08 Jul Timing Sex for Pregnancy
Question: What’s the best time to have sex to get pregnant?
- A) As frequently as possible
- B) The day you ovulate
- C) A couple of times in the days leading up to ovulation
- D) C & A
Answer: D If you are healthy with no indication of reproductive issues, the answer is C and A, in that order.
Having Sex in the Days Leading Up to Ovulation Increases Chances of Conception
A healthy female egg lives for 12- to 24-hours once it releases from the follicle and down the fallopian tube. Compare that with healthy male sperm, which can live an average of three to five days in the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tube(s) as they eagerly hunt for a receptive egg. Some “super sperm” live seven to 10 days after ejaculation.
As a result, the fertility world is changing the message around timing sex with ovulation to timing sex to line up with the days preceding ovulation and ovulation day.
For women and men with healthy reproductive systems, having sex every day for a few days leading up to ovulation is a great way to load as many sperm into the uterus and fallopian tubes as possible. However, if your partner has a low sperm count, doctors may recommend that you have sex every other day, giving him time to produce and store as many sperm as possible in his semen before ejaculation.
Become an Ovulation Prediction Expert
Knowing when you will ovulate is the best means to timing sex to get pregnant. It takes about three to four consecutive months to get a clear picture of your menstrual cycle. We recommend using a fertility app to track signs, symptoms, and period starts/finishes.
Over the course of four or five cycles, you’ll become an ovulation prediction expert. Then, use ovulation prediction kits (OPKs) each time to see if you are accurate. OPKs are available at any major drugstore or online. Like a pregnancy test, OPK measures hormone levels in urine and registers the spike in luteinizing hormone (LH1), indicating that you have ovulated.
Notice the past tense there? LH spikes as the egg releases and moves on its way, and that egg only lives for 12 to 24 hours, meaning your fertility clock is already ticking. That’s why having sex before ovulating is so essential- the one or two ejaculations that take place after you’ve already ovulated are racing against the lifespan of the released egg.
Having Sex More Often During Non-Fertile Windows Also Increases Pregnancy Rates
Remember we said that both A and C were correct? You’d think having sex more often increases fertility rates because of the basic “birds and the bees” story. Scientists feel there’s more to it than that, however.
A few recent studies show couples who have sex during the non-fertile windows also have higher fertility rates. One of the reasons for this seems to be related to human immune function. We know that a woman’s hyperactive immune response may kill sperm, eggs, fertilized eggs, and freshly attached embryos. In these cases, the body sees all of those as “invaders,” so the immune system thinks it’s helping you.
The studies showed a direct response between having sex during non-fertile windows and changes in helper T cells and the proteins that T cells use to communicate throughout the menstrual cycle – including during the fertile window and conception.
Researchers concluded, “These results support the hypothesis that shifts in immune response across the menstrual cycle may reflect tradeoffs between reproduction and immunity. These findings point to the need for further research on the interaction between sexual behavior, the menstrual cycle, and immune response.”
Keep the Romance Alive!
This information is challenging for couples who are trying – and failing – to get pregnant. As fertility specialists, we repeatedly hear how difficult it is for couples to feel intimate, sensual, and sexual when sex becomes a business transaction rather than an act of love, arousal, attraction, and connection. This is one reason we advise couples seeking fertility treatment to get the fertility support they need.
It is so essential that in addition to timing sex for intercourse, couples take the time to foster a connected relationship and keep the romance alive. So go on date nights, keep doing things that honor who you are as individuals and as a couple – above and beyond the desire to be parents. Also, make stress management a part of your daily life.
Are you doing everything you can to get pregnant at home without results? Contact Virginia Fertility & IVF to figure out why and create a personalized fertility plan.