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Timing of sex for conception

Timing of sex for conception

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Finding the best time to conceive means understanding your menstrual cycle and identifying the physical signs you can look for to detect your most fertile days. With this information you can use your vaginal mucous observations, changes in your cervix and possibly counting the days of your menstrual cycle to plan for some well-timed sex with your partner to conceive a baby.



You can also use your temperature changes to detect ovulation (to confirm this has actually happened) and pinpoint your most fertile time of the month as well as to support your other physical observations. The various physical signs are explained in depth in detecting the fertile days.

Therefore, if you remember that:

  • A man's sperm can survive for up to 6 days in a woman's fertile mucous before she ovulates. But the most likely length of time they will survive to fertilise a mature egg is about 1 to 3 days before the egg is released. AND
  • The egg can survive for 12 to 24 hours after it is released. Therefore it is still possible to conceive a baby if you have sex within this time after ovulation. However, you are more likely to conceive if the sperm are already present in the fallopian tubes (lying in wait - so to speak) efore ovulation.

When is the best time in my cycle to start?

Bearing all this in mind you have some facts to work with to determine your most favourable times for sex to conceive your baby. If you are able to time having sex to allow the sperm to be present in the fallopian tubes before you ovulate, you will increase your chances of conceiving sooner.

'Counting the days' may help you estimate when you will be fertile. We have provided the following examples of possible fertile days. However, you may need to adjust the days to fit in with the length of your own individual menstrual cycle.

For example, if you have a:

  • 28 day cycle, you will release an egg sometime during days 12 to 16 of your cycle. Making your most fertile time days 6 to 17 of the cycle, but more likely to be on days 9 to 15.
  • 26 day cycle, you will release an egg sometime during days 10 to 14 of your cycle. Making your most fertile time days 4 to 15 of the cycle, but more likely to be on days 7 to 13.
  • 30 day cycle, you will release an egg sometime during days 14 to 18 of your cycle. Making your most fertile time days 8 to 19 of the cycle, but more likely to be on days 11 to 17.
  • 35 day cycle, you will release an egg sometime during days 19 to 23 of your cycle. Making your most fertile time days 13 to 24 of the cycle, but more likely to be on days 16 to 22.

Counting the days is a rough estimate. You really need to combine this method with detecting your fertile mucous (when it is more runny, clear and possibly stretchy, like 'egg-white') and possibly feeling your cervix changing (to when it is higher, softer and more open). If you do all of these, you may be able to narrow down your fertile days to about 2 or 3 days in each menstrual cycle.

How can we increase our chances of conception?

To increase your chances of conception sooner, it can help if both partners have a healthy diet, get some regular exercise, reduce their stress, work towards achieving a healthy weight range, as well as making appropriate lifestyle changes (such as giving up smoking).

Other things that are supposed to increase your chances of conception sooner can include:

  • The man abstaining from ejaculation for about 2 or 3 days before the woman's most likely fertile phase (to increase his sperm count).
  • Avoiding the use of artificial lubricants during sex, this may interfere with sperm motility. (Having sex underwater can also have the same effect!)
  • The woman having an orgasm before (or at the same time) the man ejaculates. This increases the alkaline secretions in the woman's vagina and uterus, which favour sperm motility and help her uterus to rhythmically contract and draw the sperm up into her fallopian tubes.
  • Deep penetration of the penis into the vagina during sex. This can be achieved by vaginal penetration by the penis from behind the woman (rather than the man and woman lying face to face). This helps sperm move directly into the fertile mucous in the cervix, and reduces the amount of sperm that may 'die off' in the acid environment of the vagina.
  • Leaving the penis in the woman's vagina after ejaculation (until the penis is soft).
  • It is thought that if the woman lies in bed for about 20 to 30 minutes after intercourse, this may provide more time for the semen in her vagina to reach her cervix and uterus. Some women will place a pillow under their buttocks to slightly elevate their hips and use gravity (although this may interfere with your 'post love-making' mood).

While it is possible to become pregnant by having unprotected sex during the woman's first fertile phase if you intend to try and have a baby, this is NOT guaranteed. A normal, healthy, fertile couple have about a 20% chance (or 1 in 5 chance) of becoming pregnant each menstrual cycle (if the woman is over 35 years, then this is decreased, and more so if she is over 40 years). Therefore it is normal and expected for healthy couples to conceive a baby at any time from 1 to 12 months of well-timed, unprotected sex (but more commonly taking 4 to 10 months). It may take even longer than this if the woman is using donor insemination with frozen sperm, or if she is taking prescribed medications to stimulate her ovulation.

NOTE: It is generally recommended that a couple seek medical advice if they have been trying to conceive for 12 months (after having unprotected sex during the woman's fertile phase each month). However, if the woman is in her late 30's to early 40's, you may prefer to seek advice after about 6 to 8 months, to allow you more time to determine if there are any health problems for either the man or the woman.You can read more on this in difficulty conceiving.

 

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