For some pregnant people, masturbation during pregnancy is the last thing on their minds as the list of to-dos gets longer, the aches and pains increase, and you feel less and less connected with your body. For others, however, you might be feeling an increased sex drive—with or without a partner involved.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important to know that masturbation is healthy and normal. During pregnancy there are some caveats, but the general rule is that if it feels good to you, then it’s generally safe for your baby.

Here’s what else you should know.

Is masturbation safe during pregnancy?

The short answer is yes, masturbation is generally safe during pregnancy.

“Good news—in most cases, it is totally safe to masturbate while pregnant,” says Dr. Sarah Bjorkman, MD, board-certified OB/GYN and Motherly's Maternal Health Advisor. “You cannot hurt the baby while masturbating, and many pregnant patients actually notice an increase in their sex-drive during pregnancy—especially in the second and third trimester.” 

Many people have heard that having orgasms during pregnancy can lead to early contractions and labor, but in low-risk pregnancies, a meta-analysis found there were no risks associated with intercourse and orgasming.

Related: Yes, it’s possible to have a great sex life post-kids—here’s how

However, there are a few cases in which masturbation and orgasming are not safe, namely if you have a high-risk pregnancy. 

Examples of high-risk conditions include:

  • Placenta previa (the placenta is covering the cervix)
  • A weakened cervix
  • Premature rupture of membranes
  • A history of premature labor
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Uterine infections
  • Intrauterine growth restrictions
  • Your water has broken

If you have any of these conditions—or if you just want to be sure that you’re safe—you can check with your doctor. Still, you may be able to masturbate even with some of these conditions—just without penetration.

"For women with low-risk pregnancies and no other health conditions, there really are no risks of masturbation,” says Dr. Bjorkman. “If you have any of those pregnancy complications like preterm labor, cervical insufficiency or PPROM, it is best to avoid placing anything in your vagina, but clitoral stimulation is usually still OK.”

Can I use sex toys during pregnancy?

Much like masturbation done with the hands, sex toys during pregnancy are generally safe.

“Sex toys are safe to use for most patients,” says Dr. Bjorkman, “but you should avoid placing them inside the vagina if you have an abnormal positioning of your placenta, preterm cervical dilation, vaginal bleeding, preterm premature rupture of membranes or preterm labor, or other conditions where your doctor has advised pelvic rest.”

Related: Is your libido lower than normal? This may be why

Additionally, just like all the non-pregnant people using sex toys, you should be sure that you’re cleaning and storing them properly. Dirty or used toys can carry bacteria, dust and debris, which you don’t want in or around your vagina. (The same should apply to your hands, too–wash them before inserting!)

To clean your toys before and after use, most often, a gentle soap and water should do the trick. But refer to the manufacturer, as every toy can be different.

What are the benefits of masturbation during pregnancy?

If you’re willing and able to masturbate during pregnancy, there are some benefits that you might notice. “Masturbation can be a great way to relieve stress and anxiety, relax or even increase intimacy with your partner,” says Dr. Bjorkman.

This is because orgasms release hormones including oxytocin, dopamine, endorphins, serotonin and prolactin—the “feel-good” hormones which tend to improve your mood, even if it’s just temporarily.

A note from Motherly

If your pregnancy is low risk and healthy, masturbating is safe and beneficial. But if you’re experiencing mild cramps, spotting or heavy discharge after orgasming, talk to your doctor. This might be a sign of Braxton-Hicks, but it’s always a good idea to get the all-clear.

Featured expert

Dr. Sarah Hartwick Bjorkman, OB-GYN and Motherly’s Maternal Health Advisor

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A version of this story was published January 4, 2021. It has been updated.