Is It Safe To Practice BDSM When You're Pregnant?

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When the official trailer for the final installment (aka "climax") of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, Fifty Shades Freed, came out, fans learned that Anastasia Steele is pregnant.

It's not exactly a shock for anyone familiar with the book series, but it does set the scene for a possibly shocking moment in the movie: a pregnant Ana, wearing a tight corset, and about to participate in BDSM sex with her husband.

While it's important for all women — even those who are carrying a baby — to be able to have whatever kind of consensual sex they want, watching a pregnant Ana take a trip to Christian's Red Room made us wonder: Is it safe to practice BDSM when you're pregnant?

In a nutshell: Yes, according to Maureen Whelihan, MD, a gynecologist who also practices sexual medicine.

As long as there's no risk to the abdomen — like potential for the carrying partner to fall on their stomach or direct impact from a paddle, riding crop, or other spanking device — then BDSM sex is just as safe as any other kind of sex during pregnancy. Most of the time, Dr. Whelihan says, BDSM isn't all that dangerous, whether or not you're carrying a fetus.

"BDSM can be anything from using a feather duster or spanking to significant sadomasochistic behaviors. The definitions are really widespread," she says. "Much of BDSM is the perception of power or submissiveness."

Much of BDSM is the perception of power or submissiveness.
Maureen Whelihan, MD

That perception doesn't even have to include anything that's physically painful — to a pregnant person or anyone else. There's a moment in one of the books, Whelihan says, that illustrates this perfectly. Christian and Ana are in the Red Room and he demands that she turn away from him while he slips a blindfold over her eyes. He's not hurting her in that moment, but it's still considered BDSM because he has power over her and she's submitting to his will.

Well, what about her heart rate? Isn't it bad for a fetus if the parent gets too excited or scared?

Nope. "Sure, the excitement of the sex is likely to raise her heart rate, but your heart rate goes up during a good orgasm," Dr. Whelihan says. If it's safe for pregnant people to have orgasms, it's safe for them to have exciting, heart-pumping BDSM sex. Heck, Serena Williams continued to play tennis throughout her pregnancy — and that surely raised her heart rate, but baby Alexis was 100% fine.

Now, it's important to note that Christian and Ana do have more intense BDSM sex than many people in the kink community (and to remember that the books and movies often get kink wrong). So, some of what they've done in past movies might not actually be good for a fetus, Dr. Whelihan says.

She remembers a moment when Christian uses some kind of electric shock device on Ana, and would advise against that during pregnancy. Instead of using electrical shocks, she suggests using a vibrator during pregnancy for a similar, but safer, sensation.

Essentially, the safety of BDSM during pregnancy comes down to taking things on a case-by-case basis. If you're the type of person who practices extreme behaviors like electric shocking, then doctors like Dr. Whelihan would suggest you change your sex habits during pregnancy. But if you're interested in lighter play, like spanking or restraint, then keep it up — your sex life isn't going to hurt your growing baby bump.

Every body is different, though, so remember to check in with your own doctor to make sure everything is a-okay. And keep checking in, because things will change as your belly grows bigger and your balance gets worse. In fact, even people who have vanilla sex will probably have to change positions, because once you're in the third trimester laying on your back can reduce the amount of blood flowing to your baby. (Here are 14 pregnancy-safe sex positions anyone can use.)

Oh, and wear all the sexy corsets you want — you'll never tie it tight enough to hurt the fetus, Dr. Whelihan says. "The baby is really protected in that uterus."

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