be more comfortable.
  • After vaginal sex:
    • It’s not unusual to have some light spotting (a few drops of blood in your underwear) as the cervix is more sensitive during pregnancy. If you have more than spotting, you need to see your healthcare provider to be assessed.
    • You may feel cramps or contractions in your uterus (related to the release of the hormone oxytocin in your body during orgasm &/or prostaglandins in your partner’s semen). There is no evidence that this will cause preterm labour. Contractions normally stop after a few minutes.
  • Oral and anal sex safety:
    • Ask your partner to be very careful NOT to blow air into your vagina during oral sex. This could force air into your blood stream, which could be fatal to both you and your baby. 
    • If your partner has a cold sore (herpes virus), DO NOT have oral sex as you can become infected.
    • NEVER have vaginal sex AFTER anal sex as this can spread harmful bacteria into your vagina.
  • Sex toy safety:
    • Every sexual encounter with a sex toy may be different. It’s important to use a condom over the toy and change condoms between sex acts.
    • Always refer to the cleaning instructions for each individual toy.
    • Refer to the When is sex not safe? section as these apply when using a sex toy as well. Speak with your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

When is sex not safe?

Your healthcare provider may advise against sexual activity if:

  • You have a history of preterm labour or premature birth.
  • You are leaking amniotic fluid from your vagina (ruptured membranes).
  • You are bleeding from your vagina.
  • Your cervix starts to open prematurely.
  • You have a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix (placenta previa).
  • You or your partner has a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
  • You are pregnant with multiples (March of Dimes).

How soon after my baby is born can I have sex?

Only you will know when you are ready to have sex again after the birth of your baby. Generally, you can have sex again when you have stopped bleeding and have recovered from your birth. Talk to your healthcare provider. Make sure you and your partner are both ready and you have chosen a type of birth control. If you plan to breastfeed, it's important to discuss methods of birth control that are reliable and do not affect breastfeeding with your doctor.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) in Pregnancy

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are infections that you can get from unprotected sex or intimate contact with an infected person. During pregnancy, you can become infected with the same STIs as people who are not pregnant. Pregnancy does not provide you or your baby any protection against STIs. The consequences of a STI can be very serious for you or your baby. Since there are a number of STIs, it is important that you are aware of the harmful effects of these infections. It’s important to know how to protect yourself and your unborn baby from infection.

How do I know if I have a STI?

  • The only way you will know if you have a STI is to get tested.
  • You will be screened for STIs during pregnancy as part of your routine care. Speak with your healthcare provider about your results.
  • Many people with STIs do not experience any symptoms and therefore do not know that they are infected.
  • Others may experience:
    • Discharge from genitals.
    • Burning during urination.
    • Pain in your lower abdomen.
    • Sores or rash on genitals.
    • Pain with sexual activity.

How can my baby become infected?

  • STIs can be passed from a pregnant person to their baby.
  • Some STIs cross the placenta and infect the fetus during its development.
  • Other STIs are passed from the mother to the infant as the infant passes through the birth canal.
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can cross the placenta during pregnancy, infect the newborn during the birth, and also infect an infant as a result of breastfeeding.

How can STIs affect my baby?

Harmful effects of STIs on the baby may include:

  • Eye infections.
  • Low birth weight.
  • Acute hepatitis.
  • Increased risk of stillbirth.
  • Blisters and/or rash.

If you suspect you have a STI request testing with your doctor. This is one way to protect your baby’s health and your own.

Should a pregnant person be tested for STIs?

  • Any pregnant person can get an STI.
  • You should be screened for chlamydia, gonorrhea, Hepatitis B, HIV, and syphilis.
  • Although it may be uncomfortable to discuss these infections with your doctor, it is important to talk about them. Some of these infections could affect your unborn baby and can be treated.
  • Talk to your doctor about testing for STIs, it is important for the health of your baby.
  • Or visit the Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Clinic
    The STI Clinic operates on a drop-in basis. No appointment is needed and clients do not have to present a health card. STI testing and treatment are provided at no charge.

    STI Clinic Hours: (No appointment)
    Monday and Wednesday 4:30 pm – 7pm
    Wednesday 8:30 am – 10:30 am

 
Date of creation: February 27, 2013
Last modified on: September 17, 2019

References

2HealthLInkBC. (2019 February 20). Sex During Pregnancy. Retrieved from
https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/hw194974
3SOGC Pregnancy Info. Sex and pregnancy. Retrieved from
https://www.pregnancyinfo.ca/your-pregnancy/healthy-pregnancy/sex-and-pregnancy/
4March of Dimes. (2015 June). Sex During Pregnancy. Retrieved from
https://www.marchofdimes.org/pregnancy/sex-during-pregnancy.aspx
5HealthyFamiliesBC. (2013 August 3). Healthy Sex During Prengancy. Retrieved from
https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/healthy-sex-during-pregnancy
6Mayo Clinic. (2018 July 10). Sex during pregnancy: What's OK, what's not. Retrieved from
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/sex-during-pregnancy/art-20045318
7NHS. (2018 January 30). Sex in pregnancy Retrieved from
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/sex-in-pregnancy/