Laying down for 30 minutes. Putting your legs in the air. Hugging your legs to your chest.
Do you have to do all of these things to get pregnant?
In order to get a swimmer across the finish line, it has to travel roughly 18 centimeters, which is the equivalent of a human being swimming 100 Olympic lengths of a swimming pool!
It can take as little as 2 minutes for the sperm to arrive at its destination within the fallopian tube. Oftentimes, the sperm arrives and needs to wait patiently until an egg is released from the ovary. Because sperm can survive in the body for roughly five days, this means that conception can actually happen a several days after sex.
For those undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI), the best swimmers of the bunch are given a shortcut by being deposited high in the uterus, closer to where an egg will drop during ovulation. And because a dedicated team is monitoring egg development and ovulation timing, you can be sure that science is giving you a power-packed head start towards conception.
And if you’re doing IVF, the egg has already been fertilized in the lab, and an embryo is starting to form. When the embryo transfer is complete, the embryo needs to attach to the uterine wall and continue to grow.
But we all know that the pull of gravity is a powerful force. Can it work against our best efforts?
One UK-based study found that laying down for 15 minutes after IUI raised the pregnancy rate to 27% compared to 18% for those that got up immediately following intercourse. But given that one patient group was in treatment and the other was not, this isn’t an apples-to-apples scenario.
Another Finland study with patients diagnosed with idiopathic or mild male subfertility who underwent IUI found that those who got up immediately afterward experienced a 40.3% conception rate compared to a 32.2% conception rate in those that lay immobilized for 15 minutes. The difference between groups was not statistically significant.
Our team of experts are sharing their thoughts as well:
Dr. John Rapisarda: Many women ask 'how long should I lay down after sex?' Actually, there is no scientific evidence that laying down after sex increases the odds of becoming pregnant. The cervical mucus acts as an excellent reservoir for sperm which then swim into the uterus and eventually, into the tube. Standing up or going to the bathroom will lead to loss of some sperm from the vagina as it leaks out due to gravity but there is no evidence that this leads to lower pregnancy rates. Laying down after sex can be satisfying and theoretically, may help keep as much sperm as possible in contact with the cervix, but if you need to get up for any reason, it’s not going to lessen your chances of pregnancy.
Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron: It actually doesn’t make it work better! Feel free to get up after intercourse knowing sperm is motile and hit the ground running! For embryo transfers, this has been looked at and actually, the group that got up to the bathroom had better success. Infertility is tough enough - let’s not create restrictions when it helps to just do what you’d normally do!
Dr. Allison Rodgers: No, actually one study demonstrated that even 15 minutes of bed rest after an embryo transfer decreased pregnancy rates. Remember only 1% of sperm gets into the uterus with intercourse, so lying down does not improve the chances. The sperm swim where they need to go. The acidic fluid in the vagina kills most of the sperm within a few hours. Do what you need to do and don’t worry!
The answer: If you have 15 minutes to relax, take it! It can’t hurt and we could all use a little more downtime in life. But don’t stress if you want to go to the bathroom and forego a break.