When you become pregnant, your body goes through some major changes and sometimes be hard to know if your symptoms are just a normal part of pregnancy or a cause for concern.
When it comes to sex, things can get a little extra complicated.
Some women find sex even more enjoyable during pregnancy, others don't feel like having it at all and many are surprised to find that sex hurts while pregnant.
If you have started experiencing any painful pregnancy sex then you might be wondering whether you're even supposed to be having sex at all?
The good news is that pregnancy doesn't have to get in the way of your sex life and we're here to explain why.
Is sex while pregnant safe?
Yes, having sex while you're pregnant is completely safe unless your doctor has told you otherwise.
This includes oral sex, anal sex and penetration from fingers and sex toys.
But it's totally normal for newly pregnant couples to have all sorts of worries about having sex during pregnancy.
It's not uncommon for men to worry that their penis might hurt the baby during intercourse and many couples are worried that having sex could even cause a miscarriage.
You can rest assured that sex won't cause a miscarriage, which usually only happens when a fetus is not developing properly, and know that your strong uterine muscles and protective amniotic sac keep your growing baby very safe during sex.
The only reason that sex during pregnancy wouldn't be safe for your baby is if you are at risk of preterm labour, placenta previa or another condition advised by your doctor.
But if your doctor has given you the A-okay then it's perfectly safe to enjoy a healthy sex life right up until the baby comes.
The benefits of having sex when you're pregnant
- Happy hormones: Orgasms release dopamine and oxytocin, helping you feel happier and calmer during your pregnancy.
- Connection with your partner: Having sex helps you feel more connected to your partner before embarking on parenthood together.
- Increased sexual pleasure: Increased blood flow during pregnancy can lead to an increase in sensitivity and pleasure during sex.
While some women feel more connected to their sexuality during pregnancy and feel aroused by the new fullness of their body and breasts, others choose to forego sex altogether.
It's entirely up to you.
Is it normal for sex to hurt when pregnant?
It's not uncommon for pregnant women to experience pain during sex.
You might experience this pain as a shooting sensation, a sharp pain, irritation or soreness, pressure or simply as a general feeling of discomfort during intercourse.
It's also quite common to experience mild cramps or uterine contractions during or immediately after an orgasm.
While unpleasant, painful pregnancy sex isn't usually anything to worry about and is more to do with the fact that your body is going through some pretty big physical and hormonal changes.
That being said, you shouldn't have to deal with painful sex during pregnancy and fixing the problem starts with knowing what's actually causing it.
Why can sex hurt during pregnancy?
The changes that your body goes through in order to grow a baby can come with some rather unpleasant side effects.
Basically, that little human that you're growing starts getting in the way of your sex life before it's even born.
Let's take you through a few reasons that sex might not be feeling so great right now.
During pregnancy, your body releases more of the primary stress hormone, cortisol.
The release of this hormone can cause dryness in the vagina and make sex feel pretty uncomfortable.
Vaginal dryness is not only painful but can also lead to micro-tears and infections — which isn't something you want to deal with during pregnancy.
Fortunately, vaginal dryness can be eased with a good quality lubricant.
Both of these lubes are super hydrating, are free from parabens, are scent and taste-free and are gentle on the skin.
Increased blood flow
Did you know that your blood volume increases by almost 50 per cent during pregnancy?
This extra blood flow leads to engorged tissue and heightened sensitivity in all of your erogenous zones.
For some women, this extra sensitivity makes sex even more pleasurable, but for others, the sensitivity can verge on painful.
If sensitivity is making sex feel uncomfortable then let your partner know that they need to be gentler with your body at this time.
Alternatively, you hold off on sex until the sensitivity has reduced.
In the later stages of pregnancy, your body begins preparing for childbirth by releasing the pregnancy hormone relaxin.
This hormone stretches your pelvic ligaments and widens the cervix which can lead to some pain in the lower part of your torso during sex.
But even your partner's hormones can contribute to painful pregnancy sex thanks to a hormone in semen called prostaglandins, which can actually cause mild cramping in pregnant women.
When you're pregnant, you are also carrying the extra weight of your growing baby and this extra weight can make sex feel pretty uncomfortable in the later stages of pregnancy.
The extra weight can put pain or pressure on your pelvic region and it often makes finding a comfortable sex position a lot harder.
Anxiety is one of the most common reasons that you might experience painful pregnancy sex.
Whether you're feeling anxious about the baby's safety during sex or the pain that you may have experienced before, anxiety triggers your pelvic muscles to tense up and can make intercourse feel quite painful.
Dealing with painful sex while pregnant
If painful pregnancy sex has got you thinking about swearing off the whole thing until the baby's out, then you're not alone.
But before you do that, let's take you through ways to make things go a little smoother and remind you that enjoying sex is definitely still possible when you're pregnant.
Try out different positions
If you're finding sex uncomfortable during pregnancy then you might want to think about switching up your positions.
It's a good idea to avoid putting too much pressure on your stomach so you might find that side-lying positions are better at accomodating your growing belly.
Likewise, it's best to avoid positions where you are lying on your back and instead, hop on top to control the pace and avoid any lightheadedness.
But if you don't feel like having sex at all then there are lots of other ways to enjoy intimacy with your partner, including cuddling, kissing and massaging each other.
Invest in a good quality lubricant
A good quality lubricant will not only help your vagina feel more comfortable during intercourse but will also help with your arousal as well.
In turn, this will lead to more relaxed pelvic muscles and less painful sex.
During pregnancy, you might have to upgrade your lubricant to one that's more suited to the slower and longer-lasting sessions that pregnancy sometimes demands.
Usually, silicon-based lubricants like this one from NORMAL, are better at keeping your vagina hydrated during these longer sessions.
However, if you're using condoms or sex toys then it's always best to go for a water-based lubricant.
Go with the flow
It's completely normal for your sex drive to fluctuate over the course of your pregnancy and early pregnancy sex might look and feel different to sex during the third trimester.
Many women feel too tired and nauseous during the first trimester to even think about having sex before enjoying a new burst of energy and feel-good hormones in the second that makes them want to do it every day.
Sex is always going to be more enjoyable if you're in the mood to do it so take the pressure off if you aren't feeling it and take advantage of the times when you are.
Is there anything to avoid during pregnancy sex?
Almost everything that you usually do in the bedroom is still on the table during pregnancy but there are a few things you should know before jumping into bed.
- Don't blow air into your vagina: Blowing air into your vagina can cause a very serious and potentially fatal embolism.
- Don't go back door to front: Anal sex is perfectly safe during pregnancy but to avoid any infections, make sure that your partner jumps in the shower before entering your vagina.
- Use condoms with new partners: If you're sleeping with new or multiple partners then make sure that you're using condoms as STIs can lead to serious health complications for both you and your baby.
When to talk to your doctor about painful pregnancy sex?
While experiencing painful sex during pregnancy isn't usually anything to be worried about but in rare cases, it might be a sign of something else.
It's time to talk to a doctor or health professional if you experience any of the following symptoms during or after sexual intercourse:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Unusual vaginal discharge
- Heavy bleeding
Since pregnancy can increase the risk of developing a bladder infection, yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis and pelvic inflammatory disease, it's always best to be safe and mention any pain that you experience during intercourse to your doctor.