During pregnancy - sex and STIs

Whilst you are pregnant you may feel differently about sex, and may experience tiredness and pain that make sex difficult. It is important to ensure you have an STI test prior and/or during your pregnancy.

Why is this important?

  • as soon as you know you are pregnant, contact your GP or a midwife so you can begin your antenatal care (pre-birth care). You'll be offered a series of appointments with a midwife, or sometimes with a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and birth (an obstetrician). Throughout your pregnancy you’ll have opportunities to ask them any questions you have
  • there is some risk of STI’s passing to your baby if an infection is present at the time you deliver your baby
  • some STI’s such as genital herpes and genital warts can re-occur during pregnancy. If this happens, don’t worry the symptoms can be managed during pregnancy and will not harm the baby

  • the only time midwives or obstetricians may consider a cesarean section is if the genital ulcers are present at the time of delivery. This is to prevent transmission of herpes to baby. It is important to let your midwife know if you have had herpes in the past
  • pregnancy can be a great experience, but it can put a great deal of pressure on your body. As you support your growing baby, it’s important you look after your own physical and mental health. Some women want to have more sex during pregnancy, while others may prefer to have less or none at all. It’s up to you to decide what’s right for you.

What does this mean for me

It is safe to have sex during pregnancy. Your partner's penis can't penetrate beyond your vagina and can’t damage the baby. However, there are other reasons that may mean you don’t want to have sex.

  • many women experience nausea or ‘morning sickness’ in early pregnancy. This can range from feeling queasy to vomiting (though this is less common). For most women, this will only last a few weeks
  • some women find pregnancy very uncomfortable, particularly in the later stages. Back pain and pelvic girdle pain (PGP) are common in pregnancy and can make it difficult to sit or lie in certain positions. Your midwife should be able to tell you where you can access physiotherapy or acupuncture to help relieve pain during pregnancy. Light exercise, such as yoga, swimming or antenatal massage can also help, though you should always tell your practitioner that you are pregnant before you begin

  • later in pregnancy, sex or orgasms can set off contractions (known as Braxton Hicks contractions). If this happens, you'll feel the muscles of your womb (uterus) go hard. This is normal. If it feels uncomfortable, try relaxation techniques or just lie quietly until the contractions pass
  • some women feel lethargic or depressed about how their body is changing, others feel ‘glowing’ or excited. It’s up to you whether you want to have sex or be intimate with your partner. The important thing is that you look after your physical and mental health.

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Talking to your partner

It is normal for your sex drive to change during pregnancy and in the weeks after giving birth. Some couples find having sex very enjoyable during pregnancy, while others prefer not to have sex at all. Don't worry about this - talk with your partner.

Pregnancy & STIs

If you think you are at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), you should continue to use condoms during sex to protect you and your baby. STIs can affect your baby's health during pregnancy and after the birth.

If you have any reason to believe that you or your partner may have an STI, get a test as soon as possible.

You'll be offered a confidential HIV test as part of your routine antenatal care. Your midwife or doctor will discuss this with you, and counselling will be available if the result is positive.

Questions?

If you are still at school when you get pregnant, you are entitled to an education and to stay on at school. The Equality Act is a law which says that places like schools cannot treat someone differently just because they are pregnant. You can discuss your pregnancy in confidence with the school nurse or in a local sexual health service.

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This is the care you receive from healthcare professionals during your pregnancy. Your first hospital antenatal appointment with a midwife is likely to be when you are around 12 weeks pregnant. Here, your midwife will begin your maternity notes. You’ll keep them and bring with you to all your appointments. Ask if there is anything in your notes that you don't understand.

You will receive information on:

  • nutrition, diet and food hygiene
  • lifestyle factors that may affect the health of you and your baby
  • scans, screens and testing
  • antenatal classes such as breastfeeding workshops and birth preparation. These also give you a chance to meet and share information with other parents-to-be.

It is really important you let your midwife know if you have any health conditions, disabilities or if you don’t speak English, as that may mean you have special requirements for your antenatal care and labour.

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