As your pregnancy progresses, especially through the second and third trimesters, you may feel like you’re constantly adjusting and figuring out how to do everyday things with your new shape. The kitchen sink is farther away than it used to be, thanks to your bump. You need at least 5 pillows supporting various body parts to get a decent night of sleep. And yes, your sex life gets trickier. Let’s talk about making sex comfortable during pregnancy.
Is Sex Safe During Pregnancy?
Learn more: Can I Have Sex During Pregnancy
In short, yes, sex is safe for women who are having a normal, low-risk pregnancy (1). Most women fit into this category. But talk to your doctor if you have specific questions; as long as he or she has no concerns, you can start experimenting to figure out how to make sex comfortable throughout your pregnancy.
Pregnancy Sex Difficulties
There are a number of things that might make sex less desirable, or more challenging even if you do desire it. You may feel nauseated, achy, or sore. Maybe your breasts are tender or painful. Or, you may feel uncomfortable with the new look of your changing body. (Though most often, your partner finds your pregnant body much more attractive than you think.) Some women are so overwhelmed with exhaustion and fatigue that sex can feel like one more thing before your head hits the pillow. And then there’s navigating the experience with your ever-expanding bump.
Still, there are many women who find sex even more enticing during pregnancy! So, if your libido is there, we can hopefully help you find ways to make sex comfortable in pregnancy.
Most Comfortable Positions for Pregnancy Sex
Sex in the first trimester may not need any modification. Your shape has likely not changed too much. Some women find that their breasts are very tender, so they may prefer that they not be touched. They may be more comfortable having sex in positions where there’s not too much weight or pressure on their breasts.
As you move through your second trimester, your bump will start to become a challenge. Missionary position, or other man-on-top positions, can be uncomfortable because of the weight and pressure it puts on your belly. Or, you might find that lying on your back makes you light-headed. Here are some positions that you might find more preferable.
Many women find sex in side-by-side positions to be among the most comfortable during pregnancy (2). Lying on your side is no doubt the most comfortable way for you to relax your body, and it requires the least amount of energy from you. Your partner can lie behind you, in a spooning position. Or you can try lying face-to-face, though this may become more challenging as your bump grows. One way to modify face-to-face to make room for your belly is to position your torsos in more of a V shape rather than lying parallel to each other. (In this v-shape, you can put both legs over your partner’s hips.)
Woman on Top
Many women also find woman-on-top positions to be among the most comfortable for sex during pregnancy (2). Positions with the woman on top keep the woman in control of both depth of penetration, which can sometimes be uncomfortable in certain positions. And, mom can contol the amount of pressure on belly or tender breasts. You can experiment with positions where your partner lies on his back, or seated in a chair with you in his lap, either facing him or facing away from him.
You may find that it’s comfortable to kneel, with your upper body resting on your elbows or with your head and chest on the bed, with your partner entering you from behind. A hand-and-knees position will cause strain on your lower back from the weight of your belly. But, this should be at least partly alleviated by keeping your elbows or chest on the bed as described above. If your back still feels strained, try propping some pillows under your belly to support its weight. This is a position that may work well for part of your pregnancy, but may not be the most comfortable way to have sex by the end of your third trimester.
Edge of Bed
This is another position that requires little effort from a fatigued woman, and may keep sex comfortable through the end of pregnancy. It’s a good substitute for the missionary position that may have become too uncomfortable. Scoot your bottom all the way to the edge of the bed and lie back. (Propping up on some pillows or using a pillow to shift your weight slightly to one side are more comfortable than lying flat on your back.) Your partner can kneel or stand, depending on the height of your bed.
Another way to make the edge of the bed into useful real estate is to scoot your bottom all the way to the edge, but lie on your side instead of your back. You can bring your legs up toward your chest to keep them from hanging off the edge of the bed. Or use a chair, bench, or sturdy ottoman to give your legs a comfortable place to rest.
There may be times when intercourse just isn’t comfortable or desired. Remember that there are plenty of ways for you and your partner to enjoy each other without penetrative sex. And remember that there are ways to share intimacy and closeness that are nonsexual as well.
Helpful Positioning Aids for Comfortable Sex During Pregnancy
Believe it or not, the best products to help you have comfortable sex throughout your pregnancy are pillows! You may have already discovered that pillows can help you stay properly positioned for your best night’s sleep. These same pillows can help support your lovemaking as well. It is not necessary to spend on specialty pillows; you can definitely use what you already have. But in case you’re looking to pick up something that you may find useful for sleep, sex, and beyond, let’s take a look at some useful pillow shapes.
A wedge pillow looks like… well, a wedge, or a ramp. You can use a wedge under your belly when you lie on your side, as a way to make pregnancy sex (or pregnancy sleep) more comfortable. You can put the tall end of the wedge under your bottom so that your hips are slightly tilted up for missionary position sex before your belly becomes too large. A wedge can also be used to prop you up a little to keep you from lying flat on your back. This is both uncomfortable and not recommended for long periods of time in the second half of pregnancy.
You’re likely familiar with pillows that are designed to stay between the knees during side sleep. The idea is that this helps align your spine better, and that’s exactly why they can also make sex more comfortable during pregnancy. In a spooning or edge-of-bed position where you are lying on your side, your back can feel strained by being slightly out of alignment. A knee pillow can relieve that stress and make you feel more comfortable. In either of these positions, you also may feel most comfortable with a wedge pillow under your belly.
If you happen to have a pregnancy pillow — intended for helping you get a good night’s sleep — you can use it to make pregnancy sex more comfortable, as well. These pillows are long and usually c-shaped or u-shaped. They’re designed to support your belly and back, and position your knees as described above. Experiment with different positions. Wherever you find that you need a little extra support, see if your pregnancy pillow can be maneuvered to meet that need.
Things You Already Own
Having comfortable sex throughout your pregnancy doesn’t require specialized equipment or a big budget. If you read through the descriptions above, you can probably imagine how you’d accomplish the same thing with items you already have. You can place a regular ol’ bed pillow between your knees, or use a couple to make a wedge. Throw pillows, which may be denser than your bed pillows, can provide comfort for your partner’s knees during edge-of-bed sex. A bolster pillow or foam yoga roller can give you some lower back support for a seated position. Or, it can be placed between your knees for better back and hip positioning. Be creative!
While your physical comfort is important, the most important thing you can do to make sex comfortable and fulfilling is to communicate openly with your partner. It may not always feel sexy. There may be some awkward laughsas you maneuver around a big bump or to have to construct pillow forts for sex. But the most important thing is that you’re communicating about your needs and desires. (And keep the lines of communication open; your needs and desires will change along with your hormones, moods, and body.)
A healthy, satisfying sex life is different for each couple. What matters most is that both partners feel heard, respected, and fulfilled. Hopefully you can use these tips and tricks along the way as you figure out what exactly that looks like for you.
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- Jones, C., Chan, C., & Farine, D. (2011). Sex in pregnancy. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 183(7), 815–818. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.091580
- Jian Tao Lee, Chao Ling Lin, Gwo Hwa Wan & Ching Chung Liang (2010) Sexual Positions and Sexual Satisfaction of Pregnant Women, Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 36:5, 408-420, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2010.510776