Sex is fun and exciting... until it isn’t. When you have sex to try to get pregnant, things can get complicated and stressful in a hurry. You take your temperature, track your cycle, circle calendar dates, Google your many, many questions about TTC sex, and try to keep your parter — and yourself — happy through it all. Sex to get pregnant is complicated, sure, but it doesn’t have to be so frustrating.
If you have questions about how it all works, you’re in the right place. How do you get pregnant, anyway? How can you make TTC sex exciting? It’s all here in this handy guide — tips, tricks, and straight-up facts to help you get through this time and to the grand finale. (You know, a baby.)
Talking To Your Partner About TTC Sex
First and foremost, before things get too stressful with all of the tracking and timing of TTC sex, have a chat with your partner. The whole process can be so frustrating that some couples may actually hate having sex while TTC, but knowing how to talk to your partner about TTC sex can help.
“Talk about the big elephant in the room with your partner. Don’t let stress get in the way of making sex enjoyable for you and your partner,” certified sex educator Dainis Graveris tells Romper. “While sex can be a stress reliever, anything that is stressing you or your partner can be an instant libido killer. To make sex more exciting, address any stressors that are taking a toll on your sex life.”
Just as important as exploring things that are stressing you both out, you can also talk about hopes and dreams of a new baby to help you both visualize your future. Continue to date each other and prioritize your relationship by having fun together and take some of the focus off of just sex, sex, sex — and don’t be afraid to crack a few jokes either. All of this could eventually lead to sexy time.
“Once folks are really working at conceiving, it's another job to do,” OB-GYN Dr. Mary Jane Minkin tells Romper. “So do try to have fun as best you can — and tell each other when you are stressed out.” She adds that her top recommendation to couples is just to “go have fun” because “it's the first time that most of them haven't had to deal with contraception, so enjoy!”
Now, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of conception.
Understanding Your Cycle
Every person’s menstrual cycle is different, but generally speaking, the first thing you need to know about your cycle before you can figure out the best times for conception is what your average cycle length is. To do this, you’ll need to keep track of your cycle over about a three-month period.
Start counting days on the first day that you bleed and end counting the day before you start bleeding on the first day of your next period. That day is the last day of your cycle. If you do this for three months and divide the total number of days by three, you’ll have your average cycle length.
For example, if you count 29 days the first month, 30 the next, and 28 the third, your total day count for three cycles is 87. Divide 87 days by three cycles and your average cycle length is 29 days. This number can help you figure out the best time to have sex to get pregnant.
Then, you can determine the midpoint of your cycle to determine ovulation. “While the follicular phase is different for each woman, the luteal phase is more or less the same — 14 days. So, if your average cycle is 28 days, you’re most likely to ovulate between days 14 and 16,” Graveris tells Romper.
Experts say that you’re most likely to conceive on the day that you ovulate and the two to five days before, so knowing when you’re likely ovulating is important when TTC, so that you can time sex accordingly (or at least try to). “The goal for couples TTC is to have live sperm inside the reproductive tract when you ovulate,” Graveris says.
When you ovulate, your ovaries release an egg that travels through your fallopian tube and into your uterus. “A mature egg only survives for 12 to 24 hours,” Graveris explains. “You can get pregnant when sperm meets with your egg and fertilizes it. Sperm can live up to three to five days in the fallopian tube.”
Tracking your cycle with a calendar or app is one way to determine when you’re ovulating, but you can also pay attention to your body’s natural signs and signals by doing things like measuring your cervical mucus and oral temperature tracking. As mistakes can and do happen when you’re tracking your cycle to determine ovulation, using ovulation tests can be helpful and also cut down on the stress of it all.
Minkin explains that “hitting ovulation well can help increase your odds” of getting pregnant. “Ovulation identification can be very helpful, as you can truly time ovulation well,” she says. “Get an ovulation predictor kit and the test will tell you when you are going to be ovulating within a few hours. The First Response test is quite accurate.”
Sex Frequency & Timing
How often should you have sex when TTC? The short answer is as often as possible. The long answer is a bit more complicated.
“If you only have sex when you think you’re fertile, you might be wrong and miss out on more chances of getting pregnant,” Graveris says. “Having more sex — even spontaneous sex — not only increases your desire, but also makes it feel less like a pre-ovulatory chore.”
But, if you’re keen to time it all out, what’s the best time to have sex to get pregnant?
“Generally, the best time to conceive is when you’re at your most fertile. There’s the so-called ‘fertile window’ that comprises five days before you ovulate and the day of your ovulation,” Graveris says. “Simply put, having sex during this period increases your chances of getting pregnant.”
Best Sex Positions & Post-Sex Practices
While experts say that certain sex positions don’t actually make conception more likely, it’s definitely fun to switch things up when you’re having sex to get pregnant. Plus, gravity could definitely be on your side with sex positions like missionary or deep-penetration positions like doggy style. There’s even some evidence that relaxing and comforting positions like lying side-by-side can help.
“But seriously, don’t be afraid to try different sex positions and experiment with your partner,” Graveris recommends. “Ditch the schedule and find new scenery to keep things spicy. Don’t overthink and overcomplicate TTC, because too much stress can also get in the way.”
“Sometimes having sex ‘on demand’ (like to a calendar) is tough, so you may need a little lubricant help,” Minkin tells Romper. “And it's important to pick the right sperm-friendly lubricant, like Pre-Seed, as many lubricants can block sperm motility, so you want a sperm friendly product.”
What about your actions after sex? Well, there’s no exact science here, but experts do have some recommendations. “Standing up probably doesn't hurt too much, but that being said, we do usually encourage the woman to lie down for 10 to 15 minutes after sex to help the ‘little swimmers’ get going up into the cervix,” Minkin explains.
Peeing after sex is typically recommended to avoid getting a UTI, and it likely won’t hurt your chances at conception if you do so. Showering after TTC sex is also totally fine, but it may be best to skip or postpone a soak in the bathtub. And don’t worry, even if you leak fluid after sex, the sperm will still go where it needs to.
Ways To Boost Fertility
“Both you and your partner should start taking care of your mind and body if you want to boost your fertility,” Graveris says. Both Graveris and Minkin recommend that couples who are TTC both get enough sleep, exercise, eat healthy foods, cut back on caffeine, cut out alcohol, and stop smoking — these are all natural fertility boosters.
Experts agree that whether or not you live a healthy lifestyle can truly make a difference when it comes to conception. “Women who are significantly overweight or underweight may have trouble ovulating well, so getting as close to your ideal body weight can be helpful,” Minkin explains.
If you’ve done everything you know to do and are wondering just how long it takes to get pregnant, there’s just not an exact answer. However, Minkin explains when to speak with your doctor if you are TTC. “In general, we suggest that women ages 35 and up try to conceive for about six months; if they haven't conceived by then, we would encourage them to seek a consultation with a gynecologist. For women younger than 35, we suggest trying for a year,” Minkin tells Romper.
Myths About Getting Pregnant Sex
Lastly, the myths about TTC sex that you can find in different corners of the internet can be misleading for couples trying to conceive. For example, no, masturbation won’t impact ovulation. In fact, some solo fun might increase your libido and make trying to conceive sex more enjoyable.
Graveris also emphasizes that couples shouldn’t be afraid to have sex outside of the “fertile window” on account of male fertility. “While holding off on sex increases your man’s sperm count, his sperm motility may also be affected.”
Another key point to remember is that everyone’s experience when TTC is different. Keep in mind that regardless of what you might have heard, not everyone will have implantation bleeding that occurs when you get pregnant. It could happen, but it doesn’t always.
Also, don’t try to take a pregnancy test right after you have sex, no matter what some online forum says. For the best results and least chance at false negatives, you can take a pregnancy test about 10 to 14 days after you have conception sex, assuming you had sex on or around the time you ovulated.
Oh, and if you’re concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine affecting your fertility, experts agree that it’s safe. To date, there is no evidence that the vaccines will negatively impact your chances of conceiving.
Mary Jane Minkin, MD, OBGYN, Clinical Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology at Yale University
Dainis Graveris, certified sex educator, relationship expert at SexualAlpha