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18 Dec 2023 (Last updated 07 Jun 2024)

Sex while trying to conceive: here’s ow to find more pleasure

Pleasure tips 4 min read
Expert Perelel Health
Sex while trying to conceive: here’s ow to find more pleasure
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How to enjoy sex when babymaking.

On paper, the process of making a baby should be pretty fun. But the truth is that when we’re having sex with a very specific outcome in mind, it can start to feel like work—especially if it’s taking a little longer than anticipated. That’s not even to mention balancing the mental load of excitement, anxiety, cycle tracking, and all the big emotions and little details that come with trying to conceive (TTC).

But while pleasure doesn’t directly impact fertility outcomes, finding joy in sex does have a net positive on the conception experience: It can help alleviate stress and deepen your connection with your partner during this chapter. Let’s look a little closer at the intersection of pleasure and TTC.

First, a primer on pleasure.

All those warm, gooey sensations we experience while getting it on? Those feelings are the result of chemical surges in our body. During sex, feel-good hormones like endorphins and oxytocin activate the pleasure centers in our brain, which relax us and help us feel even more bonded with our partner. If the session peaks in an orgasm, it’s the result of a hefty cocktail of those chemicals: The secretion of oxytocin leads to rhythmic muscle contractions for people with vulvas, and ejaculation for those with a penis. The higher the hormonal surge, the more intense the orgasm. (Fun fact: research shows that 30 distinct parts of our brain are activated during an orgasm.)1

Does having an orgasm increase your chances of getting pregnant?

The short answer is “no”—but it also doesn’t hurt. “While orgasm doesn't increase rate of conception it does produce oxytocin,” says Dr. Caitlin O’Connor, ND, a naturopathic doctor and Perelel Panel member. One of the side effects of oxytocin is relaxation—and since we know that high stress levels can impact ovulation and sperm health, pleasure is certainly a positive ingredient for your TTC routine.2,3

Beyond counteracting stress, pleasure builds connection with your partner.

The hormones that are associated with pleasure and arousal are the same feel-good chemicals that help us feel bonded to our partner. Oxytocin’s nickname is the “love hormone”—it’s the same chemical secreted during breastfeeding to foster a bond between mom and baby. This is especially key during a time when the purpose of sex feels larger than your relationship, which can lead to a disconnect from pleasure and impact your sex life with your partner.

When we surveyed nearly 1000 Perelel community members about their TTC experience, many respondents noted that it was tougher to feel bonded with their partner when sex felt “prescribed” rather than just having it for fun. But while it’s easier said than done, finding ways to bring levity into the moment and get back to the bond the two of you share can make all the difference in this chapter.

How to bring pleasure into the babymaking process.

This chapter is so personal, and ultimately, you and your partner are the best judge of what works and feels great for you. That said, our experts have a few pointers for unlocking pleasure when things start to feel formulaic:

  • Reduce the frequency of sex. We know—it sounds counterintuitive. But sometimes the best prescription for burnout is to simply do it less. Dr. O’Connor notes that having sex every other day during your fertile window (the days leading up to ovulation) is a perfectly fine cadence for conception. (And if you’re feeling the urge to do it all day, every day? Then by all means, go for it.)
  • Have sex outside your fertile window. That means prioritizing sex that’s truly just for you and your partner, with no specific goal in mind. Initiating sex beyond what a tracking app or calendar says can add the fun back in. Take the time to play together, and climax during sex - your orgasms matter too.
  • Focus on outercourse, too. Resist the urge to focus just on the penetration, and instead, have fun with the journey. How can you and your partner experiment together? Using sex toys together is a straightforward way to play with pleasure—in fact, research shows that vibrators can help counteract sexual dysfunction and stimulate the pelvic floor, which builds even more pleasure over time. Plus, more than 70% of people with vulvas need clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm - so focusing just on penetration isn’t the most pleasurable approach.
  • Make it pain-free. Many of us experience pain during intercourse at some point in life, and whilst it's common, it shouldn't be the norm. Make sure you’re stocked up on a fertility-friendly lube, since dryness can also get in the way of reaching optimal pleasure.4

The bottom line.

Trying to get pregnant is such a personal journey, full of unique ups and downs. But while pleasure ultimately looks different for everyone, finding moments of joy and connection can make all the difference as you navigate this chapter together.

Resources:

  1. Wise NJ, Frangos E, Komisaruk BR. Brain Activity Unique to Orgasm in Women: An fMRI Analysis. J Sex Med. 2017 Nov;14(11):1380-1391. doi: 10.1016/j.jsxm.2017.08.014. Epub 2017 Oct 3. PMID: 28986148; PMCID: PMC5675825.
  2. Cera N, Vargas-Cáceres S, Oliveira C, Monteiro J, Branco D, Pignatelli D, Rebelo S. How Relevant is the Systemic Oxytocin Concentration for Human Sexual Behavior? A Systematic Review. Sex Med. 2021 Aug;9(4):100370. doi: 10.1016/j.esxm.2021.100370. Epub 2021 Jun 9. PMID: 34118520; PMCID: PMC8360917.
  3. Schliep KC, Mumford SL, Vladutiu CJ, Ahrens KA, Perkins NJ, Sjaarda LA, Kissell KA, Prasad A, Wactawski-Wende J, Schisterman EF. Perceived stress, reproductive hormones, and ovulatory function: a prospective cohort study. Epidemiology. 2015 Mar;26(2):177-84. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0000000000000238. PMID: 25643098; PMCID: PMC4315337.
  4. Rullo JE, Lorenz T, Ziegelmann MJ, Meihofer L, Herbenick D, Faubion SS. Genital vibration for sexual function and enhancement: best practice recommendations for choosing and safely using a vibrator. Sex Relation Ther. 2018;33(3):275-285. doi: 10.1080/14681994.2017.1419558. Epub 2018 Jan 4. PMID: 33223961; PMCID: PMC7678780.
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