Not sure if you've heard, but there's a new Fifty Shades movie out. And (spoiler-ish) it involves a lot of sex between Christian Grey and a pregnant Ana. Anyone familiar with the "sexy" franchise knows that sex between Christian and Ana means frequent trips to Christian's storied Red Room, where the newlyweds participate in a variation of BDSM.
BDSM is an umbrella term that stands for an array of sex practices, including but not limited to bondage and discipline; dominance and submission; or sadism and masochism. For some people in the community, it also extends out of the bedroom (or Red Room) and is an entire lifestyle. While a key component of BDSM is honest, open communication and trust between partners (think of how Ana has a safe word), some of the sex practices can be a bit risky.
Which begs the question: Is it safe for Ana and Christian to continue their frequent Red Room trips while she's carrying the heir to the throne of... whatever it is that Christian Grey does? Dr. Leah Millheiser, an ob-gyn in California, and Brooke Faught, a clinical director with the Women's Institute for Sexual Health, offered some very specific expertise on the safety of certain BDSM practices that may or may not appear in Fifty Shades Freed during pregnancy.
Both Millheiser and Faught said it's "absolutely safe" to have sex while pregnant. But you may have to make a few modifications as the pregnancy progresses. Every couple's definition of "rough sex" is going to be different, so Faught said the best thing you can do for your pregnancy and health is be as open as possible with your obstetrician and ask specific questions if you have them. If you're worried about being shamed or judged by your doctor for practicing BDSM, there's a directory of kink-friendly doctors who can answer questions on the National Coalition for Sexual Freedom website.
The biggest risk of sex during pregnancy is preterm labor and contractions – two issues that don't just apply to BDSM sex practices. Things like intense nipple stimulation (something Millheiser said midwives and doulas recommend for some patients) can cause contractions, and if you're at term, potentially induce labor. But that's atypical. "If you're having multiple orgasms or even one orgasm, you might experience these preterm contractions," Millheiser said, "But they go away. If they don't go away [after an hour], seek medical care.
So Christian might want to ease up on all the nipple sucking and whatever he's usually doing, but what else is off the table? Fortunately, some BDSM practices can simply be modified during pregnancy. "If a woman is engaging in any bondage activities like rope tying, she needs to be really aware that the abdomen cannot be constricted," Millheiser said. "You cannot tie a rope around the pregnant abdomen." This also applies to use of floggers – avoid the abdomen area. Note to Christian, who probs should not have been flogging Ana's belly in the last scene of the book.
Pregnant women also need to be avoid any activity that could suppress oxygen or blood flow to both her and the fetus – choking, for instance, should be put on hold until after the baby is born. "You're suppressing oxygen to the mom's brain, decreasing oxygen to her blood, and that's going to go straight to the baby," Millheiser said.
Faught brought up metal jewelry that some members of the BDSM community wear daily to signify a certain relationship, or that they practice BDSM, like collars. One side effect of pregnancy is swelling, and as the body swells, metal jewelry that usually fits fine might become loose and even get stuck on the body. Faught said using something like handcuffs (not too tight!) that can be quickly removed is fine, but everyday, metal jewelry that could become too tight on a swelling, pregnant body may need to be set aside for a few months. She also said leather restraints may be a good substitute here, because leather can stretch more and is easy to cut through and remove if need be.
This doesn't just apply to someone who's pregnant, but during pregnancy, women need to be extra mindful about sharing toys. "During pregnancy, we want women to avoid the sharing of toys," Millheiser said. "Genital herpes can be passed via toys, and if you get genital herpes during pregnancy and it's not diagnosed or recognized, you can pass that to an infant, which can be very dangerous." Also not exclusive to BDSM practitioners, but deep thrusting should be avoided during the second half of pregnancy to avoid damaging the cervix as it lowers in preparation for labor, Faught said.
The hard and fast rule for people who practice Christian-and-Ana-style sex and those who don't is: If it hurts the vagina or abdomen or causes vaginal bleeding, don't do it. Keep things away from your stomach and be a little more gentle to your entire body, just in general. Otherwise, carry on! It's possible that modifying practices you do regularly as an un-pregnant person may lead to discovering new ~faves~. Who's to say! And, if seems every seem bleak and uninteresting in your typically thrilling sex life, know that pregnancy thankfully doesn't last forever. The metal restraints and all the belly-flogging can resume once baby is born.
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