Can my baby feel us having sex?

Hmmm, well the true answer is that we don’t really know. For all sorts of reasons, babies, until they are able to communicate, are incapable of telling us what they know and how they feel.

From the best of our understanding, it’s unlikely that your baby will know that you are having sex. In the same way that they won’t know you are watching television or eating ice cream, they are too immature to understand or know what you are experiencing.

And, quite apart from this, they are also too young to place a value judgement on what you are doing.

But sex is the furthest thing from my mind

You are not alone there, sister. Pregnancy hormones, while doing wonders for maintaining pregnancy and protecting the baby, can work in almost the opposite way when it comes to maintaining a sexual relationship with our partners. Just the thought of getting up close and personal is enough to really bring on a sense of “as if”.

But then again, for some women all that extra blood flow to their genitalia has the opposite effect and they say that their pregnancy has really had a positive on their libido.

Come here, Mister!

You may find that during your first trimester nausea and morning sickness occupies all your attention. It’s not until you are feeling better with more energy in the second trimester that your mind wanders to matters of a sexual nature.

Many women find a new enthusiasm for sex in this middle term of their pregnancy and use it as a way to reconnect with their partner. Plus, lots of men find the sight of their pregnant partner a real sexual turn on.

One of the great things about sex during pregnancy is that you don’t need to worry about contraception. Although it seems like we’re stating the obvious, the potential for pregnancy is always on the back of every fertile, sexually active woman’s mind, even if she and her partner are using contraception.

So knowing that you are already pregnant and can’t become any more pregnant may cause a real feeling of freedom.

Will having sex during my pregnancy hurt my baby?

No. Unless you are participating in particularly strenuous or dangerous sexual acts, then intercourse is highly unlikely to harm your baby. Your baby is protected by your cervix and a thick plug of mucous which blocks the entry of any bacteria or pathogens into your uterus.

They are also protected by the amniotic fluid which absorbs most of the externally applied pressure so they are not harmed or “crushed”. That said, if you feel uncomfortable then your baby may be, too.

Just be mindful that sex is supposed to be pleasurable and not a test of physical endurance.

But they’ll know!

It’s not uncommon for parents to feel they are “being watched” by their unborn baby during sex, and this of course creates a sense of embarrassment. There is also the issue of wanting to protect their innocent little one from witnessing any sexual conduct. It is this sense of insulating the baby which raises doubts in the most sexually active parents-to-be.

In many ways having this concern is a demonstration of empathy. Being able to see things from your baby’s perspective and asking yourself “what is this experience like for them” is a sign of emotional intelligence.

Having highly empathetic and connected parents is a huge benefit when it comes to raising a family. As is having happy and sexually contented parents.

But what if we’re really quiet??

Holding back, not making too much noise, going more gently or even not turning on the lights are, for many couples, some of the ways they hope to downplay what they are actually doing. An ultimate “don’t wake the baby”.

Like having sex in your parent’s home, the thought of being found out, especially by your own little baby, is a real turn-off. And instead of sex just involving the two of you, there’s three getting caught up in the act.

But honestly, your baby is quite literally floating around in its own little bubble and quite oblivious to what else is going on.

What if the baby wakes up?

Your baby may become more active as a result of general position changes. And they may seem to protest if too much pressure is exerted on your tummy. But there’s no one way in which all unborn babies respond to their parent’s sexual adventures.

You may find your baby becomes very quiet and you’re too distracted to be thinking about their movements because you’re too focused on other things.

Experiment with different positions to see what works best. You will find that as your pregnancy advances, lying on your back and/or your tummy is simply too uncomfortable. Try lying on your side or partially on your side/back or all fours to alleviate the weight and pressure of your belly. Use pillows for support.

What about orgasm?

Many women believe that having an orgasm while pregnant can start uterine contractions. But unless you are already at risk of premature birth or have started labour this is unlikely. Orgasm may actually deliver some benefits to your baby.

Increased blood flow to your uterus and the placenta will help to increase oxygen flow and nourishment to your baby.

Sexual no-nos when you are pregnant

•Oral sex where your partner blows air into your vagina is risky.

•Oral sex if your partner has an active herpes “cold sore” on their mouth or lips.

•Using sex toys which are unwashed. These can introduce bacteria into the vagina.

•Using sex toys in a penetrative or forceful manner.

When not to have sex during pregnancy

•If you are at risk of premature labour and birth.

•If you have had or are at risk of having a miscarriage.

•If your waters (membranes) have ruptured.

•If you are having any vaginal bleeding, uterine contractions or are leaking fluid.

•If you have a uterine or vaginal infection.

•If your pregnancy is unstable and you’ve been advised by your maternity care provider not to have sex.

Post-sex discomfort

Many women feel a sense of discomfort from engorgement and swelling in their genital region after sex. If you have haemorrhoids or vulval varicose veins this extra blood flow can become very uncomfortable. Speak with your doctor and/or maternity care provider is you do have haemorrhoids. There are a range of creams, ointments and suppositories which help to reduce the swelling.

Have a cool shower and wear some supportive, well-fitting underpants. Avoid standing still for long periods and lie down to alleviate further swelling.

If you did not orgasm during sex you may find the engorgement is worse. Talk with your partner about what positions are most enjoyable for you and give you the maximum sexual pleasure.

You could find that you have some vaginal bleeding after sex. As long as this is only slight, it settles and you don’t have painful uterine contractions as well, don’t be too concerned. Often, bleeding is localised and from the cervix which is engorged with blood. Check with your maternity care provider or GP if you are concerned.

Don’t be embarrassed, you won’t be the first woman to experience this and you won’t be the last.

A tip

Semen contains low concentrations of a specific hormone called prostaglandin. This is what is contained in the gel used by maternity hospitals to induce labour. Prostaglandins help the cervix to ripen and start dilating. Because of this, you may be advised by your maternity care provider to avoid having sex in the final weeks of your pregnancy or, if your pregnancy is unstable.