14 Things to Know If You're Having Sex to Get Pregnant
Want to raise your odds of baby-making success? Here, we answer some common conception questions to help increase your chances of getting pregnant.
When is the Best Time to Get Pregnant?
The best time to conceive is during a woman's "fertile window." Ovulation occurs when the ovaries release an egg, which travels down the fallopian tube and survives for 12-24 hours. You can get pregnant if the egg gets fertilized with sperm; the chances are highest within 24 hours of ovulation and one day beforehand. But because sperm can live for three to five days in the reproductive tract, it's also possible to get pregnant by having sex in the five days leading up to ovulation. (In other words, five-day-old sperm can still fertilize a newly released egg.)
How Can You Track Ovulation?
Many women follow the textbook rule that ovulation occurs 14 days after the first day of their period—but the reality is that cycle lengths vary, and ovulation doesn't always occur at the same time each month, says Machelle Seibel, M.D., Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Some women think they can detect ovulation symptoms. "If you're in tune with your body, you may notice that you have an increased clear egg-white-like vaginal discharge a few days before ovulation," says Yvonne Bohn, M.D., OB-GYN and co-author of The Mommy Docs Ultimate Guide to Pregnancy and Birth. But many women miss this, and some mistakenly think their normal discharge is a sign of ovulation.
Instead of guessing, Dr. Seibel says that using an ovulation predictor kit can give a more accurate answer. Charting your basal body temperature or tracking your menstrual cycle can also help identify ovulation for the best days to get pregnant.
How Often Should You Have Sex to Get Pregnant?
You may think that cutting down on sex to "save" your guy's sperm—or only having sex during ovulation—will make getting pregnant easier. But abstaining too much can throw off conception. Indeed, while holding off on sex can increase sperm count, it can also decrease sperm motility. What's more, "it's easy to miss the fertile period if sex is limited only to when you think you're ovulating, because many women believe they're ovulating when they actually aren't," says Samuel Wood, M.D., medical director at The Reproductive Sciences Center in La Jolla, CA.
Is Having Sex Every Day Bad When Trying To Conceive?
On the other hand, having sex too often can also cause potential problems, says Dr. Wood. "If it's for reproductive purposes alone, having sex multiple times a day or even every single day could cause 'burnout,' and the couple may begin to view sex as little more than a pre-ovulatory chore," he explains. And when you're most fertile, one or both of the partners may not be interested in having sex, resulting in a missed opportunity.
What Time of Day Should You Have TTC Sex?
If you're wondering when to have sex to conceive, the morning may be your best bet. Or, specifically, after your man gets a good night's rest, says Melissa M. Goist, M.D., Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University Medical Center. When he's sleeping, his body regenerates the sperm lost during the day. Although the average sperm cell has a pretty short shelf life, even stalwart swimmers can hit their expiration date early if they get too warm from hot tubs or exercises like bike riding, Dr. Goist says.
What's the Best Position for TTC Sex?
Common sense says that deep penetration (through positions like rear-entry and missionary) will dispense sperm closer to the cervix, but there's no evidence to back up the theory. Regardless of how you get down to business, sperm are present in the cervical canal just seconds after ejaculation. That means your favorite position gives the best chance to get pregnant, says Shari Brasner, M.D., OB-GYN at New York City's Mount Sinai Hospital. "There is no rationale for sex to be uncomfortable or awkward."
How Long Should You Keep Sperm Inside to Get Pregnant?
"When a man ejaculates, sperm swims out, goes directly into the cervical mucus and into the fallopian tubes," says Serena Chen, M.D., director of the division of reproductive endocrine and infertility at the Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Pennsylvania. "This happens in a matter of seconds, regardless of the position during intercourse."
Some women think that lying on your back with your hips elevated for 20 minutes after sex will help ensure that every last sperm gets a fighting chance at the prize, but the belief has no scientific foundation. Definitely take the excuse to relax after TTC sex, but if you're short on time, you don't need to "wait" for sperm to make its way inside.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant After Sex?
Conception results from sperm fertilizing the egg in the reproductive tract, which could happen up to six days after having sex. From there, the fertilized egg will travel to the uterus and implant in the uterine lining to begin the pregnancy. So how long after sex does implantation occur? Usually around six to 12 days. Some women notice implantation symptoms like light spotting or cramping, while others don't (both situations are normal).
Can Oral Sex Affect Chances of Conception?
Not to be a foreplay killer, but saliva might affect your chances of conception. It can theoretically interfere with your cervical mucus, alter the pH in your vaginal tract (making it inhospitable to sperm), and even take out stalwart swimmers. If clitoral stimulation helps get you in the mood, ask your man to reach for fertility-safe lubricant and put his fingers to work instead. Being face-to-face—and mouth-to-mouth—during the act might even be more intimate.
Will Orgasms Help You Get Pregnant?
Some experts believe that uterine contractions during orgasm help propel sperm into the cervix, but one thing is for sure—the tingles (and flood of oxytocin) during orgasm definitely make you relaxed. And that means you've already cleared the biggest baby-making blocker: stress. "The better the sex, the better the chances of conception," says reproductive physiologist Joanna Ellington, Ph.D., in the British documentary The Great Sperm Race. Men who are fully stimulated will ejaculate up to 50 percent more, according to research revealed in the program. "So if you have what I call 'gourmet sex,' where you really spend time and you make it fun for both partners, that is going to make the man more stimulated and he is going to ejaculate more and healthier sperm," Dr. Ellington says. Sure, sex without female orgasm can result in a baby, too, but why not go for the gold?
How Should You Deal With Fertility Problems?
After two or three months of trying, it's easy to get frustrated. That doesn't mean an immediate appointment with a fertility specialist is in order. "Even under ideal conditions, perfectly fertile couples can take several months to become pregnant," Dr. Wood assures. If you're under 35, with regular menstrual cycles and no underlying health issues that might affect fertility, Dr. Wood advises waiting it out for one year.
When Should You See a Fertility Doctor?
Most heterosexual couples should wait one year before seeing a fertility doctor—but in some cases, it's best to make an appointment sooner rather than later. "If you're 35 or older, you should see a fertility specialist after six months of trying without success," Dr. Chen says. And if you're younger and have irregular periods or a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or other health issues that may affect fertility or pregnancy, Dr. Chen says it's a good idea to seek out a specialist right away.
Also important to note: When a couple has a difficult time getting pregnant, they shouldn't be so quick to blame the woman. "From day one, couples need to think it could be the woman, the man, both, or simply unexplained infertility," says Dr. Chen. "About half of infertility issues have to do with the woman, 40 percent with the man, and the other 10 percent is both or neither." The best thing, she adds, is for both partners to be assessed to know for sure.
Can Lubricant Affect Conception?
Think twice next time you reach for the lube. Your cervical mucus moves sperm along quite swimmingly all on its own. Plus, most lubricants can interfere with cervical mucus, alter the pH in your vaginal tract, and negatively affect sperm motility, making it harder for the sperm to reach the egg. If you really need some extra lubrication during sex (a common issue when you're more focused on making babies than making love), sticking with a "sperm-friendly" lubricant like Pre-Seed is your best bet to increase chances of pregnancy, Dr. Brasner says.
How Else Can You Increase the Chances of Getting Pregnant?
Often, when couples are trying to conceive, they focus so intensely on their reproductive health, they neglect their overall health. Life becomes all about cervical mucus, sperm count, and doing the deed. But it's important to pay attention to your health in general because issues like weight, smoking, stress, and medications can affect fertility too, Dr. Chen says. Before trying to conceive, it's a good idea for both you and your guy to have a medical checkup to discuss any issues that may affect fertility or pregnancy.