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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
Anonymous June 30, 2009, 3:10 AM

Oral is amazing stuff.

Anonymous June 30, 2009, 5:24 AM

Can you please post a link to the study that refutes the oral sex one?

I have nothing against feminists. I have everything against unsubstantiated claims.

K June 30, 2009, 6:29 AM

I would really appreciate it if someone can post a link to the study that refutes this article? If it is not available online, can you at least leave the name of the research and researcher? I am just interested in seeing both side of the story.

Anonymous June 30, 2009, 12:05 PM

Nutrition is a big part of reducing your chances of getting preeclampsia. I am a birth educator and one thing I have my students to is keep track of their protein intake. Maybe this does have some validity to it because sperm is choc full of protein.. however, ladies, you can have a hamburger and get the same results! Just make sure you are eating between 80-100 grams of protein a day and have a well balanced diet and that should reduce a lot of chances of preeclampsia.

........^_^......... June 30, 2009, 4:06 PM

OMG!! didnt think I’d read this but it has come to my mind that what Teresa’s saying about this topic is all true… i would say it grossed me out a few time but it made my whole pregnancy the bomb….. the only problem i hated was when i caught a fever during labor but other than that i would do it all over and over again..

andres June 30, 2009, 6:15 PM


El recién nacido, adquiere capacidad inmunológica en parte por la capacidad inmunológica transmitida por la madre y mamando de la primera leche que produce la madre

La primera leche es muy rica en proteínas pero muy pobre en hidratos de carbono (CALOSTRO) que estimula el proceso inmunológico en algunas especies, ya que en humanos hay una baja absorción de los anticuerpos.

craig July 2, 2009, 6:39 PM

My wife and I enjoy this practice often, we both swallow each others secretions and we are both healthy as ever humm is it possible this has anything to do with it? Would appreciate an answer if possible

Anonymous July 4, 2009, 2:53 PM

Rather or not either one is right, first off ladies it isn’t going to hurt you. Second if it were true then it would be to your benefit. I know plenty that love it rather it be medical or not, but I’ve never known any of them to have any health problems from this.

John398 July 6, 2009, 6:35 AM

Very nice site!

Anonymous July 7, 2009, 8:14 PM

uhhhh well this is quite disgusting

Alex July 10, 2009, 7:11 PM

Geez, you people. If you or your spouse needs an excuse like this to go down, you really need to read Paul Joannides’ “The Guide to Getting It On.” There’s nothing dirty or gross about oral sex… giving and receiving it is one of life’s great pleasures, if you aren’t so uptight about it.

Alexis July 10, 2009, 9:11 PM

Just curious, but does it have to be with the father?

Bartaco July 12, 2009, 10:19 PM

If there are any single pregnant ladies out there I will be more than willing to help

AceCarollaFan July 23, 2009, 7:33 AM

Ha, gotta love this. Teresa, you’re my new favorite girl.

Jonathan cena July 23, 2009, 9:14 PM

I have swallowed at least one load of man-gizz every day since 2003 and I am in the best shape of my life.

Man spunk, it does a body good!

Ron July 24, 2009, 3:30 AM


As a typical male, I was trilled to hear about the “sperm exposure” research when listening to the Carolla podcast. The problem is that I had a hell of a time finding the research to substantiate your claims. After considerable searching, I think I finally found the article to which you refer. The problem is that the title you give is incorrect and the quote is not from their research. The best I can tell, the quote comes from a Wikipedia page (use with caution). Regardless, the research appears to substantiate your claims. However, a bit more care in your quoting and referencing would have been much appreciated.

The actual Dutch reference:

Carin A. Koelman, Audrey B. C. Coumans, Hans W. Nijman, Ilias I. N. Doxiadis, Gustaaf A. Dekker, Frans H. J. Claas (2000). Correlation between oral sex and a low incidence of preeclampsia: a role for soluble HLA in seminal fluid? Journal of Reproductive Immunology, Volume 46, Issue 2, Pages 155-166

The article title you provide in your article was from 1998 in Obstetric Gynecology Surveys, not the Journal of Reproductive Immunology.

See: Dekker GA, Robillard PY, Hulsey TC. (1998) Immune maladaptation in the etiology of preeclampsia: a review of corroborative epidemiologic studies. Obstet Gynecol Surv. 1998 Jun;53(6):377-82.


Skizzy July 24, 2009, 9:32 AM

“I’m no Doctor”

You should have stopped there.

Don July 26, 2009, 2:31 AM

If you still think sperm is loaded with protein you’re fooling yourself.

Anonymous July 26, 2009, 7:54 PM

I think a lot of these eww nasty women better take a load atleast once or twice a year before their devoted partners find someone who does.

It wont kill ya and it will make your man happy, if he’s not worth it you shouldn’t be having a baby with him.

Profen July 27, 2009, 12:28 AM

Claims are unsubstantiated. wish they weren’t, but they are. a better reason to give your baby’s dad oral> it makes him happy (what the f* more should you need woman??)

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