When and How Often to Have Sex to Get Pregnant

Planning sex can help you increase your chances of becoming pregnant

If you want to get pregnant faster, you might be interested in knowing when you should have sex, how frequently to have sex, and whether there are factors that can that can increase or decrease your chances of becoming pregnant.

It is important to know that you can get pregnant at any time during your menstrual cycle, even if you are having your period. This is one of the reasons that birth control methods like the rhythm method and other methods that track body temperature are not very reliable in preventing pregnancy.

While unprotected sex doesn't lead to pregnancy every time, you can become pregnant if you have sex just one time. In general, fertility declines with age, and teenagers are far more likely to become pregnant with only one or a few sexual encounters than older women are.

If you are having a hard time getting pregnant, you can learn some facts about how to maximize your chances.

When You Are Most Likely to Get Pregnant

If you have sex often enough, and if you are not urgently trying to get pregnant, working on strategizing the timing of sex may not be necessary. But knowing the best time to have sex can help you if you want to get pregnant soon.

Fertile Window

You have one week every month when sex is most likely to lead to pregnancy. This is considered your fertile window, and it is two to three days before you ovulate. The best chance of becoming pregnant is the two to three days right before ovulation.

Ovulation and Fertilization

Ovulation usually occurs around days 12 and 13 of your cycle, but it varies from woman to woman. It's possible to have your most fertile window as early as day 8 and 9, or as late as days 19 and 20.

The egg that ovulates is only able to be fertilized for 12 to 24 hours after it's released from the ovary, and sperm can live up to five days in the female reproductive tract. This is why you should have sex before you ovulate, not after, when you are trying to become pregnant.

Is Day 14 Your Most Fertile Day?

You may have heard that Day 14 of your cycle is when you ovulate. Many women who believe this have sex on Day 11, 12, and 13, thinking this will give them the best chance at conception. But they may be wrong! Many women don't ovulate on Day 14 of their cycle. Normal ovulation can occur as early as Day 10 and as late as Day 20. If your cycles are irregular, ovulation can occur even later.

Tracking Ovulation

You can keep track of ovulation based on a calendar, and some tools use physiological changes such as body temperature, cervical mucus, or hormone levels to track signs of ovulation.

Some methods include:

  • Ovulation predictor tests: These work a lot like pregnancy tests, except they tell you when you're ovulating. They come as test sticks or test strips that react with your urine. To use these, you can urinate into a cup and then dip the test strip into the collected urine. You will get your result based on color changes or digital reading.
    • At-home ovulation tests detect the luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine. LH surges just before you ovulate, so when the test reads positive, this indicates that your body is attempting to trigger the egg release from the ovary and that it is probably your optimal time to become pregnant.
  • Basal body temperature charting: This requires taking your temperature every morning before you get up in the morning. Your basal body temperature is your body's temperature at complete rest. Your hormone levels affect your body temperature.
    • The hormone progesterone raises your body temperature. Progesterone increases after ovulation, so when your basal body temperature rises and remains high for at least a few days, this means that you probably ovulated the day before the rise.
  • Tracking your cervical mucus: Your vaginal discharge changes when you're approaching ovulation. It becomes stretchy and more mucus like. When it resembles raw egg whites, you're probably at your most fertile time of the month.
  • Saliva ferning test: An at-home test that uses a microscope to examine a sample of saliva, a ferning test can be useful for some women, and hard to interpret for others. A ferning pattern, which appears like frost under a microscope, can be a sign of ovulation.
  • Fertility calendar apps: There are many online and smartphone apps that track your cycles. The more accurate ones require you to input your basal body temperature or cervical mucus changes, but even a simple app can help you pinpoint your most fertile days if your periods are regular. You need to input when you get your period so the app will learn your cycle, and tell you when you're most likely to be ovulating.

Cervical Mucus

Research says that the best day for sexual intercourse is the day you notice the most fertile cervical mucus.

Fertile cervical mucus is a vaginal discharge that resembles raw egg white. This kind of discharge is healthy and normal. It typically appears on the days before ovulation and once you know what to look for, it's easy to detect.

If you have discharge that has a pungent smell or causes itchiness, you may have an infection. You should see your doctor.

Cervical mucus improves sperm motility (movement) and helps them survive. The more sperm that survive and travel to your fallopian tubes, which will release your egg, the higher the likelihood of fertilization.

The Mood

Feeling relaxed and free of stress can increase your chances of becoming pregnant, but, as with most other "rules," this is not necessarily the case.

Have you ever noticed that your libido is stronger at certain times of the month? This is no coincidence. The same hormones that increase just before ovulation also boost your desire for sex.

Sexual pleasure can increase the chances of becoming pregnant, but not so much that you need to be concerned that every time you have sex it's the hottest sex ever. Studies have found that sexual pleasure can improve sperm counts, and there is a theory that female orgasm might help boost the odds of conception. That said, it's not required to get pregnant. You can have terrible sex and still conceive.

Sex Frequency

How often you should have sex depends on your own personal preference as a couple, and whether or not there are any male factor infertility issues, such as sperm count problems.

Experts advise that you don't have sex more than once per day. It may seem that more sex would equal a better chance of pregnancy, but actually, having sex too frequently may decrease the number of healthy sperm.

Sex Throughout the Month

While some women feel empowered by tracking ovulation, others just feel anxious and overwhelmed by it all.

Whatever method of ovulation you choose—checking your temperature every morning, using ovulation detection strips, checking your saliva for ferning, or checking your cervical mucus—paying close attention to your cycles and ovulation signs can be emotionally exhausting.

If timing sex for ovulation is causing anxiety, you should have sex every week, about every other day. You're bound to have sex at least once during your fertile window with this method, without tracking your cycle.

Aim to have sex at least three to four times a week, throughout your cycle. There is a theory that semen may be helpful to the developing embryo. This means that sex after ovulation, and after you've conceived in fact, may help your pregnancy "stick." Another good reason for more sex.

Sex During Your Fertile Time

If you're happy to spend time tracking and detecting ovulation, then you can be sure to have sex during your most fertile time.

If sperm counts are normal or healthy, then it's best to have sex every day that...

  • you have fertile cervical mucus, or
  • a positive ovulation detecting test, or
  • a positive saliva ferning test.

If you chart your basal body temperature, you can know the approximate day you ovulate each month. In this case, you should have sex for the three days before you expect to ovulate and possibly on the day you expect to ovulate, too. 

However, you should still have sex throughout your cycle, just to keep the sperm quality in tip-top shape. You also need to provide time to enjoy sex without a baby-making mission attached.

Low or Borderline Sperm Counts

If sperm counts are borderline normal or on the lower side, the general recommendation is to have sex every other day during the fertile window.

For example, if on Monday you get your first positive ovulation predictor test result, or you see fertile cervical mucus, you should have sex on Monday, skip Tuesday, and then again on Wednesday, skip Thursday and once more on Friday.

The day in between will help replenish the sperm supply, possibly increasing your chances of pregnancy. 

Details When You Have Sex

Some research on fertility treatment found a slight increase in pregnancy rates when women remained on their backs after artificial insemination. However, this hasn't been generalized to sexual intercourse.

One thing you should pay attention to is the lubricant you use if you use any. Be sure to choose a sperm-friendly lube, because many of the regular lubricants can damage sperm.

A Word From Verywell

When you're eager to get pregnant, it's easy to over-complicate things. It's true that you're more likely to conceive quickly if you have sex during your fertile window, but it's also true that if you have sex frequently all month, you're likely to get pregnant eventually.

There is a lot of pressure online in fertility support groups to use as many ovulation tracking methods as possible. It can be helpful and even fun to track your cycles, but it can also become stressful. Do what works best for you and your partner. If you don't get pregnant after trying for one year, or after six months, if you're over 35, see your doctor. 

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