Painful Intercourse During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, many couples express concerns about whether intercourse is safe. According to the March of Dimes, intercourse during pregnancy is completely safe for most women. Unfortunately, the experience for many mothers-to-be is anything but pleasurable. Finding out the causes of painful intercourse during pregnancy can help resolve your discomfort.


There are many reasons why intercourse during pregnancy might be uncomfortable, one of which is the woman’s changing body. Morning sickness and fatigue early on in pregnancy can sap your desire and lead to vaginal dryness. Similarly, formerly erogenous zones, such as the breasts, become hypersensitive and painful to touch. As the pregnancy progresses, your enlarged abdomen becomes too cumbersome and decreases sexual satisfaction. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) reports that emotions also play a big part in the ability to become aroused. Fears about hurting the baby or a man’s inability to separate his partner mentally from the baby can make sex unenjoyable. Increased blood flow to the vagina, which swells the walls of the vaginal canal, can create a feeling of tightness and make penetration hurt. Untreated yeast infections or sexually transmitted diseases are also another cause of painful sex during pregnancy. Lastly, pain during early pregnancy could indicate an ectopic pregnancy.

Anytime you experience pain during intercourse, you should speak to you health care provider to diagnose and treat the underlying problem. A physician might advise you to limit or to abstain from sex altogether early in pregnancy if there is a history of miscarriage or preterm birth. Similarly, couples should not have sex if the women experiences heavy bleeding or leaking fluid. Painful intercourse with vaginal itching or burning during urination could be a sign of infection.

Unfortunately, painful intercourse during pregnancy often creates a vicious cycle of abstinence, avoidance and feelings of confusion. The mom-to-be might feel torn between wanting to satisfy her partner and yet avoid pain; her partner likely feels responsible for her discomfort. As a result, he may grow emotionally and physically distant. It is important for couples to maintain an open dialogue regarding their sexual relationship and to recognize that pregnancy is simply a stage in their lives.

Sometimes, preventing pain during intercourse is as simple as changing positions so that the pregnant woman is not lying flat on her back. The Pregnancy website suggests couples spoon with the man in back. Likewise, the woman can be on top. However, this position promotes deep penetration, which can sometimes lead to pain itself. Some couples benefit from using a synthetic lubrication or finding alternative ways to mutually satisfy each other. In the case of an infection, the woman’s physician can prescribe a vaginal suppository, antibiotic or cream to help clear up the infection and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Doctors advise against anal sex during pregnancy, which aggravates hemorrhoids. More importantly, anal sex introduces harmful bacteria from the rectum to the vagina. Oral sex is OK, but a pregnant woman should not allow her partner to blow air into her vagina due to the risk of embolism. Some pregnant women worry that the contractions from orgasm can trigger labor. However, contractions felt during labor are different than labor contractions and do not change the uterus.

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