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If you’re trying to conceive, you may have a lot of questions. How often should you have sex to get pregnant? What’s the best time to have sex? How can you increase your chances of conceiving?
Here’s what science has to say about when and how often you should have sex when trying to conceive.
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How often should I have sex to get pregnant?
Having sex every 1–2 days while you’re ovulating may give you the best odds of getting pregnant. But if you find that trying to have sex every day stresses you out, it’s better to stick to a frequency that’s right for you. Having sex two or three times per week can be nearly as effective for conceiving (ASRM, 2017)
If possible, it’s a good idea to keep your cadence above once per week since studies show your odds of getting pregnant tend to decrease if you have sex less than once a week (ASRM, 2017). However, if strict schedules create more stress, it may be best to try at your own pace.
When is the best time to get pregnant?
The best time to get pregnant is around three days before you ovulate. The timing of ovulation depends on the length of your menstrual cycle. An average menstrual cycle is 28 days from the start of one period to the next, but it varies from person to person (Thiyagarajan, 2021).
During ovulation, an ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube. It usually occurs within a few days of the midpoint of your cycle. For example, in a 28-day cycle, ovulation would occur within a few days of day 14. This is generally the best time to get pregnant and is often referred to as your fertile window or fertility window (Thiyagarajan, 2021).
The fertility window usually extends 5–6 days before ovulation and lasts until the day after ovulation. Research shows that having sex three days before ovulation may give you the best chance of pregnancy (ASRM, 2017).
How do I track ovulation?
When you’re trying to get pregnant, your odds are better if you have sex during the most fertile days around ovulation. So, how do you track ovulation? There are many different methods that you can try.
Listen to your body
Some people experience symptoms like cramps or breast tenderness that signal when they’re about to ovulate. However, this doesn’t happen to everyone or during every cycle, so it isn’t always a reliable method.
Ovulation: what is it, signs and symptoms, and how long does it last?
Track your cervical mucus
Tracking the appearance of your cervical mucus is an easy, reliable, and free way to determine when you should have sex to get pregnant.
Around the time of ovulation, vaginal discharge appears clear and stretchy (like a raw egg white), so if you have sex during this time, you may be more likely to conceive (Evans-Hoeker, 2013).
Use ovulation tests
You can also use an ovulation predictor kit to determine the best time to have sex to get pregnant.
When you ovulate, high levels of a chemical called LH (luteinizing hormone) are released into your body and can be detected by blood and urine tests. Measuring this hormone surge is a reliable indication that you’re ovulating (Su, 2017).
Ovulation kits contain test strips that measure the LH level in your urine. Some kits even come with a phone app that tracks your cycle and LH results to determine the most fertile window (Evans-Hoeker, 2013; Johnson, 2020).
Monitor your body temperature
Basal body temperature (BBT) monitoring is another popular method for tracking ovulation.
BBT monitoring involves taking your temperature each day. You will notice a slight increase (approximately half a degree) on the day of ovulation. This method can be more difficult since the change is tiny and only occurs after your peak fertility window (Evans-Hoeker, 2013).
How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?
There’s no shortage of advice out there about how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. But not all advice is rooted in science. For example, there’s no evidence that having sex in certain positions or lying down with your legs up after intercourse will increase your chances of getting pregnant (ASRM, 2017)
However, there are some recommendations that may increase your odds, many of which focus on living a healthy lifestyle when trying to conceive.
Get proper nutrition
Research has shown that there is likely a link between fertility and nutrition. A Western-style diet is typically high in sugar, simple carbohydrates, processed meats, and fast food. This type of eating has been associated with altered menstrual cycles, increased time to become pregnant, and infertility (Skoracka, 2021).
Exercise, weight, and fertility: what’s the connection?
In contrast, a Mediterranean diet can positively impact fertility. This means eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats like olive oil, lean proteins like poultry and plant-based proteins, and oily fish (Skoracka, 2021).
Getting adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients like folic acid and vitamin B12 may also increase your chance of success when you’re trying to get pregnant, though not all experts agree (Skoracka, 2021). However, these vitamins are essential for a fetus to develop during pregnancy.
Smoking can have a substantial impact on your ability to get pregnant.
Large studies have found that people who smoke are more likely to experience infertility than those who don’t (ASRM, 2017). And smoking doesn’t just affect the fertility of the person who smokes. Being exposed to secondhand smoke also decreases egg production and impairs fertility (Nizard, 2005).
Consuming high levels of caffeine may be linked to fertility issues. To avoid these effects, research recommends limiting caffeine consumption to only one to two cups of coffee (or the equivalent) each day when you’re trying to conceive (ASRM, 2017).
It’s important to remember that this includes caffeine from all sources, including (Skoracka, 2021):
- Medications that contain caffeine
Maintain a healthy weight
People with obesity or those with too little body fat may also experience decreases in fertility.
If you are trying to get pregnant, it may help to maintain a healthy weight for your height. A healthy weight is different for everyone, so if you’re not sure what a healthy weight for you is, a health professional or dietician may be able to help you figure out what your body needs to maintain a healthy weight (ASRM, 2017).
Getting pregnant with PCOS: fertility treatment options
Avoid alcohol and marijuana
Most people are aware that drugs and alcohol aren’t recommended during pregnancy, but you may not realize that they can also affect your chances of conceiving in the first place.
Some studies suggest that more than two alcoholic beverages per day can negatively affect fertility, though the data is inconclusive (ASRM, 2017).
It’s more difficult to determine the effects of marijuana on fertility because its use isn’t legal in some areas. Still, some research shows that women of childbearing age who used marijuana were more likely to report infertility (ASRM, 2017).
Take a short period of abstinence
Is there any truth to the idea that having sex every day may decrease your likelihood of getting pregnant because the quantity of sperm decreases? Fertility specialists analyzed semen from men who were asked to ejaculate daily to find out.
They found that the quality of the sperm did not change, but semen volume and sperm quantity decreased during the first three days of the study. The results plateaued after day three, and there were no additional losses.
This led them to recommend a short period of abstinence (a few days) followed by daily intercourse timed around ovulation to maximize the chances of conception (Welliver, 2016).
Use a sperm-friendly lube
But evidence from recent studies doesn’t support this idea. While some types of lubricants affect sperm in a lab setting, they don’t seem to have as much of an effect in the real world. People who used lube during intercourse didn’t have a lower likelihood of getting pregnant compared to those who didn’t use lube (Steiner, 2012; ASRM, 2017).
If you’re still concerned, some lubricants (sometimes referred to as “sperm-friendly” or “fertility-friendly”) are made with a component called hydroxyethylcellulose and have not been shown to harm sperm (McInerney, 2018; ASRM, 2017).
How to increase chances of getting pregnant: 9 tips
How long could it take to conceive?
Around 80% of couples will get pregnant within the first six months of trying (ASRM, 2017).
However, every body is different, so the amount of time it takes to get pregnant will vary from person to person. And ultimately, how often you have sex comes down to your and your partner’s preferences. Try to remember to have fun and relax during this time period. Remember, you’re most likely to conceive in the first few months of having unprotected sex.
If you’re under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant without success for 12 months—or if you’re over 35 and have been trying for six months—it’s a good idea to reach out to your healthcare provider. They may suggest fertility tests to determine why you’re having a difficult time getting pregnant or have advice on how to improve your chances of conceiving (Walker, 2021).
- Evans-Hoeker, E., Pritchard, D. A., Long, D. L., et al. (2013). Cervical mucus monitoring prevalence and associated fecundability in women trying to conceive. Fertility and Sterility, 100(4), 1033–1038.e1. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2013.06.002. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3787999/
- Johnson, S., Stanford, J. B., Warren, G., et al. (2020). Increased likelihood of pregnancy using an app-connected ovulation test system: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of Women’s Health (2002), 29(1), 84–90. doi:10.1089/jwh.2019.7850. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6983750/
- McInerney, K. A., Hahn, K. A., Hatch, E. E., et al. (2018). Lubricant use during intercourse and time to pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology: BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 125(12), 1541–1548. doi:10.1111/1471-0528.15218. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139089/
- Nizard, J. (2005). Quelles sont les données épidémiologiques concernant le tabagisme maternel et paternel? [What are the epidemiological data on maternal and paternal smoking?]. Journal de Gynecologie, Obstetrique et Biologie de la Feproduction, 34(1), 3S347–3S352. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15980810/
- Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). (2017). Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion. Fertility and Sterility, 107(1), 52–58. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2016.09.029. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28228319/
- Skoracka, K., Ratajczak, A. E., Rychter, A. M., et al. (2021). Female fertility and the nutritional approach: the most essential aspects. Advances in Nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 12(6), 2372–2386. doi:10.1093/advances/nmab068. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8634384/
- Steiner, A. Z., Long, D. L., Tanner, C., et al. (2012). Effect of vaginal lubricants on natural fertility. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 120(1), 44–51. doi:10.1097/AOG.0b013e31825b87ae. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427535/
- Su, H. W., Yi, Y. C., Wei, T. Y., et al. (2017). Detection of ovulation, a review of currently available methods. Bioengineering & Translational Medicine, 2(3), 238–246. doi:10.1002/btm2.10058. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5689497/
- Thiyagarajan, D. K., Basit, H., & Jeanmonod, R. (2021). Physiology, Menstrual Cycle. StatPearls. Retrieved Apr. 12, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK500020/
- Walker M. H. & Tobler, K. J. (2021). Female Infertility. StatPearls. Retrieved Apr. 12, 2022 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556033/
- Welliver, C., Benson, A. D., Frederick, L., et al. (2016). Analysis of semen parameters during 2 weeks of daily ejaculation: a first in humans study. Translational Andrology and Urology, 5(5), 749–755. doi:10.21037/tau.2016.08.20. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5071206/