Lube and Pregnancy Sex: What's Safe, What's Not

Use our primer on personal lubricants to keep sex comfortable and safe during pregnancy.

Couple in bed
Photo: Erica McConnell

Here's a little secret about pregnancy sex: For many women, it means nine months of leaving the lube tube stashed away in a night table drawer. "Most pregnant women are naturally lubricated with a ton of extra vaginal discharge that is naturally produced during pregnancy," says Ari Brown, M.D., co-author of Expecting 411: The Insider's Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth.

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But all women are different, and the same hormonal changes that make some pregnant women perpetually wet can make other pregnant women dry. So if you're feeling parched down there and sex is causing uncomfortable friction, by all means get gliding with a pregnancy-safe lube. A 2010 Indiana University study of nearly 2,500 women found that those who used lube during sex reported significantly higher levels of satisfaction and pleasure.

Ready to enjoy getting busy again? Check out our primer on personal lubricants and pregnancy.

What's the best type of lube to use during pregnancy?

Your best bet is a water-based product, says Loralei Thornburg, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and a specialist in Maternal Fetal Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The pros: They're smooth and slick, and there's little risk of irritation or infection. The cons: Because they get absorbed into skin and mucous membranes, they may need to be reapplied periodically. Ones to try: Astroglide, Lelo, Sliquid Naturals H2O, YES Water-based Organic Lubricant, and Slippery Stuff.

Will lubricant reach the baby during pregnancy?

The short answer is no, because your cervix is sealed shut, so there's no risk of any goo getting into the baby's space.

What type of lubricants should you avoid during pregnancy?

Even with water-based lubricants, steer clear of products that contain glycerin, parabens, or fragrances, which can be irritating. Definitely avoid lubricants with additives (think: tingling) designed to enhance pleasure. "They could have stronger-than-expected and even unpleasant effects on your engorged vaginal tissues," Dr. Thornburg says. Also avoid any flavored lubricants, especially if they contain sugar, because they could contribute to the risk of developing a yeast infection, she adds. Although silicone and oil-based lubricants are not specifically off-limits, they may alter the pH balance of your vagina and increase the danger of infection.

What about other lube-like products?

If you've used other slidey-glidey products in the past, such as petroleum jelly, baby oil, olive oil, vegetable shortening, or basic body moisturizer, tuck those away for the time being, as the other ingredients -- which could possibly include glycerin, fragrances, and colors -- could increase your risk of irritation.

What about after pregnancy?

Bring on the lubricant! "Lubes are especially important postpartum, when most women -- especially those who are breastfeeding -- have some degree of vaginal dryness and irritation with sex," Dr. Thornburg says. Buy a big tube and keep it handy!

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