Maybe you’ve started charting your fertility and now you are approaching your fertile window. You don’t want to miss ovulation so you get busy in the bedroom. How often should you have sex to increase your chances of becoming pregnant? Is too much sex a bad thing? Do you need to wait a certain amount of time in between?
When are your fertile days?
Sperm are viable for up to 5 days outside the body. This depends on the woman’s cervical mucus and the health of the sperm. Fertile cervical mucus is egg-white in consistency and clear in color. This cervical mucus is able to nurture sperm and provides an optimum medium for sperm to swim. So this means that sex up to 5 days before ovulation can result in pregnancy. However, the likelihood of sex resulting in pregnancy drastically increases the closer it is to ovulation. Sex that occurs within 2 days of ovulation is much more likely to result in pregnancy than sex 5 days before ovulation.
Once ovulation occurs, the egg can only survive for up to 24 hours. Because of this fertility drastically begins to decrease once ovulation has occurred and you only have 24 hours following ovulation to become pregnant. The 5 days before ovulation plus the 24 hours following ovulation equals a total of 6 fertile days. How do you know when you are fertile and when ovulation occurs? Check out my article on the “Fertility awareness method,” which explains how to chart your fertility. You can also use ovulation predictor kits. But remember- once ovulation has already occurred you only have 24 hours left in your fertile window.
Below is a chart from the New England Journal of Medicine depicting the likelihood of pregnancy when sex occurs 5 days before ovulation (-5), up to the day of ovulation (0).
How Often Should You Have Sex to Get Pregnant?
Although frequent ejaculation was thought to decrease the concentration of sperm and total sperm count, studies have not found that this decreases the probability of pregnancy.
In fact, one study, from 2005 looked at the sperm from over 9,000 men and concluded that in men with suboptimal sperm counts, semen collected after only 1 day of abstinence had the highest semen quality parameters. After 2 days of abstinence the quality of sperm begins to decrease. In men with normal sperm quality, abstinence does not provide any benefit, and abstinence of more than 7 days causes a decrease in sperm quality. Having sex every day is optimal for increasing your chances of becoming pregnant. This also decreases your chances of accidentally missing your fertile window.
However, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine “Even with daily intercourse, most ovulatory menstrual cycles (an estimated 63 percent in our study) may be incapable of producing a conception.” So even if you did everything perfectly, some months just aren’t meant to me.
|Frequency of Sex During Fertile Days||Probability of Becoming Pregnant|
|Daily Sex During Fertile Days||37%|
|Sex Every Other Day During Fertile Days||33%|
|Sex Once During Fertile Days||15%|
Source: The New England Journal of Medicine (December 7, 1995 — Vol. 333, No. 23). Allen J. Wilcox, Clarice R. Weinberg, Donna D. Baird
How Often Should You Have Sex When You’re Not Fertile?
During your fertile period you want to try to have sex daily. This will increase your chances of becoming pregnant. But what about during your non-fertile period? Studies have found that frequent ejaculation (either vaginal penetration or not) improve the quality of sperm. According to an Australian study “Daily sex (or ejaculating daily) for seven days improves men’s sperm quality by reducing the amount of DNA damage. Abstinence can cause unwanted effects on the quality of sperm. Those sex-ed teachers had it all wrong- abstinence is not the answer!
The Bottom Line
Now you are probably thinking I’m crazy- expecting you to have sex every day in order to increase your chances of pregnancy and increase your sperm quality. My recommendation is- try not to go through very long periods without sex or ejaculation. Ejaculation doesn’t have to be vaginal sex and it doesn’t always have to be daily. Once you are past ovulation you can slow it down to once every 2-3 days. As you are approaching the fertile window, after your period has passed, begin ramping it up and once you are in your fertile window aim to have sex daily.
A word of caution
If sex begins to feel like a burden slow it down. Maybe take a month off. Reconnect with your partner. Get away for the weekend. Try alternating one month of frequent sex and one month of casually trying. The last thing I want is for this to increase tension in your relationship and stress in your life.
European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). (2009, July 1). Daily Sex Helps Reduce Sperm DNA Damage And Improve Fertility. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 1, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075311.htm
Wilcox, A. J., Weinberg, C. R., & Baird, D. D. (1995). Timing of sexual intercourse in relation to ovulation—effects on the probability of conception, survival of the pregnancy, and sex of the baby. N Engl J Med, 1995(333), 1517-1521.