There are many myths about infertility. Some people believe that masturbation can cause infertility.
However, no matter your genitals, gender, or age, masturbation can’t affect your ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term.
In fact, masturbation can be beneficial, healthy, and pleasurable, unless it’s done in excess.What do we know about its impact on hormone levels?
Masturbation can cause your body to release a healthy amount of certain hormones. These hormones are what makes masturbation a pleasant, de-stressing experience.
These hormones include:
- Dopamine. Known as one of the “happiness hormones,” dopamine is related to your brain’s reward system.
- Endorphins. The body’s natural pain relievers, endorphins also reduce stress and lift your mood.
- Oxytocin. Often associated with social bonding, this hormone is often called the “love hormone.”
- Testosterone. Testosterone, which is released during sex and masturbation, can improve sexual stamina and arousal.
- Prolactin. Prolactin, which plays a role in lactation, also affects your mood and immune system.
It’s worth noting that the above hormones will only increase temporarily. Masturbation won’t permanently change your hormone levels.What do we know about its impact on ovulation?
Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from your ovary. The egg “waits” to be fertilized in the fallopian tube.
If this egg is fertilized by sperm cells, it will go on to implant in the uterus, resulting in pregnancy. If it isn’t fertilized, the egg passes through the vagina.
In people with penises, orgasming usually results in ejaculation. This is the release of semen, which contains sperm cells, and it’s essential for conception.
However, ovulation doesn’t require an orgasm to take place. If you have a uterus and egg cells, orgasming won’t cause these cells to be ejected from your body in the way it does with ejaculation.
In short, masturbating and having an orgasm will have no effect on when you ovulate.What do we know about its impact on menstruation?
Anecdotally, many people have noticed that masturbating causes menstrual bleeding to start, although this only happens if it’s close to your period’s due date.
However, this hasn’t been researched thoroughly, so it isn’t clear why this happens.
Many people feel aroused around the time of their period and enjoy masturbating at this point.
Because masturbation can lead to the release of endorphins (a natural pain reliever), it can help reduce the pain associated with menstrual cramps and muscle tension.
Many people also use masturbation to naturally boost their mood during menstruation.What do we know about its impact on fertilization?
Conception occurs when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell. This doesn’t actually occur inside the uterus, as you may expect, but in the fallopian tube.
In order for conception to take place, the sperm cell has to travel to the fallopian tube and fertilize the egg by penetrating the outer wall. This means that ovulation has to take place beforehand to ensure that the egg is ready to be fertilized.
Because masturbation can’t affect the egg cell or the sperm cell, it can’t impact fertilization or conception.What do we know about its impact on implantation?
After an egg is successfully fertilized, it goes on to travel to the uterus and implant. This means it attaches to the uterine wall.
Implantation happens between 6 and 12 days after you ovulate and 8 to 9 days after conception.
Sometimes, eggs are fertilized but don’t go on to implant in the uterine wall. The cell may implant in the lining of the fallopian tube, a condition called an ectopic pregnancy.
In other cases, the fertilized cell might reach the uterus and pass through the vagina without implanting on anything.
There’s no reason to believe masturbation can affect implantation. No research suggests it does.What does this mean for your overall fertility?
Masturbation can’t affect fertility. If you’re having difficulty conceiving, it might be because of another factor.
This may include your overall health, reproductive conditions (such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)), and certain lifestyle factors.
It’s worth noting that, while it’s usually fine to masturbate while pregnant, it can be a problem during high-risk pregnancies.
For example, your doctor might ask you to abstain from sex if:
- you’re having signs of preterm labor or you have a history of preterm labor
- you’ve been diagnosed with placenta previa or an incompetent cervix
- you’ve had vaginal bleeding
If your doctor asks you to abstain from sex during pregnancy, ask if that includes masturbation.Is there anything you can do to promote fertility?
One key way to increase your chances of becoming pregnant is to have sex at the right time of the month.
As mentioned above, you need to have sex around the time of ovulation in order for fertilization to take place, specifically 2 days before or on the day of ovulation.
You can figure out your date of ovulation by counting the days of your menstrual cycle and finding the midpoint, because you ovulate at the midpoint of your cycle.
Each cycle starts on the first day of your period. For example, if you have a 28-day cycle, you’ll generally ovulate around day 14.
Other than paying attention to timing, there are a few natural ways to promote fertility. This includes certain lifestyle changes, such as:
- reducing or quitting smoking
- reducing alcohol consumption
- limiting caffeine
- taking prenatal vitamins, as well as any supplements suggested by your doctor
- eating a well-balanced diet
- exercising moderately
Trying to become pregnant can be stressful, and stress, in turn, can affect fertility for the worse.
You may find it helpful to manage your stress levels with counseling or other interpersonal support. De-stressing activities such as exercise, meditation, and enjoyable hobbies can also be beneficial.At what point should you talk to a doctor?
If you’re finding it difficult to conceive, you might want to speak to a doctor or other healthcare provider. Your primary care provider or general practitioner might refer you to a fertility specialist, which is an OB-GYN with expertise in fertility.
In general, if you’re under age 35 and you’ve been unsuccessfully trying to conceive for 12 or more months, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
If you’re 35 or older, see one after 6 months.Bottom Line:
Masturbation doesn’t affect fertility levels, and it can be a healthy, enjoyable activity for many. If you’re finding it difficult to conceive, schedule an appointment with your doctor or other healthcare provider to discuss your fertility.
Bokaie, M. 2016. Women's beliefs about infertility and sexual behaviors: A qualitative study.
Written by Sian Ferguson on November 13, 2020
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