How Does Sex Affect Pregnancy?

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A healthy sex life can add comfort and relieve stress during pregnancy. Still, some parents-to-be worry about continuing with their sex lives during the woman’s pregnancy. Some worry that it could, perhaps, harm a fetus. Others wonder when sex should cease. Most want to know which sex acts are okay during pregnancy. To help answer those questions, consider the mother’s health, the progress of the pregnancy and the feelings of both partners.

Effects

In normal, low-risk pregnancies, sex is considered safe and healthy. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the mother’s comfort and desire for sex should dictate when to have sex. Remember that certain positions and sex acts may be uncomfortable during stages of pregnancy, so patience and considerations are key. In a high-risk pregnancy, doctors may suggest limiting or avoiding sex (see Considerations).

Time Frame

During the first trimester (three months) of pregnancy, a woman often experiences tender body parts, nausea and swelling. Sex may be uncomfortable, and a woman’s sex drive may be low. In the second trimester, sex drive often returns, as morning sickness and swelling become less common. Weight gain by the final trimester may make sex uncomfortable, although it is still possible if both partners desire it.
According to the Nemours Foundation, your doctor or midwife may suggest stopping sex during the final weeks of pregnancy, because sperm contains a chemical believed to stimulate contractions.

Considerations

In higher-risk pregnancies, health providers may recommend against having sex. Common reasons for avoiding sex during pregnancy include vaginal bleeding, leaking fluid, a premature opening of the cervix, or a torn placenta. In addition, women with a history of difficult pregnancies or premature labor may be advised not to have sex.

Misconceptions

Sex will not cause a miscarriage in a healthy pregnancy. The physical act of penetration cannot harm the fetus, which is protected by an amniotic sac and the mucous plug in the woman’s cervix. Most miscarriages occur due to genetic problems or other health issues. Orgasm can cause a reaction that may feel and look like contractions. These are not birth contractions and are not linked to premature labor.

Warnings

According to the Mayo Clinic, most sex acts are safe during pregnancy. If a woman receives oral sex, however, air must not be blown directly into the vagina. This can lead to a life-threatening embolism (blockage) in a blood vessel. Partners who practice anal sex may want to abstain during pregnancy; this can spread infection-causing bacteria into the vagina. Pregnant women should insist on condom use if their partner has a sexually-transmitted disease or one or both persons has other sex partners.

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