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Lying On Your Back After Intercourse When Trying to Conceive

Does Remaining Horizontal Boost Your Odds of Getting Pregnant?

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Updated March 27, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Woman lying on her back on a bed

Does remaining horizontal after sex help?

User loleia / Stock.Xchng

If you haven't heard it said or read it online, you've at least thought of it yourself... the idea that remaining on your back after sexual intercourse might help you get pregnant. Perhaps remaining horizontal can give the sperm more time to swim in the right direction. Right?

The short answer: lying on your back after sex might improve your chances of getting pregnant.

What We Can Learn from IUI Research

While there’s no research specifically on lying still after sex to back up the claim, there is research on the fertility treatment IUI being more effective if the woman remains on her back for some time.

With IUI, specially washed sperm are transferred directly to the woman’s uterus via the cervix, through a thin catheter. In one study, researchers wanted to know if IUI treatment would be more effective if the woman remained on her back for 15 minutes after the procedure.

Researchers found that the women who remained on their backs for 15 minutes after the sperm transfer had a 27% pregnancy rate after three cycles, while the women who were encouraged to get up right after the treatment had an 18% pregnancy rate after three cycles.

Remaining horizontal did improve pregnancy rates.

These results were actually surprising to the researchers, because previous research implied that sperm are fast swimmers. Studies on how quickly the sperm travel from the cervix up to the fallopian tubes (where they hope to meet an egg) found that it takes anywhere from two to ten minutes.

Based on how fast the little guys can swim, and the fact that they’ll swim up with or without the help of gravity, you’d think that lying still those 15 minutes wouldn’t make much of a difference. But this study implies it can.

How Long to Lie on Your Back, and What If You Need to Get Up?

With IUI, the sperm are getting a helpful push ahead into the uterus. But even with the push, lying down afterwards seemed to boost pregnancy rates.

In that case, perhaps it is a good idea to lie still for about 15 minutes after sex.

That being said, you shouldn’t stress over it. The research was on IUI, not sex, and for all we know, lying on your back after sex may not make a true difference.

If you do want to try it, don't feel like you need to lie there longer than 15 minutes. And you certainly don’t need to try anything nutty, like standing on your head. (Oh, I know at least some of you have thought of it!)

Also, don't get the idea that standing up right after sex can prevent pregnancy. (It won't.) If you need to use the bathroom right after sex, get up and go ahead. You’re not going to ruin your chances of conception if you do.

You can reassure yourself by remembering that 18% of the women in the IUI research group who got up right away still got positive pregnancy results.

More on infertility, trying to conceive, and sex:

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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

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