During pregnancy, your sex drive may change. Some people see their libidos skyrocket, particularly during the second trimester, while others have a lower-than-usual sex drive throughout. It’s all individual — and if you want to masturbate at any point in your pregnancy, it’s typically safe to do so.
During pregnancy, your fetus is protected by a cervical mucus plug and amniotic fluid, and generally, it’s totally safe to keep up your regular sex life. As the Canadian Pregnancy Association explains, "unless your health care provider specifically advises you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is safe for both you and your baby. Intercourse can’t hurt your baby or cause a miscarriage. You may find you want to have sex more than you did before you became pregnant. On the other hand, wanting sex less is perfectly normal too." And that includes solo sex, too.
During your third trimester, doctors generally recommend that you avoid lying on your back for long periods of time — and besides, this position is likely uncomfortable by this point. If that’s your go-to masturbation style, you’ll likely want to try something new. For example, you may want to stay seated or lie on your side. You can use pillows (sex pillows, a pregnancy pillow, or just a regular bed pillow) to help you experiment with different reclining positions. If anal play is part of your masturbation repertoire, be aware that hemorrhoids are common during pregnancy and can make anal penetration uncomfortable.
The only reason you’ll need to avoid masturbation during pregnancy is if your doctor has placed you on pelvic rest — which the Mayo Clinic notes is sometimes recommended if you have placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta partially or totally covers the cervix), if you’re at risk of preterm labor for any reason, or if you have abdominal surgery during pregnancy. During pelvic rest, you’re asked to avoid activities that place pressure on your pelvis, including sex (both solo and partnered) and lower body exercises.
As for the idea that masturbation brings on labor, there's no research to prove that — some believe that penis-in-vagina sex may bring on labor when you're very close to your due date because of the presence of prostaglandins in semen, however, studies haven't proven that this actually happens. Some midwives and doulas actually advise patients to masturbate during childbirth, but this is simply for pain relief rather than to speed along labor.
Of course, you don’t need to masturbate during pregnancy if you don’t want to. "Being pregnant can do a real number on your sex drive," sex therapist Vanessa Marin previously told Refinery29. "Some women report feeling exceptionally horny in the first trimester, minus all the unfortunate morning sickness. Other women feel their libidos kick into overdrive around the second trimester. Things generally slow down around the third trimester, but every woman is different." Listen to your body, and try not to compare yourself to others.