This article should not be used to replace medical advice. If your doctor has advised you to abstain from sex for fear of miscarriage and you do not have any of the conditions listed below, you may benefit from a second opinion, further research, or asking your doctor to explain why it’s important for your particular body and pregnancy to abstain from sex as your situation may have unique variables that require important consideration.
Will sex cause a miscarriage? Short answer: NO! If you have a healthy pregnancy, sex will not cause a miscarriage. So why do so many people (including doctors) sometimes tell people to stop having sex in pregnancy if there is talk about a miscarriage?
It’s easy to come across resources that state if someone has a history of miscarriage their doctor may ask them to refrain from sex for the first trimester unless otherwise noted. There are a few problems with this suggestion.
- “Experts” often do not specify if the problem is with penetration or orgasms or both.
- A review of the literature on this topic concluded there is no scientific research that has been conducted to validate this concern in a healthy pregnancy.
- First trimester miscarriages are generally thought to be due to “a major genetic problem or the body’s ways of stopping a pregnancy that is not going to develop healthily… it can be the uterine environment itself somehow, but that has certainly nothing to do with sex itself. In all my medical training I can’t think of any reason why a [person] would need pelvic rest in the first trimester” (Dr. E. Queenan, personal communication, April 24, 2017).
- risk of preterm labour
- placenta previa
- placental abruption
- cervical insufficiency
- ruptured membranes
- presence of sexually transmitted infections or viruses (and depending on the infection, condoms or barriers may be sufficient for protection. Consult with your doctor or a sexual health clinic if you’re uncertain).
The problem with the advice to abstain from having sex is that this often causes a lot of distress for people or negatively impacts intimacy in relationships. Connecting with our bodies or partners is vital before the tumultuous postpartum period! Sex isn’t the only way to do this, of course, and if you’re already not that interested in sex than that’s absolutely okay and normal. But for individuals and relationships where sex is an integral part of life, telling people to abstain from sex can be really harmful.
If your pregnancy is healthy and you want to have sex, enjoy yourself! And know that the loving relationships you cultivate with your body and your partners during pregnancy will only serve to benefit you and your family.
P R O F E S S I O N A L B I O: Tynan Rhea is a settler with German and Czechoslovakian ancestry. Tynan has a private practice online and in Toronto as a counselor, aromatherapist, and doula specializing in sex, intimacy, and relationships throughout the reproductive years. Tynan is also the founder of PostpartumSex.com. Tynan graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Joint Honours Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Sexuality, Marriage, & Family. They received their doula training from the Revolutionary Doula Training program and their aromatherapy training with Anarres Apothecary Apprenticeship program. Tynan approaches their practice from sex-positive, trauma-informed, anti-oppressive, and feminist frameworks. You can find Tynan on Facebook, Instagram @TynanRhea or TynanRhea.com