How Sex Can Help to Induce Labor

Pregnant woman lying with husband on bed

Westend61 / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

As due dates approach or pass, many pregnant people wonder if they can use sex to induce labor. Anecdotally, people have been told that sex at the end of pregnancy will help bring on the contractions that signal labor. It's long been used as a natural method to try to induce labor. That said there is limited scientific research on the subject.

However, the current evidence does not find that sex brings on labor. Still, that doesn't mean you can't try. In fact, sex during pregnancy can bring other benefits, such as stress relief, bonding with your partner, and of course, pleasure. Learn more about using sex to induce labor—and why it might not hasten childbirth but can still be worthwhile.

Theories on Using Sex to Induce Labor

There are many theories on the possible benefits of using sex to induce labor. Human semen contains prostaglandins, which are hormone-like substances that can help ripen the cervix and therefore help labor begin. Additional prostaglandins are released by the woman during sex. Because synthetic prostaglandins are used as a method of cervical ripening for labor induction, it seems logical that natural sources might also be useful.

Sex play also often includes stimulating the breasts and nipples, which can result in releasing oxytocin. Pitocin is a synthetic form of oxytocin that is used to cause uterine contractions and speed up labor, so this natural way to release it also would seem to be a logical way to stimulate labor.

Female orgasm creates uterine contractions as well. All of these factors might promote cervical ripening and hasten labor. For all of the above reasons, it is theorized that sex could induce labor. However, for low-risk pregnancies, research does not show labor occurring faster in those that have sex near their due date compared with those that abstain.

Studies on Sex and Inducing Labor

This is an area that has little high-quality research, but there have been some newer studies performed. Perhaps the better method for giving a reliable answer is a randomized controlled trial where one group of pregnant people have vaginal intercourse at least twice a week late in pregnancy and a similar group abstains from sex.

A study of this design enlisted 123 women who had a low-risk singleton term pregnancy. It found that vaginal intercourse did not hasten spontaneous labor onset at term.

A study from Malaysia enlisted over 1000 women, with half advised that coitus late in pregnancy after 35 weeks of gestation could be used as a natural method to safely expedite labor. The other half were told only that sexual intercourse was safe but its effect on labor was uncertain.

They were to keep a coitus diary and those who didn't return it were contacted for a phone interview. The women who were told that coitus could hasten labor had more sex than the control group. However, there was no difference between the two groups of women in labor onset and the need for artificial labor induction.

Another study by the Malaysian researchers found that women who reported coitus were actually less likely to go into spontaneous labor before their scheduled labor induction. Whether they had orgasm did not influence the rate of spontaneous labor. But they were happy to report that there was no association with adverse pregnancy outcomes for coitus and orgasm.

An Iranian study of sex in the last week of pregnancy concluded it might be associated with the onset of labor. It was a small study with 60 women who were questioned by a midwife at face-to-face interviews when they came to the hospital while in labor.

According to the authors of a 2019 meta-analysis, which compiled data from almost 1500 women, "In women with singleton, cephalic, low-risk pregnancies, sexual intercourse at term does not significantly increase the incidence of spontaneous onset of labor."

Risks of Sex Before Labor

All of these studies and older studies found there were no harmful effects of having sex late in pregnancy for low-risk pregnancies. There are many reasons why very pregnant women might not want to have sex. But there is nothing a little creativity, patience, and love won't work around.

Many women are turning towards natural methods of labor induction. While having sex at the end of your pregnancy might not bring on labor, many couples report that having sex makes them feel closer. Being in a relaxed state of mind certainly helps labor progress faster once it's started.

Many moms report that having sex helps them sleep. And simply connecting with your partner can be a really great thing as you both prepare to face parenthood. Talk to your Ob/Gyn before engaging in sexual intercourse given that protected intercourse will likely not have any benefit on the chances of inducing labor, while unprotected intercourse does increase the risk of sexually transmitted infections.

6 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Carbone L, De Vivo V, Saccone G, D'Antonio F, Mercorio A, Raffone A, Arduino B, D'Alessandro P, Sarno L, Conforti A, Maruotti GM, Alviggi C, Zullo F. Sexual intercourse for induction of spontaneous onset of labor: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Sex Med. 2019;16(11):1787-1795. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2019.08.002

  2. American Family Physician. Methods for cervical ripening and induction of labor.

  3. Castro C, Afonso M, Carvalho R, Clode N, Graça LM. Effect of vaginal intercourse on spontaneous labor at term: a randomized controlled trial. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2014;290(6):1121-5. doi:10.1007/s00404-014-3343-0

  4. Omar NS, Tan PC, Sabir N, Yusop ES, Omar SZ. Coitus to expedite the onset of labour: a randomised trial. BJOG. 2013;120(3):338-45. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.12054

  5. Tan PC, Yow CM, Omar SZ. Coitus and orgasm at term: effect on spontaneous labour and pregnancy outcome. Singapore Med J. 2009;50(11):1062-7. PMID:19960160

  6. Kafaei Atrian M, Sadat Z, Rasolzadeh bidgoly M, Abbaszadeh F, Asghari jafarabadi M. The association of sexual intercourse during pregnancy with labor onset. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015;17(1):e16465. doi:10.5812/ircmj.16465

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.