Trying to Conceive

When Should I Have Sex to Get Pregnant?

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Fertility and Your Menstrual Cycle

The most fertile time of your menstrual cycle occurs around ovulation, when your ovaries release a mature egg for fertilization. This window varies from woman to woman, depending on the length and regularity of her menstrual cycles. For those with a 28-day menstrual cycles, ovulation usually occurs between days 13 to 15.

Once an egg is released, it has 12 to 24 hours to be fertilized before it dissolves. Sperm, on the other hand, can stay alive in the body for 3 to 5 days, making a woman fertile for about 5 to 7 days.

Best Time to Have Sex to Conceive

Because sperm lasts several days in the human body, and a woman’s egg only lasts a maximum of 24 hours, the best time to get pregnant is a few days before ovulation occurs. Couples should start having sex five days before ovulation until the day after ovulation, and should try to have sex every other day.

Detecting Ovulation

To make the most out of each session of sexual intercourse, you need to know when you are ovulating. There are several methods to detect the start of ovulation. Some are natural, while others are at home kits.

Changes in cervical mucus. Cervical mucus can be an important indication of ovulation. Before ovulation, cervical mucus is dry and sticky. As ovulation comes closer, it may take on a creamier consistency. Right before ovulation, cervical mucus tends to take on the consistency of a raw egg white and may become more slippery. Charting your cervical mucus can be helpful because it allows you to spot patterns from one menstrual cycle to the next

Charting Basal Body Temperature (BBT). Charting your BBT can help you detect patterns of ovulation. You can buy a special BBT thermometer, which detects temperature to the tenth degree. Take your temperature the first thing each morning when you get out of bed. You can detect ovulation by an increased temperature of 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit, which will usually be the highest temperature over the last six days. 

Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPK). These at-home tests allow a you to predict when you will ovulate. The test works by measuring the luteinizing hormone (LH). When the test indicates that LH has risen sharply, ovulation should occur in the next 12 to 48 hours.

Physical signs of ovulation. Physical signs of ovulation may vary for each woman, but may include light spotting, abdominal cramping, breast tenderness, and bloating.

If you’re experiencing trouble conceiving or suspect an infertility condition, you should consider consulting with a fertility specialist.

Dr. Alan Copperman is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with a long history of success in treating infertility and applying fertility preservation technologies. He serves as Medical Director of Progyny, a leading fertility benefits management company, and co-founded and serves as Medical Director of RMA of New York, one of the largest and most prestigious IVF centers in the country. Dr. Copperman’ is also the Vice Chairman and Director of Infertility for the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Chief Medical Officer of Sema4, a health information company. Dr. Copperman has been named to New York magazine’s list of Best Doctors 17 years in a row. He has been recognized by his peers and patient advocacy organizations for his commitment to patient-focused and data-driven care. He has published more than 100 original manuscripts and book chapters on reproductive medicine and has co-authored over 300 scientific abstracts on infertility, in vitro fertilization, egg freezing, ovum donation, and reproductive genetics.

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