What’s the Best Baby-Making Position?
Things can get a little complicated when it comes to wading through the fact and fiction of conception. What really works and what is just a long-standing fallacy?
The missionary position (man on top) is often said to be the best position for conception because it allows the sperm to be deposited directly onto the cervix upon ejaculation. Toni Weschler, MS, founder of the Fertility Awareness Counseling and Training Seminars in Seattle, Washington, and author of the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility: The Definitive Guide to Natural Birth Control, Pregnancy Achievement, and Reproductive Health, recommends intercourse from behind (hands and knees position) for women with a tipped uterus. “This position allows the sperm better access to the cervix,” she says. Following the closer-is-better logic, partners should avoid any position that causes semen to leak out, including the woman-on-top position, standing, and sitting during intercourse.
Makes sense, right? Too bad there’s no real scientific proof that it works. When asked if there are any positions she recommends to fertility patients, Esther Eisenberg, MD, MPH, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility, simply replies, “No.”
Will Pillows Help?
To maximize the time sperm have to reach the egg, Weschler advises women to “place a small pillow under your hips following intercourse so that your cervix ‘rests’ in the pool of semen for a short time (perhaps 20 minutes or so).” Sex expert Ruth Westheimer agrees. In her book Dr. Ruth’s Pregnancy Guide for Couples, she states, “After ejaculation, the woman should continue to lie on her back with her pelvis slightly tilted upward for some time, maybe 20 to 30 minutes.” The pillow propping theory is so popular that couples can actually purchase a device called the Conception Curve Fertility Pillow designed to properly tilt the pelvis into the correct position.
Dr. Eisenberg’s opinion? “Not necessary,” she says. But Amos Grunebaum, MD, director of clinical maternal-fetal medicine at the New York Hospital-Cornell Weill Medical College recommends both the missionary or rear-entry positions and lying with your feet up for half an hour. There is, it seems, no definitive answer.
Is a Coffee Cutback Required?
If you’re trying to get pregnant, your physician will likely advise you to cut down or eliminate caffeine consumption. “Excessive coffee intake has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage,” says Dr. Eisenberg, who advises women to limit coffee intake to less than two cups a day. On the other hand, a 2003 American Society for Reproductive Medicine meeting in San Antonio, Texas, revealed that sperm motility was higher in men who drank coffee compared to those who did not. The study didn’t go so far as to recommend coffee for fathers-to-be since it’s not clear how much caffeine is helpful, how much is too much, or even how many days, weeks, or months in advance the drug needs to take effect. So while a couple of Frappuccinos for the gentlemen won’t hurt anything, they probably won’t help much either. If you’re a hopeful mom-to-be, stick with decaf.
Does Cough Syrup = Conception?
A word of warning: Because drugs of any kind can negatively affect your chances of conception and the health of your baby, check with your doctor before taking any form of medication, whether over-the-counter or prescription.
If you see a woman in the check-out line with an ovulation predictor kit and a bottle of cough syrup, you can safely assume that she isn’t fighting the flu while attempting to procreate—she’s actually hoping that Robitussin will make her more fertile.
“For a long time Robitussin was used by physicians and women alike to improve cervical mucus,” says Deborah Metzger, MD, PhD, coauthor of Stay Fertile Longer: Everything You Need to Know to Get Pregnant Now-Or Whenever You’re Ready. The theory goes like this: Guaifenesin, the chemical in Robitussin and many other cough syrups, not only thins the mucus in your lungs but will also thin the mucus in your cervix, thus creating a slippery, healthy path for sperm to swim unhindered to the awaiting egg. In fact, doctors who prescribe Clomid to fertility patients often prescribe guaifenesin at the same time because Clomid can cause thicker “hostile mucus” in some patients. However, Dr. Metzger adds that the Robitussin trick is based on a 25-year-old medical experiment, so there’s not much current scientific evidence to back it up. On the other hand, she notes that it’s not really harmful to try as long as you make sure the cough medicine doesn’t contain antihistamines, which can dry up cervical mucus, dextromethorphan, which has been linked to birth defects, or other drugs like alcohol.
Do Orgasms Do the Trick?
There’s a fabulous myth floating around that a woman must have an orgasm to get pregnant. While gals around the world have been whispering that gem into the ears of their lovers for obvious reasons, it’s simply not true. Yet some doctors speculate that the physical effect of an orgasm helps move semen closer to the cervix and up into the fallopian tubes while increasing the blood flow to a woman’s reproductive organs. In addition, Landrum B. Shettles, MD, former associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons and author of How to Choose the Sex of Your Baby, asserts that the body produces substances after orgasm that makes the vaginal environment more alkaline, which favors sperm carrying the Y chromosome—or “boy sperm.”
According to Dr. Shettles, if you’re ready to paint the nursery blue, make sure both partners walk away satisfied. Even if much of the information surrounding female orgasm is speculative, it can’t be a bad thing. Much like acupuncture, yoga, and other stress-reducing activities, orgasm may not be necessary for conception—but it certainly makes the journey to parenthood a lot more pleasant!
Should He Cool Off Down There?
It’s true: cooler temperatures can raise a man’s sperm count. For years, wannabe dads have been urged to wear boxers and avoid hot tubs, while some men rub an ice cube around their testicles for a few minutes before intercourse or spend a few minutes a day sitting on an ice pack for a couple of weeks before their partners ovulate.
Too cool for comfort? Keep in mind that it takes a minimum of two months for sperm counts to rise in response to cooler temperatures—and a 1997 study conducted at Los Angeles Medical Center discovered no difference between the sperm counts of men wearing close-fitting underwear and those who favored boxers.
Bottom line: If you want to hedge your bets, go for the boxers—but you may want to bypass the ice!
Definitive Dos and Don’ts
Here’s what’s out and what’s in when it comes to conception:
- DON’T Smoke: Skipping the old post-coital cigarette is a must. Smoking not only decreases a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, it also causes erectile dysfunction (impotence) in men, decreases sperm count, and is harmful to unborn babies.
- DON’T Drink: Despite the number of children conceived thanks to the libido-enhancing effects of alcohol, fertility experts recommend corking the bottle when you’re trying to make a baby.
- DON’T Overheat: Both partners should avoid hot tubs and saunas which can overcook those precious eggs and sperm.
- DO Exercise: Exercise regularly if you don’t already and try to get closer to your ideal body weight. A healthy, unpolluted body simply functions better. Just as a race car driver ensures that the engine is in perfect running order to maximize its speed and efficiency, so should couples hoping to cash in on one of nature’s most wondrous mechanical and chemical processes—conception.
There’s no end to the factual, fictitious, and sometimes funny advice a woman with an Internet connection and an ovulation predictor kit is likely to encounter. While much of it is based in fact and some of it actually works, a lot of it is just plain baloney. Do yourself a favor and check with your doctor for some professional advice before doing anything that sounds a little weird. Your body and your baby will thank you for it!