Sex Doesn't Jumpstart Labor
Keep that castor oil handy! A new study suggests that intercourse as an Rx for induction isn't as effective as you might have thought
We all know the ninth month of pregnancy can feel like a drag sometimes. But if you’re trying to speed things along by stepping up your sex life, don’t expect to end up in the delivery room any sooner. That’s the latest from a new study that says late pregnancy intercourse does not bring on labor.
To finally prove or disprove the popular old wives’ tale that sex is a natural labor inducer, researchers in Malaysia recruited more than 1,100 moms-to-be as they approached their due dates. Roughly half of the women were advised by a physician to have sex frequently as a means of safely expediting labor. The other half were told that sex was safe during pregnancy, but that its effects on labor were unknown, reports Reuters Health.
The results? Approximately 85 percent of women encouraged by their physician to have sex followed doctor’s orders, compared to 80 percent of women in the other group. Women in the group advised to have sex also had it more frequently—an average of three times during the last month (compared to twice for women in the other group).
But when it came to starting labor, most women had similar experiences, whether or not they had spent more time in the bedroom. Pregnancy lasted an average of 39 weeks for both groups, for example. And when researchers looked at how many women had medically-induced labors, rates were almost the same: 22 percent of those advised to have sex ended up having their labor induced and 20.8 percent of the other group had inductions, a difference so small it may have been driven by chance, researchers believe.
If you’re feeling let down by this news, you’re not alone. “We are a little disappointed that we did not find an association,” Dr. Tan Peng Chiong, study author and an obstetrics and gynecology professor at the University of Malaya, tells Reuters News. “It would have been nice for couples to have something safe, effective, and perhaps even fun that they could use themselves to help go into labor a little earlier if wanted.”
Still, some moms refuse to doubt the ability of sex to work its late-pregnancy magic.
“My midwife told us to go for it, just as long as my water hadn’t broken yet, because prostaglandins [a hormone found in semen] can help to ripen the cervix,” says Megan Brown of Burlington, Vermont, who was willing to try anything when her pregnancy started running past her due date.
“Nothing—and I mean nothing—was happening. And then we had a nice romantic evening, and poof! Contractions started the next morning as soon as I woke up,” Brown recalls.
But was it the sex—or just convenient timing?
“In the end,” she says, “who knows?”
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