Sex is often a taboo topic for pregnant women. Many are put off by the fear of complications, be it infections, bleeding or induced labour, and are scared to get intimate. But, experts believe that sex need not be completely off the table. We get Dr Sudeshna Ray, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, and Dr Manjiri Mehta, consultant gynaecologist, obstetrician and laparoscopic surgeon at Hiranandani Hospital, Mumbai, to debunk some common myths and speak about the benefits:
* It is unsafe to have sex during pregnancy.
False. Sex may be uncomfortable during the first trimester and the last few weeks before delivery. But if you have an uncomplicated pregnancy, sex is not unsafe. “The urge to have sex might decrease in pregnant woman because of the fear of miscarriage, discomfort in advanced gestation, nausea, fatigue and physical awkwardness,” cautions Dr Ray.
And in case the pregnant woman is at risk – due to a previous abortion, low placenta or open cervix – it is best to consult a doctor, says Dr Mehta.
* There are health benefits to sex during pregnancy.
True. Studies say that getting intimate can have a host of benefits. “Orgasms and contractions of vaginal muscles strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, that get stressed out during pregnancy leading to stress urinary incontinence. There can also be lowered risk of preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy),” says Dr Ray.
Emotionally, too, it can relax the woman and help her sleep better. “Sex also increases bonding between the partners and strengthens the ties between partners,” says Dr Mehta.
* It can lead to early labour.
True. Sexual intercourse and genital stimulation close to the expected date can lead to labour, because of the release of the hormone oxytocin and prostaglandins present in sperms. “Sex can help the woman’s body prepare because semen contains prostaglandins which can help ripen the cervix,” says Dr Ray.
* Women have better orgasms during pregnancy.
True. One of the common benefits associated with pregnancy sex is better orgasms, and for good reason. The overall pelvic and perineal area receives more blood supply and the nerve endings are sensitive as well leading to the experience of better orgasms, says Dr Mehta.
“Experimentation with different positions (as the missionary pose may be difficult in advanced gestation) can make sex more enjoyable,” adds Dr Ray.
* Sex during pregnancy can cause bleeding.
True. “Sex during pregnancy can cause bleeding because of increased blood flow and concentration in all organs, including the vagina and other reproductive organs. It can lead to dangerous bleeding if the placenta is located low in the womb and close to the opening,” says Dr Ray.
* Sex during pregnancy can lead to vaginal infections.
False. “Sex should not cause vaginal infections as the mouth of the womb is sealed off with a thick mucus plug,” says Dr Ray. However, infections can happen if the woman suffers from diabetes which makes her prone to infections, or if she has a leak of amniotic fluid.
Dr Mehta adds that as long as one has sex with a single partner during pregnancy, there are very little chances of contracting vaginal infections.
* Deep penetration during pregnancy affect the foetus.
False. Experts say that in an uncomplicated pregnancy, deep penetration is not going to affect the foetus as it remains protected in a sack of fluid. “Towards the due date, deep penetration can release hormones and lead to labour. In complicated pregnancies, where there is a short or open cervix, low lying placenta and leakage of amniotic fluid, deep penetration can adversely affect the pregnancy,” says Dr Ray.