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Oooh, Baby! Orgasms May Help You Conceive

By Bryn Hollis, [X]Press Magazine September 27, 2005

Kelly Abbott and her husband have been trying for eight months to get pregnant. Her doctor tells her to get the timing right, to know when she is going to ovulate so they can plan to have sex in advance. Her mother tells her to eat better, exercise regularly and get more sleep. And her best friend tells her to "guide the sperm" by trying different positions in bed. But maybe all Abbott really needs to do is get off.

While some experts believe there is logic to the theory that a woman's orgasm might improve her chances of getting pregnant, studies have yet to prove any connection between the two. But many people believe they are directly related, in more ways than one.

Jennifer Reynolds is one of them. The 27-year-old is four months pregnant and believes her orgasms helped in the conception of her baby. "I'd like to think that when a child is conceived, it's during passionate lovemaking," she says. "I suppose it also [has to do with] how deep penetration is, and when you climax during intercourse, I imagine penetration would be at its deepest, giving the sperm some leeway."

British biologists Robin Baker and Mark Bellis agree with Reynolds. Their research, conducted in Europe in the 1990s, supports the theory that female orgasms have an "upsuck" action that retains sperm and offers a better chance of getting pregnant.

The biologists and their team tested this hypothesis when they asked volunteers to first keep track of the timing of their orgasms during sex, and then collect vaginal flowback, which refers to fluid that emerges from the vagina several hours after sex.

The study of more than 300 samples gives Baker and Bellis' theory some credibility. They discovered when a woman climaxes any time between a minute before to 45 minutes after her male partner ejaculates, she retains significantly more sperm than she does after sex without an orgasm. According to Baker and Bellis, these results show that muscular contractions associated with orgasm pull sperm from the vagina to the cervix, where it's more likely to reach an egg. SF State Human Sexuality Professor Ivy Chen has her own theory. If a woman stands up and leaves immediately after insemination, she says, the semen will "dribble out." "But if the sex is spectacular enough to produce an orgasm, it is more likely the woman will feel relaxed and sleepy," she says. "Most importantly, she will remain in a horizontal sleeping position, increasing the retention of the semen, thereby increasing the chance of conception."

The late Harvard evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould disagreed. He believed the female orgasm is caused by an "anatomical peculiarity of embryonic development." In other words, the organ that becomes the penis in males becomes the clitoris in females. While it may help women mimic male orgasm, Gould suggested, the clitoris has about as much functional relevance as the male nipple.

According to Chen, however, the female orgasm does one thing the male nipple does not: it causes strong emotions. She believes when a woman has an orgasm, the level of intimacy with her partner increases and strengthens the bond between them. Whether it has a scientific purpose or not, the biological relevance of the female orgasm remains a mystery.

Abbott says she takes every bit of advice about getting pregnant with a grain of salt. "I don't think it takes a woman having an orgasm to conceive," she says. "If it did, the population would've died out a long time ago."



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