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

complications, is it normal, miscarriage & loss, pregnancy health


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JessL... JessLogansMommy

How heartbreaking :(   I suffered a placental abruption at 34 weeks but fortunately both my son and I are doing just fine.  My doctor never mentioned the abruption to me,  I found out in my medical records when I found a new OB.  

DaniS74 DaniS74

I started bleeding only 3-4 weeks into my pregnancy, and my dr kept telling me I was fine. At least twice a week, I would wake up in a puddle of blood, and every time, I would call, go in, and he would say "I don't see any active bleeding."    In the 7th month, during an exam, he finally saw the 'active bleeding' himself, and he finally referred me to the 'high risk specialists.'  The appointment was set for 1 week later, about 3 days before my water broke at 31 weeks.  They never did find out what caused it, and though my son was born 9 days later, 2 months early, today he is 7 years old and is a normal, healthy kid.  But I will never trust the medical industry again.

Kristina Elizabeth Driver

I had the same thing happen at 12 weeks with twins. Thought I was losing them. I was terrified.

nonmember avatar zombie_mom

i dont trust my doctor at all. i went to the er in early jan before my period for horrible cramps, i found out i was 3 weeks along. for the next 2 weeks i was in and out of the er and my midwifes office. 1 week after i was in the er for bleeding i was at my second doc app for bloodwork a nurse says something about am i planning to try again. i didnt even no i lost the baby! my doc apparently knew at my last visit and didnt tell me! i couldnt believe they didnt tell me.

Brandi Lynne Gomolinski

i trust my doctor...she is one of the best in the area, and took anything that concerned me seriously when i was preg with my daughter who is now 3. 

Jennifer Waller

I don't believe that sex was the cause of the baby's death and the loss of her uterus. I am currently 33 wks pregnant, at 8 wks I went to the hospital for bleeding after sex. I was diagnosed with a "subchorianic hemorage" or a tear in the placenta, which is the beginning of placenta abrubsion. The sex did not cause the hemorage, but the pressure of the sex did however cause the blood that was building up between my placenta and uterus to be pushed out. I was terrified at the thought that I was losing my baby. But we caught the problem in time and with rest it healed (there is no treatment for it) and now I am just weeks away from bringing my sweet boy home. More than likely, considering the damage to her uterus, the mother in this article was already unknowingly suffering from signs of placental abrubsion and the sex just helped push the blood out bringing it to her attention.

Sonya Kitzmiller

For all my three pregnancies my poor husband was put on a sex ban, because of problems.  My aunt lost her only baby because the doctor didn't listen to her.  The baby was in for ten months, and she was actively in labor for three days.  She told the doctor her mother had to have all of her five children by c section but he didn't listen.  After taking it case all the way up to the state supreme court the doctor now can only give physicals at schools lost his ability to work at any hospital in the area.  But she lost the most the only child she could ever have because he didn't listen.

keriley1 keriley1

My doctors have always been great with the medical stuff, I had one with my first pregancy who was....dull??? Had no people skills at all lol. My second time around I didn't end up seeing that guy luckily. I trusted all of the doctors fully tho!

nonmember avatar jj

I was a high risk pregnancy and I didn't know it until I was like 5 months along. but I had a good dr. he was a down to business kind of guy but he was good. I needed a csection and he consulted with another dr for months to figure out what the best course would be for me. so I had a good dr even though I didn't want a csection it was what was needed to keep me and my son safe.

Freela Freela

I'm so sorry for her loss. I've had both subchorionic hematoma in early pregnancy and a small abruption in my middle tri with one of my kids. They aren't caused by sex, but you will often be told not to have sex if you are diagnosed with one. It does seem like the doctors should have taken her concerns more seriously. I know that the bleeding I had with my abruption at 20 weeks was NOT the spotting you might have after sex- and that was a small abruption that eventually healed, not a large one that led to the death of the baby.

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