For heterosexual couples trying to conceive, no sex position is going to make you more likely to conceive.

 

By Dr. Mare Mbaye, MD

If you’ve spent time on the internet looking for information on how to get pregnant (which I’m guessing you have, if you found us), you’ve probably read about which sex positions heterosexual couples should use to get pregnant. Pregnancy can feel like a mysterious process, and with all the information out there, it’s not surprising that there are people looking for an easy way to do it.

But here’s the thing: scientific evidence shows that in order to conceive, it doesn’t actually matter what position you’re in—you just need to have vaginal sex, however you and your partner want, to get pregnant. That’s it.

And yet, there are so many myths about this. Shall we count the ways? 

Some people say that having sex doggy-style allows for deeper penetration, which lets the sperm get closer to the cervix and makes it more likely that they’ll actually meet the egg, instead of just hanging out in the vagina where they’re not helping anyone. 

Others swear that if women lie down on their back with their pelvis propped up for 10 - 15 minutes after sex, it will increase the chances of getting pregnant because it keeps the sperm on track and sends them towards the cervix. Some people also believe that peeing too quickly after sex can wash the sperm away, and beyond going so far as to prop up a woman’s pelvis, they say that even standing up during or right after sex will actively decrease your chances of getting pregnant because gravity will work against you. 

But literally none of this is proven. In scientist-speak, “there is no evidence that coital position affects fecund-ability” per the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). That is to say, no study has confirmed that one position is more effective than any other. Yes, scientists have studied this, and yes, the articles they’ve written about it are interesting to read, to say the least. But don’t worry, we read them, so you don’t have to.

Sperm can be found in the cervical canal within seconds of ejaculation, regardless of position. So while it makes sense that deeper penetration and maximum cervical contact should improve your chances, it really doesn’t. The best position is going to be different for every woman because every woman’s body is different. 

The myths about what to do and what not to do during baby-making sex reach beyond what positions you should be doing it in. Even the female orgasm plays a leading role in these tales: people say that when a woman experiences an orgasm during sex, it makes her more likely to conceive. While we’re always in favor of satisfying sex, a female orgasm hasn’t been scientifically shown to significantly change your chances of conceiving either.

Generally speaking, there’s nothing at all wrong with having sex mostly doggy-style if you like that, or any other position you prefer. And we’re very pro-orgasm, but it’s all for reasons that have everything to do with enjoying your sex life and nothing to do with conceiving. In addition, you might want to avoid lying with your pelvis propped up because that sounds a little uncomfortable. It’s also recommended that you make sure to pee fairly soon after sex (and/or beforehand) so that you decrease your chances of getting a urinary tract infection. Because the urethra is located right in front of the vaginal opening in women, our anatomy makes us more prone to UTIs after sex. Bacteria from the vagina can inadvertently get into the urethra during sex from the mouth, penis, fingers or toys.

So why do so many people believe these widely held tales if they aren’t true, and scientists have gone so far as to debunk them through studies? That’s a question with a complicated answer. Part of it is probably that trying to get pregnant can be confusing, complicated, and disappointing when it doesn’t happen immediately. In the face of uncertainty, people tend to get a little superstitious. Think of someone wearing their home team’s jersey to bring on a win or carrying a lucky charm to a final exam. 

Plus, most people are probably thinking if it can’t hurt, why not try it? That’s an easy mentality to get bogged down in, but the thing is, it can hurt in a way. There’s already so much you have to keep track of when you’re trying to conceive—from ovulation tests to prenatal vitamins to scheduling sex—that the last thing you need is the added burden of worrying about how you’re having all this sex, especially when there’s no proof that you need to be concerned about it. Not having sex the right way is one more thing you might blame yourself for messing up when you’re not getting pregnant right away, and no one needs that extra, unfounded pressure. 

Human psychology aside, another really practical reason that people cling to these ideas is that measuring whether sex positions impact conception rates is a tricky question around which to design an experiment, so there haven’t been as many studies about it as you might hope. That makes what scientific evidence there is available easier to brush off. 

Really, the only thing to concern yourself with when it comes to having sex is not falling into an unnecessarily strict sex or post-sex regimen. You’re going to be having a lot of sex while trying to conceive—doctors recommend once a day or every other day during your fertile window—which may sound fun now, but can get routine real quick. So make sure you’re still experiencing fun and intimacy, even as you stay on the schedule that you’ve made. You don’t need to end up in doggy style if you don’t like it, and you should definitely feel free to cuddle afterward, if that’s your jam, without worrying about what angle your pelvis is at.

 

Illustration by Henri Matisse.