Sex Probably Won’t Make You Go Into Labor, Masturbating Might Though

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After 40 weeks of being pregnant, it’s no surprise that many women are desperate to coax their baby out. All sorts of solutions have been proposed – gentle exercise, spicy food, nipple stimulation, and even sipping on red raspberry leaf tea. Another common suggestion is sex – but does this actually work?

A team of scientists led by the University of Naples Frederico II took it upon themselves to find out, conducting the first-ever meta-analysis on the issue. Only three trials they came across were deemed good enough quality to analyze, and together they included information on 1,483 women pregnant with a single baby.

In two of the studies, some of the women were asked to have as much sex as possible, while the rest could have as much or as little sex as they chose. In the third, women were asked to have sex at least a couple of times a week or to have no sex at all.

There are various suggestions as to why sex might have the potential to trigger labor. An orgasm might stimulate contractions of the uterus, for example, as could the release of oxytocin, aka the “love hormone”. It’s even thought that semen might help get the cervix ready to open up.

However, despite the theories, the researchers behind the new study found zero evidence that having sex at the end of term or later can bring on labor. Still, they point out that having sex during pregnancy isn’t a bad thing either, as long as the pregnancy is low-risk and without complications like a low-lying bleeding placenta. Their findings are reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The team notes that more research is needed to confirm their findings and determine whether certain features of sex might be more likely to trigger labor, as they could not assess this during their analysis. For example, depth of penetration, condom use, and whether the woman orgasmed could be key factors.

Assessing the characteristics of semen could also be interesting; how much is there? How much prostaglandin does it contain? Prostaglandins are compounds found in many of our tissues and are used by doctors to induce labor. So, perhaps semen with particularly high levels might trigger labor, but we need further research to find out.

In addition to looking at the ins and outs of sex, the team also draws attention to masturbation, noting that the contractions brought about by orgasm during masturbation are greater than those brought on by penetrative sex.

“Despite not being considered as sexual intercourse, a noteworthy feature of sexual contact is the practice of masturbation,” they write. “This might be a good way to elicit some of the physical response to sexual intercourse, such as orgasm and oxytocin release, without needing a partner, and also avoiding fears about harms to the fetus from sexual intercourse. However, obviously, mechanical and biochemical aspects of penile stimulation would be lost.”

If you’re trying to lure your baby out, perhaps a little alone time might do the trick.

[H/T: New Scientist

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