the fertility advocate

Talking, writing, educating, and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years

"What Does Sex Have to do With Fertility?" (A True Story)

So this is one of my favorite stories about reproductive endocrinologists (and trust me – I have a lot of stories!).  Set the scene: I am at the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals (ARHP) annual conference in San Diego about three years ago.  It was back in the day when I was at The American Fertility Association – and we were exhibiting.  I had never been to an ARHP conference before – and I loved it.  Wayne Shields their executive director was a happening kind of guy – very forward thinking – and the conference was smaller and more interactive than my usual ASRM experience.  It was also the subject matter of the conference – it was all about reproductive health!  The focus was not  simply on one part of reproductive health such as fertility – the conference went deeply into all reproductive health issues – from Sex, STD’s, Fertility, Infertility, Birth Control, and more.  If the subject matter was from the waist down – ARHP had you covered.

So, there I was – hanging out in the exhibit area sipping coffee and trying not to eat the cookies, when the “Big Wigs” of ASRM walk in.  I am talking inner circle here….they were very surprised to see me at an ARHP Conference!

“Pamela! What are you doing here?” Dr. Number One Big Wig asked?

“OH! Dr. Big Wig! It is so good to see you too! What do you mean what am I doing here? Where else would I be?”

“Well, Pamela – this conference does not just cover infertility! It covers so many things – like sexuality!”

“Exactly! That is why I am here! I am interested in all aspects of reproductive health including sexuality.”

Now this statement was met with a group of men staring at me with blinking eyes. Did you ever hear the expression “a deer in headlights”?  Well – that about covers the expressions on the faces of the “circle of power” that was staring at me in a moment of stunned silence.

“Pamela….what does sex have to do with fertility?” stammered Dr. Big Wig.

Now it was my turn to look back at my little concerned group of politically connected and powerful doctors…..what was I suppose to say? I mean everyone knew that babies came from little petri dishes created by doctors in white coats or the stork! Right?

I think I laughed to break the sheer awkwardness of the moment.

“Come on Dr. Big Wig!” I kidded. “I don’t really have to explain the birds and the bees to you! Do I?”  I think that I offered up a sexy little wink!

With that we all laughed that really uncomfortable  laugh that people laugh before they flee as quickly as possible from each other.

What does sex have to do with fertility? Well….read the headlines Dr. Big Wig! Sex and fertility have been in the news a lot lately. Funny how some people are connecting the two! I was so ahead of my time!

All this week the media has not be able to get enough of the news that daily sex improves sperm quality.  Now admittedly, this was a small study of strong and sturdy Australian men who ejaculated for seven days in a row  (I like to think of them all looking like Hugh Jackman! Come on….it helps – right? ).

What happened was that their DNA quality went up! Now this goes against everything we have been telling couples trying to conceive for years. The old advice was abstinence and withholding ejaculation for several days before attempting conception. The thought was that this would increase volume and therefore help conception. So….Dr. David Greening the author of the study doesn’t really know why the sperm are healthier the more men have sex – but his numbers didn’t lie.  Maybe it has something to do with oxygen exposure – or maybe sex has everything to do with fertility when all of our operating systems are working properly!

And what about that recent study about “Gourmet Sex” and increasing chances of conception? That study was just a few months ago too! According to that study – the wilder the sex the better the chance of conception.

So Dr Big Wig……what does sex have to do with fertility? Apparently everything. I will give you the book that I gave my sons to read about the birds and the bees…..maybe it will clear things up for you!

But all kidding aside – what are we doing as fertility experts to make sexuality an issue that couples are more comfortable with? But of course, we would have to be comfortable with this ourselves first – and that is not always so easy. This subject makes so many of us squirm – laugh and flee!

We have opened our hearts to acupuncture, stress reduction, nutrition and yoga. Perhaps it is time to take the next step and embrace sexuality as a conception aid.  There are studies now to support this conversation. Sex is medically indicated!

What about giving out copies of Urban Tantra“?  What about helping our patient community feel more connected with their sexuality while we are quite frankly taking the sex out of conception? Why not improve our patient’s chances for conception by offering some kind of sexuality and intimacy workshop at our centers?  And perhaps even help a marriage that is under stress by offering guidance and support with intimacy during a very difficult time.

Who is going to be the ground breaker here?

Come on….you will capture the media! I promise! You might even get on Oprah.

About Pam Madsen
Talking, writing, educating and change making in the field of fertility for more than twenty years
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