Although you probably know everything about sex by the time you get pregnant—after all, it’s what landed you in this situation in the first place—you may still have plenty of questions about knocking boots while you’re knocked up. Those might include “Am I going to hurt the baby?” and “Will it know we’re having sex?” And women aren’t the only ones with these fears: “Many guys are nervous about this, trust me,” says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School. But there’s no need to freak out about getting your freak on. Here’s the way-reassuring lowdown on having sex when you’re pregnant:
Yes, it’s safe
“Sex in general is absolutely fine,” Dr. Minkin says. Take it from us—you are not going to poke your fetus, she won’t know Mommy and Daddy are doing it, and for most women, there’s no reason not to twist the sheets throughout the trimesters. That’s especially true if your due date has come and gone. Sperm is rich in hormones called prostaglandins, which can actually stimulate the uterus to contract. That’s why, Dr. Minkin says, “We tend to encourage people to be sexually active if they’re post-[due] date.”
For this reason, though, women who are being treated for pre-term labor—meaning they are at risk of going into labor early—should not be having sex; that sperm could bring on unwanted contractions, Dr. Minkin says. And you’ve been diagnosed with placenta previa, a condition in which the placenta is covering your cervix, you, too, should abstain (from both intercourse and having orgasms altogether, alas). Otherwise, you risk causing the placenta to bleed.
Any position is fair game
There’s no right or wrong way to have sex when you’re pregnant—you’re not going to crush the baby doing missionary or lying on your belly. Just choose the position that feels good for you. That said, “rear entry or woman on top seem to be more comfortable,” Dr. Minkin notes.
It’s normal if you don’t feel like it…
While intercourse is totally fair game while you’re pregnant, don’t be surprised if you’re just not in the mood. Women have less sex in the third trimester than in any other, studies show, probably because they’re so physically bulky and tired by that point, Dr. Minkin says. Then there’s the release of the hormone prolactin, which occurs all throughout pregnancy and may reduce libido. Body image can also do a number on you; so much of libido is psychological, and it’s possible that your rapidly changing shape could have you feeling out of sorts in your own skin, and less attractive as a result (though say it with us—you are one gorgeous mama, extra pounds and all).
…but you just might
That said, your newfound curves could just have you (and your partner) raring to get busy. Plus, if you were always nervous about sex because you didn’t want to get pregnant, the fact that that’s no longer an issue can be liberating, Dr. Minkin points out. “It’s the same as women who go on birth control and have a great libido,” she says.
If you think your partner might have an STI, steer clear
Your own health concerns aside, Dr. Minkin insists that you avoid having sex with anyone you think might have a sexually transmitted infection during your pregnancy. Don’t know? Have him get tested. It’s not enough to use protection, since no contraception is 100% effective in blocking STIs. Say you contract gonorrhea or chlamydia and deliver, for instance. Your baby could pick up that bacteria as it passes through the birth canal, potentially developing blindness as a result. Every infant delivered in a hospital today is given eye drops at birth to prevent this condition, called opthalmia neonatura, but you can never be too careful. Says Dr. Minkin: “Why do something stupid?”