Pregnant individuals may worry about how pregnancy will affect their sex lives, as their bodies undergo significant changes. Often, favored sex positions can become awkward or uncomfortable as the pregnancy advances and the baby continues to grow. Pregnant couples are free to engage in sexual activity as long as a doctor has not advised them otherwise, and the positions are safe for pregnancy. There are a variety of sexual positions that can safely benefit pregnant couples’ sex lives including, but not limited to: missionary, female supported on top, legs on shoulders, doggy style, side-by-side rear entry, seated position, and non-coital stimulation.
Harmful Sexual Practices
Air Embolisms: Blowing Air into the Vagina
One sexual practice that can harm a fetus is blowing air into the vagina, which may create an air embolism. An air embolism occurs when one or more air bubbles enter a vein or artery and block it. These air bubbles can travel to the heart, brain, or lungs, causing a stroke, respiratory failure, or heart attack. In pregnant females, the air embolism can occur if there is an injury or tear in the uterus, vagina, or placenta.¹
Anal sex may be uncomfortable if the female has pregnancy-related hemorrhoids. Anal sex is also discouraged due to the risk of transferring fecal bacteria to the vagina, allowing infection-causing bacteria to invade this area. These infection-causing bacteria can threaten the health of the fetus.¹
Unprotected Sex and STIs
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can be transmitted to the fetus during pregnancy or during delivery as the baby passes through the birth canal. For this reason, condoms are recommended for sexual activity, including coitus and oral sex, because they are the most effective method for preventing STI transmission.² Sexual activity during pregnancy is safe, unless the following medical conditions and symptoms are present:¹
- Increased risk of miscarriage or risk of premature birth (as specified by a doctor)
- Unexplained vaginal bleeding
- Leaking amniotic fluid
- Placenta previa, a condition where the cervix is covered by the placenta
- Incompetent cervix, when the cervix opens too early
It may be normal for pregnant individuals to experience light spotting and cramps after intercourse.³ However, if these symptoms persist or worsen, then the individual should seek medical advice. The pregnant partner’s doctor can advise whether it is safe for them to engage in sexual activity. While pregnancy may require both partners to modify their usual sexual practices, it is usually safe to engage in sex because the fetus’s positioning protects it from harm.² However, it is worthwhile for the pregnant partner to pay attention to their body and stop sexual activity if they begin to feel pain or discomfort. Individuals should only proceed with sexual activity in which both partners feel safe and secure.
The following are several sex positions that encourage safe, pleasurable sexual activity while preventing common issues associated with pregnancy.
Missionary is a classic sexual position that allows couples to have intercourse without placing too much strain on the pregnant partner. The pregnant partner lies on their back, facing up, while the penetrating partner positions their body above them, facing down. It is a good idea for the partner on top to use their hands and knees to keep some or all of their weight off of their partner. Distributing the top partner’s weight protects the baby by preventing pressure from being applied directly to the stomach. This position allows both partners to face each other and maintain eye contact. The missionary position is endorsed because it provides both sexual stimulation and comfort. The pregnant partner who is lying on their back can manually stimulate themselves or their partner during penetration. Pillows can be placed under the hips and buttocks of the pregnant partner who is lying on their back to achieve a more comfortable position and align the angle of penetration. Also, pillows can be useful because they may increase G-spot stimulation.⁴
Pregnant Partner Supported on Top
In this position, the pregnant partner straddles above the penetrating partner who is lying on their back. The pregnant partner can either lean back against their partner’s bended legs or hold on to their partner’s shoulders for support. The penetrating partner on the bottom can place a pillow under their hips for comfort as well as to alter the positioning. The penetrating partner’s hands can also be used to provide manual stimulation during intercourse.⁴ This position is ideal because the pregnant partner’s position on top lets them control the speed and depth of penetration.³
In doggy style, the pregnant partner is bent over on their hands and knees while their partner penetrates from behind, either in a standing or kneeling upright position. The penetrating partner in the back can steady themselves by placing their hands on their pregnant partner’s hips. The hips can also be used as leverage for thrusting. The penetrating partner in back can also reach around and manually stimulate their pregnant partner’s vulva and clitoris for added stimulation.² This position is recommended because it alleviates pressure on the pregnant partner’s stomach, especially during the first and second trimester.³
Side-by-Side Rear Entry
For this position, both partners lie down on their sides with the pregnant partner in front of the penetrative partner in a back-to-front position. This position can also be described as “sexual spooning.”⁴ The pregnant partner lies in front so that their belly is exposed and free of any pressure. From this position, rear entry is easily accessible and requires little strain on the pregnant partner. Since this position is less stressful on the pregnant partner’s body, it is recommended during late pregnancy.³ However, it may be less stimulating because it limits movement.
In this position, the penetrating partner is seated in an upright position while the pregnant partner sits on their lap facing them. The pregnant partner straddles the seated partner with their legs arranged on either side of their partner’s body. The pregnant partner can bend their knees at a 90-degree angle to use the ground for support and facilitate movement. Variations can be made to this position by having the pregnant partner hold onto the penetrating partner and lean back at numerous angles, allowing for various levels of penetration. This position is beneficial for pregnant individuals because it allows them to regulate the depth of penetration and receive pleasure.⁴
If sexual intercourse becomes too uncomfortable or difficult, partners can use non-coital forms of stimulation. Mutual masturbation allows partners to manually stimulate each other’s genitals. People can orgasm from manual stimulation alone and the activity does not have to lead up to more sexual activity. When a person manually stimulates a female partner’s vulva, it is often referred to as fingering. It is common for a partner to insert one or more fingers into the vagina or to stimulate the clitoris. Manual stimulation of the penis is commonly called a hand job. The partner generally slides one or both hands up and down the penis. Partners may also choose to masturbate in front of one another as well.
Oral sex is another sexual activity that can be enjoyable during pregnancy. Oral stimulation of the penis, or fellatio, occurs when one person inserts their penis into the mouth of their partner. The partner moves their mouth up and down the shaft of the penis, while keeping their lips slightly pursed to provide stimulation. The tongue also can be used to stimulate the sensitive portions of the penis, which are the corona and frenulum. Oral stimulation of the vulva, or cunnilingus, is another option. The pregnant individual’s partner can use their tongue and lips to stimulate the vulva. The tongue is a great resource because it is wet, soft, and mobile. Another oral sex option is the “69” position. The couple can arrange their bodies into a mutual head-to-genitals position where they both would perform oral sex on one another. Coitus is not necessary for pregnant individuals or couples to attain sexual satisfaction.²
The key to pleasurable sexual activity during pregnancy is to find comfortable, safe, and arousing positions. There are plenty of sexually stimulating activities for couples to enjoy. The best sex often comes when individuals experiment and discover what positions are most desirable for them and their partnership.
- “ Sex during Pregnancy: What’s OK, What’s Not.”5 Web. Mayo Clinic, 2018.
- “Sex During Pregnancy.” Web. March of Dimes, 2015.
- LeVay, Simon, et al. Discovering Human Sexuality. 3rd ed., Sinauer Associates: Sunderland, MA, 2015.
- Shinn, Lora. “10 Comfortable Pregnancy Sex Positions for Every Trimester.” Web. Healthline, 2018.
Last Updated: 02 June 2020.