For the media

Trying to get pregnant? Do this often

By The Health News Team and Dr. Wendy Shelly | January 31, 2023
Couple smiling together

When two people are hoping to get pregnant through intercourse, they may be flooded with old wives’ tales, ancient myths and lucky talisman. But sometimes, simply following your natural inclinations and your doctor’s advice is the best way to go.

According to Dr. Wendy Shelly, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility doctor affiliated with Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, while some people have difficulty conceiving, the first place to start for those trying is between the sheets. Having regular intercourse, she says, is key to conception.

“If a couple is trying to get pregnant, and the female partner has regular menstrual cycles every 26 to 32 days, I recommend having intercourse every other day or every third day,” Dr. Shelly says. “This should occur from around cycle day 10 to cycle day 20, with cycle day 1 being the first day of full menstrual flow.”

And although having intercourse to get pregnant seems pretty obvious, some couples have more than a few follow-up questions about when and how to have intercourse:

  • Does the time of day matter? “Nope,” Dr. Shelly says.

  • What about position? “Gravity and position do not have an impact on conception,” she says. “Pick the position that is most comfortable.”

  • Does the sex have to be “good” to improve chances of pregnancy? “Female orgasm is not required for conception to occur, nor does it increase pregnancy rates,” says Dr. Shelly.

  • Should we “save up sperm” and abstain from sex to improve chances of conception? “No!” Dr. Shelly says. “Saving sperm is actually a bad idea, as the quality of sperm starts to decrease five days after the last ejaculation and just gets worse from there.

Monitoring your ovulation

So, now that you know “just do it” applies to more than sports, Dr. Shelly offers a few other tips to increase your chance of conception.

Consider monitoring your ovulation, she advises. This can be done by using ovulation predictor kits or tracking your periods, temperature and vaginal discharge (cervical mucous).

Ovulation typically occurs about 12 to 16 days before your period starts. Your vaginal discharge will likely be wetter, clearer and more slippery during ovulation. And your body temperature may also be a little higher.

“While these methods can be helpful to reassure yourself that you are ovulating, it is important to remember not to focus too much on that ‘one day,’” Dr. Shelly says. “Remember, a broader time frame for sperm and egg to meet is best. These methods can also be frustrating and unreliable, so don’t be afraid to try different ovulation monitoring options.”

Additionally, Dr. Shelly recommends couples try to avoid stress when attempting to get pregnant. “Stress associated with trying to conceive can reduce sexual esteem, satisfaction and frequency of intercourse,” she says. “What’s more, a couple’s stress worsens when trying to time intercourse based on ovulation predictor methods or a strict schedule.”

Talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about getting pregnant. While intercourse is the most common way to get pregnant, pregnancy can also be achieved through procedures that don’t require intercourse. These include donor insemination — putting donated sperm directly into the uterus — and in vitro fertilization — joining a female’s egg and male’s sperm in a laboratory and transferring the fertilized egg into the uterus.

If you're planning to get pregnant, get the information you need from Sharp-affiliated physicians at a free Planning for Pregnancy webinar, 6 pm on Tuesday, Feb. 7. Call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277) to register.

Learn more about pregnancy; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the "Sign up" link below.

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