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Sex and Pregnancy: Addressing “Knowledge Gaps”

  • Many women have sex less frequently during pregnancy. They may also feel less sexual desire and satisfaction.
  • In one study, almost half the women said they were “concerned that intercourse could harm their pregnancy.”
  • In another study, the vast majority of women – 91% - met the criteria for a diagnosis of sexual dysfunction, based on a standard assessment that included domains like desire, arousal, orgasm, and sexual pain. In a comparison group of women who were not pregnant, 68% met these criteria.

It seems that pregnant women and their doctors were missing opportunities to communicate, too.

  • Over two-thirds of the women in one study didn’t recall discussions of sexuality with their doctor. In another study, less than 10% had such conversations. In another, only a third said they had talked about sexuality with any medical personnel.
  • Another study reported that 34% of women felt “uncomfortable” bringing up the subject of sex, and only 29% ultimately did. Over three-quarters felt that sex should be discussed, but they did not pursue the topic.

“Evidence currently is insufficient to justify recommending against sexual intercourse during pregnancy,” wrote the review authors, adding that research has not shown an increased risk for premature labor, delivery, or complications of infections.

However, every woman is different. And it’s normal to have lots of questions during pregnancy. If you or your partner is pregnant and wondering about sexuality, take a deep breath and ask those questions. Your doctor can provide answers that are tailored for your specific situation, and you’ll rest easier - and perhaps enjoy sex more – having that knowledge.

Learn more about sex and pregnancy with these links:

Sex During Pregnancy

Sexual Functioning of Pregnant Women

Sexual Distress During Pregnancy

Women’s Sexual Health After Childbirth


Contemporary OB/GYN

Afshar, Yalda, MD, PhD, et al.

“Sexual health and function in pregnancy”

(August 1, 2017)

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