Sexual intercourse during pregnancy is commonly believed to trigger the onset of contractions and, therefore, labor.

So starts the introduction to a recent article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. In a meta-analysis involving 3 trials and 1,483 women, researchers looked at the relationship between intercourse and spontaneous onset of labor.

We did not find significant differences in the spontaneous onset of labor for women advised to have coitus compared with control subjects.

In fact, they point to one older study (Tan, et. al. 2009) that suggested an inverse relationship with intercourse slowing the rate of spontaneous labor though acknowledging women willing to have intercourse late in term are probably very confident in the pregnancy (i.e., not experiencing any risk factors) and may be far from labor onset.

Researchers also pointed out that “sexual positions and depth of penetration, duration and frequency of coitus, orgasm, condom use, duration of nipple stimulation, volume of ejaculate, concentration of prostaglandin within the ejaculate, or proximity of ejaculate to the cervical os are all different aspects of coitus that should be adequately assessed” to fully address safety of intercourse during pregnancy.

Bottom line? Here were the researchers recommendation (references deleted in quote):

…in low-risk pregnancies, sexual intercourse should not be restricted. On the other hand, sexual intercourse is contraindicated in high-risk pregnancies, such as PROM, low-lying bleeding placenta or threatened preterm labor, particularly when it is confirmed by a short cervix or when a cerclage is placed.

 Good news for anyone feeling amorous late in pregnancy. Not so good for pregnant women hoping to speed labor and delivery.

Summary from The Journal of Sexual Medicine..
Sexual Intercourse for Induction of Spontaneous Onset of Labor: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Sexual intercourse during pregnancy is commonly believed to trigger the onset of contractions and, therefore, labor. However, in low-risk pregnancies, there is neither association with preterm birth, premature rupture of membranes, or low birth weight, nor with spontaneous onset of labor at term.

 

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Tan, P.C., Yow, C.M., and Omar, S.Z. Coitus and orgasm at term: effect on spontaneous labor and pregnancy outcome. Singapore Med J. 2009; 50: 1062–1067