Woman looking to increase their chances of getting pregnant might be pleasantly surprised by the results of new research out of Indiana University (IU).
According to the research, which was reported in a series of papers published in the journals Fertility and Sterility and Physiology and Behavior, sexual activity serves as a trigger for physiological changes in the human body that increase the chances of a woman getting pregnant, even when she’s outside of her ovulation window.
While regular intercourse is commonly recommended to those trying to have a child, even outside of their ovulation window, the explanation has, according to Tierney Lorenz, lead author on both papers, been “unclear” — that is, until now.
It’s a common recommendation that partners trying to have a baby should engage in regular intercourse to increase the woman’s changes of getting pregnant — even during so-called ‘non-fertile’ periods — although it’s unclear how this works (…) This research is the first to show that the sexual activity may cause the body to promote types of immunity that support conception.
The researchers based their results on data derived from participants in the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University’s Women, Immunity and Sexual Health (WISH) Study — a study which collected data during the menstrual cycles of 30 healthy women, roughly half of whom were sexually abstinent while the other half were sexually active.
Between their two papers, the researchers reported changes in both the helper T cells — cells responsible for managing the body’s immune response — and the proteins that T cells use to communicate as well as differences in antibody levels.
In order for the female body to protect itself, it “needs to defend against foreign invaders. But if it applies that logic to sperm or a fetus, then pregnancy can’t occur. The shifts in immunity that women experience may be a response to this problem,” Lorenz explained.
The female body needs to navigate a tricky dilemma (…) In order to protect itself, the body needs to defend against foreign invaders. But if it applies that logic to sperm or a fetus, then pregnancy can’t occur. The shifts in immunity that women experience may be a response to this problem.
The changes in immunity observed in sexually active women were not seen in those who were abstinent, which Lorenz explained to be the immune system’s response “to a social behavior: sexual activity.”
We’re actually seeing the immune system responding to a social behavior: sexual activity (…) The sexually active women’s immune systems were preparing in advance to the mere possibility of pregnancy.
In other pregnancy news, a study published earlier this year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that cancer in pregnant women can be detected through prenatal blood tests.