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Q&A: When should I stop having sex during pregnancy?

Couples vary quite a bit in how much sex seems right and desirable during pregnancy. Assuming you are in the “go for it” group, the answer to this (believe it or not) is really when you break your water, assuming your pregnancy is uncomplicated. Yes, you can make love right up to the last minute!

A few caveats:

  • Throughout pregnancy, sex should be avoided if you are having vaginal bleeding or leakage of fluid.
  • Sex may lead to some uterine contractions, due to the pelvic contractions of orgasm and substances in semen called prostaglandins. As long as the contractions stop within an hour or two, it is considered normal. Ongoing preterm contractions should be reported to your doctor or midwife.
  • The belief that sex can induce labor is probably mythological, although if you have sex near when labor was destined to begin maybe it will give it a kick start. Sex doesn’t cause preterm labor.
  • If sex hurts, stop. The purpose of sex during pregnancy is closeness and pleasure. If you are having sexual difficulties, your doctor or midwife can provide evaluation and advice.
  • Many moms- and dads-to-be do not feel like having sex during pregnancy. For the mother, this may be due to nausea, fatigue, discomforts, or body image issues. Some men are turned on by their partner’s new curves, while others are conflicted about a pregnant woman being the object of sexual desire. For both parents, fear of hurting the baby, a sense of the fetus as “observer,” and changes in their relationship may play in. If your desires don’t match up, this is a chance to practice the good communications skills you will need in shared parenting. Talk it out, using “I” statements that express your feelings without accusation. Often a compromise can be achieved that meets both your needs.
  • If you develop any complications of pregnancy your doctor or midwife should address whether sex is OK, but it can’t hurt to ask specifically about sex if you are wondering. And when I say specifically I mean it—what exactly is OK? Orgasm? Penetration? Ejaculation? If you want to know, you may need to ask.

While many couples decrease their frequency of intercourse or cease sexual contact towards the end of pregnancy, others want to continue this expression of their love and desire. Sex is a normal natural part of adult life, and so is pregnancy. The best advice (assuming your pregnancy is going well) is to do what feels right to you. Enjoy it all!

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