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Sex during pregnancy: Everything you need to know

Sex during pregnancy: Everything you need to know
It's important to know that the baby is fully protected during sexual intercourse. (Photo: Freepik)
Written by Nompilo Gwala

Being intimate with your partner might seem strange now that you’re pregnant. But don’t stress – there is nothing to worry about when having sex during pregnancy, and most importantly, your baby is safe.

It’s understandable if you’re feeling uneasy and have plenty of questions. Fortunately, sex has several benefits while expecting, but there are some guidelines to follow when you and your partner get in the mood. With the help of Dr. Palesa Kennedy, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Rahima Moosa Hospital, we have all your questions covered. 

1) Is sex safe during pregnancy?

Yes, it is safe to have sex while pregnant. Kennedy said it’s imperative that pregnant women first get the green light from their practitioners before engaging in sex. This will ensure that there’ll be no complications. It’s especially important that women who have a miscarriage history, or if they are at risk, speak to their obstetrician or gynecologist.

2) Will the baby feel it?

The baby will not see nor feel it when you have sex. A penis or sex toys cannot penetrate beyond your vagina because your body is perfectly capable of protecting your baby from anything that may enter.

“No, the baby will have no recollection. The baby does not get hurt, not at all,” said Kennedy.

3) Can sex cause premature labour?

Sex generally doesn’t cause premature labour. However, sex is not recommended if your doctor confirmed that you’re high risk for premature labour or you have a problem with the placenta.

Some experts encourage women to have sex as a way to jump-start labour when they haven’t got long to go. According to Kennedy, exposure to sperm softens the cervix which might cause early labour.

“We often advise women who’ve had pregnancy losses, or when we think that the cervix is softening too early, to stay away from sexual intercourse,” said Kennedy.

4) Is anal sex safe during pregnancy?

Anal sex is safe during pregnancy but you need to ensure that you’re comfortable with it and your partner should proceed with caution and be gentle. The most important thing to remember is that you should not go from anal to vaginal penetration without cleaning up because you could be infected with harmful bacteria. 

“Any form of sex is safe as long as it is not abusive. One thing you need to be wary of is positioning because it becomes difficult as the pregnancy progresses. You need to ensure that the baby is protected from any form of impact,” said Kennedy.

5) When is anal sex not safe for the mother and baby?

Anal sex can be safe but couples need to consider a few things before engaging in this type of sex. 

Dr. Noma Mbungu, a fellow in reproductive medicine at Stellenbosch University, said if you’ve been diagnosed with placenta praevia (when the placenta covers the opening in the mother’s cervix) or haemorrhoids, it is best to avoid anal sex.

“Anal sex can be a safe option for couples trying to avoid vaginal intercourse or penetration. However, it is not advised for those with severe placenta praevia, due to the high risk of catastrophic bleeding if the placenta is disturbed,” said Mbungu. 

She continued: “Interchanging between anal and vaginal penetration poses a risk for faecal bacterial (bugs) entering into the genital tract. This can lead to chorioamnionitis due to ascending infection and preterm birth.”

6) What are the benefits of sex during pregnancy?

Sex during pregnancy has many benefits. It can bring you and your partner closer during the pregnancy. It also helps with keeping fit as sex burns calories. You also experience better orgasms because of the increased blood flow to the genitals. Sex also boosts your immune system. According to a 2004 study, sex increases Immunoglobulin A (IgA), which is an antibody that helps keep colds and other infections at bay. Orgasms release endorphins that can help the mother and baby feel happy and relaxed.

“There are benefits to having sex at any time in your life. It releases endorphins, it’s pleasurable, it makes you a happy person,” said Kennedy. 

7) Which sex positions should I avoid during pregnancy?

Any sex position, such as the missionary position that requires lying flat on your back, should be avoided after the fourth month of pregnancy. This is to ensure that you avoid the weight of the growing baby constricting major blood vessels. Rather get on top or lie on your side with your partner behind. 

“Avoid missionary, especially in your third trimester, because you’re lying on your back which isn’t good for you. It reduces blood flow to the baby, compromises the baby’s growth, and also may result in intrauterine fetal death,” said Kennedy.

8) Do we have to use condoms?

It is still important to use condoms because it prevents sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or infections (STIs). They can cause problems for your baby during pregnancy and birth. HIV, syphilis, and the herpes simplex virus (HSV) can affect the unborn baby if not treated. 

Sex during pregnancy poses no risk to the mother or baby in most cases. However, some positions might become less comfortable as the pregnancy progress so communication between you and your partner is key.

“If you’re experiencing something strange, speak to your healthcare provider to make sure that it’s not something serious. Otherwise, be creative and open,” said Kennedy. – Health-e News 

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Nompilo Gwala

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