As a recent study has shown, regular sex leads to physiological changes that boost the woman’s chances of getting pregnant.
Research was conducted by a team of experts at the Indiana University, and 2 papers were published, in the journal Fertility and Sterility and in the journal Physiology and Behavior.
The trial started from the ubiquitous recommendation that couples get when they’re trying to conceive: they should have regular intercourse, even outside the window of ovulation. The study was meant to determine exactly why this behavior is effective in improving pregnancy chances, at a time when the woman may not be so fertile.
A group of 30 healthy pre-menopausal women were surveyed, selected from participants in the Kinsey Institute’s WISH Study – Women, Immunity and Sexual Health. 14 of the subjects were sexually active, whereas the rest were abstinent.
Researchers analyzed data throughout the women’s menstrual cycle, in order to identify differences between the two categories of respondents. Saliva samples were taken at four stages: menstrual, follicular, ovulatory and luteal.
It was revealed that regular intercourse causes modifications in helper T cells, which are used as part of the immune system’s response against germs. Thanks to helper T cells, white blood cells release immunoglobulins, which are antibodies that recognize and fight off bacteria and viruses.
While this provides the body with effective protection against infections, it may also destroy other “foreign invaders” such as sperm or embryos. In fact however, there are two kinds of helper T cells: type 1 cells destroy dangerous microbes, while type 2 recognize aspects associated with pregnancy and allow it to unfold.
Immunoglobulins are similarly built: A antibodies from the reproductive tract may affect fertilization, whereas G antibodies from the blood combat viruses without damaging the uterus.
Researchers discovered that type 2 helper cells and higher concentrations of G antibodies were more common among sexually active women throughout the luteal phase, when the uterine lining makes preparations for pregnancy.
No such transformations were identified among abstinent women, which suggests that the immune system may adapt itself to social behaviors like sexual activity. Regular sex basically allows the body to stabilize itself, which in turn makes conception more likely.
“The sexually active women’s immune systems were preparing in advance to the mere possibility of pregnancy”, explained Tierney Lorenz, visiting research scientist at the Kinsey Institute.
This shows that the body’s defense system doesn’t just wait passively for threats, in order to react to them, but it also actively responds to the individual’s lifestyle.
These physiological changes which researchers have identified may assist couples who have trouble conceiving. It could alter guidelines regarding the frequency of sexual activity in such cases, by emphasizing the importance of intercourse even during non-fertile periods.
In addition, aside from benefits related to fertility treatment, the findings may also further research in the field of autoimmune disorders. Mysterious fluctuations in blood tests that had been unaccounted for before this study could be explained by patterns in sexual activity, according to experts.
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