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Sex Won’t Induce Labor (Even If Your Husband Says So)

Reuters Publishes Story That Debunks Sex Equals Labor Myth


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

There’s a solid week or two at the end of a pregnancy when a woman feels like that water balloon on the end of a hose nozzle whose thinning skin and swelling girth defy physics and strike fear into onlookers’ cockles.

She is an eruption waiting to happen, a burst woman walking. Her mass is so unmanageable, her sleep so uncomfortable, her bladder so irrepressible that she’d do just about anything to purge the stubborn little gestater.

Starshine Roshell

It’s then — right then, when she is close to weeping at her wretched inability to draw a deep breath or pick up items she drops from her swollen piggy fingers — that her husband tells her, “You know, I might be able to help.” It seems a gal at work told him or he saw it in a movie once or he read it in the baby book and, er, he can’t remember which page, but anyway — some rockin’ sex might be just what the missus needs.

You can’t blame the guy for trying. And perhaps he’s even a little confused. Because back when they were in the delightful “trying to conceive” part of this pregnancy, he was lauded for his willingness (oh, he’s a giver) to drop trou for the cause. His heroic hay-rolling started this pregnancy, dammit, and there’s no reason (other than, you know, biology and basic logic) to think his Magic Mike-style moves can’t end it, too. Maybe it would make her feel better, and maybe it wouldn’t; he’s fairly sure it’d do wonders for him.

He may even cite sciencey-sounding theses: Semen contains prostaglandin, a substance that’s used in its synthetic form to induce labor! And the female orgasm sends shockwaves through the uterus that mimic contractions!

That’s got to be … I don’t know … helpful? But alas, daddy dear, the jig is up. Reuters recently published a story with the headline “Sex Won’t Bring on Labor” — which is a funny thing to say since sex clearly brings on the pregnancy that inevitably (if a little slowly for most tastes) brings on the labor.

But the gist of the reporting was this: A study by scientists in Malaysia has found that intercourse during the late stages of a pregnancy does not bring on labor any faster than, well, doing absolutely nothing. Which sounds much better to her anyway, considering she’s already got one person in there.

The sex-induces-labor lore is considered an old wives’ tale, but I suspect that it’s more an old fathers-to-be tale passed down through generations of hard-up fellas who got pushed pitilessly farther and farther from their wives’ bodies by the belly expanding between them.

With that in mind, it’s worth debunking some other myths that ladies might hear from spouses whose desires throttle their logic: Sex does not induce labor, nor will it eradicate cellulite. Or add volume to your hair.

Wearing thong underwear does not decrease your risk of cancer. Or his.

Buying tickets to the Super Bowl is not a terrific investment opportunity.

Mila Kunis does not look exactly like you, and framing her recent topless Esquire cover is not a tribute to you and your amazing body.

And nachos are not a superfood.

It can be hard letting these little axioms go. Harder for some than others, in fact. “We are a little disappointed that we did not find an association,” said Dr. Tan Peng Chiong, the OB/GYN professor who coauthored the study on sex and labor. “It would have been nice for couples to have something safe, effective, and perhaps even fun that they could use themselves to help go into labor.”

Dr. Tan — I’m just saying — is a dude.

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Starshine Roshell is the author of Wife on the Edge.

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