Can Sex Cause Your Water to Break?

QUESTION

Dear Midwife,
I'd like to ask you a question that tortures me everyday since it happened. Two months ago my water broke at 24th weeks of pregnancy. My baby didn't survive.

I'm afraid it happened because of orgasm. I'd like to know your opinion.

Thank you so much,
Elena

ANSWER

I am SO sorry for your loss, these instances are SO heartbreaking. It's extremely unlikely that intercourse was the sole cause. In a normal pregnancy, the oxytocin receptors that cause labor are not "activated" until nearly 40 weeks (and sometimes beyond!), so intercourse may cause cramping, but not delivery or PROM. Was an autopsy or pathology examination of the placenta performed?

Often, the reason is an infection. It is also possible that your cervix does not work as it should, and you might need a stitch to hold it closed next time. Recent trials with a form of progesterone shots each week have also been shown to decrease the second-trimester loss rate.

My point is only that it is understandable that you would be wondering if there was anything you could have done or not done to prevent this tragedy, and of course I do not have enough information to say. But there are lots of other things besides avoiding intercourse that you might want to consider next time.

And yes, if your provider suggests avoiding intercourse, of course you would do so. But it's also true that this might have just been one of those lousy "luck of the draw" events, and the rest of your pregnancies will be perfectly normal and without complications.

I do wish you well, and please take care of yourself.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.