Can Pregnancy Sex Speed Up Labor?
Is having sex to induce labor in your third trimester really possible? We spoke with an expert to find out.
You’ve probably stumbled across the old wives' tale saying that sex can induce labor. The reasoning behind this claim makes sense (orgasms release hormones and spur contractions) but you shouldn’t be too hasty to hop under the sheets. It turns out that this natural way to induce labor may not necessarily be true.
“There are no consistent scientific facts to support the notion” that sex can induce labor, says Jimmy Belotte, an Ob-Gyn in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health at Montefiore Health System, and an associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Women's Health and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Your body needs to be completely ready to give birth, so having sex at 37 weeks or 39 weeks probably won’t cause any labor symptoms.
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On the other hand, some experts believe that having intercourse when you're overdue (40 weeks and beyond) can put you on the fast track to labor. “Theoretically, the stimulation of the cervix and orgasm during sexual intercourse have the potential to trigger labor,” explains Dr. Belotte. That’s because orgasms mimic the motion of uterine contractions, which may prompt the real thing.
Prostaglandins – a hormone-like substance found in semen – may also spur labor when it’s introduced to a woman’s birth canal. “Semen contains chemicals capable of softening the cervix and initiating contractions,” explains Dr. Belotte. In fact, prostaglandins are also used in medical inductions.
Along those lines, sexual intercourse releases oxytocin, which is also known to cause contractions. (Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, is commonly used to induce labor at the hospital). Nipple stimulation releases oxytocin as well, so feel free to add it into your foreplay as long as you run it by your doctor first. Overstimulation of the nipples can bring on too strong or too frequent contractions.
Is Sex to Induce Labor Safe?
If you’re antsy to induce labor, there’s nothing stopping you from having pregnancy sex – as long as your ginormous belly and swollen body don’t make things too comfortable. As an added bonus, pregnancy sex comes a host of benefits, including lower blood pressure, better sleep, and increased intimacy with your partner.
Keep in mind, however, that having sex while expecting isn’t safe for everyone. Women with certain pregnancy complications – such as placenta previa and risk of preterm labor – should avoid intercourse altogether. You also shouldn't have sex after your water breaks or else an infection could occur. Always consult a doctor if you’re unsure.
Also, while there’s no best sex position to induce labor naturally, you should also follow safe pregnancy sex practices. For example, avoid having the woman lay on her back, which may harm the fetus. “It is recommended that sexual positions like the woman on top, or the couple laying down sideways with the pregnant woman in front, are preferred to minimize discomfort and increase blood flow,” explains Dr. Belotte.