Healthcare provider and patient discussing if sex during pregnancy is safe

Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

Medically reviewed on July 11, 2023 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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When pregnant, it’s natural for parents to take every precaution to protect their growing baby. Pregnant women should have frequent prenatal check-ups with their healthcare provider to evaluate the pregnancy's development, they should consume a balanced and healthy diet, and avoid dangerous drugs and harmful toxins like alcohol, cigarettes, and specific food products.

That said, some couples may worry that having sex during pregnancy may harm the fetus. But this isn’t likely to be true. Having sex while pregnant will not typically provoke a miscarriage and is often safe unless stated otherwise by a healthcare provider. [1]

Sex and Pregnancy

Is sex safe during pregnancy?

During conception, a fertilized egg will travel down the fallopian tube and implant itself into the uterus, where it will grow for the next 40 weeks. [2] That said, the vagina ends at the base of the cervix, the lower part of the uterus. During pregnancy, the cervix closes until the third trimester to protect the baby. [3] Thus, the uterus (and fetus) is rarely impacted during penetrative sex.

The female body is equipped to protect a growing fetus. The powerful muscles of the uterus protect the baby and surround it in amniotic fluid, which shields the baby from stress that may occur to the mother’s abdomen, provides a cushion between the fetus and the umbilical cord, and protects the fetus from infection, thanks to its antibacterial properties. It also provides fluids and nutrients to the baby and helps facilitate normal development of the organs and various bodily systems. [4]

All that said, while sex is unlikely to affect your baby, pregnancy may alter your comfort or desire during sex. [1]

Changes in Sex During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, hormonal shifts, physical changes in the body, and the presence of common pregnancy symptoms like fatigue, nausea, and increased sensitivity can impact your sexual desire and overall comfort during sexual intercourse. [5]

During pregnancy, the body experiences a surge in hormone production. Estrogen and progesterone levels increase significantly, which can lead to changes in: [5]

  • Blood flow
  • Breast enlargement
  • Heightened sensitivity in the breasts and genital area

These hormonal fluctuations can have both positive and negative effects on sexual desire and responsiveness. While increased blood flow may increase sexual arousal in some, hormonal fluctuations can also lead to a decrease in sexual desire in some people. Additionally, weight gain, breast tenderness, and changes in body shape may affect a pregnant person’s self-image and body confidence, potentially influencing their comfort levels during sexual activity.

These changes vary from person to person and can differ throughout different stages of pregnancy. [6]

Approaching Sex During Pregnancy

It's critical to be open and honest with your partner about your thoughts, fears, and any discomfort you're feeling. Exploring new sexual positions or participating in other personal activities while ensuring good sexual hygiene and prioritizing your comfort can help maintain a fulfilling and satisfying sexual relationship during pregnancy.

That said, most sex positions are safe during pregnancy, as is oral sex. However, if your partner is on top during sex, it may cause discomfort. Choose positions that make you most comfortable, which could include lying on your side.

To protect your baby, use a condom if your relationship is not mutually monogamous or if you choose to have sex with a new partner during pregnancy. Acquiring a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you’re pregnant can seriously impact the health of you and your baby. [1] However, if you do have an STD, there are available options for STD treatment online.

Sex can also sometimes increase the risk of bleeding, particularly if the placenta is low or if you have a hematoma, a pool of blood that collects outside of the blood vessels. [7]

See related: What to Do After Unprotected Sex

When Should You Avoid Sex During Pregnancy?

When contemplating whether it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy, always consult with your healthcare provider. They can provide personalized guidance and they have the expertise and knowledge to assess your individual situation, taking into account any underlying medical conditions, potential pregnancy complications, or risks that may affect your ability to engage in sexual activity safely.

That said, sex should generally be avoided if you’re experiencing: [7,1]

  • Heavy or unexplained vaginal bleeding
  • Leaking amniotic fluid
  • Cervical incompetence (premature opening of the cervix)
  • Placenta previa (placenta covering the cervical opening)
  • Symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease

Additional risk factors can include a history of miscarriage, a history of preterm labor or birth, or having twins. Additionally, sex should be avoided once the water has broken, as it can increase your risk of infection. [7]

The Benefits of Sex During Pregnancy

For those who are healthy and able, sex during pregnancy may help women: [8]

  • Stay active
  • Improve mood
  • Experience increased sexual satisfaction
  • Create a closer bond with their partner

Consult With an Expert at Everlywell

Generally, it’s safe to have sex during pregnancy. That said, it’s important to account for changes in your sex drive and to stay current on prenatal visits to check for any possible pregnancy complications that may affect sexual activity.

At Everlywell, our telehealth healthcare clinicians provide exceptional care at every step. They can help you navigate desire-hindering symptoms, such as fatigue and nausea, to help you navigate every aspect of your pregnancy.

Book an online women’s health appointment today.

  1. Sex during pregnancy: What’s OK, what’s not. Mayo Clinic. URL.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Conception: Fertilization, Process & When It Happens. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Published June 9, 2022.
  3. Incompetent Cervix: Causes, Treatments & Tests. Cleveland Clinic. URL.
  4. Fitzsimmons ED, Tushar Bajaj. Embryology, Amniotic Fluid. URL. Published May 6, 2019.
  5. Magon N, Kumar P. Hormones in pregnancy. Nigerian Medical Journal. 2012;53(4):179. doi:
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. Symptoms of pregnancy: What happens first. Mayo Clinic. URL. Published December 3, 2021.
  7. Sex in pregnancy. URL. Published December 2, 2020.
  8. Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy? American Pregnancy Association. URL. Published August 1, 2021.
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