This could boost your conception odds, reduce your preeclampsia risk and support the overall healthy development of your baby. And it won’t cost you a dime. It turns out, biologically speaking, having sex is not only a mechanism for getting pregnant, but a means to keeping that pregnancy healthy.
First, a few caveats. That sex has to be with the same partner for an extended period of time. And while we are certainly not here to discourage safe sex, know that a barrier contraceptive method like a condom or cervical cap will negate these health benefits. That’s because it all has to do with sperm.
Essentially, the more contact a woman’s cervix has with the seminal fluid that surrounds sperm and carries it an egg, the more primed her immune system is to tolerate it.
“The tolerant profile matters if fertilization takes place,” writes Sarah Robertson, PhD, professor at the University of Adelaide, in a piece for The Conversation. Robertson co-authored a recent study about the relationship between sperm and a woman’s reproductive health. “Immune cells recognize the same transplantation antigens (sperm protein) on the developing baby, and so support the process through which the embryo implants into the wall of the uterus and forms a healthy placenta and fetus. So over time, repeated contact with the same male partner acts to stimulate and strengthen a tolerant immune response to his transplantation antigens. The immune system of a woman responds to her partner’s seminal fluid to progressively build the chances of creating a healthy pregnancy over at least several months of regular sex.”
One specific example of improved pregnancy health? Lower rates of preeclampsia, a pregnancy complication marked by high blood pressure that often leads to early deliveries. A University of Auckland study looked at women diagnosed with preeclampsia (which only affects about 5 percent of pregnancies), determining they were more than twice as likely to have had a short sexual relationship with their partner—less than six months. When that time period dipped below three months, preeclampsia risk shot to 13 percent.
“Among the few women who conceived on the first sexual contact with the father, the chance of preeclampsia was 22 percent—three times higher than the average,” Robertson adds. “Low birth weight babies were also more common in this group.”