Dear MKE SEX,

I’m a single woman and I’m about halfway through my first pregnancy. In the first few months I was so sick and tired that I never even thought about sex. Right after I saw that plus sign on the dipstick, sex was just this totally foreign concept to me. But those were in the early days, and everything has changed now! My sex drive could most accurately be compared to that of an adolescent bonobo. Since I don’t have a partner, I end up masturbating. A lot. Like, two to five times a day. I wasn’t worried about it all, but a bunch of women in a Facebook group told me that I was taking it too far, and even said it might be dangerous.

So, what gives? Am I abnormal? Am I hurting myself or the baby? Am I going to grow hair on my palms?

Unskinny Bop

Dear Bop,

When it comes to sex and pregnancy, there’s only one thing you can count on: Everybody and every body is different. Some people don’t experience any change in their sex drive at all, and some lose their drive early in pregnancy, and find that it doesn’t return until after the baby is born. Others want a lot of sex for a while, and less sex at different stages of pregnancy. Every one of those scenarios (and more) is completely normal.

A lot of people believe that sex (alone or with a partner) during pregnancy is dangerous. But believing a thing doesn’t make it true. You’d be hard pressed to find any study indicating that a low-risk, healthy pregnant woman should limit or avoid sexual pleasure. It’s much easier to find studies about the impacts of maternal stress on pregnancy outcomes. Researchers haven’t come to consensus on the issue yet, but it seems that at least some of mom’s neurotransmitters (chemicals that convey emotions) do reach baby in the uterus. Since there’s no way to eliminate all of our negative feelings and experiences, baby will end up “feeling” that, to some extent. It seems only fair that we also indulge in happy and pleasurable experiences, too. It’s all about balance, even for the not-yet-born.

In particular, levels of the hormone oxytocin (often referred to as the “hormone of love”) increase during sexual stimulation. Oxytocin causes feelings of closeness, warmth, and happiness. Additionally, the body releases huge loads of endorphins during orgasm, which induces feelings of euphoria followed by deep relaxation. That’s good for both you and baby. Pregnancy is a lot of work, physically and emotionally. It’s important to practice good self-care; think of your solo sessions as an important factor in your continued good health. The Ultimate Guide To Sex Through Pregnancy And Motherhood by Madison Young was just published this summer, and has lots of great information about staying in touch with your sexual self during this transition.

There are, of course, a few good rules to follow when you’re getting handsy with yourself whether you’re pregnant or not. Make sure your hands are clean and your fingernails are smooth. If you’re using any kind of sex toy, make sure the toy is also clean (soap and really hot water are usually adequate for sex toy clean up). Using lube is a good idea, because it minimizes micro abrasions and tears that can potentially lead to infections.

If you bleed after masturbation or sex, or if you have contractions, you should get in touch with your healthcare provider. But assuming your pregnancy remains low-risk, and you’re not having any unusual symptoms, you can feel free to unskinny bop as much or as little as you’d like. Hairy palms be damned.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at mkesex@gmail.com and she’ll get back to you with an answer.