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10th February, 20215 min read

Can you have sex while pregnant?

Medical reviewer:Dr Adiele Hoffman
Author:Caroline Bodian
Last reviewed: 09/02/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

When you’re pregnant, it’s normal to have worries about whether certain things will harm your baby, from what you eat to your lifestyle choices. So you may be wondering: could sex have a negative impact on your pregnancy?

The good news is that, in general, it’s safe to have sex while you’re pregnant. But read on to learn more, including whether sex can bring on labour, when you might be advised to avoid it, and what positions can be most comfortable during pregnancy.

Is it safe to have sex while pregnant?

Unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to, it’s safe to have sex while you’re pregnant.

You might have concerns that sex will harm your baby, but you can rest assured: your partner’s penis can’t go any further than your vagina. Besides, your baby is protected in your womb, safely surrounded by a cushioning bag of water (amniotic fluid). When you have sex, your baby may feel the movement, but this is completely harmless.

It’s worth noting, however, that you might not always feel like having sex during pregnancy. For some people, the idea that it might harm their baby can affect their sex drive (libido). Your desire for sex can also be affected if you feel tired, sick (nauseous) or overwhelmed during pregnancy.

On the other hand, some people find their libido actually increases during pregnancy.

Can sex bring on labour or set off contractions?

Don’t worry – having sex won’t cause you to go into early labour. But if your labour is due to start anyway, sex may help it along.

This is because the fluid produced by a penis (semen) contains hormones that can help the entrance of your womb (cervix) to soften and relax. Plus, during sex, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which is also released during labour.

Later in pregnancy, sex or an orgasm may trigger mild contractions, known as Braxton Hicks contractions. They may be uncomfortable, but they're nothing to worry about and they don’t mean you’re going into labour. If this happens, just try some relaxation techniques or lie down until they pass.

When should you avoid sex during pregnancy?

Your midwife or doctor may advise you to avoid sex if:

  • you’ve had any heavy bleeding during this pregnancy – sex may increase the risk of more bleeding
  • there are any problems with the entrance of your womb (cervix)
  • you’re having twins and are in the later stages of pregnancy
  • you’ve had previous early labours and are in the later stages of pregnancy
  • your waters have broken – sex may increase the risk of infection

If you (or your partner) are having sex with someone who may have a sexually transmitted infection (STIs), it’s important to use barrier contraception, such as a condom, to protect both you and your baby. If you think you might have an STI, you should get tested.

You should also avoid oral sex if you or your partner have a cold sore. This is because the same virus also causes genital herpes, which could put your baby at risk of a serious illness called neonatal herpes.

There’s no evidence of a link between sex during pregnancy and miscarriage. If you have had recurrent miscarriages in the past, depending on the reason for the miscarriage, your doctor may recommend that you don't have sex during the first 3 months of pregnancy, or around the time your period would normally have been due. In most people if your pregnancy is normal, having sex and orgasms won't cause a miscarriage.

What are good sex positions while pregnant?

As your pregnancy progresses and you get bigger, you may find certain sexual positions uncomfortable, including sex with a partner on top.

Lying flat on your back in the later stages of pregnancy can cause you to feel faint, so it may also be best to avoid positions where you are lying flat on your back for more than a few minutes

Instead, you may want to try side-by-side positions – either facing each other or with your partner behind. It’s important to talk to your partner, so you can work out what you’re both comfortable with.

Key points

  • in general, it’s perfectly safe to have sex while you’re pregnant
  • having sex won’t harm your baby or cause early labour – though if labour is about to begin anyway, sex may help
  • there are certain reasons for avoiding sex during pregnancy, including if you’ve had heavy bleeding while pregnant or you have problems with your cervix
  • your midwife or doctor will tell you if there’s a reason you should avoid sex
  • in the later stages of pregnancy, you may find side-by-side sexual positions more comfortable
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Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.