When trying to conceive (TTC), I was in a Facebook group of other women who were also TTC, and we all shared advice, tips, and tricks to try to help make the chances of conception higher. A lot of women tended to post photos of their legs propped up against the headboard of their beds or the wall after intercourse, saying they didn’t want anything to leak out. But exactly what leaks out of your vagina after sex when you’re trying to conceive? If it’s sperm, does that mean it’s actually necessary to throw your legs over your head?
Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman, an OB-GYN and medical travel blogger along with his twin brother for TwinDoctorsTV, says that the fluid that sometimes leaks out after sex is called, “‘post-ejaculate’ or ‘cowper’s fluid.’ It’s made by the bulbourethral glands (the cowper’s glands) that lie behind the urethra, so, the fluid itself isn’t semen. However, sperm cells remain in the urethra for hours after a man has ejaculated.
“And since this cowper’s fluid flows through the urethra before exiting the penis, it frequently will get mixed with and then contain sperm cells. In fact, a recent study found that four hours after ejaculation, viable sperm cells are found in the urethra and the urethral fluids of 70 percent of men. So, while post-ejaculate cowper’s fluid isn’t semen, in most men, it definitely will contain sperm,” Abudr-Rahman explains to Romper.
However, don’t worry if it seems like a lot of fluid leaks out after you have sex, you still could potentially get pregnant. Abdur-Rahman notes that, “on average, 100 million or so swimming sperm cells are found in seminal fluid.” All it takes is one. And when your partner ejaculates, Dr. Christopher Sipe of Fertility Centers of Illinois says even if fluid leaks out, his ejaculation already pushed the sperm through your vaginal canal. Plus, according to Men’s Health, ejaculation propels sperm up to 28 miles per hour through your vagina. That’s a pretty quick trip.
If you’re still skeptical and want to make absolutely sure, I’ve heard some women use menstrual cups after intercourse to make sure nothing leaks out. I thought that could cause a UTI, so I asked Dr. Abdur-Rahman. He says it won’t necessarily cause a UTI because, “menstrual cups sit in the vagina away from the urethra. So, they should have no effect on the urinary tract. That being said, all women should urinate immediately after having intercourse. Women tend to get UTIs after intercourse because the repetitive back and forth motion of intercourse causes the bacteria normally found in and around the vagina and on the skin around the vagina to enter and then move up the urethra and into the bladder.”
As far as the menstrual cup helping sperm get to where they need to go, Abdur-Rahman says he could see it potentially being effective in certain cases where there is male factor infertility issues. “About 33 percent of infertile couples suffer from ‘male factor’ infertility, meaning it’s the man who has the fertility issue. Most male factor infertility results from semen problems like a low sperm count, low semen volume, or poor sperm motility. In cases where a man has poor sperm quality, there often times isn’t a lot of viable sperm cells (i.e., low sperm count) to swim toward and fertilize an egg, there isn’t enough seminal fluid for the sperm cells to swim in (i.e., low semen volume), or there aren’t a lot of healthy sperm cells that are swimming vigorously and in the proper direction (i.e., poor sperm motility). So, for lack of better terms, in cases like these, you don’t want to waste any of the sperm/semen that has been ejaculated since what is there is already in some way compromised,” he explains.
Abdur-Rahman does suggest a more effective alternative than using the menstrual cup. “One thing that might even be more effective than using a menstrual cup for achieving this might be using a cervical diaphragm. The menstrual cups sits in the mid-vagina, not in contact with the cervix. So using them for the purpose of keeping semen in the vagina close to the cervix might theoretically just cause the semen/sperm to collect in the cup away from the cervix. Cervical diaphragms sit right against the cervix. Using a cervical diaphragm might help to ensure the semen in the vagina that collects in the diaphragm (which is placed immediately adjacent to the cervix) stays close to and even in contact with the cervix. Ultimately after all, if sperm cells are going to fertilize an egg, they need to be in close contact with the cervix so that they can attach to it, swim through it and then make their way to the egg(s) located in the fallopian tubes.”
So that stuff that leaks out of your vagina after sex isn’t necessarily all of your partner’s sperm coming out, rendering your romp in the sheets useless. The sheer force of ejaculation should get those swimmers where they need to go to fertilize your egg. If you’re really worried, you can insert a diaphragm right after intercourse to help if your partner has a low sperm or motility count. Just make sure you always pee after sex, because UTIs are no fun at all.