Ovulation and When to Have Sex
When to Have Sex to Fall Pregnant?
Whilst it may seem really simple, understanding when to have sex during the menstrual cycle is absolutely critical to successful conception. Of course, there’s been lots of myths and old wives’ tales around when is the exact time that you should be having sex during the cycle? There are tracking apps, there’s digital technologies, there’s changes in the body temperature.
But actually, let’s look at the science. A wonderful study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed us that actually your most fertile time is having sex in the first two days before ovulation or on the day of ovulation itself. But why is this?
When the ovary releases a mature egg, the egg is only actually viable for fertilisation for a matter of hours, and therefore, it’s absolutely critical that sperm is available and ready to fertilise that egg. During the very early follicular phase, the immature follicles begin to mature under the influence of FSH and oestrogen levels rise. But the mid-cycle surge results in ovulation. Once you have the mid-cycle surge, around 36 to 40 hours later, an egg is released and what the New England Journal of Medicine Studies showed us, was that if you have sex just once a month at the wrong time, your chances may be zero. This study clearly showed us that there’s almost a three and a half percent, three and a half times. This study clearly showed us that there’s almost a three and a half times more chance of falling pregnant if you have sex two days before ovulation compared to five days before ovulation.
If you’re trying to time intercourse within your cycle, this can actually be achieved from home. Many of the traditional tests of ultrasound and blood tests are not taken at home, and therefore, using home testing kits or ovulation predicted kits is a really good way to get an understanding of when you may be releasing your eggs.
Now, not all of these kits will work well for every patient. If you have polycystic ovaries, for example, and you have very irregular cycles, this may not work for you, but the easiest thing to do is to buy a test kit and the test kits test for all different types of hormones in the urine. A simple urine test or a P stick can give you the answer very quickly.
To be able to do this, you have to purchase online these test kits, which will essentially read in the urine, some of the important hormones that we have already looked at, which change during the menstrual cycle. Some of the test kits look at rising oestrogen levels which we know happens just before ovulation.
But the key hormone, as we’ve already looked at and discard described is luteinising hormone or LH. When detecting an LH surge in the urine, you know that ovulation is about to happen and you’re about to release an egg. Many couples will use urine LH predictor kits to try to understand the precise timing of the cycle and ovulation, and it’s around this window which will work out your fertile window and your most likely chance of releasing a mature egg and fertilisation happening. And the timing of intercourse is obviously critical to that surge. Leaving it too late, leaving it beyond 12 hours after ovulation has perhaps happened. The egg has no chance of fertilisation.
There are of course, many methods that people use to try to predict ovulation and to time intercourse in their cycle. Aside from the quite expensive test kits that you can buy to use to test your urine at home, there are more traditional methods that people have used for many years. Changes in the cervical mucus we know happen around the time of ovulation as oestrogen rises and a change in the vaginal discharge and mucus is exactly what some people will use to predict ovulation. The accuracy and prediction of this though is not great in comparison to many of the other facets and different tests that we have available.
The other common misconception is that basal body temperature itself is a really good way to monitor ovulation. This relies on you accurately taking your temperature at the same time every day throughout your menstrual cycle, it takes a lot of work. It’s highly inaccurate, and you could actually miss ovulation. So in isolation, body temperature alone or cervical mucus may not be as good as some of the more expensive, but more accurate predicted predictor kits on the market. And so I would always advise that anybody looking to time intercourse in their cycle, invest not only their time, but also money to make sure that they’re getting the most accurate results.
And of course, as we know from those research studies, timing intercourse is important but not make, not to the point that you only have intercourse once a month, as this definitely will reduce your chances of success.
How Often Should I Have Sex?
As well as understanding at what point in your cycle you should have sex and timing sex in the right time for ovulation, a common question I get asked is, how often should I have sex in the cycle? It’s a common misconception that having sex too often may actually damage your sperm count and for some men, this leads to them saving up for the day of ovulation itself.
Unfortunately, if that’s mistimed, the chance of conception has gone but equally, not having sex at all for a long period of time in the hope that this will boost sperm count and boost your chances is also inaccurate. Having sex regularly around the time of the of the actual implantation window is key, and some studies have looked at this and shown us that actually having sex every day or every other is pretty equally successful for most couples around the time of ovulation. So timing sex, and having sex regularly every day or every other day around the implantation window in the lead up to ovulation is really key to actually getting pregnant naturally.