When it comes down to the business of making babies, there are more questions and old wives' tales out there than sex positions in the Kama Sutra. Here, we answer some common conception questions to help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
Q: Will having an orgasm help me get pregnant?
A: Yes! Yes! Yes! Some experts believe that uterine contractions during orgasm may help propel sperm into the cervix, but one thing is for sure -- the tingles (and flood of oxytocin) during orgasm definitely make you relaxed. And that means you've already cleared the biggest baby-making blocker: stress. "The better the sex, the better the chances of conception," says reproductive physiologist Joanna Ellington, Ph.D., in the British documentary The Great Sperm Race. Men who are fully stimulated will ejaculate up to 50 percent more, according to research revealed in the program. "So if you have what I call 'gourmet sex,' where you really spend time and you make it fun for both partners, that is going to make the man more stimulated and he is going to ejaculate more and healthier sperm," she says. Sure, plain old sex, with no female orgasm, can result in a baby, too, but why not go for the gold?
Q: Can we determine the sex of our baby?
A: Depends on whom you ask. Proponents of the Shettles Method, which was developed in the 1960s, claim a 75- to 90-percent success rate in determining their babies' gender. The Shettles Method is based on the belief that sperm with Y chromosomes (which produce boys) move faster than sperm with X chromosomes (which produce girls) and it is possible that alkaline secretions in the vaginal tract, caused by female orgasm, favor Y chromosomal sperm. Still, there's no "convincing evidence" that sexual techniques can determine gender, according to Optimizing natural fertility. So if your hubby really wants to get out the ol' toy trucks again, opting for in vitro is his best bet, says Melissa M. Goist, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Medical Center.
Do Sex Positions Matter?
Q: Do certain sex positions help my chances of conceiving?
A: Common sense says that deep penetration (through positions like rear-entry and missionary) will dispense sperm closer to the cervix, helping the little swimmers reach their goal, but there's no evidence to back up the theory. Regardless of how you get down to business, sperm are present in the cervical canal just seconds after ejaculation, according to Optimizing natural fertility, a committee opinion by the Practice Committee of American Society for Reproductive Medicine in collaboration with the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. That means your favorite position is the best one for conceiving, says Shari Brasner, M.D., ob-gyn at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital. "There is no rationale for sex to be uncomfortable or awkward."
Q: Can oral sex as foreplay hurt our chances of conceiving?
A: Not to be a foreplay killer, but saliva can be a sperm killer. It can interfere with your cervical mucus, alter the pH in your vaginal tract (making it inhospitable to sperm), and even take out stalwart swimmers, according to Optimizing natural fertility. If clitoral stimulation helps get you in the mood, ask your man to reach for fertility-safe lubricant and put his fingers to work instead. Being face-to-face--and mouth-to-mouth--during the act might even be more intimate.
Q: Is hot tub sex a bad idea when trying to conceive?
A: Yes. Hot tubs are typically factory programmed at 104?. At that temp (some like it hotter!) it takes only 10 to 20 minutes to raise the temperature of your body, his body, and his testicles to 102? or higher, according to the American Pregnancy Association. And his boys don't like getting any warmer than 96? if they can help it. Not only can sperm cells sizzle in the heat, the production of them can temporarily screech to a halt--decreasing his sperm count for days.
Can You Give Sperm an Advantage?
Q: Can gravity help sperm work their magic?
A: Probably not. Some women think that lying on your back with your hips elevated for 20 minutes after sex will help ensure that every last sperm gets a fighting chance at the prize, but the belief has no scientific foundation, according to Optimizing natural fertility. It can't hurt, though, Dr. Goist says. So why not use the technique as an excuse to get your post-romp cuddle on?
Q: Will lubricants help his sperm reach my egg?
A: Nope. Your cervical mucus moves sperm along quite swimmingly all on its own. Plus, most lubricants can interfere with cervical mucus, alter the pH in your vaginal tract, and kill off even the sturdiest of sperm. In fact, water-based lubricants (like Astroglide, K-Y Jelly, and Touch) inhibit sperm motility in vitro by 60 percent to 100 percent within 60 minutes of incubation, according to a study published in the International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies. If you really need some extra lubrication during sex (a common issue when you're more focused on making babies than making love), sticking with mineral oil, canola oil, or a hydroxyethylcellulose-based lubricant such as Pre-Seed are your best bets, Dr. Brasner says.
Timing it Right
Q: Is there an ideal time of day to have sex to conceive?
A: Sure is. It's in the morning. Or, specifically, after your man gets a good night's rest, says Dr. Goist. When he's sleeping, his body regenerates the sperm lost during the day. Although the average sperm cell has a pretty short shelf life--only seven days--even stalwart swimmers can hit their expiration date early if they get too warm from exercise like bike riding, Dr. Goist says.
Q: Should we "save" his sperm for when I'm ovulating?
A: No! If your man has been stepping up on cold showers to store his swimmers until your ovulation test turns positive, it's time to turn the heat back up. As long as your partner has a normal sperm count, you'll have the best shot of conceiving if you have sex once a day, according to Optimizing natural fertility. Abstaining can increase sperm count (a good thing in that more boys start the trip), but it can also decrease sperm motility (a bad thing if you don't want them to just chase their tails). Moreover, abstinence intervals greater than five days can diminish sperm counts. Don't forget: Most (but certainly not all!) pregnancies occur during the two days before ovulation, according to a study published in the journal Human Reproduction.
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