Can Sex Induce Labor at 37 Weeks?

If you’re overdue for your baby’s arrival, you may be desperate to get things going. If long walks and spicy foods aren’t helping, your doctor may suggest trying some old-wives’ advice, including sex.

But will it work? And is it safe? Here’s what you need to know. This article will answer the question, can sex induce labor at 37 weeks?

Sex Releases Prostaglandins

The idea of being able to use sex to get labor going is a tempting one for many expectant moms. After nine+ months of aches and pains, most moms-to-be are ready to meet their little one and put pregnancy behind them. But before you hop under the sheets, make sure you run it by your doctor and have a plan in case things don’t go as planned.

Semen contains hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, and they help ripen the cervix, which is required for labor to start, Shepherd says. Women who use sex late in pregnancy often report that it helps bring on contractions, but most research on this is too small and inconsistent to be conclusive.

However, researchers have found that sex can trigger the release of oxytocin, which is a chemical that causes contractions. This is because sexual activity often involves touching (and sometimes penetration) and ejaculation, which can prompt a release of oxytocin. The effects of sex can also be enhanced by nipple stimulation, which may hasten the process.

Of course, you can also try more conservative methods to trigger labor. For instance, experts recommend the side-lying position and a pillow for support. And a pelvic rocking motion, which can stimulate the cervix. Foreplay can also be helpful, but be careful not to overdo it. Overstimulation can lead to an irregular contraction pattern and cause uterine irritation.

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Long Walks

When baby’s due date looms near, moms-to-be can often feel that the delivery day can’t come soon enough. But sometimes, it’s hard to know how to help things along naturally. The Internet is full of ideas to kickstart labor, and some of them — like regular exercise — have actual research to back them up. Others, though, sound a bit more like old wives’ tales. One that has been getting a lot of attention lately is curb walking.

The concept of curb walking is simple: you find a spot where there’s an empty street. Then, instead of walking with both feet on the ground as you normally would, place your foot on the curb and walk for about 5 minutes. Then, switch to the other foot and repeat. This can be done several times a day and is thought to open the pelvis and encourage baby’s head to descend into the birthing canal, causing contractions.

While this may not be the most comfortable position for a pregnant woman, it’s been shown that long walks during early labor can help sooth and ease the intensity of contractions. As a result, they can shorten the length of your labor, so it might be worth trying if you’re close to your due date and still need to get some physical activity in.

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Spicy Foods

There’s no good research that supports this old wives’ tale. Spicy foods might make you sweat and give you heartburn, but they won’t start your contractions. If you’re ready to meet your baby, you may be willing to try anything to get things going. However, you should always check with your doctor first to make sure he or she gives you the go-ahead to do something like that.

A lot of people recommend using castor oil to induce labor because it increases the hormone oxytocin and might help your cervix thin enough for your body to begin contractions. However, castor oil can also bring on diarrhea and could dehydrate you.

Some people also advise taking herbs to start labor. These include cohosh and the herbal supplement evening primrose oil (EPO). Both of these substances have chemicals that your body changes into prostaglandins, which might help the cervix ripen. But a study published in BMJ Open in 2018 concluded that there’s no evidence EPO or cohosh actually help trigger labor.

Women often sail past their estimated due dates, and that’s OK. But you don’t want to be induced before your 39th week because babies born too soon can have breathing problems and longer hospital stays. Plus, if you’re induced, it might cause your contractions to come stronger and more quickly than they would have naturally. This can increase your risk of having a C-section or needing pain medicine.

Sex After Water Breaks

You’ve probably stumbled across the old wives’ tale that sex after your water breaks can induce labor. Though the logic makes sense (orgasms release hormones that can spur contractions), don’t be too hasty to hop under the sheets. There isn’t enough evidence to support this natural way to kickstart your labor.

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If you do happen to have sex after your water breaks, you may experience orgasms that feel like labor contractions, but these are actually “false” contractions, known as Braxton-Hicks contractions. They aren’t as strong or regular as real contractions and they don’t come on in a predictable pattern.

Sexual activity during late pregnancy can also help your body produce oxytocin, which helps ripen the cervix and triggers contractions. This is one of the reasons why doctors use the medication oxytocin to induce labor at the hospital. You can also increase your oxytocin levels through foreplay and by nipple stimulation, although it’s important to run any foreplay ideas past your doctor before you try them.

While there’s no proven way to induce labor at home, many women report that certain methods, such as acupressure, acupuncture, hot baths and castor oil, work for them. But remember that you should never have vaginal exams or insert anything into your vagina once your water has broken, as this increases your risk of infection.

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