The IVF diary / 1 November, 2022 / Zita West
Are you trying to conceive? If so, check out Zita West’s answers to the sex and fertility questions couples are too embarrassed to ask.
For couples trying to get pregnant, sex is the most important thing to get right. We have found at the clinic found IVF couples would NEVER discuss their sex lives with their doctor. Even though most have burning queries about how they’re doing it.
The Zita West Fertility Clinic has found people struggling to conceive won’t talk to medics about sex. So what are the questions they can’t ask the doc?
Is she achieving orgasm? Does she need to? An estimated 80% of women struggle to orgasm during sex, and a third find it difficult to achieve the big ‘O’ at all during a sexual encounter.
“Many couples enjoy a great sex life – even though the woman doesn’t necessarily orgasm every time, or even at all,” says midwife and fertility expert Zita West, of the UK’s leading IVF clinic. “But when it comes to getting pregnant they wrongly worry this could be the reason it’s not happening.” Luckily, according to Zita, a woman can easily get pregnant without orgasm, although the odds are slightly better if she does.
Many couples worry that oral sex could lower fertility or damage sperm. “There could be a slight impact with oral sex on fertility,” explains Zita. “As saliva contains enzymes and other agents which can damage sperm.”
So does this mean taking a break from oral activities if you’re trying to get pregnant? “Not at all,” says Zita. “Being engaged and aroused during sex is very important to fertility for both partners. So if oral sex is something you enjoy as a couple, then by all means keep doing it, but avoid the fertile window.”
Morning or night? Days of the week? “So long as couples are having sex three or four times a week, whenever you do it is fine,” says Zita. “Sperm lives for three to four days, so regular sex will ensure there’s a constant supply during fertile times.
According to the Zita West Clinic men are more likely than women to worry about positions. “Men worry they need to be penetrating deeply,” says Zita. And women? “Women are more interested in whether certain positions will help the sperm stay inside them.”
So which positions are the best baby-makers? “Any position or depth of penetration works just as well,” says Zita.
Couples are embarrassed to admit they use lubricants, and wonder if it affects their chance of conceiving. “Some lubricants create conditions which are less favourable for sperm,” says Zita. “Saliva is a lubricant which is best avoided as it can damage sperm. A natural lubricant which won’t alter the acid balance of the vagina is best. There are sperm friendly lubricants on the market.”
Bad news for men. Many women think that too much sex might lower their chances of getting pregnant. “It’s commonly thought by women that too much sex might lessen the amount of sperm, or the quality of it,” says Zita.
Luckily for couples trying for a baby the opposite is true. “If a man stores up his sperm it will come out in greater quantity, but a lot of it will be dead,” says Zita.
Plenty of sex also releases fertility hormones in men and women, so if you’re trying for a family, more is better.
It’s often the women, not the men, who wonder about sperm and fertility. How much, what it looks like – even how it tastes. “The only way to find out if there’s a problem with sperm is to get it tested,” says Zita. “All men are different, and you can’t compare one person’s sperm with another without analysing it under a microscope.”
Flow-back – where fluid comes out of the vagina after sex – is completely normal. But some women worry it means there’s something wrong with them.
“Women can become anxious that flow-back means the sperm is coming out of them,” explains Zita. “But only a small part of ejaculation is sperm. The rest flows back out after sex and is perfectly normal – even if there seems to be quite a lot of it.”
“I often get asked about pelvic floor exercises,” says Zita. “Women want to know whether they can create a stronger orgasm and whether that will help with fertility.”
So will a regular lift-and-squeeze boost your fertility? “Strong pelvic floor muscles have been linked with stronger orgasms,” says Zita, “and during or post-sex orgasm can provide a bit of help to sperm by dipping the cervix down into where it’s pooled in the vagina. But stress is one of the biggest fertility killers, so I’d urge women to look at ways to relax rather than do more exercise.”
Men secretly fear that their performance is poor, and this affects their ability to make a baby. “Often men have many pent-up anxieties which they’re too embarrassed to ask,” says Zita. “How long they last, what size they are – none of this will make a difference in making a healthy baby.”
By Zita West