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Does sex really induce labour?

Most people, when they reach 40 weeks pregnant, enter what we like to call the ‘get this bloody thing out of me’ phase. And - once they’ve tried the spicy food, castor oil, and walking around - usually start to wonder: ‘shall we try having sex?’ Indeed, we’ve all heard about couples having sex to induce labour or watched that Ross and Rachel scene… But does it actually work?

The short answer is… not really. There’s no firm, reliable evidence to suggest that sex brings on labour. It certainly won’t induce labour before your body is ready, so there’s no need to worry about that. But the theory that sex induces labour is not totally without reason.

Firstly, semen contains a compound called prostaglandin (now that’s a sexy term if ever we’ve heard one), which can soften and open your cervix. In fact, your hospital would probably induce your labour using a synthetic form of prostaglandin, using a pessary or gel. Despite this, in all likelihood, there isn’t enough semen present to have any major effect.

Secondly, orgasms can stimulate contractions in your uterus, which of course are a fundamental part of labour. Although - spoiler alert - labour will probably feel a teensy bit different to an orgasm.

Orgasms also release oxytocin - another key ingredient in labour. Your midwife or doctor might actually use an artificial form of oxytocin called pitocin to kick start your labour. But again, labour is a complicated recipe, and there’s a whole bunch of other stuff that goes into starting labour other than oxytocin, so this certainly isn’t a sure fire way of getting things going.

The research on whether sex induces labour is still super inconclusive. The jury is still out on this one it seems, but one thing is for sure: having sex won’t harm your chances of going into labour. So if you fancy it, go get it, girl.