5 Pregnancy Sex Myths — Busted

Will doing it hurt the baby? Or induce labor? Here, we take on the common misconceptions of having sex while you’re expecting.
ByJoanne Van Zuidam
Updated
Apr 2020
pregnant woman and her partner about to kiss
Photo: Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Sure, there are some good excuses not to have sex: You’ve got a headache, tonight is supposed to be laundry night, you’ve got to finish Tiger King… But being pregnant shouldn’t be one of them (after all, you’ve got nine whole months of this). That’s because sex is totally fine in a normal pregnancy without complications, assures Jacques Moritz, MD, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City. So you got the green light from your OB, but you’re still putting on the brakes because you’re afraid you’ll hurt the baby? Relax. Here, we dispel the top myths about sex during pregnancy.

The Myth: Deep Penetration Can Harm the Baby

The Lowdown: This is one b-i-g myth. Did you know your (amazing) vagina stretches during sex? It naturally creates a gap of several centimeters between the penis and the cervix (the opening to your uterus), even if your guy is particularly, um, well-endowed, says Moritz.

Plus, the cervix is closed and sealed with a thick mucus plug to protect the baby, says KaLee Ahlin, MD, an ob-gyn at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Loyola University Chicago. Furthermore, baby is hanging out in the amniotic sac, inside your uterus, which was designed to keep them safe and snug, she adds.

The Myth: Contractions From an Orgasm Can Cause a Miscarriage

The Lowdown: Those little cramps you probably feel after sex are completely normal—they’re just the muscles of the uterus tightening a bit, and, as long as you don’t have a high-risk pregnancy, they aren’t going to cause any harm. There are two different types of contractions, and the ones that you feel during and after orgasm are not the type that will cause a miscarriage, assures Ahlin. Don’t confuse these contractions—which are mild and eventually go away—with labor contractions, which will be painful and come at regular intervals (every three to five minutes).

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The Myth: Sex Can Induce Labor

The Lowdown: This gem is just an old wives’ tale. You can get a contraction after sex, from a hormone present in semen, says Moritz. “The idea is, if you’re close to your due date (or past it), this can push you over the edge, but it doesn’t really work that way,” he explains. Yes, it’s true that the same hormone (prostaglandin) is used to induce labor in a hospital setting, but it’s a synthetic version with a much higher concentration than there is in semen, adds Moritz. If semen had enough of it to jump-start labor, “we would advise all patients to abstain from intercourse during the entire pregnancy,” Ahlin says. But, well, they don’t.

The Myth: Post-Sex Bleeding Is a Sign of Damage

The Lowdown: A little blood down there might totally freak you out, but don’t worry if the spotting is during or after sex. This is very common—and there’s an explanation for it. During pregnancy, “the cervix gets very pliable, very soft and sensitive to any touching and it can start bleeding,” says Moritz. But there’s no need to worry unless it’s excessive bleeding or there’s no good explanation for it. Then, call your OB.

The Myth: The Baby Will Know

The Lowdown: Guess what? Your parents probably had sex while you were in utero. Do you remember it? Neither will baby. Sure, they know you’re moving, but they can’t tell whether you’re knocking boots or shaking your booty. Experts agree that there’s no evidence sex can cause physical or psychological harm to your child. “The baby can pick up on sounds and movement in utero,” says Ahlin. “But for the baby to be able to interpret that or understand that, I don’t think that’s possible.”

About the experts:

Jacques Moritz, MD, is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive science at Mount Sinai Morningside in New York City. He earned his medical degree from the University of Miami.

KaLee Ahlin, MD, is an ob-gyn at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Loyola University Chicago. She received her medical degree from Tulane University School of Medicine.

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