June 21, 2006 - As their due date approaches, many pregnant women say they're willing to try just about anything to speed up the arrival of their baby. Old wives' tales suggest eating spicy food, going for a walk, or having sex is sure to do the trick. But a new study says making love won't get you to the delivery room any faster.
The study, published in the June 2006 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, followed 93 women in their third trimesters (37th week and up). At each weekly doctor's visit, the women revealed whether they had sex the previous week, and underwent cervical examinations. The sexually active group (50.5 percent) delivered at an average of 39.9 weeks, while those who abstained delivered at 39.3 weeks.
So the group that refrained from sex actually had their babies sooner than those who had sex, though not by a significant margin.
Interestingly, there is some biological explanation to the claim that sex can hasten labor. Semen contains the hormone prostaglandin, which is believed to soften the cervix and encourage contractions. But this new study found no greater cervical change in the women who were sexually active, disputing this effect of sex on inducing labor.
One possible explanation for the findings, according to the study's author, is that women may continue to be sexually active if they feel good. Women who are experiencing greater abdominal discomfort, pelvic pressure, or increased contractions are less likely to have sex at term, and such symptoms may be markers for early delivery.
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