When and How Often to Have Sex to Get Pregnant

Planning sex can help you increase your chances of becoming pregnant

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Ovulation tracking methods

Verywell / Jessica Olah

If you want to get pregnant faster, it's important to know when you should have sex, how frequently to have sex, and whether there are factors that can increase or decrease your chances of becoming pregnant each month.

You're most likely to conceive just before or during ovulation, but 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" are not reliable in preventing pregnancy.

Helpful facts to know include that while unprotected sex doesn't lead to pregnancy every time, you can become pregnant if you have sex just one time if the timing is right. 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 people are.

If you are trying to conceive, there are some things to know that can help you maximize your chances. The most important is that your odds of getting pregnant increase dramatically if you have sex daily or every other day during your most fertile period, which lasts about a week and incudes several days before and up to ovulation. Learn more about when to have sex during ovulation to get pregnant.


Secret to Getting Pregnant? An Ob/Gyn and Moms Discuss

When You Are Most Likely to Get Pregnant

If you have sex often enough, and if you are not urgently trying to get pregnant, worrying about 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 begins about five days before you ovulate. The best chance of becoming pregnant is in those days right before ovulation.

Ovulation and Fertilization

Ovulation usually occurs around days 12 to 14 of a 28-day cycle, but it varies from person to person based on the length of their cycle and can even vary from cycle to cycle. It's possible to have your fertile window as early as day 8 and 9 if you have a shorter cycle, or as late as days 19 and 20 with a longer cycle, for example.

The egg that ovulates is only able to be fertilized for 12 to 24 hours after it's released from the ovary, but with the help of your cervical mucus, sperm can live up to five days in the female reproductive tract. Since it can be nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact moment of ovulation, having sex before you ovulate (as opposed to after) can help increase your chances of conception by having sperm ready and waiting for the egg.

Is Day 14 Your Most Fertile Day?

You may have heard that day 14 of your cycle is when you ovulate. As a result, many people have sex on day 11, 12, and 13, thinking this will give them the best chance at conception. But many people don't ovulate on day 14. Normal ovulation can occur as early as day 10 and as late as day 20. If you have irregular cycles, ovulation can occur even later. So, your most fertile day is not necessarily say 14.

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 whites. This kind of discharge, which is clear, stretchy, and slippery, is healthy and normal, and it typically appears on the days before ovulation. Once you know what to look for, it's relatively easy to detect.

Cervical mucus improves sperm motility (movement) and helps them survive on their journey to into the uterus. The more sperm that survive and travel to your fallopian tubes to meet (ideally) the egg or eggs that are released during ovulation, the higher the likelihood of fertilization.

Note that while most vaginal discharge is healthy, some is not. If you have discharge that has a pungent smell or causes itchiness, you may have an infection and should see your doctor.

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.

It's possible that sexual pleasure may 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. The theory that female orgasm might help boost the odds of conception may be wishful thinking. In fact, the science is unclear on the function of female orgasm in terms of fertility.

However, research does show that female arousal creates vaginal tenting, which actually adjusts the shape of the vagina and lifts the cervix-uterine area away, heightening arousal and providing more room for the ejaculated semen. That said, having an orgasm is not required to get pregnant. In fact, you can have boring or unenjoyable sex and still conceive.

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. Here are some methods you might consider.

Using Ovulation Predictor Tests

Ovulation predictor tests work a lot like pregnancy tests, except they tell you when you're likely about to ovulate. 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.

Charting Body Temperature

Basal body temperature charting requires taking your temperature every morning before you get up. Your basal body temperature is your body's temperature at complete rest, and your hormone levels affect this 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 just before you observed the rise.

Tracking Cervical Mucus

When checking your cervical mucus, you're monitoring your vaginal secretions. Your vaginal discharge changes throughout your cycle and takes on distinct characteristics when you are approaching ovulation when it becomes stretchy and more mucus-like. When it resembles raw egg whites, you're probably at your most fertile time of the month.

Using Saliva Tests

The saliva ferning test is an at-home test that uses a microscope to examine a sample of saliva. A ferning test can be useful for some people who ovulate, and hard to interpret for others. A ferning pattern, which appears like frost under a microscope, can also be a sign of ovulation.

Utilizing Fertility Apps

There are many online and smartphone apps that track ovulation 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 what are likely to be your most fertile days if your periods are very 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.

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 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.

Having Sex Throughout the Month

While some people feel empowered by tracking ovulation, others just feel anxious and overwhelmed by it all. Whatever method of ovulation tracking you choose—checking your temperature every morning, using ovulation detection strips, checking your saliva for ferning, checking your cervical mucus, or all of the above—paying close attention to your cycles and ovulation signs can be emotionally exhausting.

If timing sex for ovulation is causing anxiety, you can instead just rely on regularly timed sex. In these cases, experts suggest having sex every week, about every other day, particularly during the middle of your typical cycle. Following this schedule, you're bound to have sex at least once during your fertile window, even 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.

Having 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
  • Have a positive ovulation detecting test
  • Have a positive saliva ferning test

If you chart your basal body temperature, you can know the approximate day you ovulated each month—but only after the fact. 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 should also aim to provide time to enjoy sex without a baby-making mission attached.

Dealing With Low 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. 

Other Considerations

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. Make sure you choose sperm-friendly lube because many 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 and your partner are healthy and have sex frequently all month, you're likely to get pregnant eventually.

There is a lot of pressure online within fertility support groups to use as many ovulation tracking methods as possible. It can be helpful, enlightening, 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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Additional Reading

By Rachel Gurevich, RN
Rachel Gurevich is a fertility advocate, author, and recipient of The Hope Award for Achievement, from Resolve: The National Infertility Association. She is a professional member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and has been writing about women’s health since 2001. Rachel uses her own experiences with infertility to write compassionate, practical, and supportive articles.