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Timing Sex for Pregnancy

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by Jennifer A. Redmond, Editor-in-Chief, May 13, 2010

According to some reports, 20 percent of women who are trying to conceive don’t get pregnant because they aren’t having sex at the right time.

If you’re trying to have a baby, have sex two to three days prior to ovulation, and 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. That's what's recommended.

A good rule of thumb? Have sex every other day around the time of ovulation.

The key here is knowing when you're ovulating.

What is ovulation?

During ovulation, your body releases an egg from your ovary and it travels to your fallopian tube. That’s where it awaits fertilization by sperm.

Your partner’s sperm will travel through your cervix, into your uterus and to the fallopian tubes.

If you’ve timed sex correctly, and barring any medical issues, the sperm and egg will meet in the fallopian tube and that one egg will be fertilized.

An egg can live in the fallopian tube 12 to 24 hours and sperm can survive 2 to 3 days.

How do I know when I’m ovulating?

Here are some ways to tell if you are ovulating:

    1. Despite the fact that you may have been told that ovulation occurs on day 14 of your menstrual cycle, that's not necessarily the case. If you have a 28-day cycle you probably ovulate on day 13-15, but that will vary with longer or shorter cycles. (For reference, day one is the first day of your period or menstrual bleeding.)

    2. Your body may send you signals that you are ovulating:

      You may notice an increase in cervical mucus, and that its consistency changes from creamy and wet to white and slippery;

      Your basal body temperature (BBT) will rise; and

      You may experience breast tenderness or even slight cramping.

    3. Many women track ovulation by charting their BBT, monitoring cervical mucus, and using ovulation predictor kits.

The Bottom Line

Charting and monitoring can provide you helpful information, and then it’s a matter of timing sex right.

And importantly, if you’ve been trying to conceive for 6 to 12 months, have a history of miscarriage, or any fertility risks, don’t wait it out. See a fertility doctor.