During pregnancy: STIs and sex

As soon as you know you’re pregnant, contact your GP so you can start your antenatal care – this is the healthcare you get during your pregnancy. 

You'll be offered a series of appointments with a midwife, or sometimes with a doctor who specialises in pregnancy and birth (an obstetrician). Throughout your pregnancy, you’ll be able to ask them any questions you have.

STIs during pregnancy

If you think you or your partner could have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), it’s important to get tested.

Some STIs can affect your baby's health during pregnancy and after the birth. STIs can often have no symptoms, so if you haven’t tested for a while it's important to do a test to rule out infections. Even if you’ve been with the same partner for a long time. You should ask your partner to do the same.

It's safe to use a vaginal swab to test for STIs during pregnancy. This will not harm your baby.

You'll be offered a confidential HIV and syphilis test as part of your antenatal care. Your midwife or doctor will discuss this with you. Counselling and support will be available if the result is positive.

STIs like genital herpes and genital warts can come back during pregnancy. There's a small risk these could pass to the baby during birth. Let your midwife know if you’ve had these STIs in the past.

If you have an outbreak at the time of birth, your midwife might suggest you have a caesarean section so the infection is not passed on to the baby.

Preventing STIs

Using condoms during sex, even when you’re pregnant, will reduce the chance of you getting an STI.

If you develop any symptoms of an STI while you’re pregnant, speak to your midwife straight away or contact your local sexual health clinic.

Sex during pregnancy

It’s safe to have sex during pregnancy unless your doctor or midwife has told you not to. A penis or sex toy can't penetrate beyond your vagina and can’t hurt the baby.

But there are a few reasons why you might not want sex. It’s normal for your sex drive to change. Some couples enjoy sex during pregnancy, others prefer not to have sex at all.

It’s up to you whether you want to have sex or be intimate. You should never feel pressured into having sex. The important thing is to look after your physical and mental health.

Things that can affect sex or your libido (sex drive)

Nausea or morning sickness is common in early pregnancy. You might feel queasy or even vomit. For most people, this only lasts a few weeks.

Back pain and pelvic girdle pain (PGP) are also common in pregnancy, especially in the later stages. It can get difficult to sit or lie in certain positions. Your midwife should be able to suggest support with this if you need it. Physiotherapy or acupuncture can help relieve pain. Light exercise like yoga, swimming or antenatal massage can also help, though you should always tell your practitioner that you are pregnant before you begin.

Sex or orgasms can set off ‘practice’ contractions later in pregnancy. These are known as Braxton Hicks contractions and are a normal part of your body getting ready for labour.

If this happens, you'll feel the muscles of your womb (uterus) go hard. Some people say it feels similar to menstrual cramps. It’s less intense than labour pain but can feel uncomfortable. Relaxation techniques can help, or just lying quietly until the contractions pass.

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