When you’re trying to get pregnant, sex is about more than just having fun. You want to do everything right in bed to maximize your chances of conceiving.
No methods have been proven to produce a pregnancy. Yet a few changes to the timing and frequency of your lovemaking might help increase your odds of success.
The best time to get pregnant is at the most fertile point in your menstrual cycle. Your ‘fertile window’ includes five days prior to ovulation and the day of ovulation.
The two days before you ovulate and the day of ovulation have the highest probability of conception. Having sex on those days will give you the greatest odds of conceiving.
During ovulation, your ovary releases a mature egg. That egg makes its way down the fallopian tube on its way to your uterus.
On this route, the sperm will (hopefully) meet up with and fertilize the egg. Sperm can live for about five days. So if you’re trying to conceive, your goal is to have live sperm in your Fallopian tubes when you ovulate.
How do you know you’re ovulating? One way is to count your cycle days.
Keep a calendar of your menstrual cycles or use an app to keep track. Each cycle starts on the first day of your period, and ends on the day before your next period starts.
Look for the midpoint of your cycle. If you have a 28-day cycle, you’ll generally ovulate around day 14.
Did you know?
- Not all women ovulate at the midpoint of their cycle. If you’re having trouble getting pregnant and suspect your ovulation may be earlier or later than the midpoint, talk to your doctor about using another method to confirm ovulation.
You can also look for signs like these, which indicate ovulation:
- Change in vaginal discharge. When you ovulate, your mucus will turn clear and thick — about the consistency of an egg white.
- Rise in basal body temperature (BBT). Your body’s resting temperature will increase slightly after you ovulate. You can measure BBT with a basal body temperature thermometer before you get up in the morning. Note: This will only tell you that you ovulated and cannot predict ovulation. However, if you track your temperature for a few cycles, you can see in hindsight what cycle day you generally ovulate.
Drugstores also sell over-the-counter ovulation kits. These tests look for hormone changes in your urine, and can let you know when you’re most likely to be ovulating. Refer to the test kit instructions for more information.
With hundreds of millions of sperm released in each male orgasm, any unprotected sex around the time of ovulation could result in a pregnancy. As long as sperm enter the vagina, you have a chance to conceive.
No certain positions during sex have been proven to increase likelihood of conception. Yet certain positions may be better than others for ensuring those little swimmers find their way up to the egg. The missionary (man on top) and doggie-style positions (man behind) allow for deeper penetration — bringing sperm in closer proximity to the cervix.
In the standing and woman-on-top positions, gravity works against you. Yet standing up right after sex shouldn’t reduce your odds of a pregnancy. Sperm are pretty good swimmers. Once deposited in the vagina, they can reach the cervix within 15 minutes.
Though you don’t need to raise your legs in the air after sex, or even lie flat on your back to help them get there, it can’t hurt. Placing a pillow under your lower back will also keep the sperm swimming in the right direction.
You might have read that having sex too often reduces sperm quality and quantity. Some research has shown that sperm have better quality when collected after a 2-3 day period of abstinence. Studies have also shown that higher rates of conception are seen in couples who have sex every 1-2 days.
Making love once a day or every other day during your fertile window will increase your odds of getting pregnant.
Try to have sex more often, but don’t force yourself into a schedule. It could lead to unnecessary stress. Ultimately, the ideal number of times to have sex is what feels comfortable to you.
Just under two-thirds of women use a lubricant during sex, but there have been questions about whether these products might affect sperm quality. In lab studies, water-based lubricants like Astroglide and K-Y Brand Jelly reduced sperm movement by 60 to 100 percent.
Before you panic and throw out the lube tube, studies of actual couples trying to conceive have found no negative effect on fertility. In fact, lubricant might aid in your efforts to get pregnant by making sex comfortable enough to have more often.
If you’re concerned about lubricant reducing your chances of getting pregnant, try sperm-friendly brands like Pre-Seed.
Changing your sex practices isn’t the only way to improve your likelihood of conceiving. Here are a few other things you can do to boost your fertility:
- Orgasm. For a man, ejaculating is essential to getting his partner pregnant. Though a woman doesn’t have to climax to get pregnant, the movement of her orgasm can help propel sperm closer to their destination.
- Control your weight. Being too heavy or too thin could lower your fertility.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the odds of infertility and miscarriage, and reduces sperm motility.
- Limit caffeine. In large amounts — more than five cups of coffee a day — caffeine can lower fertility.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant but are having no luck, see your primary care doctor or a fertility specialist.
How long should you wait before seeing a doctor? That depends on your age.
- Women younger than 35 should try for at least 1 year before seeking medical help.
- Women 35 or older should see a healthcare provider after 6 months of trying.
Make an appointment sooner if you have any of these issues, which could affect fertility:
- irregular or no periods
- pelvic inflammatory disease
- a history of miscarriage
- hernia surgery or a problem with the testicles (in your male partner)
The doctor will do an evaluation of your health and medical history. Medications, insemination techniques, and surgery can help people with fertility issues conceive.
Any type of unprotected sex is good for getting pregnant. But timing your encounters right and having them more often will boost your odds of success.
If a pregnancy isn’t happening for you right away, don’t pressure yourself or your partner. Getting pregnant can take a few months — especially if you’re in your 30s or older.
But if you’ve been trying for a long time and you’re still anxiously awaiting that baby bump, see a doctor for advice.