Avoiding Sex in the First Weeks of Pregnancy

Julie Kirk
Man and woman

There is no need to avoid sex during the first weeks of your pregnancy if you are not having any complications. Your doctor will advise you on what you are allowed to do if you develop any pregnancy-related problems, but in general sex during the first trimester is safe.

Sex During Your Early Pregnancy

According to the March of Dimes, sex is safe throughout pregnancy and will not hurt your baby if there are no problems. This includes the early weeks after you get pregnant. The developing amniotic fluid and sac and the muscle layers of your uterus cushion and protect your embryo from trauma as your pregnancy progresses.

As long as you are comfortable, in the mood, and have an uncomplicated pregnancy, go ahead and enjoy sex during early pregnancy.

Common Myths and Concerns

Women may wonder if sex is safe during early pregnancy, and in most cases the research says it is. The following are common concerns women and their partners have about engaging in intercourse during pregnancy:

Sex Can Cause a Miscarriage

Early in pregnancy, sex as a trigger for a miscarriage is one of the biggest concerns women and their partners have.

Sex Will Hurt the Embryo or Fetus

There is the myth that the force of the penis against the cervix during intercourse will hurt the pregnancy.

An Orgasm Increases the Chance of a Miscarriage

There is also the myth that contractions during an orgasm might initiate a miscarriage.

Lack of Evidence

There is no evidence that validates any of these concerns if you have no risk factors and your pregnancy is normal. Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, they are mostly caused by abnormal chromosomes in the fetus, not by intercourse. For those worried about sex and miscarriage, there is not typically a reason to be concerned unless you have a history of miscarriages, a high-risk pregnancy, or other complications.

Psychological Barriers

According to a review in the Global Library of Women's Medicine, most women's desire for sex decreases during pregnancy. For many women, some of the normal changes of early pregnancy and other factors can create a psychological barrier to having sex. Depending on how you feel you may want sex during early the stages of pregnancy less or more.

  • Early symptoms of pregnancy, such as morning sickness, fatigue, increased mucus discharge, and urinary frequency can make a woman feel less desirable and decrease her libido.
  • Hormonal changes in the first trimester can cause mood swings and affect sexual desire in some women.
  • Normal engorgement of the vagina due to increased blood circulation can make arousal, intercourse, and orgasms physically uncomfortable for many women, although the opposite happens for some.
  • Fear and anxiety in a woman or her partner about dealing with a new pregnancy may dampen sex drive.
  • Misgivings about a woman's or her partner's readiness to be a parent may also affect libido.
  • Negative reaction towards the pregnancy and aversion to sex by her partner may also be a factor.
  • General life stressors, such as finances, work, or school, may be made more stressful by pregnancy and hamper sex drive.

Additionally, women with a history of infertility or a past history of poor pregnancy outcome, such as a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or preterm delivery, might have additional stress and anxiety about their current pregnancy.

When to Avoid Sex in Early Pregnancy

Although regular vaginal intercourse will not initiate a miscarriage or increase your chance of having one, it can complicate an already threatened miscarriage. Your doctor or midwife will likely advise against vaginal intercourse in the first few days or weeks of pregnancy until your problem resolves if:

  • You currently have signs and symptoms of a threatened early miscarriage, such as:
  • Your cervix bleeds every time you have intercourse.
  • You have other factors that might increase your risk for an early pregnancy loss, including:
    • A history of an early first trimester miscarriage.
    • Fertility treatment, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive this pregnancy.
    • You or your partner currently have a sexually transmitted infection.
    • You have bladder infection, or a vaginal or a cervical infection or inflammation.

Follow the advice of your doctor or midwife about when you can resume intercourse after the threat of a miscarriage passes, or you have miscarried, or any other problem resolves.

Other Sexual Activities

Other kinds of sexual activities might increase your chance of a uterine or bladder infection and increase the risk of a miscarriage. Take note of the following:

  • It is okay to have oral sex but if your partner has oral herpes, avoid having him give you oral sex.
  • Also avoid having anal sex followed right after by vaginal sex. Doing so could transfer bacteria from your rectum to your vagina and cervix.
  • Do not let your partner blow air in your vagina because this could allow air into your bloodstream and into your lung circulation (air embolism).

In addition, it is possible the pelvic contractions of an orgasm from any type of sexually arousing activity might complete a threatened miscarriage.

What to Do if You Have Bleeding or Other Symptoms After Sex

Early in your pregnancy, you may experience concerning or problematic symptoms such as:

Bleeding After Sex

If you bleed after sex, it is most likely due to irritation of a very sensitive cervix. You will need to contact your doctor about the bleeding and refrain from having sex until your doctor says it's okay. However, if the bleeding becomes heavy, it may indicate a more serious problem and you should go to the hospital. There are other possible causes of bleeding in the first trimester that could be mistaken for bleeding after sex, such as:

  • Implantation bleeding may occur when the fertilized egg implants in the uterus.
  • Vaginal infection may cause bleeding.
  • Subchorionic bleed (or hemorrhage) is a collection of blood found adjacent to the gestational sac. This blood may eventually absorb into the uterine tissue or it may cause you to bleed vaginally as well.
  • Threatened miscarriage or miscarriage can cause bleeding that is from light spotting to heavy. You may also pass clots and tissue.
  • Ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus and can be a life-threatening condition. You may experience some vaginal bleeding with an ectopic pregnancy, however there can be a significant loss of blood if the ectopic ruptures.
  • Molar pregnancy is the growth of abnormal tissue found in the uterus, however symptoms will be the same as a normal pregnancy. You may experience spotting or bleeding with a molar pregnancy.

Vaginal Discharge After Sex

It is not unusual to notice vaginal discharge after sex. In the first trimester, there is typically an increase in vaginal discharge due to pregnancy hormones called leukorrhea. This is considered normal and is often an early sign of pregnancy. However, if you notice the discharge has changed color or has a mild to strong odor, this may be a sign of a vaginal infection or an STD and you should contact your doctor immediately.

Pain During or After Sex

If you experience pain during sex early in your pregnancy, this may be considered normal. Since your uterus is growing and there's more blood flow feeding the pelvic area to help support the pregnancy, this may cause discomfort sex. You may want to try intercourse from behind or being on top which may be more comfortable positions at this time during your pregnancy. Actually, most sexual positions are okay during early pregnancy as long as it's comfortable for you. However, if the pain is unusual, severe or continues after you have finished having sex, you should call your doctor. This could indicate the possibility of an infection and STD or an ectopic pregnancy.

Discuss Your Concerns About First Trimester Sex

Sex during the first weeks of pregnancy will not harm you or your fetus as long as you have no signs or symptoms of a miscarriage or other complicating factors. Talk with your doctor or certified nurse midwife about your concerns and risk factors if you have questions or fears of having sex during your pregnancy or you are worried about changes in your desire for sex.

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Avoiding Sex in the First Weeks of Pregnancy