Lie Back, No Need to Think: Insemination Aided by Position

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The (possibly apocryphal) advice given to Victorian women who weren’t fond of sex to “lie back and think of England,” may actually be useful to increase the odds of conception, at least following intra-uterine insemination (IUI).

A new study found that 27% of women who were advised to lie still for 15 minutes after insemination became pregnant and had a successful birth—compared to just 18% of those who were told to get up and move around immediately after the procedure.

The study—which looked at 391 women who were randomized to either lie down or get up immediately afterwards—was published in the most recent edition of the British Medical Journal. During the IUI procedure, the woman lies on her back while sperm is introduced through the cervix into the womb. It typically takes only a few minutes and usually involves no more discomfort than a pap smear.

IUI can be done either “naturally” without advance administration of hormonal medications and timed to the woman’s ovulation—or it may involve hormones to stimulate the ovaries to produce more eggs. Natural cycles carry no extra risk of multiple births—but medicated cycles frequently result in twins or higher numbers of multiples (Associated risks were covered by the New York Times in a sobering recent article here, which unfortunately failed to note that there is no increased risk for natural cycles).

Common sense would suggest that lying still after sex when trying to conceive might allow gravity to help the sperm reach the egg—but there has been only one small prior study suggesting that lying still after IUI does actually aid conception. Although there’s no data about whether this helps when trying to conceive the old-fashioned way– and none about whether what the woman thinks about matters– this suggests that 15 minutes spent lounging afterwards couldn’t hurt.