Can Sex Cause a Miscarriage?

bassinetCan sex late in pregnancy harm your baby? Doctors say no. Unless you're doing something violent at the same time, it doesn't harm the baby, and it doesn't trigger labor. But one mom blamed her baby's death on sex she had with her husband.

Karen Smith checked into the hospital after she started bleeding and cramping a few hours after having sex. She was 31 weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctors didn't seem to think the bleeding and cramping were a big deal. They told her it was a normal thing to happen after sex. But not only did Karen's baby die during emergency surgery, she had to have her uterus removed!


After Karen's surgery, hospital records revealed she had been suffering from what's called a placental abruption. That's when the placenta peels away from the inner wall of the uterus. This condition can cause the mother to bleed excessively and it can deprive the developing fetus of oxygen and nutrients. Pretty scary stuff. Scary, but not necessarily fatal. If you pick up on the symptoms early enough, it can be treated and your baby's chances of surviving are higher.

In Karen's case, doctors blamed the bleeding and cramping on the sex she'd had hours earlier. And that caused Karen to blame herself for her baby's death. "I’d been torturing myself with the idea that we had caused our baby’s death and I felt I needed to prove to myself that I was not responsible at all to be able to grieve." Once she realized having sex had nothing to do with the placental abruption, and that doctors had totally misinterpreted those symptoms, she sued. After a four-year battle, the hospital paid an undisclosed settlement but did not accept liability ... Well, draw your own conclusions from that.

But Karen wants to raise awareness of this dangerous condition. According to the Mayo clinic, placental abruption can occur in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy and can include the following symptoms:

  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abdominal pain
  • Back pain
  • Uterine tenderness
  • Rapid uterine contractions, often coming one right after another

On their own, these symptoms could mean any number of problems. I believe most competent doctors will take those symptoms seriously. It's the very few who make tragic mistakes like this that make so many expecting parents paranoid about every irregularity. But I also think that when in doubt, it's better to err on the side of being a total pain in the ass to your doctor and asking a million questions. 

Do you trust your doctor to take your complaints seriously and catch a potentially dangerous condition in time?


Image via Wickerfurniture/Flickr

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