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Health & Pregnancy

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Late-Pregnancy Sex Doesn't Speed Labor

New Study Rejects 'Old Wives' Tale', Shows Late Pregnancy Sex Generally Safe

High-Risk Women Should Abstain

The findings do not suggest all women can safely engage in sex late in pregnancy. Women with risk factors for preterm delivery should probably avoid sex and should definitely discuss the issue with their health care provider. Risk factors for preterm delivery include having had a previous preterm birth, having uterine bleeding during pregnancy, contracting certain vaginal infections, and having other pregnancy-related complications.

For most normal pregnancies, however, if a woman feels like having sex late in pregnancy there is probably no medical reason to keep her from doing so, based on the study. But there is no medical benefit either.

Schaffir says doctors and other pregnancy caregivers should talk with their patients about sex during pregnancy.

“This discussion should not lead patients to believe that sexual intercourse will initiate labor sooner,” he wrote. “Patients may continue to hear from relatives and other ‘old wives’ that intercourse will hasten labor, but it should not be given credence by the medical community.”

Hope Ricciotti, MD, an ob-gyn at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says she is surprised by the findings.

“This is one that many of us believed because of the hormonal involvement,” she tells WebMD.

Other Things to Try

Another method to hasten delivery that doctors often suggest to women is nipple stimulation, since it promotes the production of another hormone involved in labor induction known as oxytocin.

Nipple stimulation does cause contractions while the woman is doing it, Ricciotti says. But once the woman stops, so do the contractions. Ricciotti knows of no case where a woman actually put herself into labor using this method.

Other doctors perform a vigorous pelvic exam when the cervix is slightly dilated in an effort to get things moving. While there is some evidence this is effective, it is not conclusive, Ricciotti says.

Otherwise, you can always try food. Although there is no medical evidence to back it up, countless women are convinced eating pizza or Chinese food put them into labor.

“The big one is Chinese food,” Ricciotti says. “Eggplant was in vogue for a few years, but there was no evidence at all that it worked.”

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