Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sex during pregnancy: An unnecessary taboo?

Sex during pregnancy — If your doctor agrees, follow your sex drive where it leads.

If you want to get pregnant, you have sex. No surprises there. But what about sex while you're pregnant? The answers aren't always as clear. Here's what you need to know about sex during pregnancy.

Is it OK to have sex during pregnancy?

As long as your pregnancy is proceeding normally, you can have sex as often as you like. But you may not always want to. At first, hormonal fluctuations, fatigue and nausea may sap your sexual desire. During the second trimester, increased blood flow to your sexual organs and breasts may rekindle your desire for sex. But by the third trimester, weight gain, back pain and other symptoms may once again dampen your enthusiasm for sex.

Can sex cause a miscarriage?

Many couples worry that sex during pregnancy will cause a miscarriage, especially in the first trimester. But sex isn't a concern. Early miscarriages are usually related to chromosomal abnormalities or other problems in the developing baby — not to anything you do or don't do.
Does sex harm the baby?

The baby is protected by the amniotic fluid in your uterus, as well as the mucous plug that blocks the cervix throughout most of your pregnancy. Your partner's penis won't touch the baby.

Are any sexual positions off-limits during pregnancy?

As your pregnancy progresses, experiment to find the most comfortable positions. There's just one caveat. Avoid lying flat on your back during sex. If your uterus compresses the veins in the back of your abdomen, you may feel light-headed or nauseous.

What about oral sex?

If you have oral sex, make sure your partner does not blow air into your vagina. Rarely, a burst of air may block a blood vessel (air embolism) — which could be a life-threatening condition for you and the baby.

Can orgasms trigger premature labour?

Orgasms can cause uterine contractions. But these contractions are different from the contractions you'll feel during labour. Research indicates that if you have a normal pregnancy, orgasms — with or without intercourse — don't lead to premature labour or premature birth.

Are there times when sex should be avoided?

Although most women can safely have sex throughout pregnancy, sometimes it's best to be cautious.

Preterm labour. Exposure to the prostaglandins in semen may cause contractions — which could be worrisome if you're at risk of preterm labour.

Vaginal bleeding. Sex is not recommended if you have unexplained vaginal bleeding.
Problems with the cervix. If your cervix begins to open prematurely (cervical incompetence), sex may pose a risk of infection.

Problems with the placenta. If your placenta partly or completely covers your cervical opening (placenta previa), sex could lead to bleeding and preterm labour.

Multiple babies. If you're carrying two or more babies, your doctor may advise you not to have sex late in pregnancy — although researchers have not identified any relationship between sex and preterm labour in twins.

Should my partner use a condom?

Exposure to sexually transmitted diseases during pregnancy increases the risk of infections that can affect your pregnancy and your baby's health. If you have a new sexual partner during pregnancy, use a condom when you have sex.

What if I don't want to have sex?

That's OK. There's more to a sexual relationship than intercourse. Share your needs and concerns with your partner in an open and loving way. If sex is difficult, unappealing or off-limits, try cuddling, kissing or massage.

After the baby is born, how soon can I have sex?

Whether you give birth vaginally or by C-section, your body will need time to heal. Many doctors recommend waiting six weeks before resuming intercourse. This allows time for your cervix to close and any tears or a repaired episiotomy to heal.If you're too sore or exhausted to even think about sex, maintain intimacy in other ways. Share short phone calls throughout the day or occasional soaks in the tub. When you're ready to have sex, take it slow — and use a reliable method of contraception.

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