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Ask Debby Herbenick | Untrimmed pubic hair, fertility diets and surrogate mothers

TOC's sexpert tackles your most penetrating questions.

QMy boyfriend has a big thing for women with pubic hair—lots of it. I used to go bare because my last boyfriend liked it that way. I'm happy to grow some hair back in, but I've never thought about growing a full bush in. He said he's fine with whatever I do; he just really likes full, natural hair. I haven't had it completely natural ever in my life. Even when I was going through puberty, I used to shave the sides, and then in high school I did the landing strip and then eventually nothing. Is it okay to have full bush? Won't it get in the way of oral sex on me? What about sex—will it scratch him? I'm considering it—it might even be nice not to shave anymore—but first I want to know what's what.
A There's no harm in having a full bush—in fact, rather than up the scratch factor, it can greatly decrease it. Full, natural pubic hair is softer and less coarse than post-shave stubble, so your bodies rubbing together may feel softer for him and more cushioned for you. Since you've been bare, you may have noticed that sometimes a woman's mons (the triangular part) can get red or irritated during particularly vigorous sex due to the lack of cushioning. So protective cushioning is one advantage of the Great Pube Return. As for oral sex, it's true that unexpected flossing is a possibility when performing oral sex on a woman (or man) who goes all natural—whether that's a good thing or not is up to the one performing. Pulling a stray pubic hair out of one's mouth isn't that bad a price to pay for performing oral sex on a vulva one finds particularly hot (and your guy apparently really digs hair). Another unexpected plus of having pubic hair is that gently tugging on it can feel arousing, as it stimulates nerves in the genital area. Though you can do that with a landing strip, you have more to work with when you're full-on bushed out. If you're curious about what it looks like, check out nude scenes in '80s films (like the shower scene in Porky's, which is online) for a glance back at when a full bush was universally hot, or browse '80s porn. The only major downside to pubic hair (in any amount) is that if your partner has pubic lice (crabs), then having pubic hair can increase their ability to latch on and be transmitted to you; but I'm guessing you and your partner have already been tested for sexually transmitted infections (STI), right? If not, that's always a good idea. The other big thing to consider is what you like—while it's sweet to fashion your pubes for your boyfriends, you need to consider what you find sexy and arousing, too.

QI'm in a situation, and I don't know who to ask. My wife is in her late twenties and I'm 30. We've been trying to have a baby for about 10 months. We are at the point where we want to try some natural approaches before immediately pumping my wife full of hormones and using in vitro and things like that. We are both taking a vitamin (hers is a prenatal and mine is a men's daily one but is high in vitamin E and selenium). We're both eating right and exercising regularly. I have been avoiding things like the sauna and spa at my gym in an attempt to keep my body temperature normal. But it's not working. Our fertility doctor has tested her and she has low hormone levels, and I have not been tested yet. I'm having a hard time with the whole test idea. I'd rather exhaust all my natural options before we have a doctor start invasive tests. Any suggestions are appreciated.
A As much as baby-making sex is portrayed as fun and hot (especially given the frequency with which many hopeful parents have sex), in reality it can sometimes feel stressful. This is particularly true as couples inch toward the one-year mark, at which point a couple may be described as infertile (if they've tried for 12 months and not conceived). You're wise to pay attention to diet and exercise, as both are key to boosting fertility among women and men. To really fine-tune it, you might meet with a registered dietitian. Reading The Fertility Diet (McGraw Hill, $24.95) may be of interest, too. Are either of you on the extreme end of body fat? Either extreme can impair fertility. Stress, too, can wreak havoc on hormones (and fertility), and it may be helpful to join a yoga class or meditation group or to decide to stop actively trying for a few months. In the meantime, try to refocus on yourselves, maybe even take a vacation. Neither one of you is so old (in terms of fertility) that waiting a few months will hurt. (And it might help—you can still have sex, and if you happen to get pregnant, then great!) However, you need to get tested, too—first-line testing for men isn't invasive, and it may clue you in to issues such as low sperm count or slow swimmers. Also, while lifestyle changes can improve fertility, some couples are best helped through modern medicine, so if push comes to shove, I'd encourage you to consider those options, too.

QMy wife would like to offer to carry the baby of one of her good friends who has a health issue that will prevent her from carrying a baby. Being a father and husband, there are a lot of things going through my mind about how this will affect my wife's body, emotional state, our family/children, our relationship, and so on. Have you done any research on this topic?
A I completely understand your wife wanting to help. It's a very natural, kind and generous response to want to be supportive of a friend—and the thought of giving a friend the gift of a child is particularly heartwarming. I also completely understand your concerns. Unfortunately, there is very little research in this area. The research that has been done is largely on women who are surrogate mothers for women they don't really know. Carrying a baby for a friend, who is in your family's life and who you hope will be in your life for a long time, is likely a very different matter than carrying a baby for a stranger. If you and your wife choose to consider this more deeply, I'd encourage you both to consider couples counseling with someone who is trained in issues of both marriage and family systems. You are wise to consider how this might affect not only her and you, but your entire family. You'll want to address questions about what you will tell your children, how this may affect them, how it may affect your wife's friendship, and such. (You can find a marital and family therapist through aamft.org.) Your wife, in her generosity, may be imagining primarily the "good" effects that surrogacy could have—giving her friend a child, being pregnant again (assuming she had mostly healthy pregnancies prior to this one) and feeling closer to her friend. But it is worth imagining and exploring what potential "bad" things could happen, too, like how it might strain her friendship or your relationship, how you might feel in your relationship or sex life with your wife (knowing that she is carrying another couple's child) or any conflicts that might arise in regard to your wife's place in the child's life after he or she is born. Then if you two decide to go forward with surrogacy, you might first discuss how you can plan to minimize those "bad" effects in order to protect your family and your intimate relationship with your wife.