A popular pregnancy myth may soon be going the way of the jabberwocky thanks to a new study from Malaysia that suggests having sex in the latter stages of pregnancy does not help women induce labor, rather, it's just a fun, purely recreational activity.
Study author Dr. Tan Peng Chiong from the University of Malaya expressed his team's "disappointment" at not finding a link between sex and labor induction, since "it would have been nice for couples to have something safe, effective and perhaps even fun that they could use themselves to help go into labor a little earlier if (they) wanted." The potential funtivity known colloquially as sex has been thought to induce labor for a while now, though no one was quite sure exactly how. Some sexperts believe that breast stimulation can hasten labor, or that orgasm can instigate uterine contractions. Semen was also identified as a magical labor inducing elixir because it contains the "hormone-like substance" prostaglandin, which doctors use in synthetic form to induce labor.
Though previous investigations into the induce labor-cum-sex have been scant, the University of Malaya study has gone a long way towards debunking the idea that sex has any effect on a pregnancy's term at all. Researches invited more than 1,100 women, all of whom were 35 to 38 weeks pregnant, to participate in the study (none of the women had had sex in the previous six weeks). About half of the women were encouraged by physicians to have sex frequently throughout the rest of their pregnancy in order to (safely) hasten labor. The remaining women were told that, although it would be totally cool for them to have sex during pregnancy, it's effects on labor induction were iffy at best.
Researchers then tracked the women in the study to determine both how long their pregnancies lasted and whether they eventually required medically-induced labor. An overwhelming 85 percent of the women in the group advised to have sex frequently evidently followed their doctor's advice, while 80 percent of the women in the other group also had sex just because. Though women in the sex-induces-labor group had sex way more often (an average of three times versus two times) than the latter group, the rates of induced labor between the two groups were nearly identical: 22 percent for those who were encouraged to have sex to induce labor and 20.8 percent for those who were not so enthusiastically encouraged. The difference, according to the research team, was so small that it was likely due entirely to chance.
Actually, sex doesn't induce labor, study says [Reuters via MSNBC]
Image via Pedro Salaverría/Shutterstock.