By Dr. Kristi Maas, MD, FACOG
One of the most common questions I’m asked is how to time intercourse. The reality is that if there was a magic pill or potion that we would give it to all patients and 100% of people wanting to get pregnant would do so. That said, there are things that you can control to optimize your fertility.
Timing intercourse appropriately is important to optimize sperm and egg exposure at the peak fertility window. Your most fertile days are the day before your release and egg (ovulate) and the day before that. In men with normal sperm parameters, daily ejaculation usually does not impair sperm function. Abstinence intervals greater than 5 days between ejaculations may impact sperm quality and after 10 days semen parameters are impaired.
The fertile window is the time period where sperm exposure maximizes the chance of pregnancy. This is generally defined as the 6 day time period leading up to the day of egg release, but can vary from woman to woman. Predicting your fertile window can be done with menstrual tracking, ovulation predictor kits, or cervical mucus evaluation. Most applications available for menstrual tracking perform well for women with regular approximately 28 day cycles. They are less reliable for women with longer or shorter menstrual cycles. For women with shorter or longer cycles a good estimate is to subtract 14 from the general cycle length to get the day of ovulation. Daily or every other day intercourse during your fertile window can optimize your attempts of natural conception.
Although there are tales of putting your feet above your head or following a routine after intercourse, there are no validated techniques that enhance your chances. Sperm placed at the top of the vagina can be found in the cervical canal within seconds after ejaculation and will swim to the fallopian tubes within 15 minutes.
One aspect to be cautious regarding is the use of certain lubricants. Water based lubricants can inhibit sperm movement when it is assessed in a lab. Oil or hydroxyethylcellulose based lubricants do not have the same effect and would be recommended for couples trying to conceive.