5 Reasons You May Be Experiencing Painful Sex During Pregnancy

Does penis-in-vagina sex cause more pain than pleasure during pregnancy? Here are five reasons why you might experience discomfort during intercourse, with tips on correcting the underlying issue.  

Having penis-in-vagina sex is an entirely different experience when pregnant. Some claim that heightened sensitivity leads to better-than-ever orgasms, while others complain about discomfort ranging from cramping to searing stabs. Painful sex during pregnancy has a host of different causes—some normal and some worrisome—so it's important to visit your doctor about the issue. Here are five reasons that intercourse might be not-so-comfortable when expecting a baby, with tips on how to make pregnancy sex enjoyable again.

Painful Sex During Pregnancy

1. Your Body Is Changing

Your belly isn't the only thing that changes during pregnancy. You can also expect tender nipples, swollen legs, an inflamed uterus and vagina, and other annoying (but normal) symptoms that make sex feel unpleasant.

To avoid pain, "partners need to communicate to find the best positions," 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. For example, side-lying positions can take the pressure off your stomach.

2. You're Stressed

Many pregnant people worry that sex will harm their baby or negatively impact the pregnancy. This anxiety can tense your muscles, making things "tighter" down there. But don't worry: Dr. Minkin says pregnancy sex is almost always safe, unless you have a high-risk condition like placenta previa or preterm labor.

3. Your Vagina Is Dry

Dr. Belotte adds that vaginal dryness is rare during pregnancy. However, when it occurs, it may create uncomfortable friction during intercourse. To solve the problem, try using a water-based lubricant and avoid aggressive sex.

4. You Have an Infection

In some cases, painful sex during pregnancy could reveal certain infections, like cervicitis, vaginitis, and chorioamnionitis, says Jimmy Belotte, 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. You may also have pelvic inflammatory disease or a vaginal or pelvic mass, he adds. Because some of these conditions may harm the fetus, it's important to talk to your doctor about any pain you experience during pregnancy sex.

5. You Have an STI

Dr. Belotte says that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may also cause painful sex while pregnant. STIs sometimes have other symptoms as well, ranging from genital sores to painful urination. Many STIs can impact the fetus—for example, herpes can cause neurological problems, gonorrhea is associated with premature birth and stillbirth, and HPV can complicate deliveries—so you should see a doctor if you think you may have an STI.

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