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Is Oral Sex Good for Your Fetus?

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Teresa Strasser: If you're thinking about conceiving, or certainly if you are already pregnant, there is some pretty convincing evidence that instead of just swallowing, say, folic acid, you might want to swallow something else.

Couple in bed

Let me be delicate about this, if I can.

As far as I can tell, not only should you be having lots of oral sex with the father of your baby -- even up to a year before conceiving -- you should also make sure to ingest his seminal fluid. Listen to what I'm telling you: the international medical community is giving you an Rx for oral. Sure, they say frequent intercourse is good, too, but oral is better. So, if you care about having a healthy baby and not potentially unleashing what scientists call a "destructive attack on the foreign tissues" of your fetus, if you want to avoid immunological disorders during pregnancy, and I'm sure you do, get to work. Or to pleasure, depending on how you feel about it.

Basically, the research says you need to be able to tolerate your baby's foreign, paternal DNA; in other words, you need to get your body accustomed to the stuff, need to cozy up to some daddy double helix for a while so your body doesn't reject it.

I'm no doctor, just a pregnant lady with Google, so maybe I'm horribly confused, but here is what I found excerpted online, from the Journal of Reproductive Immunology:

"While any exposure to a partner's semen during sexual activity appears to decrease a woman's chances for the various immunological disorders that can occur during pregnancy, immunological tolerance could be most quickly established through oral introduction and gastrointestinal absorption of semen."

I could not make this up. Gastrointestinal absorption of semen. I know. For the man in your life, this news should not be hard to swallow. Sorry.

According to a group of Dutch researchers, "exposure to semen provides protection against developing preeclampsia." That's from a paper with the catchy title, "Immune Maladaptation in the Etiology of Preeclampsia: a Review of Corroborative Epidemiologic Studies." Or you could use the subtitle: "Semen is Your Friend."

I just can't figure out why the whole "blue balls" thing has gotten so much traction with men, but they never got ahold of this medical morsel.

One of my favorite pregnancy hobbies is obsessively researching dangerous pregnancy-related conditions. I know, I know, I could knit, but that would be relaxing, whereas this is more congruent with my other pastimes, which include worrying about the future and raking over the past. That's how I happened to look up preeclampsia, specifically because I interviewed actress Jane Seymour and she said she got it during one of her pregnancies, so I figured I needed a new worry charm for my shiny bracelet of maternal concerns.

First, I found this description on the Mayo Clinic's website:

"Preeclampsia is a condition of pregnancy marked by high blood pressure and excess protein in your urine after 20 weeks of pregnancy."

This merited a trip to Wikipedia, where I found all sorts of links to academic papers on the subject and, buried therein, the dryly worded but unmistakable information about oral.

After I did some digesting about ingesting, I had to stand up from my desk chair and say to no one in particular, "Really?" If I've heard about a new mother eating her own placenta in a panini, if I've scoured sights like this for every possible detail about pregnancy, how have I missed this gem? Some of the studies I read weren't all that new, but you'd think they would have made a bigger and more long-lasting splash.

Maybe penises need a new publicist.

Now, to be fair, the Dutch researchers do warn that with a new partner, condoms should be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases: "However, a certain period of sperm exposure within a stable relation, when pregnancy is aimed for, is associated with a partial protection against preeclampsia," they insist.

As far as I can tell, there seem to be myriad causes of preeclampsia and similar conditions, and it's too complicated a medical issue for anyone, least of all me, to fully understand. Still, while some of these hypotheses have been challenged, they don't seem to have been debunked. So to conclude, I will fall back on the medical opinion I always have about things that are either Suzanne Somers-y, or reek of placebo-ness, but are obviously benign: It can't hurt, right? At the very least, your baby will have a happy, relaxed father and parents who are intimate.

And suddenly, you wonder if the phrase "going Dutch" might acquire new meaning.

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz: Maybe I have not been attending grand rounds enough and am out of date -- but I NEVER learned about this benefit of oral sex in medical school or residency, or at any of those fancy continuing medical education conferences!

So while my search was far from exhaustive, I checked out a few of the wiki sources named in Teresa's blog. The one academic paper that seems to support this supposed "immune maladaption theory of preeclampsia" is in fact published in one of our most esteemed peer-reviewed journals, but it is a small study and, no offense, was authored by a resident ... and the bigger, better controlled study with more than 2,000 subjects published in another peer-reviewed journal concludes otherwise. So, if you like, swallow, and if you do not ... please do whatever it is that you do with undesired contents of the oral cavity.

I should note here that preeclampsia is a real bugaboo for OB/GYNs. It is fairly common and can be very dangerous, and we really do not have any definitive cause, though we have made great progress in treating the condition ... but that is not the subject of this blog and is far less sexy a subject! Preeclampsia is, however, something of a holy grail ... so I can see why people would grasp at whatever they can to prevent it.

You gotta wonder where the idea for this theory came from, though -- maybe a few too many beers late one night at one of the continuing medical education conferences?

next: Autopsy: Caylee's Remains Were Not Moved
64 comments so far | Post a comment now
anonymouse June 22, 2009, 7:22 PM


Gigohead  June 22, 2009, 10:00 PM

I appreciate Dr. Lenz setting things straight. I think Teresa needs to step away from the computer during this pregnancy.

traci June 22, 2009, 10:02 PM

and daddies-to-be everywhere rejoice! hahaha

Anonymous June 23, 2009, 1:34 PM

My dr recommended lots of sex when I was pregnant. I had a super easy pregnancy and birth.

ML June 23, 2009, 5:58 PM

Thanks for the info Teresa,i’ve linked your article on my i’m sure most of us who read it will take this info to the grave.while i don’t argue that it might be true, i’ll wait for pill form.

Anonymous June 23, 2009, 6:58 PM

Teresa for President!!!
May I sugest next topic for research:
“how anal sex reduces number of pubiotomy during delivery”
Go Teresa go!!!!

Anonymous June 23, 2009, 10:27 PM

If I knew this would work I would do it EVERYDAY. I had preeclampsia with both of my previous pregnancies and was advised against having any more kids. My husband really wants another but my fear of preeclampsia has kept me from trying.

kyle June 24, 2009, 8:39 AM

sent this to my wife! this is what i’ve been try’n to tell her for years… who knew i was right

Chrissy June 24, 2009, 5:08 PM

For all you pro-swallowers - did you not read Dr Gilberg-Lenz response? It seems more hype/interesting theory than actual fact.

J June 29, 2009, 12:01 PM

Dr. Gilberg-Lenz’s response sounds nothing more than a snarky feminist rant. She admits that the referenced study does exist but then mocks the person that did the study. She then claims that a larger study contradicts it, but the article she links to is about anti-nausea drug medicine. Also let’s be honest with ourselves, most science and medicine is a just bunch of theories that may or may not work.

shaun June 29, 2009, 12:19 PM

On a related note, there’s a system for removing allergies for poison ivy / poison oak by eating it — it’s thought that the way California Native Americans used poison oak extensively in cooking was the reason they lost all allergies to it.

Several tribes used the young flexible stems to weave baskets, and the
Karok Indians of northwestern California covered the bulbs of soap lilies (Chlorogalum pomeridianum) with poison oak leaves and then baked them in earth ovens for food. Other northern California tribes wrapped acorn meal with poison oak leaves during baking for food as well.

It makes sense because as anhyone wh has lived there knows, Northern California is filled with poison oak and the Indians would have lived miserable lives without immunity.

So it’s not farfetched to use a similar plan to remove any potential allergies to your partner’s DNA, and become closer in the process.

Anonymous June 29, 2009, 12:36 PM

Dr. Lenz how about some links to your “bigger better” studies instead of just coming on here and saying “oh i’m a doctor this isn’t true I read it wasn’t somewhere trust me”. Not very convincing. Also, your dig at residents is pretty unnecessary, i’m sure you must have gone through residency at some point? correct?. If you had been ANY good as a resident you would be in agreement that there are plenty of residents who do better work than actual physicians, despite the potential inexperience, and that includes publishing scientific papers.

You and I both know that the fact that this paper was published in a major scientific journal holds more weight than the fact that it was published by a resident, unless of course you have never published any articles.

Your response does not come across as being authentic and instead seems borderline feminist.

Trainer Shauna June 29, 2009, 1:08 PM

Wow, Christmas arrives early for my hubby!

eve June 29, 2009, 2:07 PM

My husband emailed me this link with the subject of “See, I TOLD YOU”

thanks for letting him have this bit of information! LOL

Tina Giger June 29, 2009, 2:16 PM

So, how many of you “ewwww” moms read the Amsterdam study online? Apparently, the doc objects to the sample size. The study is available. Pro or con, who read that study at scribd?

Perhaps she should just repudiate it entirely to appease the Puritans?

We all know fellatio is not what “good girls” do, right? “Good girls” cut a hole in a sheet and only do missionary. Anything else is “grosss!” Right?

Treat yourself to an actual dose of science. Oh, and get over it: boys don’t have cooties.

Tina Giger June 29, 2009, 2:24 PM

Forgot to add:
“and the bigger, better controlled study with more than 2,000 subjects published in another peer-reviewed journal concludes otherwise.”

With no footnote, no less.
A study concludes otherwise! But there’s no way to actually find the study, I guess. Even with Google, only two are coming up: the “small study” and the Amsterdam study.

2,000 participants! That’s a large scale study and would give an answer to this once and for all! Except the study is….

Where, exactly?

Uly Silverberg June 29, 2009, 2:36 PM

The 2,000 participant study is indeed available.
The reason you had trouble finding it, though, is because it’s not a study about fellatio and preeclampsia. It’s a study about *contraception* and preeclampsia.
The doctor answering is either being intellectually dishonest or believes that vaginal exposure would be exactly equivalent to oral ingestion. That’s questionable science at best.

Sandra June 29, 2009, 3:07 PM

How utterly foul. What is the world coming to?

Me June 29, 2009, 3:32 PM

Foul? Geez Sandra, I feel sorry for you. Try some Pineapple juice… I enjoy oral.

Yecart June 29, 2009, 9:40 PM

How are supposed to get pregnant if you are swallowing all the baby batter?

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