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Should pregnant women worry about having sex?

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Despite the low possibility of certain health risks, most women who are pregnant shouldn't worry about the safety of having sex.

New guidance being published today, intended to help doctors advise patients, says that many pregnant women can safely have sex, as long as they don't have certain risk factors.

The guidance, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, may help reassure patients who are often confused about whether or not intercourse during pregnancy is a good idea.

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The new advice warns that certain risks could accompany sex during pregnancy, although the risks are generally quite low. They include premature labour, pelvic inflammatory disease, blood clots and hemorrhage in patients with placenta previa, or when the placenta covers part of the cervix.

The new guidelines also aim to help clear up some confusion over whether women with certain risk factors should avoid sex during pregnancy. For instance, the new paper points out that while women at risk of premature labour are often told to avoid sex, the evidence showing intercourse can lead to premature labour is often contradictory.

But until more evidence emerges, women at risk of premature labour are probably best to avoid intercourse, according to the authors.

"In populations at increased risk for preterm labour, there is no evidence to suggest a clear benefit from restricted sexual activity; however, this is a simple intervention that causes no harm and may be a reasonable recommendation until better evidence emerges," writes Dr. Clair Jones, Department of Obstetrics, Mount Sinai Hospital and University of Toronto with coauthors.

The article also notes that is no evidence to the widely-held theory that having sex when a woman is at full-term during pregnancy will induce labour.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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