Sep. 11, 1997 Some expectant parents fear that intercourse during pregnancy may cause premature labor. But a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine found that there is no direct and clear link between sexual intercourse and spontaneous labor. The findings were presented recently at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.
"There has been some controversy concerning the role of sexual intercourse in mid-pregnancy and spontaneous labor onset," said Dr. Tonse Raju, professor of pediatrics and lead researcher in the study. "But we found that the relative risk for labor onset following sexual intercourse was not high, when considering sexual intercourse any time during the seven days before labor."
In the study, Raju and his colleagues interviewed 100 women who went into labor 22 to 35 weeks into their pregnancies (interviews were conducted within 24 hours of labor). A control group of 312 pregnant women who did not go in labor during the time period when the interviews were conducted also were questioned. The women were asked about their lifestyle habits for the previous seven days, including frequency of sexual intercourse, condom use and orgasm.
Sexual intercourse frequency of one, two or three times in the preceding seven days was reported by 26 percent, 11 percent and 2 percent, respectively, of the women who went into labor; and by 26 percent, 18 percent and 13 percent of the control group, respectively.
Nine percent of the labor onset group reported having sexual intercourse one day prior to labor and 7 percent of the control group reported having sexual intercourse one day prior to being interviewed.
Sixty-one percent of the women who went into labor and 42 percent of the control group reported having no sexual intercourse during the preceding week.
"In most cases, our study found that sexual intercourse per se may not be the direct cause of preterm labor, although it is possible that some women who had sex prior to labor onset might not have told us the truth out of guilt feelings," said Raju. "And whether sexual intercourse during pregnancy is safe cannot be determined by this kind of study. There are certain conditions during pregnancy, such as an unusually sensitive cervix or uterus or abnormal placental position, in which it may be advisable for an expectant mother not to have sex. Women should talk to their doctor about those situations."
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