Trying to conceive can seem like a walk in the park for some but an incredibly difficult and frustrating challenge for others. If you’re part of the latter group, we see you. And we’re sorry that you feel like your attempts at pregnancy are not resulting in that positive pregnancy test you’re after.
But before you give up hope, have you thought about the timing of sex?
If you’re asking, “Does timing really matter?” we are here cheering “yes!”. When it comes to conceiving, timing is everything.
Try all you might to do the right thing, but if it’s the wrong time of your cycle, then there’s no chance you’ll see that positive result.
So when should you have sex to conceive?
Today, we are chatting all about when to have sex to get pregnant, and answering some key questions that can help you achieve success with conception.
Refreshing your basics
You experience a wide range of hormone shifts during your menstrual cycle, so let’s do a quick refresh.
It all starts on your first day of bleeding. Your hormones are low at this point, which causes your pituitary to start secreting FSH.
This FSH cues your ovarian follicles to start growing (follicles are little fluid-filled sacs that contain an egg). One of these growing follicles becomes what’s called the dominant follicle. As you can probably guess by its name, it’s the biggest. And this follicle is what starts producing estrogen.
As estrogen levels rise, your pituitary enters the scene to produce LH. LH is the hormone that’s responsible for ovulation (a.k.a. the release of the egg). You’ll see your LH levels start to rise 24-36 hours before ovulation and then reach a peak 8-20 hours later. This peak is called the LH surge, and once LH has peaked, ovulation happens.
After ovulation, the dominant follicle degenerates into a structure called the corpus luteum, which then produces progesterone.
If there was sperm there waiting for the egg and fertilization happened, the zygote finds its way to the uterus and there nestles into the uterine lining.
The placenta starts to form and secretes hCG, progesterone, and estrogen – all key to a healthy growing baby.
But if there was no sperm and fertilization has not happened, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, causing your uterine lining to shed, which is what you know as your period.
And then we start the process all over again!
What is the fertile window?
Your fertile window consists of 4 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation.
So, if you’re wondering, “When is the best time to conceive?”, these 6 days are your fertile days. And in fact, your chances are the highest the day before ovulation.
This is because the sperm can live for up to 5 days in the female reproductive tract but the egg survives only 12-24 hours after its release. Your chances of fertilization increase when the sperm is already waiting for the egg as it gets released.
Can you get pregnant any time of the month?
That’s because some key things must happen in the body to get a positive pregnancy test.
For starters, you need both a sperm and an egg for fertilization to happen. That’s probably not news to you.
But what may be news is the fact that while men produce sperm throughout their entire lives, women are more limited in that their ovaries release one egg during their menstrual cycle (a.k.a. once a month).
The release of this egg is more commonly known as ovulation. And this egg is the star of the show. Without the release of this egg, there is nothing for the sperm to fertilize, and that means no pregnancy.
On top of that, sperm hangs on for dear life and can survive in the female body for up to 5 days. The egg, on the other hand, waits for no one and only survives 12-24 hours after its release.
So, the egg has to be fertilized by the sperm via sexual intercourse in this small window of time. Outside of this window, the chances of pregnancy are low.
In short: it’s best to have sex before ovulation if you’re looking to conceive.
Now are you starting to understand what we mean when we say that timing is everything?
How do I know when I’m ovulating?
So, how do you know when you’re in the sweet spot for pregnancy and whether you’re ovulating? There are a few ways to help with detecting ovulation.
- Calculate based on your period (a.k.a. the calendar method): Normally, ovulation occurs 12-14 days before your next period. So using this timeline, you can roughly predict when you’re about to ovulate by subtracting 12-14 from your next period. But, this method only works for those with regular cycles – it’s not accurate if you have irregular periods.
- Look for changes in your body: There are some things that you can turn to in your body to see when ovulation occurs, and one is cervical mucus. When you’re ovulating, your fertile cervical mucus will resemble the consistency of egg whites. It changes to be like this during ovulation so that sperm can move more easily through your reproductive tract. Pretty cool, right?
- Some other ovulation symptoms you may experience include:
- Increased sex drive
- Ovulation pain (lower abdomen)
- Soft and open cervix
Read More: Ovulation Symptoms: How Do You Really Know?
- Basal body temperature: Basal body temperature (BBT) increases by about 1 degree Fahrenheit within 24 hours after ovulation. Why does this happen? Because your progesterone levels rise. And your BBT will tend to stay high until right before your period. However, since the change in your temperature happens after ovulation, it’s not ideal for tracking your fertility.
- Follicular scan: This is a tried and true way to confirm ovulation, but will cost you a pretty penny and is quite cumbersome, too. A follicular scan involves ultrasound scans of your uterus that last about 10 minutes where your doctor checks the size of your follicles and the thickness of your uterine lining.
- Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs). An ovulation predictor kit measures LH and helps predict when you’re about to ovulate (that’s because LH is the hormone that triggers ovulation in your body).
But here are the problems: an OPK is helpful for predicting ovulation but can’t actually confirm because it doesn’t measure progesterone metabolite PdG, which is needed to determine for sure whether ovulation is happening.
Also, these predictor kits are only good for people who have what is considered “normal” hormone levels, so if you’re outside of that threshold range, then they won’t prove to be very useful. That’s because these kits use Alpha-LH, which has the chance of a false positive.
Here’s where Inito comes in and shines. It tracks FSH, LH, and E3G to tell you when your fertile window is (and so when you should have sex) and progesterone metabolite PdG to confirm ovulation (something that other OPKs can’t do).
Since it gives real numerical values, it gives personalized results, not just ranges, and can also be used in people with irregular cycles.
And it does this in one single strip, so you don’t need to buy separate strips for each hormone.
How often should you have sex during the fertile window?
Okay, now that we’ve got an understanding of your fertile time and ovulation and all that fun stuff, let’s talk about how often you should have sex to get pregnant.
You’re either going to love this or hate this, but in order to maximize your chances of conception, you should have sex every day or every other day in your fertile window.
But, as we mentioned above, sperm can live for up to 5 days in the female body.
So take some of the pressure off yourself, and if it feels like having sex every other day to conceive feels stressful and isn’t exactly your idea of fun, then don’t force it. Instead, focus on the fact that studies show that sex before ovulation (1 day before, for best chances) should be your goal if you’re TTC.
Is it better to have sex in the morning or at night?
The question of morning sex versus night sex has been a topic of discussion for eons.
But when it comes to improving your chances of conception, is the best time for sex to get pregnant morning or night?
We can turn to some studies to help us answer this question.
One study shows that the highest sperm concentration was found in samples bright and early – before 7:30 a.m.
It’s thought that it may be due to melatonin. (Note that this is just a theory and not a fully-confirmed claim.)
Melatonin is key to your sleep-wake cycle, circadian rhythm, and the secretion of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland (FSH and LH). This means that it can affect sperm concentration and has the power to protect sperm from apoptosis (a.k.a. death).
Animal studies also show that melatonin has the power to improve sperm concentration, movement/swimming (motility), and shape and size of the sperm (morphology). On top of that, it also regulates testosterone production.
Melatonin is quite the powerhouse for sperm, isn’t it?
Melatonin levels increase in the absence of sunlight. So naturally, peak melatonin levels happen early in the morning and decline as the day goes on. And this is the thought process behind early morning being the best time for conception.
However, don’t obsess over this idea of morning versus night – having sex while you’re fertile is the most important part. If you feel like you’ve tried everything and are still struggling to conceive, then maybe give morning sex a shot and see if it makes a difference for you and your body.
How long does it take to get pregnant after having sex?
There is no set amount of time that it takes to get pregnant once you’ve done the deed, but the average length is estimated to be somewhere between 2-3 weeks.
Here’s a breakdown of the timeline.
Fertilization can happen anywhere from a few minutes after sex to up to 5 days. It all depends upon when the egg gets released because, well, she’s the star of the show.
Once you’ve got a fertilized egg, it can take anywhere from 6-12 days for implantation to kick into gear (though the average is 8-10 days).
Following implantation comes the rising of hCG levels, which is what allows you to test for pregnancy.
But, it’s best to wait for the first day of your missed period to take a urine test. This gives your hCG levels enough time to rise so that they can actually be detected by the test. However, please note that some women can get a positive pregnancy test as early as 10-11 DPO.
How can you increase the chances of getting pregnant?
It is possible to make your chances of conceiving higher, and here’s the 411 on how to do so.
1. Track your fertile window
As we talked about earlier, it’s super important to track your fertile time so that you know when you’re ovulating.
You can make use of ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) to do this but know that they are really only subjective. That’s because they can track ovulation but can’t actually confirm it. And if you don’t have regular cycles, well then, OPKs aren’t going to work for you.
The best way to track your fertility is with the Inito Fertility Monitor. This is the only fertility monitor that tracks FSH, LH, estrogen, and progesterone metabolite PdG, in a single test strip. Not only does it track these hormones, but it also gives you actual numbers as opposed to ranges. Plus, it actually confirms ovulation rather than just predicting it.
2. Time your sex
Timing is everything, remember? There are some studies that have put to question whether too much sex can actually lower sperm quality, so let’s look at them.
One study found that more than 2 days of abstinence allows for greater semen volume and a higher sperm count compared to less than 2 days of abstinence.
However, abstaining from sex for more than 2 days also caused more immature sperm and more sperm DNA damage, which led to an overall decrease in sperm quality.
And another study backed these findings. This study determined that the longer the period of abstinence, the higher the semen volume and count. But, it was unable to reach a conclusion about whether abstaining from sex for more than 2 days leads to issues with movement, size/shape, and more. So, more research needs to be done.
Other studies found that a short period of no sex followed by having sex every day around ovulation led to a higher number of sperm available and the optimal conditions for conception.
In short, it looks like frequent and well-timed sex can increase the chances of conception, as long as you don’t have fertility problems.
So focus your attention on having unprotected sex when you’re most fertile, and steer clear of the deed during your implantation window.
3. Eat well
It’s no secret that eating well is important for overall health, but it turns out that it also matters when it comes to conception.
To set your body up for the best chances of pregnancy, you want to have a diet that’s rich in:
- Whole grains
- Vitamins and minerals
- Healthy fats
All of these things have been associated with higher fertility in both men and women.
Be sure to stay away from:
- Processed foods
- Trans fats
- Added sugars
These have been found to lower fertility rates in men and women.
4. Live a healthy lifestyle
Just in case you need another reason to stay away from smoking, fertility is one of them. Studies find that smoking reduces fertility.
You also want to be careful with your alcohol intake. The CDC suggests that you avoid alcohol completely if you’re trying to conceive.
This one may crush your soul, but you also want to be careful of caffeine consumption while TTC, too. We aren’t suggesting that you give it up entirely; just try to limit it to no more than 200-300 mg per day.
5. Watch your weight
Weight has a major effect on general health, but surprisingly also your fertility. And that goes not only for being overweight but also underweight.
If your BMI levels are in the overweight/obese category (25 and above), you put your body at risk of higher estrogen levels, which results in irregular cycles that can be hard to track and make conception a challenge.
If your BMI levels are in the underweight category (under 18.5), you have lower fat reserves as well as lower estrogen, which can also lead to anovulatory cycles.
You need to have at least 22% body fat to have regular periods and, thus, make conception more likely.
6. Sleep well
It turns out that catching plenty of those zzzs can also help when you’re TTC.
A good and uninterrupted sleep can boost your FSH levels by a whopping 20%. Not only that, but it can also improve your estrogen balance by 60%.
Add to that the fact that every hour of sleep in your sleep time can increase your progesterone levels by 9.4%, and there’s no denying that sleep should be one of your top priorities while TTC.
7. Reduce stress
Ahh, the number one buzzkill in every situation – including your attempts to get pregnant. If you’re running on stress, that means your cortisol levels are high. This is bad for many things, but especially your progesterone levels. High cortisol = low progesterone, which means issues with conceiving.
To help with stress, consider joining a support group such as our Inito Facebook group. These types of groups can help you feel like you’re not alone in your journey, which is great when it comes to reducing stress.
And there you have it! Some of our top tips and tricks on how you can use timing and more to increase your chances of conceiving. If you have been doing the above and still haven’t been able to conceive after 1 year (or 6 months if you’re over the age of 35), then it’s time to consult a doctor.
- Timing is key when TTC.
- The fertile window includes the four days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and the day after ovulation, and this gives you the best chance of success for pregnancy.
- Chances of fertilization outside the fertile window are low because the lifespan of an egg is short, and the viability of sperm decreases.
- You can determine when you’re ovulating by tracking your cycle, looking at your cervical mucus, monitoring your BBT, using OPKs, and, for the best results, using the Inito Fertility Monitor.
- To boost your chances of conceiving, try to have sex every day or every other day in your fertile window.
- It can take between 2-3 weeks from fertilization to the first day of a missed period to get pregnant.
- To increase your chances of conception, track your fertile window, time sex correctly, keep a healthy diet and lifestyle, manage your weight, get enough sleep, and reduce stress.