Semen is full of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that help ripen the cervix and start labor. However, there is no evidence that sexual intercourse alone can induce labor.
Many pregnant women reach a point where they are impatient to meet their baby and may try at-home methods to start labor, including having sex. But does it really work?
How long after sex can labor start?
If your due date is quickly approaching — or you’ve already passed it by quite a bit — you’re probably looking for anything and everything to get the baby moving along. But while having sex is safe for most pregnancies, it’s not a proven way to start labor.
The hormones oxytocin and prostaglandins are key players when it comes to getting your body ready for delivery. Oxytocin dilates your blood vessels and encourages uterine contractions, while prostaglandins soften the cervix. Your body makes both of these chemicals by itself during sex, and semen has an especially high concentration of them. This is why many people suggest that sex can kickstart labor.
There’s no evidence that orgasm alone can trigger labor, but stimulating the nipples and genital area during sex can increase your levels of oxytocin. It’s a natural, and potentially effective, alternative to the synthetic form of oxytocin doctors use to induce labor with Pitocin.
However, it’s important to note that if your waters have already broken or you’re experiencing complications like placenta praevia, sex is generally not recommended. Even if you have the go-ahead from your doctor or midwife, though, it’s worth trying a few different sex positions to see what works for you. Just make sure to take a break between orgasms! That will help avoid discomfort.
Symptoms of labor after sex
There are a lot of old wives’ tales about things that can induce labor, and while some of them may work (like long walks, eating spicy foods, and having sex) many others don’t. However, if you’re full term and your doctor or midwife gives the okay, having sex at this point in pregnancy could help your contractions pick up speed once they start. This is because sex releases prostaglandins, which are chemicals that make your uterus contract.
You may also notice tightenings in your lower abdomen after sex, but these are often just Braxton Hicks contractions. They’ll usually ease up when you change position, but if they get stronger and more regular, they could be the real deal. Another sign that you’re getting close to your due date is if your bag of water breaks, which can happen anytime between 38 and 42 weeks.
Whether you’re nearing your due date or already past it, the final weeks of pregnancy can be frustrating because it feels like baby should just pop out at any time! But if you’ve tried everything to get your little one to come on their own, and sex hasn’t worked, try some of these natural ways to induce labor instead. They’re probably a lot more fun than trying to sit through a long and painful labor!
What to do if labor doesn’t start after sex
As many women know, having sex in the last weeks of pregnancy has long been touted as an at-home method for speeding up labor. This may be because the hormones released during sex, especially the prostaglandins, can help ripen and prepare the cervix for dilation. Doctors even use synthetic prostaglandins to induce labor in some cases.
The problem is, there’s not a lot of high-quality research on whether or not sex in late pregnancy actually causes labor to start. Studies that involve a group of pregnant women having vaginal intercourse at least twice per week in the late stages of pregnancy, as well as a control group that abstains from this activity, are usually needed to get a good idea of what effect (if any) sex has on inducing labor.
In addition to the prostaglandins, orgasm that occurs without penetration during sex also releases oxytocin, which is another substance used to help speed up labor. Some studies have found that women who have sex at full term (39 weeks + 5 days) are more likely to go into labor than those who don’t, but this isn’t a sure thing.
Unless you have a medical reason not to, it’s usually safe for women to engage in sexual activity at any point up to their due date. Just be sure to listen to your body, and don’t try anything that could cause damage or harm the baby, such as sex after your water breaks.
What to do if labor does start after sex
Despite popular belief, there’s not much scientific evidence that sexual activity and orgasm can bring on labor in full-term pregnant women. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try it — especially if you’re well past your due date and are impatient to get this baby out of there. Some experts believe that sex and orgasm can induce labor because semen contains prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that help soften the cervix and stimulate contractions. Plus, sex is known to trigger orgasm in most people.
If you want to give it a shot, make sure your waters haven’t already broken and talk to your doctor or midwife about it first. They may recommend other natural ways to start labor, like eating spicy foods or going on long walks.
That said, pregnancy sex isn’t a bad idea if it feels good and helps you relax. Just be sure to avoid it if you have a medical condition, like placenta previa or risk of early labor. Also, don’t have sex after your water breaks, since it can lead to infection. If you have a low-lying placenta, you might want to consider an alternative method of induction. Check with your doctor to see what’s right for you. They might suggest a pelvic massage or a sitz bath to help kickstart your labor. They might also prescribe a dose of the natural hormone oxytocin to start contractions.