Medical Mythbusters – sexual positions!

I’ve been lucky enough to co-faciliate some sexual health information sessions with our friends over at Student Wellness.  They’re great – students write down any question they have about sexual health, we collect them and answer all of them for the group.  I love these sessions because after we sift through the obvious jokes (“Why do I mack so many b—-es?”  I don’t know, maybe they’re attracted to your maturity?...) we get to some questions that are obviously important to students but are just too embarrassing to ask in person.  These questions are usually the ones that involve a lot of medical “myths” and you know what that means… time for some medical mythbusting! 

Q: Can a woman get pregnant if she’s on top?

A: There are lots of myths surrounding sexual positions, and they invariably have to do with the probability of getting pregnant and determining the sex of babies.  I’ve heard them all: women can’t get pregnant if they’re on top; using the rear-entry position (“doggy style”) will improve the chance of having a male baby; lying on the left side during sex will lead to female babies while lying on your right side will lead to males, etc. 

These myths have been around for a long time.  In previous centuries, French noblemen even went so far as to have their left testice removed in order to produce a male heir!  Others took the less drastic – but I would imagine only slightly less painful – route of simplying tying it off.  Nowadays, the explanations sound a little more scientific – male sperm are faster than female sperm, yada yada yada – but they’re all still just as bogus… especially this one.

So, to answer this question… YES, YES, YES a woman can get pregnant if she’s on top.  This myth relies on the old “theory of gravity” defense: if the woman is above the man, then any sperm that is ejaculated upward will quickly fall back down like the water in a fountain and never reach the cervical opening.  

But the problem is that the vagina is a potential space.  Think of a balloon.  When it is deflated there’s no space at all inside of it but it can expand to hold a large volume of air.  When you let the air out, it collapses back down.  The vagina is the same way: it expands to accomodate the penis during sex and when the penis is withdrawn, the walls collapse right back down.  So any sperm left behind will be pressed right up against the cervical opening thereby maximizing the opportunity for conception.  (Not to mention the fact that if the woman is lucky enough to have an orgasm, the vaginal walls undergo a series of contractions that also help push the sperm towards the cervix).   

So ladies, please don’t fall for this one.  Like most of these sexual myths, they were invented a long time ago by guys who didn’t necessarily have your best interests at heart.  Whether you’re upside down, sideways, hanging from the ceiling or doing 100 jumping jacks after the fact, you can still get pregnant if you don’t protect yourself properly.  If you have any questions about how to do that, feel free to come in and talk to the experts in our women’s services – they’ll give you the real story.  

John Vaughn, MD – Ohio State Student Health Services

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