Sex and sexual health in pregnancy

It’s normally perfectly safe to have sex when you’re pregnant.

Any sexual activity that doesn’t harm you, won’t harm your baby as they're protected in the womb by the amniotic fluid (bag of waters). They may feel the movements when you have sex, but they won’t be harmed.

Having sex in pregnancy

You and your partner might find your desire for sex changes. Either or both of you may want it more, or you might go off it completely. If sex played an important role in your lives before, then the feelings are likely to come back in time.

You may become less keen on penetrative sex, although there are other options which can give you pleasure and closeness.

Other ways to be intimate

If you don’t feel like sex, you can find other ways of being intimate.

Keep your closeness:

  • with lots of warm, physical contact that doesn’t have to lead to sex
  • by talking about how you're feeling with each other

Sex later in pregnancy

Later in your pregnancy, you may find sex with your partner on top uncomfortable. It’s important to say what you feel comfortable with.

You can get around this by:

  • the person on top bearing their weight on their arms
  • trying side-by-side positions

Later in pregnancy, an orgasm or sex itself can set off Braxton Hicks contractions. If this happens, you'll feel the muscles of your womb go hard. Don’t worry, this is normal and it isn’t the start of labour.

More about Braxton Hicks

Sex and miscarriage

There’s no clear evidence that having sex and miscarriage are linked. But, if you’ve had several miscarriages your doctor may suggest you don't have sex:

  • around the time your period would have been due
  • during the first 3 months of pregnancy

Get advice from your midwife or GP about your situation.

Sex and labour

Having sex won’t start your labour early.

But if your labour was going to begin anyway, then sex may help. This is because:

  • semen contains natural hormones that can help your cervix to ripen
  • your body releases a hormone called oxytocin which is released in labour too

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Being pregnant doesn't prevent you getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

If left untreated, STIs can cause serious harm to your baby and long-term health problems for you, including infertility.

Protecting yourself and your baby

If you think you might be at risk of an STI, use condoms to protect yourself and your baby. If you have unprotected sex (not using a condom) with someone you think may have an STI:

  • talk to your midwife or GP
  • get tested at a local sexual health clinic

Find a sexual health clinic in your area

Cold sores and genital herpes

Don't have oral sex if you or your partner has a cold sore as the same virus also causes genital herpes.

If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, there's a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes.

More about genital herpes

If you think you have an STI

If you think you might have an STI, you can get tested at a local sexual health clinic.

All pregnant women are offered blood tests to check for certain STIs, including HIV, at their first antenatal appointment. Being tested won’t harm your baby.

Some STIs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea, can be easily treated with antibiotics.

More about sexually transmitted infections


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