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Timing Sexual Intercourse to Conceive

The old saying "timing is everything" couldn't be more true than when you are trying to conceive a baby. To increase your chances of conceiving, you need to not only understand when you are most fertile, you also need to know how long that window of opportunity is open, and how often you should be having sex.

Studies have found that a woman's fertile period begins approximately five days before ovulation and ends on the day she ovulates, with the greatest chance of success being 2 days prior to ovulation. Most women ovulate 14 days before their next period, not mid-cycle as many women mistakenly believe. You would only end up ovulating mid-cycle if you have a 28-day cycle, and only coincidentally so. But if you have a 35-day cycle, you actually ovulate around day 21, not 17. The same is true if you have a 24-day cycle; you probably ovulate around day 10.

But what if you have irregular periods? You can still figure out an approximate fertility window by keeping track of your cycle over several months. To find your average fertility window, simply subtract 17 from your shortest cycle and 11 from your longest. For example, if your cycle is 28 days one month, 21 days the following month, and 32 days the month after that, subtract 17 from your shortest cycle (21) and 11 from the longest cycle (32). In this instance, you are more likely to be fertile between days 4 and 21 of your menstrual cycle.

Some women are able to tell when they are ovulating by physical symptoms. Signs you are ovulating may include breast tenderness, abdominal discomfort or slight cramping, increase in vaginal discharge that is increasingly similar to the consistency of egg whites, changes in the position of the cervix, and an increase in basal body temperature (BBT).

To maximize your chances of conceiving, determine when you will ovulate and then count back four to six days more to find out when you should begin having sex. Continue having sex at least every other day until you have ovulated. A woman's egg is only viable for approximately 24 hours after it is released from the ovarian follicle, while sperm can live in your reproductive tract for three to five days, depending on the quality and quantity of your cervical mucus. So it's important to have sex a day or two before you ovulate so a fresh supply of healthy sperm are waiting in the fallopian tube when the egg is released.

Studies have shown that it takes about 48 hours for sperm volume to maximize in a man's body, so it's important to not have sex too frequently. However, recent studies suggest that men with low sperm counts shouldn't abstain from sex for too long either. According to a study at Soroka University Medical Center in Israel, after an average of one day's abstinence, the sperm in men with low sperm concentration became less mobile and began to change shape. So men who have below-normal sperm concentration shouldn't abstain from sex for more than a day or two.

However, if planning your sex life around the calendar is causing you stress (which can decrease fertility) and taking the fun out of babymaking, throw the calendar out the window and just be sure to have sex regularly. Most experts agree that, for most couples, having sex two or three times every week, and once a day around ovulation, is the most effective way to maximize your chances of conceiving.



Featured Sites:

Cord Blood Registry
March of Dimes
Susan G. Komen

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