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Do sex positions or orgasms affect your chances of getting pregnant? Here’s what the science says

Do sex positions or orgasms affect your chances of getting pregnant? Here’s what the science says

3 min read

There’s no shortage of sketchy, not-scientifically-informed info out there on things that might impact your chances of conception. We could write for months and still not dispel every myth that’s out there (unfortunately).

In this post, we’ll focus on two frequently cited myths about things that can impact conception:

Myth 1: Sex positions, and lying down after sex, affect your chances of conception.

Myth 2: Having an orgasm during sex makes conception more likely.

We’ll explain the reason the myths exist, the relevant scientific studies, and the extent to which there might be any truth to them.

Myth 1: Sex position, and lying down after sex, affects your chances of conception

The reason the myth exists

At its core, this myth is based on the scientifically correct fact that for conception to happen, sperm needs to reach and fertilize an egg. Because some sex positions facilitate deeper penetration than others, the thinking is that certain positions could make conception more likely by getting sperm closer to that egg. And, angling hips upward while lying down right after sex could potentially make conception more likely by helping more sperm stay in the reproductive tract.  

The science

During ejaculation, sperm travels pretty fast — by some estimates, 200-inches-per-second-fast. Because sperm is able to travel so quickly on its own, it’s unlikely that getting it just a few millimeters closer to an egg would do much good. Regardless of sex position, sperm is found in the female reproductive tract within seconds, and at the fallopian tubes (where eggs hang out during ovulation) within 15 minutes after ejaculation. A recent committee opinion from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine emphasizes the fact that there’s little reason to believe in a link between sex positions and natural fertility.

Science also doesn’t overwhelmingly support the idea that lying down after sex has anything to do with your odds of conception. While some studies had shown that laying down for 15 minutes after intrauterine insemination (IUI) increases the chances of conception, a recent meta-analysis on all published studies of this topic found that laying down post-IUI didn’t make much of a difference. It’s important to remember that these sorts of studies performed in the context of IUI can’t necessarily be used to inform our understanding of what would happen during natural conception, and there haven’t been any systematic studies on whether position after sex in those contexts affects conception.

The takeaway

Science doesn’t support a relationship between your chances of conceiving and your positions during sex, or your positions after it. Our take? Do whatever keeps things feeling comfortable and fun.

Myth 2: Having an orgasm during sex makes conception more likely

The reason the myth exists

Lots of things happen to your body during an orgasm — your heart rate and blood pressure go up, your brain releases hormones like oxytocin that make you feel warm and fuzzy, and the muscles of your pelvic floor contract, among other things. The idea that having an orgasm during sex makes conception more likely comes from thinking that the pelvic contractions experienced during an orgasm help draw in and retain sperm within the reproductive tract, and make it more likely that egg and sperm will meet.

The science

Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for pelvic floor contractions during orgasm (and, also, for contractions during labor!), and studies have experimentally administered oxytocin to women and looked at how sperm-like fluids move throughout the reproductive tract.

Some early studies found that experimentally administering oxytocin to women increased the amount of sperm-like fluid that was transported to the fallopian tubes — meaning, since orgasm increases oxytocin, orgasm could then make sperm transport faster, and conception more likely.

But, one not-so-small problem: the doses of oxytocin administered in this study lead to levels of oxytocin in the body that were up to *sixty times higher* than oxytocin levels post-orgasm, meaning we have no clue what the effect of oxytocin at normal, post-orgasm levels is.

Scientists aren’t completely putting this idea to rest just yet, and there are review articles, book chapters, and pop-sci books being written to try and understand what role, if any, women’s orgasm plays in reproduction.

The takeaway

Based on the evidence that’s out there right now, science doesn’t support a relationship between your chances of conceiving and how often you have orgasms during sex. Our take? Have as many or as few orgasms as you want, without worrying about what it’ll do to your chances of getting pregnant.

What *does* increase my chances of conceiving, then?

There are there are some things you can do that science does say will promote your odds of conception — things like timing when in your cycle you have sex, embracing a healthy lifestyle, and checking in on your hormones and your reproductive health.

This article was reviewed by Dr. Nataki Douglas, the Chair of the Modern Fertility Medical Advisory Board.

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Talia Shirazi

Talia is a biological anthropology PhD candidate at Penn State, passionate about women's reproductive health and behavioral neuroendocrinology.

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