Most pregnant women in the modern Western world are sexually active throughout pregnancy but you wouldn’t know that from depictions in popular media. Once a woman becomes pregnant she also becomes untouchable. Why?
Because people are grossed out that her partner's penis might touch the baby.
Pregnancy Obviously Does Not Work That Way. Not only is this just impossible, but it's utterly ridiculous. The womb and the vagina are separated by the cervix, one of the toughest and thickest muscles in the body and one that remains firmly closed until the mother goes into labour. Even if it were not, the developing fetus is covered by a tough membrane.
Outside of the issue of damage to the baby, however, a rather more practical issue can arise: comfort. Depending on how far along the pregnancy — and thus the development of the fetus — is, both partners may find themselves having to navigate a potentially rather large and heavy obstruction on the woman's part, which can make it difficult to find a position that is comfortable and satisfying for both partners. (Not to mention mood swings, persistent vomiting, fatigue, and various other aches and pains that can crop up throughout gestation, which are rarely constant but typically always present.) It's certainly not impossible to do so, however. Some people have dedicated a large amount of time to thinking about this, as people can be horny devils — sometimes even thanks to the pregnancy; the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can increase the mother's sex drive, and some men find appeal in proof of their virility. Finally, sex during pregnancy can be a change of pace, as couples may become stuck between the stressful business of attempting to conceive and the stressful business of attempting not to conceive. If the woman is already pregnant, both concerns are finally off the table.
For others, especially men in fiction, the issue isn't physical but emotional. Since babies are seen as pure and innocent creatures, and sex can be considered sinful or dirty, the collision of these two feelings can leave some men uncomfortable about the idea of a sweet little baby being right there, which is somewhat ironic when you consider that sex is (probably) how the baby got there in the first place. A similar problem happens with the Madonna-Whore Complex, in which mothers are pure and innocent and Sex Is Evil. And woe to the couple that must face both at once.
Historical characters may have a different viewpoint. Before roughly the late 18th century not much was known about fetal development; in early modern England, for instance, it was commonly believed that women didn't menstruate during pregnancy because the fetus grew by feeding on her menstrual fluid. Sex during pregnancy was thought to harm the baby by contaminating the fluid with semen, but in addition was also thought to harm the man by exposing him to the 'unclean' fluid. A character in Elizabethan England will likely care more about protecting himself than 'bumping the baby'. In other cultures, it is believed that a pregnant woman must have regular sex in order to build the baby's bones and muscles. In at least one culture, it's required that she have sex with multiple partners (not usually at the same time), and each of those partners is equally seen as the child's father.
- In Spotted Flower, the otaku husband can’t get aroused by his pregnant wife, saying he gets weirded out when he thinks about there being another human being inside her belly. It’s a problem because she really wants him to have sex with her, and is repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to seduce him.
- There's an old joke dealing with this, where a super-intelligent baby emerges from the womb, thanks his doctor, his mother, and then asks his dad to lean down. Upon doing so, the baby pokes his finger into his father's forehead repeatedly and asks "How do you like it?"
- Stand-up comedian Jeff Foxworthy told a story about the Lamaze class he and his wife attended before the birth of their first daughter.
"At one point, the instructor told us, "Now, after your wife's water breaks, do not have sex.". I raised my hand, I said: "Is this really a problem?!" That's a sensitive husband, ain't it? "So, uh... just how far apart are the contractions there, sweet thing? Seems like a shame to waste this semi-private room." ...And they wouldn't tell you that unless somebody had done it, that's what bothers me."
- On Dane Cook's first album, he chats with a pregnant couple in the audience about their continued sex life, expressing impressed surprise that they still do it.
- Child of the Storm averts this both by implication, with Pepper telling Tony she's pregnant, then intending on announcing it to the rest of the Avengers before they get around to celebration sex, and by Tony stating after coming back from his assumed death, he and the heavily pregnant (7 months along at least) Pepper are going to have a lot of Glad-to-Be-Alive Sex. Pepper seems to be more than amenable to this.
- In an Iron Man fan fic that had Pepper pregnant with Tony's baby, Pepper didn't just have sex with Tony, she flat out attacked him.
- A chapter in a one-shot collection is about George and Ron pranking Harry by convincing him that this is a necessity for all women. After some (very frustrating) time, Ginny's investigations reveal the reason for Harry's lack of attention... and she isn't pleased.
- In White Rain, while Sakura's pregnancy is too early to show, Sasuke seems put out at how much more passionate she's become recently. And then, things go wrong.
- In the The Story of Saiunkoku fic a sensible proposal, Ryuuki is initially reluctant to make love to a pregnant Shuurei out of fear that he might harm her or their baby, but Shuurei informs him that the doctor reassured her that it was safe to do so... at least until late into the pregnancy.
- At the end of the aptly named Berserk AU fic Parenthood, it's shown that Guts and Casca are still having sex five months into her pregnancy, albeit Guts is still working out some post-traumatic stress issues when they're together that he wants to be rid of by the time their child is born.
- Inverted in many Fairy Tail fanfics, particularly when the baby's father is a Dragon Slayer of any element (regardless of who is paired with whom in any given work). Fanon explains that the baby needs its father's magic to develop in-utero in a healthy manner, as well as its mother's.
- Inverted in Second Chances (TheNovelArtist), to the point of it ending with Marinette telling Adrien she is pregnant again, and the two immediately starting a proper celebration.
- Two separate ER stories avert this with Doug and Carol. The first, part of a behind-the-scenes series about their real relationship on the show, has him having a dream about this (they were separated during her pregnancy). The second has her pregnant again after they've reconciled and the only anxiety comes from her, afraid that he won't find her attractive because of how big she's getting, but he assures her otherwise.
- Subverted in The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf has taken Jaime and Cersei (pregnant by Jaime, although Euron is also a contender) captive, and while he repeatedly sends his men to have sex with her, it's all non-vaginal (reserving that for Jaime). He claims he doesn't want the baby to have traits of multiple men, citing a marauder born with three different hair colors when three men claimed his mother as their bride.
- In the film Nine Months, the mother refuses to have sex because she's pregnant.
- In Knocked Up, Seth Rogen's character has this fear in the middle of doing the deed, much to his girlfriend's disappointment. That didn't stop him from multiple attempts, of course...
- Discussed in Munich; after having sex with his visibly pregnant wife, the main character asks her "How long into the pregnancy should we stop having sex?" Between heavy breaths, she responds: "labor."
- Discussed in Dogma, where Jay is aware that a pregnant woman can have sex "until the third trimester".
- The Bill Murray film St. Vincent (2014) averts this trope, as the pregnant character is a prostitute, and Vincent (Murray's character) is one of the few men willing to continue using her services.
- In Tulip Fever, the heroine's doctor advises her and her husband of this. (He's actually a fraud trying to help her keep him from discovering her Fake Pregnancy /Pillow Pregnancy)
- In Stephen King's The Stand, Stu Redman and Frannie Goldsmith regularly have sex while she's pregnant, although at one point Stu worries about "squishing" the kid between them. Apparently he's only familiar with the missionary position? Apparently she is as well since she tells him she's cutting him off at four months.
- In Flowers for Algernon, Charlie halted a near-sexual encounter after finding out that the woman was pregnant. He was squicked; her, not so much.
- In Broken, Elena and Clay stop having sex during pregnancy because she started 'spotting' as if on her period. Even though the Pack doctor reassured them that they couldn't hurt their baby twins, they were too scared to risk it. So instead, they got very creative with their sex life.
- That's not the only thing she's scared of doing, either...
- Referenced in the Flashman book Flash for Freedom, where Flashman finds his wife Elspeth's pregnant appearance arousing and wants to have sex, but she declines thinking it could hurt the unborn child.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's Time Enough for Love the main character, Lazarus Long goes back in time and has sex with his mother. She has an open relationship with his father and has sex when already pregnant.
- Ways of Dying by Zakes Mda technically averts this in that a woman who's in the third trimester has an affair with her obstetrician. Unfortunately for them, they're caught in the act, and as you might imagine, they're not married to each other. The woman gets out of any trouble due to sheer gall, but the obstetrician tries to lie his way out and gets beaten up for it.
- Women on Darkover never have sex during pregnancy, preferring to send their husbands to other women - usually a sister or very close friend during their gestation. They are shocked at the notion that Terran men would 'demand' sex of their gravid wives. Of course they are also shocked at the idea of men remaining celibate for nine months.
- In the Masters of Rome series Pompey the Great avoids having sex with his new wife - though they both want it badly - because she is pregnant with the child of her former husband. Then she dies miscarrying the baby and Pompey is so distraught he tries to throw himself onto her pyre.
- Trainspotting has a scene that has the sort of imagery that shows why this trope is Squick to some people; Mark is having sex with his dead brother's pregnant girlfriend and his narration says he gets a mental image of him being so far up inside her that the foetus is simultaneously giving him a blowjob. He says the image "torments" him, but he keeps going anyway. Given that he knows he is shagging her (in a toilet at said dead brother's funeral!) to get back at his hated brother anyway, the image just serves to highlight his self-aware degradation.
- Zigzagged in The Lords of Satyr, where women carrying Satyr babies are not allowed any sexual contact with the father for the entire term (which fortunately lasts only a month). Paradoxically, the last night before birth is spent engaging in the same hours-long rut that engendered the pregnancy in the first place!
- Defied in Kris Longknife: Unrelenting. Kris spends the whole book pregnant with her and Jack's first child, but their very active sex life is disrupted much more by her naval career than by the pregnancy. Once they discovered the Surprise Pregnancy,note Jack intentionally looked up how to comfortably have sex with Kris once she started showing.
- Subverted in the bodice-ripper Taken By You, when Morgan is reluctant to make love to the pregnant Luca, fearful of hurting her or the baby, but she assures him she'll be okay.
- Cited in Seeds of Yesterday when Cathy tries to discourage Bart and Melodie's affair (Melodie is married to Bart's brother Jory) by telling her "You shouldn't be having sex anyway, sometimes it's not safe".
- The Emigrants: Inverted. Kristina really enjoys having sex during her pregnancies, mostly because that is the only time she doesn't have to worry about getting pregnant and can focus on enjoying the sex.
- The Silerian Trilogy: Averted as Mirabar sleeps with Tansen while she's pregnant. It's fairly early in her pregnancy though, so she isn't uncomfortable.
- In season 4 of The League, Kevin refuses to have sex with pregnant Jenny. Her frustration later leads to her being caught masturbating.
- In Misfits, Nathan has sex with Marnie days before she gives birth - and minutes after meeting her.
- In Brass Eye, the American rap artist Jail B8 blames his pedophilia on his father fucking him "anally, prenatally".
- In one episode of Two and a Half Men, Berta's pregnant daughter Naomi is visiting, and is quite clearly arousing Alan. When Charlie asks him what the Hell, he intimates that he and Judith had the best and most frequent sex of their marriage while she was pregnant with Jake, leaving him with an innate attraction to pregnant women. Charlie assumes that this explains Jake's grades, and then weighs in on the subject of sex with pregnant women with "Once there's a bun in the oven, I no longer feel the need to butter it." Later in the episode, Jake wonders if having sex with a pregnant lady means she'll have twins. When Alan confirms that that isn't how it works, Naomi adds that "Otherwise I'd be havin' a whole damn litter!"
- When Alan had to explain why he was aroused by the pregnant Naomi, he also comments on how Judith's hormones made her crave sex more leading to one of the funniest lines Alan has ever said:
- Subverted in an episode of Veronica's Closet where one character is afraid he may harm the baby if he has sex with his pregnant girlfriend. Someone else explains the truth to him by using an analogy involving a car, a garage, and house. It ends with something along the lines of "No matter how big your car is, driving it into the garage cannot harm the baby in the house".
- An early episode of Veronica Mars had two men fighting over a heavily pregnant attractive redhead despite both knowing that neither of them was the father. That bit gets icky.
- Friends had this when Rachel was pregnant. She hit a point four months in where every guy was really sexy, and she was often aroused. Pheobe said she got through it with a cardboard cut out of a professional boxer.
- And by the end of the pregnancy (when the baby is overdue) Rachel's gynecologist recommends sex to help the pregnancy along, and she spends the rest of the episode trying to seduce Ross (her water breaks just before they get around to it, though).
- Scrubs features Drs Cox and Kelso telling Turk that pregnancy sex is "a freakshow" because the fetus has hands and will try to grab any invaders. Justified in that they're just trying to freak him out. Carla is shown complaining that Turk refuses to touch her, even though the pregnancy is making her horny. Turk replies that, even though it disgusts him, he's going to force himself to go through with it for her.
- When Kim was (visibly) pregnant, she and JD were shown to have pregnant sex, JD even gloated in front of his friends that he could "Sex [his] pregnant girlfriend into a coma.".
JD: That was so cool! And weird.
Kim: I think he liked it too; he's kicking like crazy.
JD: And now it's disgusting. (Not that that stopped him from doing it again)
- When Kim was (visibly) pregnant, she and JD were shown to have pregnant sex, JD even gloated in front of his friends that he could "Sex [his] pregnant girlfriend into a coma.".
- In Nip/Tuck, Christian gets physically violent with a store clerk who has sex with the woman carrying his child (even though Christian and the woman no longer have a sexual or emotional relationship). Even though Christian has sex with her later on to help reduce her tension. The implication is that Christian freaks out because the clerk has a pregnancy fetish, which makes Christian "sick" for having sex with women to whom he's attracted. Considering that Christian is The Casanova, this helps solidify his position as being a giant hypocrite.
- Christian and Gina also try having sex at one point, with great difficulty due to the large, hard baby belly between them. It's a rare light scene in their ridiculously melodramatic relationship.
- Prison Break: When reunited with his pregnant girlfriend Maricruz in season 2, Sucre worries about this.
- On Freaks and Geeks, during Sex Ed someone asked if it was possible to poke the fetus during sex, and the gym teacher said that it wouldn't happen (except, supposedly, to the kid who was wearing an eyepatch at that moment).
- Patrick from Coupling claimed to have had sex with a pregnant woman, who he had no trouble finding sexy. This squicked Sally immensely, rather derailing what had been her attempts to assure Susan (pregnant) and Steve that pregnant women were beautiful and sexual activity involving them was also beautiful and natural.
- Steve is equally squicked and explains that sex with pregnant women is taboo, but that he's allowed to have sex with Susan since he's the one who "taboo-ized" her.
- Sally's squick is signalled to the viewer as irrational given that she wants to have a baby, and the scene ends with Patrick and Sally huffy with each other because she wants to be pregnant and he finds pregnant women sexy... and neither of them appears to realise that this is the ideal situation for them.
- In British Drama Cold Feet the man is reluctant to have sex with his pregnant wife. Not because he fears he might harm the child, but because he thinks it's "impolite to go poking around in there". She eventually convinces him that the baby is asleep and won't notice.
- British comedy show KYTV once had a sketch where the news show was interviewing a government minister and asked him if people should have sex during pregnancy
MP: Certainly not....you might get bitten by the baby.
- As Married... with Children's Jefferson D'Arcy once put it:
Jefferson: She wants sex all the time. I mean, having sex with your pregnant wife is, is like putting gas in the tank of a car that you've already wrecked.
- Seen in Goodnight Sweetheart when a pregnant Phoebe refuses to have sex with Gary on the grounds that it might damage the baby. Great play is made of the Values Dissonance when she has no problem in continuing to smoke.
- The Drew Carey Show: Drew doesn't want to have sex with a pregnant woman after he has an Imagine Spot of the baby with a small round dent in its forehead blaming it on him.
- Rome: Pullo wants to have sex with the pregnant Eirene, but she refuses on the grounds it's "bad for the baby".
- Miranda of Sex and the City muses "What if he's huge?" and fears that her partner might dent her baby or something. Carrie asks her how she thinks babies get dimples. She gets over it. Later on, when she's horny from all the pregnancy-hormones and her at that point quite visible pregnancy is cramping her gettin'-around skills, she muses that that must be why you're supposed to have children within wedlock - so that "there's one guy around who's obligated to have sex with you."
- On Mad About You, Paul was initially reluctant to have sex with a pregnant Jamie, fearing he could hurt her or the baby, but their sex life resumed once he was assured by her and her doctor that this was not so. There was even a scene shortly before she went into labor, initiated by Paul in an attempt to induce labor (she was overdue).
- Days of Our Lives has a storyline in which Kristen finds her efforts to get pregnant again following a miscarriage hampered when her doctor tells her fiance John that her condition is precarious and that they shouldn't have sex. (John is unaware that she's lost the baby and Kristen fears he will leave her if he knows).
- One Life to Live's Alex comes up with medical excuses as to why she and hubby Carlo can't have sex to keep him from discovering her Pillow Pregnancy.
- On Titus, the titular character finds out his best friend Tommy has been having sex with his pregnant sister. He starts wondering if it's even safe, but Dave assures him it's perfectly safe up to a point. Titus then mentions (in the Neutral Space) that Dave knows a lot about the female reproductive system; not because he studied it, but because one time he got so high, he remembered being born.
- Discussed in The Secret Life of the American Teenager with Ben and Adrian who frequently have sex. Their friends initially ask them if they find it weird, but the couple is adamant that it's not.
- In an episode of Royal Pains, Hank accompanies a heavily pregnant woman and her family to their private island, and she confides in him that she intends to induce labor during their stay. Hank vetoes the idea, since getting proper medical care would be difficult if something went wrong, and later has to discourage her and her husband from having sex because of it. Quoth the husband: "I had no idea sex led to childbirth. (beat) That Came Out Wrong."
- On Suburgatory, George is discouraged from having sex with Noah's surrogate for this very reason; they even have a sort of contract. However, the doctor averts this by mentioning how it might be beneficial.
- In an episode of House, a young pregnant woman is discovered to have two independent uteri, both of which have fetuses in them. The only problem? One of the fetuses is several weeks younger than the other. The woman's boyfriend is upset, as they temporarily split up for a few weeks after she told him she was pregnant, and she ended up having sex with another guy, figuring she couldn't get pregnant again. Eventually, the boyfriend comes around and agrees to raise both children as his own.
- On Reba, Van and Cheyenne frequently had sex in the early months of pregnancy, but the trope is played straight later when Van was reluctant to have sex to induce labor, although that was mostly because Cheyenne developed a really bitchy attitude toward the end.
- The George Lopez Show danced all the way around it. Angie got a false positive on a pregnancy test but later found out she wasn't pregnant. However, because George was so excited about the baby and was being so loving and attentive, she decided to try and get pregnant as quickly as possible to keep him from finding out. Unfortunately, after seeing a very-realistic 3D ultrasound on the internet (which he thought made the baby look like some kind of freaky alien,) George is so creeped out by knowing the baby is right there, he's turned off from the idea of sex for a while.
- In season 4 of The Mindy Project, Danny turns down the advances of a pregnant Mindy.
Danny: It's just, I don't want my special guy so close to my special guy. I mean, he might hear us.Mindy: You don't want to have sex because of the baby? Danny, this is my baby. He loves sex sounds.Danny: How would you like it if you were minding your own business and a big penis just came and hit you right in the face?
- In The Tudors this happens frequently, owing to the medical beliefs at the time. (Any form of exertion was believed to be a threat to the baby.) It is, in fact, one of the reasons that Henry frequently has affairs, ofttimes finding his next wife whilst the previous one is pregnant.
- In Season 4 of Vikings, Gisla, who is pregnant with Rollo's child tells him in no uncertain terms that sex whilst she is in her 'sacred condition' is not going to happen. Rollo, who possesses none of her religious hang-ups, is both confused and disappointed, though he nonetheless respects her wishes.
- In a Homicide Hunter episode featuring the kidnapping of a baby, Kenda is interrogating the husband of the woman responsible (she was trying to pull The Baby Trap on him). The man claims to have been completely oblivious to his wife's Fake Pregnancy /Pillow Pregnancy, stating that his wife claimed that sex was too uncomfortable/painful/dangerous. note
- One Saturday Night Live skit had a parenting class with several American couples and one European couple with a habit of giving Too Much Information in their broken English. When the instructor asks the class about their sex life the American dads are very quick to insist they haven't been having any, while the Europeans start miming the positions they've been doing.
- This comes up in the column Savage Love from time to time, though in one case it seemed that a guy was just using it as an excuse because he wasn't attracted to his wife at that stage in her pregnancy.
- The Bible: In the gospel of Matthew, Joseph discovers that not only is his future wife Mary pregnant, but she is carrying a child conceived of the Holy Spirit, who will be the future Savior of mankind, Jesus. So Joseph totally holds off on consummating the marriage with Mary until after the child is born. Some churches (including the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox churches) even believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, which is the idea that Joseph never had sex with his wife even after the birth of Jesus (this has no direct Biblical support, and creates problems like, "then where did Jesus's brothers come from?", but the churches which hold to this dogma are quite insistent).
- Summertime Saga: Most characters, if they get pregnant, are not available to MC as sexual partners until after they give birth and their child is sent off to daycare. The one exception is Jenny, who convinces MC to have sex with her on camera while heavily pregnant. The strain of it is actually heavy enough for her to pass out immediately afterwards.
- Daughter for Dessert: Averted in the “good” Amanda ending. When the protagonist and the pregnant Amanda visit the location of their new diner in Hawaii, one of the first things they do is “baptize” it... by having sex in the kitchen.
- Anna, in Jack, was rather grossed out by Wednesday's suggesting sex while she was pregnant, in the arc "Wednesday's Child".
- In The Least I Could Do, Rayne asks a pregnant coworker about this when she alludes to still having an active sex life. He worries that an unusually large member could damage the child. Cue imagine spot with a doctor holding a baby with a large dent on its head.
- Played straight during Hank Hill's guide to fatherhood as seen as an extra on the Season 2 King of the Hill DVDs. One question asks Hank if he can have sex with his wife while she's pregnant. Hank questions why the guy would want to "run around the bases again when he's already hit a home run".
- In BoJack Horseman, BoJack has a drug-induced fantasy where he ran away with Charlotte to Maine instead of becoming mired in Los Angeles. When he discovers that he's going to be a father, one of his first questions is to ask how it will affect their sex life, suggesting that they should probably stick with "hand and mouth stuff" for the next nine months, just to be on the safe side.