13 Things to Know If You're Having Sex to Get Pregnant

Want to raise your odds of baby-making success while you're trying to conceive (TTC)? Here, we answer some common conception questions to help increase your chances of getting pregnant.

An image of a couple with a pregnancy test.
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01 of 13

When Is the Best Time to Get Pregnant?

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The best time to conceive is during your "fertile window," which includes the days leading up to and the day of ovulation. Ovulation occurs when the ovaries release an egg, which travels down the fallopian tube and survives for 12–24 hours.

The chances of fertilization 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.)

To track your ovulation, consider using a period and ovulation tracker to track your fertile signs (like cervical mucus and basal body temperature), which can help you plan when to have sex to improve your odds of conceiving.

02 of 13

How Can You Track Ovulation?

egg and sperm drawing

Many people 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 people 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 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 (OPK) can give a more accurate answer. The kit looks similar to a pregnancy test but instead of looking for the pregnancy hormone hCG, it is searching for a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which precedes ovulation (and as a result, can accurately predict when you are most fertile).

Charting your basal body temperature can also help identify ovulation for the best days to get pregnant.

03 of 13

How Often Should You Have Sex to Get Pregnant?

couple legs in bed

There is no magic number of how many times you have to have sex to get pregnant. When you're trying to conceive, when you have sex is more important than the number of times you have sex. But that's not to say that you can't maximize your chances of getting pregnant by having sex more than once during your fertile window.

You may think that cutting down on sex to "save" sperm—or only having sex during ovulation—will make getting pregnant easier. But abstaining too much can throw off conception odds.

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 people believe they're ovulating when they actually aren't," says Samuel Wood, M.D., medical director at The Reproductive Sciences Center in La Jolla, California.

There is the risk creating stress by forcing yourself to sticking to a schedule. The best bet is to have as much sex as you feel comfortable having and using your ovulation calendar to help guide when the optimal times may be.

04 of 13

Is Having Sex Every Day Bad When Trying to Conceive?

Woman pushing man away in bed

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.

By the time you're most fertile, one or both of the partners may not be interested in having sex, resulting in a missed opportunity.

According to one study, abstaining from sex for as little as one to two days helped to increase peak quality sperm, so taking breaks from sex might actually be a good thing.

05 of 13

What Time of Day Should You Have TTC Sex?

Woman in bed with alarm clock

If you're wondering what time of day to have sex to conceive, the morning may be your best bet. Or, specifically, after your partner 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 sleeping, their 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.

According to one study in Zurich, the best time to have sex to conceive a baby is before 7:30 a.m. during the months of March, April, and May. That may sound odd, but it turns out that sperm may be at its healthiest during the spring months. Not only that, but sperm appears to have it's own internal 24-hour clock that helps it determine the best time to travel to an egg.

06 of 13

What's the Best Position for TTC Sex?

Check Yes Third Trimester Couple In Bed

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 that there is a "best" position for conception. 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."

To avoid making sex stressful, don't worry about which coital position is best or which will lower your chances of conception. Do what makes you feel comfortable.

07 of 13

How Long Should You Keep Sperm Inside to Get Pregnant?

Study: Sperm count decreased
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Some people 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.

"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." 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.

08 of 13

How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant After Sex?

menstrual leave

Conception results from sperm fertilizing the egg in the reproductive tract, which could happen up to six days after having sex depending on where in your cycle you were at the time. 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 people notice implantation symptoms like light spotting or cramping, while others don't (both situations are normal).

But how long do you have to have TTC sex before you finally get pregnant? That answer depends on a variety of fertility factors, but up to 90% of people trying to conceive will get pregnant within a year.

09 of 13

Can Oral Sex Affect Chances of Conception?

Embarrassing Pregnancy Sex Stories_still

One prevailing myth about oral sex and conception is that saliva can be a sperm killer. While there is a little bit of truth to the claim, like all things in trying to conceive, it's complicated.

According to some studies, large amounts of saliva can produce a "shaking" effect in up to 12% of sperm, which dramatically reduced their motility and progression. In other words, large amounts of saliva killed some sperm. The National Library of Medicine notes that this is a particular issue for couples dealing with infertility issues that include a low sperm count.

So if oral sex helps you get in the mood, go for it!

10 of 13

Will Orgasms Help You Get Pregnant?

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Some experts believe that uterine contractions during orgasm mayt 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. Males who are fully stimulated will ejaculate up to 50% 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?

11 of 13

How Should You Deal With Fertility Problems?

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"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. 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.

There are a few ways to boost your fertility without visiting a specialist. Things like focusing on a healthy diet, watching your weight, keeping stress levels down, and staying away from toxins like pesticides are smart places to start.

12 of 13

When Should You See a Fertility Doctor?

Couple with Fertility Issues
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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.

If you're younger than 35 and have irregular periods or a history of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), ectopic pregnancy, endometriosis, 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 place blame on one partner over the other. "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% with the man, and the other 10% is both or neither." The best thing, Dr. Chen adds, is for both partners to be assessed to know for sure.

13 of 13

How Else Can You Increase the Chances of Getting Pregnant?

woman with positive pregnancy test

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 partner to have a medical checkup to discuss any issues that may affect fertility or pregnancy.

Before trying to conceive, it can help to do some prep work on your health to optimize your chances of getting pregnant, such as taking prenatal vitamins with folate, making healthy changes to your diet, and quitting habits that can pose risk to the fetus such as drinking and smoking.

Updated by K. Aleisha Fetters
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