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A loving physical relationship is important for your wellbeing during pregnancy, and sexual intercourse can actually help your body to prepare for labour.
Whilst many women worry about whether it's safe to have sex during pregnancy, there's actually no physical reason why you shouldn't continue to have sexual intercourse all the way through a normal pregnancy. Sex doesn't harm the baby as the baby is well cushioned by a sac of fluid well beyond the neck of the womb (cervix) and the penis cannot penetrate beyond the vagina. The muscles of the cervix and a plug of mucus, specially formed in pregnancy, seal off the womb completely. It is normal for your sex drive to change though, and you shouldn't worry about this, but do talk about it with your partner.
You may notice mild contractions (known as Braxton Hicks contractions) during and after sex but they are not powerful enough to start labour if your body is not ready. In this instance, you may feel the muscles of your womb go hard. There's no need for alarm as this is perfectly normal. If it feels uncomfortable, try your relaxation techniques or just lie quietly till the contractions pass. If your body is ready, sex may help to start labour as substances called prostaglandins are contained in semen and can help to soften the cervix, and hormones released by nipple stimulation encourage the womb to contract.
Some women are advised not to have sex at certain stages of pregnancy, especially if they have a history of miscarriage or premature labour, or if they have a low-lying placenta. You should speak to your doctor or midwife if any of these situations apply to you. Maternity teams may also advise women to avoid sex if they've had heavy bleeding in pregnancy, and mums-to-be should definitely avoid intercourse once their waters have broken because this puts the baby at risk of infection.
Many couples find that pregnancy improves their sex life and presents an opportunity to find new ways of making love by trying different positions to find one that's comfortable. This can be a time to explore and experiment together. Sex with your partner on top can become uncomfortable quite early in pregnancy, not just because of the bump but because your breasts might be tender. It can also be uncomfortable if your partner penetrates you too deeply. So it may be better to lie on your sides, either facing each other or with your partner behind.
Some couples enjoy having sex during the pregnancy, while others don't want to have sex. With a bit of imagination you can both find other ways of being loving or of making love. However, it's important to communicate by talking about your feelings with each other, to best ensure that both yours and your partners needs are met.
April 123 2011
NHS Choices is the national website for the NHS and contains a wealth of information about pregnancy which may help to put your mind at rest. Visit www.nhs.uk/pregnancy for more pregnancy related health advice.
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