There’s nothing sexy about conception sex. In fact it is, I can confidently state, the worst sex you will ever have.
This may come as a surprise if (a) you've never tried to deliberately make a baby or (b) you fall pregnant easily. But when you badly want to be pregnant and you're not, having sex becomes a very specfic type of hell.
The harder you try to conceive, the less fun sex becomes until you eventually reach the point where you’d rather eat a bowl of fingernails than get naked (not that nudity is a necessary requirement of conception sex - efficiency and timing tend to be your most pressing concerns).
After years of being warned by Dolly Doctor about how easy it is to get pregnant, it can be a rude shock to discover it can be harder than simply leaving the condoms in the drawer and throwing your legs up in the air.
Sometimes it seems like your chances of conceiving are inversely proportional to how much you want to be pregnant. Sixteen years old? Dating an arsehole? Skipped one pill when your script ran out? Condom broke during a one-night stand? Conception is practically guaranteed.
But if you’re desperate to conceive after a miscarriage? Battling infertility? Biological clock ticking at deafening volume? On the precipice of sinking your savings and your sanity into IVF? That’s when sperm will say “Look egg, sorry, but I’m just not that into you” before swimming away. Or egg will decide it can’t be bothered venturing into the uterus singles bar, swarming with desperado sperm and instead stay inside its ovary eating a packet of Wagon Wheel biscuits while watching Netflix.
I know several exhausted couples trying to get pregnant at the moment. They used to really like having sex with each other but now they mutter words like “stressful”, “not again” and “over it”. They may be having a year’s worth of sex every month but it’s not remotely enjoyable because conception is not about pleasure. Making a baby under pressure is about the destination, not the journey. And the destination is a maternity ward not an orgasm.
Then there’s all that sexy conception talk. From past personal experience, I’ve found there’s nothing that puts a smile in a man’s pants faster than the words “ovulation” and “basal body temperature”. Any man will find it hard to keep his hands off you after that.
And forget the lingerie. All you really need to arouse your partner is to wave a thermometer around and shriek: “Hurry up, will you! I’m OVULATING!” loudly enough to frighten your pets. For the truly over-it man who demands proof, you can always pore over your ovulation graph together. Men love that. Who needs porn when you have a graph?
In his book Marley & Me, author John Grogan described the stress of impregnating his wife. “The days of simply putting away the birth control pills and letting whatever might happen happen were behind us. In the insemination wars, Jenny was going on the offensive. For that, she needed me, a key ally who controlled the flow of ammunition.”
After a lifetime of wanting more sex, Grogan unexpectedly found himself on the back foot. “I began to live in mortal fear that my wife would, God forbid, ask me to rip her clothes off and have my way with her…She was the hunter; I was the prey...suddenly it all just seemed like work and stressful work at that. It was all about as arousing as a tax audit.”
In our podcast on pregnancy, Hello Bump, we talk about actually getting the sperm into the egg. (Post continues after audio.)
At conception time, the cliché about men not getting enough sex is often spectacularly turned on its head. Suddenly, it’s the blokes who are feigning headaches, pretending to be asleep or trying to hide from demented naked women clutching ovulation charts and chasing them around the house while trying to grab their penis.
“Yeah - it's the only time you'll ever hear a guy say, 'You want to what? Tonight? AGAIN? Really? Do we HAVE to?’” says a newly pregnant friend who persistently mauled her husband for eleven months (now she’s knocked up of course, he’s back to begging for it and she just wants to eat chocolate and complain about how tired she is).
With all that pressure to deliver the goods, it’s no wonder some men develop performance anxiety. Author John Grogan wrote about his growing panic at having to ensure he could meet the unprecedented demand for his sperm until one night his penis simply goes on strike and lays down tools.
“I felt like a walking sperm syringe,” protested another guy I know who went from begging for sex to begging for mercy after just three months of conception sex. And in case you’re thinking it’s fun for the ladies, it rarely is. The infernal state of desperation that many women fall into when trying to get pregnant is not a great place to live. “I remember lying there one fertile night asking, "Can you just tell me when you're finished?" sighs one girlfriend. “I was quite possibly asleep the moment our son was conceived.”
This is the farthest representation from how peaceful a couple is during the Conception Sex period.
Complains another, “Why do your most fertile nights never fall on a weekend or any other time you actually feel like it? Usually, for me, it's a Monday or Tuesday which are my go-to-bed-early-wearing-old-nanna-knickers-nights.”
Wonders yet another, “How can I enjoy it when my head is full of clinical thoughts like, 'I wonder if this will work…Oh God, this is only night one of the 15 shags in a row I have to have this month…Why didn't I start this 10 years ago when I was more fertile? What time does kindy start tomorrow and is it dress up day?’”
Sadly, the first casualty of conception sex is romance. Next? Spontaneity. Finally? Dignity. Bye-bye. All gone.
“I used to stand on my head after sex,” admits one friend who swapped post-coital cuddles for headstands in a desperate attempt to kick things along with gravity. She did this unsuccessfully for a year before abandoning nature for IVF. Her husband, bless him, used to hold her feet.
“We used REM sex to conceive,” emailed a male friend whose wife is pregnant with their second child. “This is when all other positions, fantasies and battery powered devices fail and you have to rely on the male physiological phenomena of spontaneous erections every 90 minutes whilst REM sleeping.”
I even know one woman who had gastro but was so desperate to conceive that she insisted her husband have sex with her and ended up vomitting on him in the middle of it. After they'd both cleaned themselves up, he assumed they were abandoning their mission. Clearly, he didn't fully understand the laser-like focus of a woman who is desperate to have a baby inside her. "Look, just stick it back in, will you?" she groaned - and not in a sexy way.
Messy? Exhausting? A physical and emotional rollercoaster? Sounds like the perfect preparation for life with a newborn really.
Mia Freedman is the co-founder of Mamamia Women's Media Company. She is a proud patron for Rize Up, the charity supporting women and children fleeing from domestic violence, an ambassador for Share The Dignity, the charity which provides sanitary products to vulnerable women who are homeless, disadvantaged or the victims of domestic violence and an ambassador for Sydney Dogs and Cats home, a no-kill shelter where thousands of animals are rehomed with forever families. She is also a proud supporter of Ladystartups, an initiative she began to support women who have started their own business.
She is the author of the best-selling book Work Strife Balance for every woman who feel like she's the only one not coping (you're not) and the host and co-host of three podcasts: No Filter, Mamamia Outloud and Tell Me It's Going To Be OK (even though Trump is President).
The award-winning podcast Mamamia Out Loud is doing their first live show. There will be laughs, disagreements and you can meet the hosts afterwards! We’re also donating $5 of every ticket price to Share The Dignity so grab your friends and come along to share the love and laughs, get your tickets here.