How Long Does it Take For Sperm to Induce Labor?

Pregnant Woman Photoshoot

Many pregnant women wonder if having sex will help get labor started. It seems reasonable to think that sex could help since semen contains prostaglandins, and orgasm triggers oxytocin, both of which can cause contractions.

But, there’s a lot of evidence that sex doesn’t actually bring on labor. It can, however, help with cervical ripening.

It’s not a guarantee

There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that sex in late pregnancy will speed up or induce labor. However, many women have reported that it does help. One reason for this is that the orgasms associated with sex can cause uterine contractions, which can be a sign of early labor. In addition, semen contains prostaglandins that can ripen the cervix. In fact, protaglandins are the same hormones used by doctors to induce labor in the form of drugs such as Cervidil.

The nipple and breast stimulation that occurs during sex can also trigger the release of oxytocin, which is another hormone that promotes labor. It is important to note that sex in late pregnancy should be done with a partner who is willing and able to assist with the delivery.

Another way to try and induce labor is by exercise, such as walking. This can be especially effective if the cervix is already dilated but not yet in active labor. It is important to avoid exhaustion, though, as this can cause the contractions to slow down or stop altogether.

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While exercise and sex can both help to kickstart labor, they won’t work if the body isn’t ready for it. Even if sex and orgasm do stimulate uterine contractions, it is unlikely to lead to a full-term delivery.

It’s not a sure thing

After nine months of pregnancy, many moms-to-be are eager to meet their baby. If you’re overdue (between 37 and 42 weeks), your doctor may recommend an induction to speed things up.

Semen can definitely help kick-start labor, as it contains prostaglandins—hormone-like substances that cause uterine contractions and cervical ripening. Prostaglandins are the active ‘ingredient’ in the medical induction drug Cervidil, and there’s evidence that the natural prostaglandins released during sexual intercourse can have the same effect on your cervix.

Moreover, sex stimulates the breasts and nipples, which releases oxytocin—another hormone that causes uterine contractions and speeds up labor. Oxytocin is also used as a synthetic form in Pitocin, the medication commonly used to induce labor.

However, sex in late pregnancy hasn’t been proven to induce labor for women with healthy and complication-free pregnancies. In one study, around 200 pregnant women were split into two groups and advised to either have sex or abstain. The group who was encouraged to have sex experienced fewer inductions than the other group, but the differences were so small that it’s unlikely they were due to sex alone.

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In addition, orgasms don’t usually trigger true contractions unless your cervix is ripe for labor. Rather, they may bring on Braxton-Hicks contractions—mild, false contractions that feel like menstrual cramps or stomach pain.

It’s not a good idea

After nine+ months of pregnancy-related discomforts, many moms-to-be are eager to meet their baby and put this whole thing behind them. That’s why if you’re approaching your due date (or past it) and have the go-ahead from your doctor, you may be wondering whether sex could help induce labor.

There are a number of ways that sex might help start labor, but the most likely one is by releasing oxytocin. Oxytocin is a naturally occurring hormone that stimulates the uterus and causes contractions. It’s also the same substance that medical professionals use to artificially induce labor when necessary.

The oxytocin released by sex might help your cervix ripen and prepare for dilation. It might even cause the onset of false contractions known as Braxton-Hicks. However, these tightenings usually go away if you rest or drink water and aren’t as strong as true labor contractions.

In most cases, doctors don’t recommend sex as a way to induce labor in full-term pregnancies, especially those who are overdue. In fact, induction can actually increase the risk of delivery complications for both mother and baby.

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It’s not safe

While anecdotes abound about sex bringing on labor, high-quality research is scarce in this area. Penis-in-vagina sex does introduce semen, which contains cervix-softening prostaglandins, and orgasm can trigger uterine contractions. And oxytocin, released during sex or nipple stimulation, is the same hormone that’s used medically to induce labor.

But, even if prostaglandins and oxytocin were to help soften the cervix and bring on contractions, they would still have to work in tandem with the body’s natural processes to actually initiate labor. And that’s a big “if.”

A few studies have shown that pregnant people who engage in sexual activity at term, or those with low-risk pregnancies and no placenta complications, deliver their babies sooner than those who abstain from sex. In one study, 200 women who were at least 36 weeks pregnant kept a diary of their activities and the results showed that those who had sex delivered their babies around their due dates more often than those who abstained from sex.

However, there are many reasons that having sex at the end of a pregnancy is not recommended and should only be attempted after 39 weeks if you’ve received clearance from your doctor to do so. Among them are the risk of premature rupture of membranes and fetal damage from vaginal trauma. Plus, the risk of infection is very real.

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