During the past week there was a momentary blip across the news desks of the nation; something happened in Bristol that shook the prudes among us to their very cores. Was it a giant, inflatable butt plug being passed off as a Christmas decoration? No.
The news was that a domestic at St Michael’s Hospital, Bristol, has walked in on a couple having sex in a private room on the maternity ward. The woman having sex was heavily pregnant and she was waiting to be induced.
Julie Walters as Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques.
Image from BFI
While it was in discussion for a few minutes at uni over coffee, the usual phrases came out that we all talk about when trying to give advice to women about non-pharmacological ways of inducing labour:
- Orgasms stimulating uterine muscle contractions
- Relaxing helps the flow of oxytocin – responsible for uterine contractions
- Semen being rich in prostaglandin (a synthetic version of this being used as a pessary for induction otherwise)
Unfortunately there is no hard and fast evidence that sex itself leads to the onset of labour – but the reasons above are all true. As Ina May Gaskin says:
“Breast stimulation is especially effective in starting labor at term when it is combined with sexual intercourse. Unless your partner is an abysmally poor lover, this combination is by far the most enjoyable method of induction.”
The one other point that was brought up was the lack of the domestic’s common courtesy; now the story says that she had heard complaints from other women…then walked in on the couple and was offended not only by what they were doing, but the fact that everyone else (midwives MSWs etc) pretty much told her that it’s fine for couples to get down to it. They are, however, asked to put a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, which apparently hadn’t been done.
First: massive round of applause to St Mike’s for standing up for women against prudishness. How someone can work in a maternity ward and be offended by sex, I’ll never know. Perhaps she thought a midwife’s duties involved waiting for storks and pruning the cabbage patch.
Second: I was at St Mike’s a few weeks ago (not as a student midwife!) and the other sign that is up all over the place is about knocking and waiting for a reply; signs about dignity and privacy.
Maybe she did knock and thought someone yelled “COME IN”? *ahem* 😉
Evidently I must have missed the signs about talking to a newspaper regarding people’s personal business.
The way that it has been phrased in the press is “a hospital source”; so has this domestic reported it herself, or has she gossiped to someone else (who comments “Amazing” read somewhat sarcastically) who then goes to the paper? Either way it’s tasteless behaviour by anyone involved in bringing it to the attention of the press, but I must also applaud the vast majority of commenters on al the stories saying that sex is a way to achieve childbirth and everyone needs to get over themselves. Well done, people!
As for the domestic, I’m not sure where she’ll end up, but it looks like she started here as the child in the blue baseball cap 🙂