Is Anal Sex Safe During Pregnancy?

Just because you're pregnant doesn't mean your sex life should suffer. Experts share how to have safe and comfortable anal sex during pregnancy.

Anal Sex During Pregnancy
Anal Sex During Pregnancy.

Having anal sex during pregnancy is an extremely personal decision. Some pregnant people enjoy anal stimulation more than usual, since they claim increased blood flow heightens nerve sensation. On the other hand, many people do not enjoy anal sex during pregnancy, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., a clinical professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Yale University School of Medicine. She adds that anal sex can irritate hemorrhoids and anal fissures, leading to pain and bleeding.

If you decide to try anal sex while pregnant, you can take certain measure to make it safer and more comfortable. "There is limited research on the topic of anal sex, perhaps due to cultural taboos that still persist in our society," says Jimmy Belotte, M.D., an OB-GYN in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health at Montefiore Health System, and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Studies report that, numerically speaking, far more heterosexual couples engage in this activity than broadly accepted." Presumably not every couple—including those who are expecting—understand the risks involved with anal intercourse.

Here's what you need to know about having safe, comfortable anal sex during pregnancy.

Anal Sex Safety During Pregnancy

If you decide to have anal sex during pregnancy, it's important to understand the safety concerns. For starters, anal simulation can irritate hemorrhoids, also called piles, says Dr. Minkin. These itchy, painful varicose veins often appear in the anus and rectum during pregnancy—and they become even more uncomfortable when irritated. Aggravated hemorrhoids may also cause rectal bleeding, which isn't dangerous unless the bleeding is severe.

Anal sex can also irritate fissures. These tiny tears can form in the anus from constipation (another common pregnancy complaint), and they're prone to ripping and bleeding. Torn anal fissures usually don't harm the fetus, but they can be annoying for the pregnant person.

In some cases, anal sex can lead to bacterial infections—usually when the partner switches from anal sex to vaginal sex without changing condoms or "washing off" the penis. These dangerous infections can also manifest when moving a sex toy from the anus to the vagina without washing it first. Infections that might result from anal sex include:

  • Bacterial vaginosis (BV): While very common and rarely a cause for concern outside of an unpleasant fishy odor, BV has been associated with miscarriage and preterm labor in some studies.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs): Left untreated, UTIs may cause a kidney infection that puts a pregnant person at risk for preterm labor and a low birth weight baby.
  • Giardiasis: Caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia, giardiasis is linked to malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss. These issues could negatively affect the health of your pregnancy.

In addition to bacterial infections, anal sex during pregnancy increases the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Some STIs can be transferred to the baby during delivery (and rarely through the placenta), leading to long-term health consequences. For example, gonorrhea has been associated with premature birth and stillbirth; the herpes virus can lead to neonatal herpes and neurological problems; and Hepatitis B can damage the liver.

Pregnant people should avoid anal sex altogether if they have certain high-risk pregnancy conditions. Dr. Belotte says these include placenta previa (in which the placenta covers some or all of the cervix), premature rupture of membranes, and preterm labor.

Tips for Anal Sex During Pregnancy

Safety and comfort are top priority when having anal sex during pregnancy. Here are some tips to make the experience more enjoyable for both partners.

  • Use a condom to prevent the transmission of STIs, which can be passed onto your baby.
  • If switching from anal sex to vaginal sex, change condoms or have your partner wash off their penis.
  • The anus doesn't lubricate naturally, so use a water-based lubricant to prevent friction. This may stop anal fissures from tearing and hemorrhoids from flaring up.
  • Have anal sex slowly to prevent tearing in the rectum.
  • Stop if you feel pain or discomfort.
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