Does Female Orgasm Boost Your Odds for Getting Pregnant?

What Everyone Wonders But Never Asks About Orgasm and Fertility

Young couple in bed, feet touching, allusion to female orgasm and fertility
Female orgasm and sexual pleasure is important for fertility. Alexander Nicholson/Taxi/Getty Images

Whether or not female orgasm can help you get pregnant is unclear. Obviously, you can get pregnant without a female orgasm. It happens all the time. But could female orgasm improve your chances for conception?

Researchers have wondered about the purpose of female orgasm in humans for quite some time. Some theorize it's just for fun, while others say it definitely helps with conception. If female orgasm can help you conceive, how might it work?

Should you "go for the gold" during babymaking sex?

The "You're Getting Very Sleepy" Theory of Female Orgasm and Fertility

There are two main hypotheses on how female orgasm may help with getting pregnant. One is known as the "poleaxe" hypothesis. This theory states that the purpose of orgasm in women is to make them feel relaxed and sleepy so that they will lie down after sex. The idea is that this may help the sperm reach their destination more easily.

However, it isn't clear whether or not lying down after sex can help you get pregnant. In one study that specifically studied orgasm and sperm retention, researchers found that just lying down did not seem to improve sperm retention. But other studies imply lying down does matter. A study of IUI treatment found that women who remained horizontal after insemination were more likely to conceive.

The Upsuck Theory

The another theory of how female orgasm may help with pregnancy achievement is called the "upsuck" theory.

This hypothesis is that the contractions of the uterus help "suck up" the semen that gets deposited in the vagina, near the cervix. The orgasm then helps to move the sperm through the uterus and fallopian tubes.

One study actually measured the amount of semen "flowback" (how much semen leaked out after sex.) They discovered that when female orgasm occurred a minute or less before male ejaculation, sperm retention was greater.

If female orgasm didn't happen within a minute of male ejaculation—before male ejaculation, specifically—lower sperm retention occurred.

What if orgasm happened after male ejaculation? Researchers found that as long as the woman has an orgasm up to 45 minutes after, sperm retention was higher. This study did not, however, look at pregnancy rates. If pregnancy rates are higher with female orgasm, it's unclear by how much.

An Evolutionary Theory of Orgasm

There is another theory on why female orgasm exists. This theory posits that female orgasm once was important to conception, but no longer plays such a vital role.

Today, ovulation occurs on a monthly schedule, whether or not the woman has sex. But in earlier humans, could female orgasm have triggered ovulation? This is how it works in some mammals. For example, with cats, if they don't copulate, they don't ovulate.

Clitoral stimulation induces feelings of pleasure, along with a release of hormones and muscular contractions. Those hormones and contractions might have signaled the ovaries to release an egg in ancestral humans.

As humans evolved, and ovulation began to occur regularly, and without sexual stimulation, the clitoris moved further away from the vaginal canal.

This doesn't mean female orgasm has no purpose in conception, but it does imply its significance decreased.

Is There a Connection Between Orgasm Frequency and Fertility Potential?

As stated above, there doesn't yet exist a study directly tying female orgasm to conception. However, one study examined the connection between a woman's orgasm rate and the number of children she has.

In this study, 8,000 female twins and siblings were surveyed. Participants were asked how often they had sex, their frequency of orgasm, whether they had difficulty achieving orgasm, and how many biological offspring they had.

Researchers found that there was a weak but significant correlation between orgasm rate and the number of offspring. But once environmental factors were accounted for, that connection disappeared. There also seemed to be no genetic connection between orgasm rate and fertility rates. According to this study, your ability (or inability) to orgasm won't impact your fertility.

Taking Time to Produce a Female Orgasm May Improve Male Fertility

Longer foreplay and a higher level of sexual arousal before ejaculation have been shown to increase sperm counts in some research studies. Taking time to bring a woman to orgasm may improve semen parameters. Researchers wondered what the possible biological purpose of cunnilingus (oral sex on a woman) might be for reproduction.

Both humans and some animals perform oral sex, which you might assume has little to do with reproduction. However, they found that performing cunnilingus increased the volume of semen produced by the male during later sexual intercourse.

Going for the Gold: Female Orgasm During Babymaking Sex

Orgasm may or may not help you get pregnant. But there are plenty of good reasons to have an orgasm! Orgasm is fun, pleasurable, and an excellent stress buster.

However, if your desire for orgasm is completely wrapped up in your desire to get pregnant, you may feel pressured. This can lead to you having difficulty achieving orgasm, adding frustration to your babymaking.

The best way to improve your chances of orgasm during sex? Try to just enjoy the intimate time with your partner. No goals, no pressured-orgasms, no guilt. Go for passionate, loving sex. If you have an orgasm, great. If not, that's okay, too.

Sources:

Custers IM, Flierman PA, Maas P, Cox T, Van Dessel TJ, Gerards MH, Mochtar MH, Janssen CA, van der Veen F, Mol BW. "Immobilisation versus immediate mobilisation after intrauterine insemination: randomised controlled trial." British Medical Journal. 2009 Oct 29; 339:b4080. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4080.

Levin, Roy J. "The Physiology of Sexual Arousal in the Human Female: A Recreational and Procreational Synthesis." Archives of Sexual Behavior. Volume 31, Number 5, 405-411.

Pavličev, Mihaela; Wagner, Gunter. "The Evolutionary Origin of Female Orgasm Authors." JEZ-Molecular and Developmental Evolution, 2016 DOI: 10.1002/jez.b.22690

Pham, M.N., Jeffery, A.J., Sela, Y. et al. “Duration of Cunnilingus Predicts Estimated Ejaculate Volume in Humans: a Content Analysis of Pornography.” Evolutionary Psychological Science (2016) 2: 220. doi:10.1007/s40806-016-0057-5

Zietsch BP, Santtilac P. "No direct relationship between human female orgasm rate and number of offspring." Animal Behaviour. Volume 86, Issue 2, August 2013, Pages 253–255. 

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