Pregnancy is a joyous time, but it can be stressful for many factors including unsolicited advice pregnant women get. While many are well-meaning, Filipinos, in particular, tend to pass on myths or pamahiins as factual advice, and we have plenty of it surrounding pregnancy. A question that we get asked a lot: Can sex cause miscarriage?
For pregnant Pinays, it's easy to get swayed by these myths because of the fear of losing an unborn baby. While they may not believe the pamahiin, they follow it as long as no harm comes to her or the baby. The more cautious a pregnant woman is, after all, the better. But there are old wives' tales that preggos should ignore, and pregnancy sex is one of them.
The truth about sex and miscarriage
Having sex is a perfectly normal activity for a woman who has a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. Don't believe anyone who tells you otherwise unless it's your doctor. (We are also assuming here that you want to have sex, not just your partner.) Many preggos swear sex had never been better when they were expecting. So don't miss out on the fun!
Myth: Sex early in the pregnancy can cause a miscarriage.
Couples typically delay pregnancy announcement until after the first trimester, which can be a delicate period. So women take it easy during this time, and some assumed it means abstaining from sex. The truth is sexual desire may not be forthcoming during the first trimester because of the changes happening in your body. Morning sickness, tender breasts, and other physical changes can affect a pregnant woman's energy levels and libido.
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There is no known link between sexual activity and miscarriage, based on the few studies on first-trimester miscarriages. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) estimates that early pregnancy loss or miscarriage before the 13th week of pregnancy happens to about 10 percent of known pregnancies. Nearly half of these miscarriages occur because the embryo was unhealthy or had a chromosomal abnormality, to begin with. There's nothing a pregnant woman could have done, including abstaining from sex, to prevent the miscarriage no matter how much caution she takes.
Myth: Having sex will hurt the unborn baby.
Whoever came up with this was probably a guy, and he probably meant it as a joke (not a funny one in our opinion). Unfortunately, the joke has become pregnancy advice that has spawned more myths. We've heard people say a baby will have a bald top or grow white hair as a result of pregnancy sex (or when your husband's penis poked your unborn baby's head). Sigh.
During sex, the male's penis only penetrates the vagina and maybe reach just the tip of the cervix during deep penetration. No matter how well endowed your partner thinks he is, his penis will not reach your uterus, more so, your baby. If there is anything wrong with the baby, it is not because of sex (or your hubby's penis) during your pregnancy.
When you become pregnant, your body creates layers of built-in protection for your baby. The woman's mucus plug seals the cervix and protects the uterus against bacteria and infections including semen. The amniotic sac also acts as a cushion and protects that baby from any bumps or thrusts during sex.
Myth: Sexual stimulation and orgasms can trigger contractions.
It's normal for women, pregnant or not, to feel their uterus contract after having an orgasm. These uterine contractions are caused by prostaglandins, which are found in semen and other bodily tissues. Elizabeth Stewart, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Harvard Medical School, explains that pregnant women feel these contractions more intensely because their uterus is swollen, and they have increased blood flow in their system, thanks to their bodies working overtime to sustain and nourish their developing baby.
It's normal to feel some cramping after having sex while pregnant. But if it doesn't go away after a few minutes, call your doctor.
Myth: Having sex can cause pre-term birth.
Pregnant women who are overdue or near full-term often get teased with this statement: "Ipasundo mo na sa tatay." It implies that sex with the hubby will make a woman give birth or at least "hurry" the childbirth process.
While there are cases where sex may help induce a woman's labor, it's doesn't happen to all preggos, studies have shown. Nor does having sex at any point during the nine months you're with child automatically means it will put you in labor or cause you to miscarry.
As mentioned above, semen contains prostaglandins, which has been associated with opening up a woman's cervix. But if the woman has a low-risk pregnancy and she is not yet at full term, sex will not cause a miscarriage. And just because you experience contractions doesn't mean you're already going into labor.
Having sex may increase your chances of having a miscarriage only if you have a high-risk and complicated pregnancy. Doctors advise against having pregnant sex under the following conditions:
A history of miscarriage or premature birth or labor
Unexplained bleeding or is experiencing bleeding
A low-lying placenta or placenta previa (your placenta is partially or fully blocking your cervix)
An incompetent cervix (it's opening too early into the pregnancy)
Carrying multiples and is already in the third trimester
Broken water bag or leaking amniotic fluid
Other factors increase a pregnant woman's risk for miscarriage, but sex is not one of them. These are age, past medical history of miscarriage, pre-existing diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and hormonal disorders, uterine or cervical problems, history of birth defects or genetic problems, and infections, such as mumps, rubella, measles, etc.
If you're unsure whether you can or cannot have sex, talk to your doctor. Every pregnancy is different, and your doctor is the best person to consult if it's safe for you and your partner to continue being sexually active. If it's safe for you to have pregnant sex, remember to make comfort a priority. If not, you can always explore ways to help you and your partner remain intimate while you're pregnant.