Intimacy during pregnancy

* This article is an excerpt from the above Sefer

Intimacy during pregnancy:[1]

A. Onah-The frequency:

The minimum obligation of Onah [i.e. twice a week] applies even when one’s wife is pregnant or nursing.[2] [Nonetheless, if the husband is not interested, and his wife is not particular and forgives him, then it is permitted for him to skip the times of Onah. However, if she does not forgive him, then he must fulfill it.[3] Likewise, those times of intimacy which are auspicious to bringing new souls into the world, may not be skipped even if his wife forgives him.[4]]

B. The first trimester:[5]

During the first three months [90 days] of pregnancy, [possibly a,[6] and certainly excessive[7]] intercourse is difficult for both wife and child.[8] [During this time, the wife commonly experiences bouts of nausea, cramps, morning sickness, exhaustion, and other ailments which can affect her interest in intimacy. Likewise, some say that intercourse during this time can lead to miscarriage.[9] Thus, the husband is to try to balance his requests for intimacy during this time in accordance with his wife’s physical capability, and his actual needs.[10] Nevertheless, in general, the nature of people from the times of the Talmud versus today has changed, and hence, the above Talmudic health warning may no longer be applicable today neither to wife nor baby.[11] Indeed, according to modern medicine today, some doctors claim, and so is the accepted position of medical information websites, that there is no known health risk, or extra risk of miscarriage, to have intimacy during a regular pregnancy [not high risk], including the first three months.[12] However, other doctors say that indeed a health risk, and danger of miscarriage, does exist and that therefore the couple is to diminish in intercourse during the first trimester, and try to have it only once a week, or halve their normal frequency.[13] An article in the British Journal of General Practice[14] gives an overview of the different medical opinions,[15] and in conclusion it can be said that not enough study or data exists either way to give a conclusive directive on the question of whether intercourse during the first trimester can raise the risks of miscarriage. In a case of doubt, the couple should discuss the matter with a doctor who can advise on their personal situation.[16] Whatever the case, the couple should not diminish from the minimum Onah obligations unless they both agree to do so, or there is evident medical reason for it, such as a high risk pregnancy.[17]]

C. The 2nd-3rd trimester:[18]

Intercourse in the last six months of pregnancy is beneficial for the child, and helps him come out further developed and enhances his appearance. [It helps the child be strong and beautiful.[19] However, in the second trimester, the Talmud states that intercourse is [medically[20]] difficult for the wife even though it is beneficial for the child.[21] In the third trimester, the Talmud states that it is [medically] beneficial for both wife and child.[22] Regarding the current medical perspective, there is no clear medical position regarding the second trimester, although regarding the third trimester there is agreement that it is beneficial.[23] However, some write that since intercourse during this time can bring on early labor, therefore a woman who suffers from early births is advised not to have intercourse in the last months.[24] Practically, the couple is to consult with their doctor for their personal situation.[25]]

Day 90 of pregnancy: It is forbidden to have intercourse on day 90 of the pregnancy, due to danger to the fetus as it can cause miscarriage. Nonetheless, in today’s times, one is not required to be stringent in this matter, and Shomer Pesa’im Hashem. [However, according to Kabbalah, this stringency applies even today. Accordingly, some Poskim conclude that it is proper to be stringent, even today, to avoid intercourse on the 90th day from her last Mikveh night, during pregnancy.] See 7P for the full details of this subject!

Saying Lamnatzei’ach: See 3B!

D. Loss of interest during pregnancy:

Loss of interest by the wife: See in the above Halacha regarding the loss of interest during the first trimester, and the same may apply during the third trimester. Every woman and situation is different. Thus, the husband is to try to balance his requests for intimacy during this time in accordance with his wife’s physical capability and his actual needs.

Loss of interest by the husband: Occasionally, it is specifically the husband who loses interest for intimacy while his wife is pregnant. This may be due to a variety of reasons, but whatever the case, he remains Biblically obligated in his minimum Onah obligations towards her, irrelevant of his disinterest, as explained in our Sefer Kedushas Habayis Halacha 1A. See there for the full details of this matter!

E. High-risk pregnancies:[26]

Certain high-risk pregnancies, especially if they require bedrest, carry doctors’ orders for the couple to avoid intimacy for a prolonged period throughout the pregnancy. It is advised for one to seek council with a Frum gynecologist and Rav in the event that such orders have been given, and see if there are any ways that intimacy can continue during this period.

F. Thoughts of sanctification:

See our corresponding Sefer “Kedushas Habayis” Chapter 7 Halacha 2 for the full details of this subject!

The importance of having holy intentions during intimacy and its effect on one’s future children:[27] Sanctification of one’s thoughts is of utmost importance during intimacy as it has a tremendous effect on the children.

How to sanctify:[28] During intimacy, one is to try not to focus on his pleasure, but rather on the below mentioned intents:

  1. Try to focus the mind not [only[29]] on the physical pleasure, but rather [also] on fulfilling the command of G-d to procreate and to fulfill the Mitzvah of Onah, to make one’s wife feel loved and pleasured.
  2. If one’s wife can become pregnant from the intimacy, then one should also intend that the children should grow up to be righteous individuals.
  1. For the benefit of the child:[30] During the intercourse that takes place within the last six months of pregnancy, he is to intend to enhance the features of the child, as the intercourse of the last six months is beneficial for the child to come out further developed. If one has intercourse for this reason alone, it suffices.

G. Once the wife has conceived, can sanctification, or lack thereof, influence the child?[31]

Yes. Even during pregnancy, sanctification during intimacy can affect the soul of the child, and the same applies if the couple does not sanctify themselves, that it can affect the child negatively.

H. Every union creates new souls:[32]

Every marital union between a husband and wife which takes place in a form of holiness creates a Jewish soul. [If, however, the intimacy is not one of a definite Mitzvah, such as one is not doing it for the Mitzvah of Onah but for pure lust, then no souls are born of this union.[33]] This soul may enter the body of another child who is born, such as a convert, if that woman does not become pregnant with the soul that they created. It is for this reason that marital unity is permitted between a husband and wife even during times that she cannot conceive, such as during pregnancy, or after menopause, and is not considered to be Zera Levatala. Accordingly, the Zohar explains that although Sarah was physically barren, she merited to have many spiritual children.


[1] M”A 240:1; Siddur Ya’avetz Mosach Hashabbos Mitos Kesef 7 Chulya Gimel 1; Kitzur SHU”A 150:7; M”B 240:2 and 10; Biur Halacha 240:1 “Ela B’onah”; Igros Moshe E.H. 1:102; See Nitei Gavriel 103:1-2; Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:8; Sheyikadesh Atzmo Chapter 13 p.  218-226; Nitei Gavriel 103

[2] The reason: As the Mitzvah of Onah is independent of the Mitzvah of Peru Urevu. [Igros Moshe ibid]

[3] Kaf Hachaim 240:1

[4] Sha’ar Hamitzvos Bereishis; Kaf Hachaim 240:1

[5] M”A 240:5; Tur 240:1; Niddah 31a; Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:1; Sh’lah Hakadosh Sha’ar Ha’osyos Erech Kedusha 408; See Ezer Mikodesh 76:1 that perhaps during this time the Mitzvah of Onah is not a real obligation; Meiy Hada’as 240:6 that some communities are accustomed to abstain from intimacy during the first three months of pregnancy, and that so rule some Rabbanim

[6] Implication of Sefer Chassidim 380

[7] See Orchos Rabbeinu 1:98 and 5:27 in name of Chazon Ish, brought in Piskeiy Teshuvos 240:8, that the intent of the Talmud is not to say that all intercourse is difficult, but that excessive intercourse is difficult, and that having intercourse according to the minimal Onah frequency is not damaging. See Kedushas Moshe p. 14; See medical opinion at end of this paragraph; However, see Sefer Chassidim ibid brought in previous footnote

[8] Nonetheless, intercourse is permitted during this time even if it is difficult for the child, as we suspect that the husband or wife may have forbidden thoughts if it were to be prohibited, and hence it is better for intercourse to be permitted to prevent the forbidden thoughts and not prohibit something which they cannot control. [Sefer Chassidim 380]

[9] See Kedushas Moshe p. 14; Meiy Da’as ibid; Dr. Mordechai Halprin of the Shlezinger institute, brought in Sheyikadesh Atzmo ibid footnote 4

[10] See Sefer Chassidim ibid that one who indulges without need will be punished; See Igros Kodesh 15:316, printed in Shulchan Menachem 6:241; See Meiy Hada’as ibid; See Sheyikadesh Atzmo 13 footnote 2

[11] Igros Kodesh ibid; See Rama E.H. 156:4; Maharam Shick Y.D. 244; S’dei Chemed K’lalim Mareches Tes:5

[12] Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refu’it 3:11; See Nishmas Avraham Basra 3:397; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 13 footnote 4

Other opinions: See Kedushas Moshe p. 14 that the doctors today say that having excessive intercourse during the first trimester can cause miscarriage.

[13] Dr. Mordechai Halprin of the Shlezinger institute, brought in Sheyikadesh Atzmo ibid footnote 4; Kuntrus Derech Hamelech p. 11; Kedushas Moshe ibid; Meiy Da’as ibid

[14] Written in 2012 by doctor Andrew Moscrop with the University of Oxford

[15] Interestingly, he notes that in the 1980’s the majority of gynecologists advised abstinence, but later on in the 90’s, many retracted their claims

[16] Igros Kodesh ibid

[17] Setimas Kol Haposkim, that the obligation of Onah applies also during the first trimester and hence only if the wife is Mochel, and the husband agrees, may they abstain

[18] Michaber 240:1; Tur 240:1; Niddah 31a; Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:1; Sh’lah Hakadosh Sha’ar Ha’osyos Erech Kedusha 408; See Sanhedrin 70b regarding Batsheva and Rashi there; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 13:3

[19] See Rashi ibid; Abudarham Birchas Hashachar

[20] Naturally, women tend to enjoy intercourse during the second trimester more than any other time of pregnancy, and possibly more than any other time of marriage. Thus, the above Talmudic statement is quite puzzling, and therefore perhaps one can suggest that it refers to the medical effect of intercourse on the woman, and not on her personal enjoyment. Alternatively, one can offer to say that the nature of women have changed from the times of the Talmud, thereby explaining the omission of this statement by majority of Poskim. See Igros Kodesh 15:316 for a similar approach. Vetzaruch Iyun!

[21] M”A 240:5; Niddah 31a

[22] Niddah ibid

[23] Dr. Mordechai Halprin of the Shlezinger institute, brought in Sheyikadesh Atzmo ibid footnote 5

[24] Nishmas Avraham Basra 3:297

[25] Igros Kodesh 15:316

[26] See Encyclopedia Hilchatit Refu’it 3:11; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 13:4; Shut Machon Puah “Hirayon” p. 30-38

[27] Igeres Hakodesh of Ramban Chapters 5; Menoras Hama’or Ner Gimel K’lal Vav 5:2-3 and 6:4; Siddur Ya’avetz Mitos Kesef 6:9-11 and Chulya Gimel 16; Igros Kodesh 12:424

[28] See Reishis Chochmah Sha’ar Hakedusha 16:31 in name of Ramak

[29] Menoras Hama’or Ner Sh’lishi 6:5 that he should not do so for only his pleasure, but also for her pleasure

[30] Michaber O.C. 240:1; Tur 240 in name of Ra’avad; Kitzur SHU”A 150:9

[31] See P”M 240 A”A 13 regarding Ben Tesha Midos; Niddah 31a; Binyan Habayis Al Pi Torah 13:9; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 14:14

[32] Zohar 3:138; Rabbeinu Eliezer Ben Archa 10; Sh’lah Hakadosh Lech Lecha p. 45 and Sha’ar Ha’osyos Erech Kedusha 402; Chesed LeAvraham [Rav Avraham Azulai] Mayan 2 Nehar 65-66; Or Hachaim Vayikra 12:2; Elya Raba 240:2; Chida in Nitzutzei Oros in name of Maharam Galanti; Ben Ish Chai Vayeira 1:24; Biur Halacha 240:1 “Ela B’onah” in name of Elya Raba in name of Mekubalim; See Ma’amarei Admur Ha’emtzai Shmos 1:5; Sefer Hama’amarim 5711 p. 206; Sheyikadesh Atzmo 14:13

[33] Ezer Mikodesh E.H. 76:1

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