News flash: Bullets, eggs, rabbits, rings, and other playful bedroom things may cause mind-blowing sexual pleasure. This is especially true during pregnancy, when your privates are engorged, lubricated, and potentially ultrasensitive, thanks to a surge in the hormones estrogen and progesterone. And unless your doctor has instructed otherwise, there's no reason not to dip into the erotic toy chest during pregnancy.
"Anything you've used before, chances are that you can still use it," says sex educator Lou Paget, author of Hot Mamas: The Ultimate Guide To Staying Sexy Throughout Your Pregnancy And The Months Beyond. The trick is to modify its use as needed. "As with nonpregnancy toys, listen to your body," Paget says. "While pregnant, you're likely to feel sensation more intensely, so you might need to try a different toy or a smaller toy, or to use it in a new and different way."
Sex toys come in many shapes and sizes for your various erogenous zones. Some vibrate, some don't. Some stimulate you inside; some stimulate you outside. (Some do both!) None of them are strictly off-limits during pregnancy, but there are a handful of guidelines that will keep sex safe, comfortable, and fun. As a general rule, never do anything that doesn't feel good or makes you uncomfortable, and always reach out to your health-care provider if you have bleeding or other issues, including pain or unusual soreness.
Here's what you need to know before you're ready to play:
Keep it Clean
Hygiene cannot be underemphasized here, especially when it comes to sex toys that penetrate your vagina. Always clean your toys with hot, soapy water and dry them completely, both before and after each use. Store them in a clean place -- don't toss them into a night table drawer that also houses your pedicure tools, for example.
Don't mix and Match
During pregnancy especially, don't use toys in or around your vagina that also make a rear entry. Introducing fecal bacteria into the vagina can set you up for a vaginal infection. If you're using the back door, proceed with great caution, as many pregnant women develop hemorrhoids that can bleed when pressure is applied -- with a toy or anything else.
Many erotic lotions and lubes contain scents, flavors, colors, and other ingredients that could irritate sensitive tissue or cause infections, which can be especially dangerous during pregnancy. "If you wouldn't put it in your eye, don't put it down there, either," Paget advises. (That's good advice even when you're not preggers!) That includes products with menthe or mint for "cooling," with capsaicin (hot pepper) for "warming," and anything made with sugar, which could cause a yeast infection. Look for any fine print that says "Not to be used by pregnant women" or "For external use only." Leave those products on the shelf.
Avoid Certain Materials
Some plastic toys can contain phthalates, compounds that have the potential to disrupt hormones in the body (which is why they're no longer allowed in baby bottles, pacifiers, and other infant products). If you're shopping for a new plastic toy, make sure it says "phthalate-free."
A dildo is harder and more rigid than a penis is, and your cervix is more fragile during pregnancy, so start slow and avoid going too deep or pushing too hard. "Your choice and your comfort are the guides when it comes to thrusting," Paget says. Go easy elsewhere on your body, too. Now may not be the best time to try nipple clamps, for example, as your breasts can be incredibly sensitive. And be careful with bondage, as your joints are looser than usual in preparation for childbirth, and you wouldn't want to accidentally overstretch and get injured.
If your doctor has said no intercourse, you might discover that you enjoy stimulating other erogenous zones, and there are toys for those, too. If you've been advised to avoid sex completely, consider putting old toys to new use. "The large Hitachi wand that was a favorite before for genital stimulation may make the grade now for lower back and leg massages," Paget says.