Comfortable, safe sex in the third trimester

Bloating, indigestion, haemorrhoids, backache, nausea, fatigue – the list of unpleasant symptoms encountered in late pregnancy can seem never-ending at times. So, it may be hard to feel particularly sexy.

If you and your partner are still in the mood, however, you’ll be happy to know that, as long as your pregnancy has been free of complications, sex in the third trimester is perfectly safe.

Will having sex hurt my baby?

A common concern is whether any harm will come to the baby from having sex. Again, as long as you haven’t experienced any complications, you can continue unhindered; your baby is well protected by the muscles of the uterus as well as amniotic fluid.

In fact, not only will your baby be fine, but sex encourages the release of endorphins, which can help you feel good, relieve pain, and, therefore, relax. It will also help relieve blood pressure, help you burn calories (it may turn out to be your favourite form of exercise), and increase the blood flow to your pelvis (and therefore your baby) during an orgasm. By improving your own well-being, you will, in turn, be doing the same for your baby.

While there’s no solid science behind it, it’s thought sex can also help bring on labour. This is because sex encourages your body to release oxytocin, a hormone that helps start contractions and progresses labour.

When to give it a miss

However, in late stage pregnancy there are some specific circumstances when sex is not advisable:

  • Vaginal bleeding – Any bleeding should always be checked out by your doctor or midwife. If you have experienced vaginal bleeding, you’ll need to get the all-clear from your doctor before resuming sexual activity as sex may lead to further episodes.
  • If your waters have broken – Once your waters break, your baby has less protection against infections and bacteria. Most women’s waters will break during the first or second stage of labour, but they can sometimes break before any other signs of labour. Although rare, waters can break before 37 weeks.
  • If you have a weak cervix that has started to dilate too soon (cervical insufficiency).
  • If you have signs of preterm labour, such as more discharge than usual, pressure in the pelvic area, and more than four contractions every hour.
  • If you have a condition known as placenta previa, which is where the placenta is unusually low in your womb, covering the cervix, which causes bleeding and other complications.

In the case of any of the above, it is likely that total abstinence from sex will be advised.

Keep in mind that if you’re thought to be at high risk of an STI, you’ll be screened again during the third trimester (your first screening should have been at your first prenatal visit).

Which positions are best?

If you haven’t experienced any warning signs, you’re good to go. Here are some suggested positions you can try that may be comfortable and enjoyable in the late stages of pregnancy.

Get on top – Being on top of your partner means you get to control the pace and the level of penetration. It also means no weight is put on you or your belly. This is such a favourite position that you may well be using it already. Gently lower yourself on top of your partner as he lies on his back.

Modified missionary – The classic missionary position will definitely not be the best choice during late pregnancy. The large size of your bump makes it very difficult for you and your partner to get comfortable and risks your partner putting too much pressure on your uterus. Not to mention, lying on your back with a big bump will cause you to feel dizzy and faint before long.

However, you can try a slightly modified missionary position by using a pillow or cushion to prop yourself up. Make sure your partner supports himself so he isn’t leaning on your belly. It might be easier for you to lie face up (again, with a pillow under you for support) with your bottom at the edge of the bed and your knees bent. Your partner can then kneel or stand (depending on your bed’s height) between your legs.

Side by side – Both you and your partner lie on your sides facing each other. You may need to angle yourself so you can bend your knees and rest both legs over his hips. Because you’re facing each other, this position can give you all the intimacy of the missionary position without the discomfort of lying on your back.

Spooning – A lot like the side-by-side position, but you’re both facing the same way. Lie on your side slightly curled up. Your partner can then cuddle up behind you and enter from behind.

On all fours – Pretty self-explanatory! Support yourself on your hands and knees (a pillow can help support your bump) as your partner kneels behind you. Because your partner is in control of the level of penetration in this position, be sure to communicate to him if you feel uncomfortable.

What if I’m just not in the mood

It may be, of course, that even though you haven’t experienced any complications, you simply don’t feel up to it. This is completely normal. Many mothers-to-be encounter reduced libido for various reasons, whether it’s down to common pregnancy gripes or the fact their minds are on more important things. If this applies to you, it’s important that you and your partner stay supportive of each other – remember there are plenty of other ways of forming a strong bond besides sex.

Important – If you or your child are unwell you should seek medical advice from a professional – contact your GP or visit an A&E department in an emergency. While My BabyManual strives to provide dependable and trusted information on pregnancy and childcare 24/7 via our website pages, we cannot provide individual answers to specific healthcare questions.