Does Sex Induce labor?

"Does sex induce labor?" is a question often asked of practitioners by their pregnant patients.  However, the role of sexual intercourse in the initiation of labour is uncertain due to the limited amount of data available. It's not necessarily associated with starting labor but may help to ripen the cervix. Semen contains a high proportion of prostaglandins, which cause the cervix to "ripen", or soften and prepare to open. Sex can help the cervix to dilate and efface by depositing these prostaglandins on the cervix.

Furthermore, nipple stimulation may also have play a part in that it is known to release oxytocin, the hormone that causes contractions.  In addition, orgasms produce oxytocin.   So, between these factors, it is reasonable to suspect some stimulation of labor can occur from intercourse.

However, for women who have complications such as sciatica, pubic symphysis dysfunction or other health issues which make intercourse too painful to attempt or ill-advised for their circumstances, there may be alternative options that provide some of the same benefits.   This method can also be used by other women who are simply too uncomfortable, exhausted from work, have other children to attend to or simply don't desire sex at 9 months pregnant. 

As an alternative to intercourse, some women have reported collecting semen in a condom, a diaphragm or a Diva cup to hold the semen against the cervix. A Diva cup is designed for use during menstruation as an alternative to pads or tampons. There are no studies to support its effectiveness for cervical ripening, but anecdotally, women have also reported using this method to conceive with success.


Kavanagh J, Kelly AJ, Thomas J. Sexual intercourse for cervical ripening and induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003093. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003093.

French L. Oral prostaglandin E2 for induction of labour. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003098. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003098.

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