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Ask the experts: Sex and labor

Can sex really jumpstart labor? Here are the facts: The claim that sexual intercourse will cause labor contractions is in the same category as other folk remedies (like castor oil, eating spicy foods and taking long walks) passed on through word of mouth from woman to woman. There’s no proof that they work. The claim that...

Can sex really jumpstart labor?
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Here are the facts: The claim that sexual intercourse will cause labor contractions is in the same category as other folk remedies (like castor oil, eating spicy foods and taking long walks) passed on through word of mouth from woman to woman. There’s no proof that they work.
The claim that sex starts labor originally appeared to have some basis in science. The presence of the hormone prostaglandin in human semen was believed to stimulate the uterine cervix and kick in contractions. Jonathan Schaffir, MD, author of a 2006 study reported in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, conducted pre-labor exams and found no cervical effects among sexually involved women. In fact, several peer-reviewed studies in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (1999, 2006 & 2007) as well as research reported in the Journal of Family Practice (2006) and recently in the Health Science Journal (2012) clarify that sexual intercourse does not induce labor.
This information may not help a woman who is mentally ready to give birth, but the studies are reassuring for women interested in intimacy during pregnancy. Unless a healthcare provider gives specific health reasons that limits sex, physical intimacy is a lovely way to connect with a partner before parenthood starts.
—Mary Jo Podgurski, RNC, EdD, former Lamaze president, long-time Lamaze-Certified Childbirth Educator (LCCE) and AASECT certified sexuality educator