The Science of Getting Knocked UpJoel Stein
Everything about me is all man, including my sperm. So I was surprised when, after a year of trying to get my lovely wife Cassandra pregnant, and it wasn’t happening. I tried everything: having sex slowly, having sex fast, having sex while thinking about her. None of it worked.
Then we started talking to friends who had babies, and reading books about how to have babies. Actually Cassandra did all of that stuff and I just listened to her read the relevant parts of Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Eventually, Cassandra got acupuncture to help with her fertility. A month later, she was with child. And I had to stop making fun of acupuncture. I felt like I came out ahead, but just barely.
Jean Twenge a brilliant psych prof at San Diego State, the author of Generation Me, and, more importantly, a mother of three who didn’t start to try to have kids until she was 34 has just come out with a new book, The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant. I wish I knew all the stuff in the book back then, since waiting that extra year might have cost us our chance to have a second child, since Cassandra now thinks she’s too old to have another. Though if she had gotten pregnant more quickly, we probably wouldn’t have had sex as much that year. So I came out behind on that one, but just barely.
In the book, Twenge dismisses the idea that women over 34 are screwed. The study that gave us the stat that only a third of women 35 and older will get pregnant after a year of trying is derived from French church records from the 1600s to 1800s. Modern medical care and improved nutrition have changed the data, she says, so that women 35-39 who have regular sex for a year get pregnant 82 percent of the time; in two years, their odds are 90 percent. That means, mathematically, our sex is nearly two and a half times better than 17th Century French sex. I’m guessing those stats can almost wholly be attributed to differences in personal grooming.
About 40 percent of the time it’s the dude’s fault, though clearly not in my case, since I’m not the one who got the curative acupuncture. Knowing that, as soon as Twenge and her husband decided to try to have a kid, she sent him to get his sperm tested at the doctor’s office. “It’s ten minutes it depends on the guy I guess it’s $100, even if your insurance doesn’t pay for it, and all you have to do is look at some soft porn at the doctor’s office and fill up a cup,” she says. I think it’s a good sign for their marriage that her husband lied and said it was soft porn. And that he lied and said it took him a whole ten minutes.
You should haves sex maybe two times during the key window, which is a day or two before ovulation. The egg only lives for 6-12 hours, but sperm can be in there for five days, probably longer if they’re my sperm. And, while people are busy and can feel forced to have sex, it’s important for your relationship to make it feel like sex, not breeding. “You can take it too far. Do not wave the OPK stick in your husband’s face. You just peed on it. That’s not romantic,” she says. Twenge is not speaking for all relationships here.
While getting to know when you produce pre-ovulation mucus can be a wonderful journey for a woman and her body, and all that chart-making that Cassandra did about said mucus probably improved her accounting skills, Twenge suggests skipping that and just buying a fertility monitor. You pee on it every morning and it tells you if your fertility is low, high or peak. “Did I need that much of an explanation of what I find in my underwear? Don’t get too obsessed over this. It’s good to look at your mucus, but if you’re tempted to take a picture of it and ask for opinions, please stop,” she says.
And if even the fertility monitor is too much work, Twenge who remember is a full-time professor with lots of published studies has developed the brilliant Lots of Sex Plan in which you have sex every other day between day 7 and 21 of your cycle, thereby insuring you won’t miss one of the two fertile days in every cycle. I believe Twenge will receive a Nobel prize for this.
Finally, don’t test for pregnancy until at least ten days after ovulation, or you’ll drive yourself crazy for no reason. And get one of those new digital display tests instead of the ones with lines. “They’re absolutely essential for convincing husbands,” she says. “Husbands don’t believe faint lines. They say, Are you sure that’s a line?’ That’s not how you want your announcement to go.”
As for Cassandra’s magic acupuncture? Twenge doesn’t believe it. She’s heard too many weird fertility rumors, such as eating pineapple cores. “The social psych name for that is illusory correlation.’ It’s the source of all kinds of superstition from rain dances to guys thinking that watching the game has an effect on whether their team wins,” she told me. Or believing that your sperm are super manly. Still, it worked for us.
Order my book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity on Amazon.
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