At first blush, trying to conceive is one of the most exciting times in your life together as a couple. After all, you’re about to embark on a journey that will hopefully result in your ultimate goal: a child. Emotionally—and physically—you may never feel closer.
Some couples get pregnant right away. Others find themselves grappling with infertility issues. Fortunately, most of us fall somewhere in the middle. But even this period of trying can be, well, trying. In reality, sex for the purpose of conception can be very different from regular old sex, and requires patience, an open mind, and a little creativity.
When you’re trying to conceive, you may find your sexual encounters dictated, in large part, by biology. All of a sudden, your sex life is tied to ovulation, and your appointment book is filled with “dates” for sex—on your fertile days, anyway.
You may not have complete control over all of the days you have sex, but you can certainly change up what you do. Inject some variety: Change up the time of day and location of your rendezvous. Take things a step further and add a little role-playing with new names, looks, and personalities for the night.
However you spice things up, don’t feel forced to limit yourselves to your fertile days: Enjoy sex whenever—and wherever—you want it, not just when you’re most fertile.
Doing the same thing over and over again gets boring, even if the thing you’ve doing is having sex. Your bedroom routine can get, well, routine pretty quickly when you’re trying to conceive. Same time, same place, same position....
Try to savor the journey just as much as you anticipate your destination. Take the focus off of conception by moving it to the sensations that accompany sex. Anticipate the pleasure, not the end result. Buy a sex toy that you wouldn’t ordinarily. Wear a sexy negligee (or silky boxers if you’re a guy) instead of your usual PJs. Touch and kiss each other in places you usually might not, like the eyelids, wrists, and ankles.
At first, it’s a dream come true for many men: a partner who wants sex, wants a lot of it, and wants it now. But over time, this can wear thin. When sex is timed around ovulation, with the sole goal of procreation, foreplay and your emotional connection can go right out the window. Men can start to feel used and women can get resentful when men don’t comply.
When you’ve got a one-track mind (“sex equals baby”), it can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture: your life together as a couple. Counteract the pressure to procreate by rediscovering romance, in and out of bed. Send flirty emails during the day—and not necessarily just during ovulation—promising all the sexy things you’ll do later that night. Do little things to help each other out around the house. Give each other massages. You can’t escape the fact that sex will always have a bigger agenda when you’ve ovulating, but you can try to put the love back in lovemaking.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of trying to conceive. With every passing month, you may find yourself becoming more and more focused on getting pregnant. The result? You can also start feel more distant from your partner. Bring your relationship back to center stage by scheduling a regular “date night” for yourselves. On that night, ban all ovulation and procreation talk. Check in with each other about other issues, hold hands, and reconnect with the couple you were before trying to conceive. Don’t feel pressured to get busy on date night, but do experiment with sensual, relaxing activities like massage that may naturally lead to sex.
There’s no scientific evidence to support the use of some sexual positions over others in conception. But it stands to reason that positions that force sperm to defy gravity to swim upstream—such as standing, sitting, or woman-on-top—could be less effective than others. Some experts believe that missionary (man-on-top), aided by a small pillow under her hips, is best for conception. While in this position, the cervix simply bathes in the pool of semen and sperm after he ejaculates, possibly increasing the chance that sufficient numbers of sperm will find their way upstream through the cervix and to the egg. Still, don’t feel forced to limit yourself to only one position during sex. Adding different positions, particularly when she isn’t ovulating, can help mix things up and keep things from getting too routine.
Just as trying to conceive can affect your sex life as a couple, it can also pose special challenges for men and women individually. For guys, the pressure to perform—and deliver—on demand can be even more stressful than you might imagine. What at first seems like an all-you-can-eat sexual buffet may eventually give a man a proverbial stomachache in the form of low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, or delayed ejaculation. Be aware of how conception sex can trigger or worsen these issues, and consult a physician or sex therapist if they don’t resolve.
No matter how excited a woman is about the prospect of being pregnant, she can experience just as many sexual roadblocks as her male partner. Sex on demand can be tricky for her, too—even if she’s the one doing the demanding. For example, it’s easy for women to get in the goal-oriented, baby-making mindset, where sex is simply a means to an ends. That can mean that she may not even be in the mood when she initiates sex, but is guided instead by ovulation. Yet a lack of desire can lead to additional problems, like decreased lubrication and difficulty climaxing. It’s important to devote the same amount of attention to foreplay and arousal when trying to conceive that you normally would.
According to one popular theory, a woman’s orgasm may help increase her chances of getting pregnant: Some experts believe that the cervical contractions that can accompany climax can pull sperm up the vagina and closer to that all-important egg. While there’s little scientific study to prove this theory, having an orgasm might help—and certainly can’t hurt!—conception.
Unfortunately, many women are so focused on the ultimate ending—a baby—that they’re content to let the opportunity for an orgasm to pass them by. But there’s no reason why procreation can’t be pleasurable for both parties. To do so, help her relax and take the focus off conception, which can distract her from the sexy sensations that might otherwise take her over the edge, and stimulate her clitoris (manually or with positions like woman on top).
When conception doesn’t happen as quickly as you would like, things can get pretty stressful, pretty fast. And if you’ve been trying to conceive for a year or more, you’ll find yourself dealing with even more obstacles to a healthy sex life. Not only has the pressure to get pregnant skyrocketed, but the fertility treatments you pursue can add a new wrinkle to an already difficult situation. Side effects like mood swings, bloating, and headaches can make women feel anything but in the mood.
Research shows that women who undergo treatment for infertility report being less satisfied with their sex lives, have sex less often, and feel less sexual desire that those with normal fertility. Other studies suggest that coping with infertility and its treatments can have negative effects on a couple’s emotional well-being and can create relationship tension.
Talk with your physician about how to cope with specific side effects of fertility treatments. If you find infertility is having an even larger impact on your relationship, consult a sex counselor or therapist to help guide you through the rough patches.