When it comes to getting pregnant, there are many sex tips out there that supposedly increase your chances of conception. We’ve asked Dr. Ali Gannon to help us bust the most common trying-to-conceive (TTC) sex myths so you can focus your efforts on medically proven tips verified by a fertility specialist. So, let’s get candid – let’s talk about TTC sex.
Medical contribution by Alexandra Gannon, M.D.
Alexandra Gannon, M.D., is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) and board eligible in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). Dr. Gannon earned her medical degree from University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City. She then completed her residency in OB/GYN at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
1. TTC Sex Frequency
Fertility Myth: Having sex too frequently can hurt male fertility, so slow down the pace.
Physician Fact Checked: It’s the opposite. When it comes to understanding how TTC sex frequency impacts sperm concentrations and motility, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) published guidelines explaining that:
- Daily ejaculations showed no impact on concentration and motility
- 2-day abstinence intervals showed no impact on concentration and motility
- 5-day abstinence interval showed a decline in concentration and motility
Women with regular menstrual cycles can increase their likelihood of conception with a single act of intercourse during the fertile window. Keep in mind, fertile windows aren’t a one-size-fits-all calendar and vary among women.
Try this instead: Rather than focusing on frequency, turn your attention toward pinpointing your fertile window and ovulation. Ovulation predictor kits are a great way to read when you’re ovulating during your fertile window because it detects the luteinizing hormone (LH).
Fertility Myth: Women have reached their peak fertility on the 14th day of their cycle.
Physician Fact Checked: Not exactly, because women’s cycles can vary. A general rule of thumb is that your fertile window is 6 days leading up to ovulation. The golden days for getting pregnant are the 2-3 days leading up to ovulation.
Try this instead: Let’s say you have a 28-day cycle: you’re most likely ovulating anywhere from days 14 to 16. Knowing that your fertile window begins 6 days leading up to ovulation, we recommend having sex with your partner starting on as early as day 9 of your cycle, depending on your peak ovulation day. ASRM guidelines tell us that there’s a 9.4% probability of pregnancy from a single act of intercourse on day 12.
3. Sex Positions
Fertility Myth: Sex positions matter, particularly ones that offer deeper penetration.
Physician Fact Checked: Not exactly. Any position where sperm dispenses into the vagina is a great position. There’s no conclusive evidence at this time pointing toward certain positions being better than others when TTC. Sperm can reach the cervical canal mere seconds following ejaculation regardless of position.
Try this instead: When you have baby-making on the mind, it’s better to stick to positions that are within your comfort zone rather than running the risk of TTC sex fatigue.
4. Post-Sex Wind Downs
Fertility Myth: Laying down or holding in your pee after sex will help you get pregnant faster.
Physician Fact Checked: Please, get up and go pee after intercourse – do whatever it is you need to do because there is no scientific evidence to support that laying down or holding in your urine increases your chances of getting pregnant.
After the male partner ejaculates into the cervix, it only takes minutes for sperm to reach the Fallopian tubes. Sperm are fast swimmers, and they can survive in a woman’s uterus for up to 5 days. Meanwhile, an egg can only become fertilized between 12 to 24 hours after being released from the ovary.
Try this instead: Timing is quite literally a science, so make sure you calculate your fertile window accurately.
Fertility Myth: You need a “fertility friendly” lubricant to get pregnant.
Physician Fact Checked: For complete and full disclosure, you don’t need a “fertility friendly” lubricant to get pregnant. Let’s get real, vaginal dryness is a real thing and sometimes sex is painful. So rather than putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation, let lubricants be your friend.
Try this instead: If you need to use a lubricant, “fertility friendly” lubricants containing hydroxyethyl cellulose are a smart option, but they’re not your only option. You can also reach for the mineral or canola-based lubricants. Try to steer clear of water-based lubricants.
6. Female Orgasms
Fertility Myth: Having a female orgasm increases your odds of getting pregnant.
Physician Fact Checked: If you experience a female orgasm during TTC sex, more power to you, but it won’t help you get pregnant faster. Although female orgasm may promote sperm transport, there is no known relationship between orgasm and fertility.
Try this instead: Keep an eye out for cervical mucus (or discharge) that appears when you and your partner are in the groove or anticipating ovulation. The probability of conception is highest when slippery, clear discharge is present. A study found that pregnancy rates were highest (roughly 38%) when sex happened on these peak mucus days.
7. Feeling Pregnant Shortly After Sex
Fertility Myth: You may be able to “feel pregnant” shortly after having sex.
Physician Fact Checked: It can take several days after sex for fertilization and implantation to occur. Spotting and increased discharge after sex is perfectly normal but they don’t indicate pregnancy. It can take up to 6 days following intercourse for the sperm and egg to combine and create a fertilized egg. Add on an additional 3 to 4 days for the fertilized egg to successfully implant within the uterine lining.
Try this instead: Implantation of the fertilized egg along the uterine lining typically occurs anywhere from 6 to 12 days after sex. Keep an eye out for any pregnancy symptoms like spotting or cramping after then. Don’t be alarmed if you don’t experience symptoms very early on – that’s perfectly normal, too.
8. TTC When You’re Age 35+
Fertility Myth: Women who are age 35 and older need to switch up their approach to sex to better their chances of conception.
Physician Fact Checked: This is not true. How you have sex at any age will not affect your pregnancy outcomes. One of the biggest factors that indicate fertility is the number of eggs in a woman’s ovarian reserve at any given age. The number and quality of eggs in a woman’s ovarian reserve slowly declines with age, with a steeper decline beginning around age 35. This combination of reduced egg quality and decreased ovarian reserve is why the rate of conception lowers over time.
Try this instead: Because age is such a critical fertility factor, it’s important to act fast. Testing your follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) levels will provide insight into your current ovarian reserve. While these basic fertility tests reveal egg counts, they can’t assess egg quality. Egg quality is largely a reflection of age.
9. Family History
Fertility Myth: Both my parents come from large families, so I should be able to get pregnant easily.
Physician Fact Checked: Genetics certainly play a part, but there’s more to it. This rate of change in a woman’s ovarian reserve is partially predetermined by genetics. Women with a family medical history of early menopause have a higher chance to begin the fertility decline at a younger age.
Try this instead: If you’re having trouble with conceiving, be your biggest advocate and seek help. Being proactive about your fertility and family planning will help you save valuable time and energy in the long run.
10. Seeking Help
Fertility Myth: You just need to relax, and pregnancy will come.
Physician Fact Checked: You are most in tune with your body, and if you feel like something is wrong, you have nothing to lose with seeking help.
Try this instead: A fertility specialist will assume infertility is present when a woman is:
- Under 35 with regular cycles, unprotected intercourse and no pregnancy after 1 year
- 35 to 39 with regular cycles, unprotected intercourse and no pregnancy after 6 months
- 40 or over with regular cycles, unprotected intercourse and no pregnancy, more immediate evaluation and treatment are warranted
There are other factors that play into infertility like preexisting conditions or male-factor infertility. But just know that you are not alone – 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. If you think it’s taking longer than it should to become pregnant, schedule an appointment with one of our fertility specialists by completing this brief form or calling 1-888-761-1967.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2021 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of January 2023.