A new study that appears in the June issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynaecology has discredited the widely held belief that engaging in sexual intercourse during the final weeks of pregnancy can accelerate labour and delivery.
The study conducted by the Ohio state University Medical centre contradicts the belief and states that just the opposite was true among the 93 women who were studied at the Centre. These women who were sexually active in the final three weeks of their pregnancies carried their babies an average of 39.9 weeks, compared to average delivery at 39.3 weeks among women who had stayed away from sexual activity during their term.
Dr. Jonathan Schaffir, an obstetrician at OSU Medical Centre and author of the study, explained that patients might continue to believe the 'old wives' tale' that intercourse will speed up labour but according to the current study data, the theory would not hold water medically. He also explained that the current study would not support the belief to engage in sexual activity either.
The researchers explained that among the 93 women enrolled, 47%- 50.5%, of them reported that they had sex during the final weeks of their pregnancies and that was more than any figures other similar study had indicated. They explained that the women who had participated were those with low risk single pregnancies, who had routinely enrolled themselves at their doctor's clinic after the 37th week of pregnancy. During these and in the consequent follow ups they were asked whether they had engaged in sexual intercourse during the preceding week and if so, how many times. Cervical examinations were also performed at each visit to study if the sexual activity had any 'ripening' effect on the cervix.
Dr Schaffir claimed that he found no connection between the frequency of sexual intercourse and the score allocated to measure the cervix. He explained that the data clearly showed that there wasn't any change in the cervix among sexually active women, and that combined with the lack of difference in delivery dates among the two groups, suggested that sexual intercourse has no effect on inducing labour.
Recognising that the women who are more comfortable late in pregnancy may be more likely to engage in sexual activity, he said that women who would experience abdominal discomfort or pelvic pressure will not want to have sex. Dr Schaffir also said that because of the highly personal nature of sexual behaviour, the study does not address specifically components of sexual behaviour and their varying effects on the onset of labour.