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.
When should you have sex?
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 conceptionTrusted Source. 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.
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.
What positions are best?
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.
How often should you have sex?
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.
Other tips for getting pregnant
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.
Are some sex positions better than others?
You may have heard that some positions, such as your partner on top (missionary position), are better than others for conception. In fact, there’s no evidence to back these theories up. Experts just haven’t done the research yet.
What experts have done, though, is use scanning to reveal what’s going on inside when you’re doing the deed. Some brave couples volunteered to be scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) while having sex.
The research looked at two positions: the missionary position and doggy style. (Doggy style being when you’re on all fours, and your partner enters you from behind). Common sense tells us that these positions allow deep penetration and are likely to place sperm right next to your cervix (the opening of your uterus). The MRI scans confirm that the tip of the penis reaches the recesses between the cervix and walls of the vagina in both these sexual positions. The missionary position ensures the penis reaches the recess at the front of the cervix. The rear entry position reaches the recess at back of the cervix. It’s amazing what some experts spend their time doing, isn’t it?!
It may be that other positions, such as standing up, or the woman on top, may be just as good for getting the sperm right next to the cervix. We just don’t know yet. So, in the meantime, enjoy some variety in your sex life and keep it fun while you’re trying to conceive.
Do I have to have an orgasm to conceive?
Obviously, it’s very important for your partner to reach orgasm if you are trying for a baby. Some sperm can even leak out before the point of ejaculation. There is no evidence, however, that you need to orgasm to conceive.The female orgasm is all about pleasure and satisfaction. It doesn’t really help to get the sperm to the fallopian tubes and the egg.
Gentle contractions in your uterus can help the sperm along, but these happen without you having an orgasm. So, it’s really not vital for you to reach orgasm after your partner, or even to reach orgasm at all, for you to conceive.
Are there any sex positions that can help us conceive a boy or girl?
There is no evidence, but legends abound! According to one, having sex with the woman on top will lead to a girl, while sex with the man on top will produce a boy. For more on the techniques that actually work, see our article what the scientists say about sex selection.
Should I stay lying down afterwards?
It won’t hurt to try it. The semen is more likely to stay in your vagina and around your cervix than if you get up straight away. However, there are millions of sperm in everAy ejaculation, so there should be plenty in your vagina even if you do stand up soon afterwards.
If you have the time and the inclination, it may be worth staying in bed for up to half an hour after having sex. You could also try lying on your back with your hips raised on a pillow to encourage the sperm through the cervix, uterus and into your fallopian tubes. However, this isn’t a good idea if you’re prone to urinary tract infections and have been advised by your doctor to empty your bladder straight after sex.
Another trick that some women swear by is lying on your back and bicycling in the air with your legs for a few minutes after sex. If nothing else, it should give you and your partner a good giggle. And what could be more conducive to successful baby-making than having fun in bed?
The main thing to remember when trying to conceive, is that having regular sex can really help. Having sex every two to three days increases your chance of getting pregnant within the year compared to having sex only once a week.
If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year or more without success (or sooner if you’re 36 or older), or your periods are irregular, it’s best to see your GP Find out more in our guide to making babies.
When should you see a doctor?
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.