Can sex harm the baby? Common questions about sex during pregnancy answered

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One of the most common reasons men (and women) cut back on their sex life during pregnancy is a fear that they’ll hurt the baby. If you’re concerned about that, you can stop worrying right now. (iStock)
One of the most common reasons men (and women) cut back on their sex life during pregnancy is a fear that they’ll hurt the baby. If you’re concerned about that, you can stop worrying right now. (iStock)

Carrying a baby makes some women feel sexy, while others are left feeling exhausted  and unattractive. Whichever one you experience, it's more than likely that you have some intimacy questions you're too embarrassed to ask.

Here are seven of the most common questions about sex during pregnancy answered. 

Now that I'm pregnant, will sex feel the same as before?

Probably not. There is up to 1.5 times more blood in your body than during a non-pregnant state, and this increased blood flow can make you more sensitive to touch and also experience an orgasm more easily.

This effect may be strongest during the second trimester (after the nausea and fatigue of the first trimester may have decreased a bit) but before you feel too large and unwieldy by the third trimester and can’t bear the thought of trying out athletic new sexual positions.

You may like your increasingly sensitive breasts to be touched, or prefer your partner to keep his hands off – just let him know. Sex is about our bodies as well as our minds, and you may have attitudes towards sex during pregnancy that make it harder for you to enjoy it.

Also see: Sex and your pregnancy: What you need to know, trimester by trimester

Can sex harm the baby?

One of the most common reasons men (and women) cut back on their sex life during pregnancy is a fear that they’ll hurt the baby. If you’re concerned about that, you can stop worrying right now.

Your baby is surrounded and cushioned by amniotic fluid, and protected by your uterus and a layer of muscles. The mucous plug inside your cervix also helps to guard against infection. The baby is also totally oblivious to any lovemaking that might be going on.

Is it normal to not want sex at all during pregnancy?

Of course it is. Some women’s sexual urge is biologically driven so once that aim of pregnancy is achieved, it’s hard to feel sexual. But try to remember there is more to sex than that biological urge. Your partner and you will need to maintain your intimacy throughout this tough time so try to get some help if you’re feeling really tired and turned off.

Why do my breasts leak during sex?

Your breasts prepare for feeding a baby way in advance – meaning that they start producing colostrum (the thick yellow superfood on which your baby will live for the first three days of his or her life) from about the third month of pregnancy.

During sexual arousal, the feel-good hormone oxytocin is released, and guess what? That’s the same hormone that is released when you are breastfeeding. The “cuddle hormone” which helps you relate sexually to your partner also lets mom and baby bond, while also helping the milk let down.

So it’s completely natural for some milk to leak during sex, but if it bothers you, wear a breast pad or padded bra, or ask your partner to steer clear of the area. Remember that the leaking during lovemaking can go on for as long as you lactate and breastfeed after the birth of your baby.

Also read: Can’t touch this? Foods to avoid when you're pregnant

Will sex bring on labour?

There is some evidence to suggest that depositing semen near the neck of the womb can help get a labour going – but only if the baby is ready to be born.

It’s rich in prostaglandins, which is thought to kick off contractions. Sex is often recommended to couples whose pregnancy has gone past their due date. And while doing the deed (with orgasm) might seem like an impossibility when you are nine months pregnant it can, and has, been done before.

Can we have sex after the birth?

You may bleed for up to six weeks after the birth, so you probably won’t want to consider sex before then. You’ll probably also be too tired, too busy and too distracted to engage in intercourse.

Typically, sexual desire is quite low in both partners soon after birth. Be patient and give it time – if you have had a c-section or an episiotomy, sex could be quite sore at first.

Can the baby hear us?

Er. Yes. From 24 weeks your baby can respond to loud noises outside of the womb. So your baby may know something is going on but won’t understand what. And the endorphins produced from sex enter your bloodstream and enter your baby’s – so it’s happiness all round. 


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