From Our 2010 Archives
Sex During Pregnancy: Women Tell All
Third Trimester Sex Less Frequent, but Nearly 40% of Pregnant Women Have Sex in Birth Week
Daniel J. DeNoon
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 23, 2010 -- Sex during pregnancy: What do women really do?
Sexual intercourse is safe throughout a normal pregnancy. That's what the experts say -- but to find out what pregnant women really experience, why not ask the women themselves?
That's just what sex researchers Joana Rocha Pauleta, MD, and colleagues did. They gave anonymous, structured questionnaires to 188 women who had just given birth at Santa Maria University Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal.
Pauleta and colleagues did not interview women for whom sex during pregnancy would have been risky: those with placenta previa, multiple fetuses, cervical incompetence, or risk of premature labor.
Here's what they learned from the women, who ranged in age from 17 to 40 (average age 29):
Might the women's cultural background have affected their experiences? Almost certainly. Pauleta and colleagues note that previous studies found that many women in Pakistan and Nigeria believe sex during pregnancy widens the vagina and makes childbirth easier, and that many women in Iran believed sex during pregnancy would blind the child or rupture a female fetus's hymen.
In a comment on the study, Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at San Diego's Alvarado Hospital, stressed the importance of continuing sexual intimacy during pregnancy.
"Having vaginal sex will not negatively impact a pregnancy," Goldstein said in a news release. "However, many pregnant couples are reluctant to participate in sexual activity as they enter the third trimester for fear of hurting the child. It's a common misconception that needs to be addressed more often and openly."
The Pauleta study appears in the February issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Goldstein is editor-in-chief of the journal.
SOURCES: Pauleta, J.R. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, February 2010; vol 7: