Having Sex to Get Pregnant
An Informative guide on the benefits of sex when you are trying to have a baby
Are you interested in having sex to get pregnant? If you are in a heterosexual relationship and you are keen to add a new, tiny human to your family, you’re probably aware that the first step is having sex. We no longer need sex to have a baby, and for many families, for many varied reasons, this will not be the way their children are conceived. But even for those undergoing IVF and other Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART), no matter if you’re in a same-sex or heterosexual relationship, there are benefits to having sex that increase your chances of conceiving.
If you ask Dr. Google how often you should be having sex in order to conceive there is an overwhelming lack of consensus on the issue. A quick look can show up as once on day 14 of a woman menstrual cycle, every 2nd day, as often as you can through your fertile window, and numerous others. It’s no wonder it can get confusing. Here’s some info to help you be informed about some of the details, and then work out what approach will actually fit into your life.
You are probably aware that men without any fertility issues are fertile every single day, but women are only fertile for a few days of every menstrual cycle. Being able to identify your fertile window is therefore pretty key when you are trying for a baby, to make sure you are having sex to get pregnant. A study was done here in Australia where 204 women about to commence IVF were given a questionnaire to see if they could accurately identify their ovulation. Only 12.7% of the women surveyed were able to do this (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22764878). That leaves a staggering 87.3% who were about to undergo IVF that potentially may have just been timing things badly. Given these stats its entirely possible that many cases of ‘unexplained infertility’ could be due to a lack of fertility awareness. Natural Fertility Education or Billings method education can be great tools to help you to identify your peak time of fertility to ensure you are trying at the right time. In my initial intake consultation with clients who are trying to conceive I talk through the basics of Natural Fertility education to ensure they have an appreciation their fertility, and we do ongoing check-ins to see how they are going tracking and identifying their fertile periods. It seems simple, and most think they have an idea, but its vitally important for women to really know and understand their fertility if they are trying to conceive. It’s also a great tool for picking up really simple (and often easy to fix) problems that reduce fertility, like a short luteal phase, or a very small fertile window.
Once you are confident in identifying your fertile window, sex on the day of ovulation offers the highest chance of conception (https://billings.life/en/how-the-billings-ovulation-method-works9/the-peak-of-fertility.html). This is your peak day of fertility, and is the last day of fertile cervical fluid. It’s worth keeping in mind that this is not necessarily the day of your most abundant cervical fluid, that is often a day or 2 earlier. Sperm can last around 5 days in the nourishing and protective environment of fertile cervical fluid, so the more often you try during this time statistically your chances of one of those sperm finding their way to the egg are increased. So, very simply, the more often you have sex during your fertile window the greater your chances of sperm finding ovum. Once ovulation has occurred the egg lives for between 12 and 24 hours, after which the fertile cervical fluid dries up and the environment of the vagina becomes more hostile for sperm.
Being aware of your fertile signs, your fertile window and your peak day of fertility will give you the information you need to have sex at the right time to conceive, but even having sex outside of the fertile times can really increase your chances of pregnancy. Let me explain.
It has been discovered that frequent ejaculation increases the quality of sperm and decreases DNA fragmentation or DNA damage. This is important as the better shape the sperm is in the more likely it will get to where it needs to go, will be healthy enough to fertilise the egg, and produce a healthy embryo reducing the chances of miscarriage due to chromosomal defects. One study found that daily ejaculation for seven consecutive days led to a significant decrease in the DNA damage of sperm (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090630075311.htm). So regular sex, or regular ejaculation, prior to your fertile window will help to optimise sperm quality and ensure it is in tip-top condition for the peak day of fertility and increase your chances of conception and pregnancy. Having sex to get pregnant takes some planning. For some, this may be a fun challenge, for other couples even the idea of 7 consecutive days of sex (or ejaculation) may leave you feeling completely exhausted. In that case just remember its a good idea to ‘clean the pipes’ and have some turnover of old sperm prior to the fertile window to ensure they are healthy, happy and raring to go for your peak day.
Other research has confirmed that unprotected sex can actually trigger ovulation. There is a protein in semen that acts as a hormonal trigger on the female brain to release the egg (http://www.usask.ca/groups/onereproductivehealth/news/2014/team-unlocks-link-between-sex-female-brain.php). Ahh-mazing!
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy sales pitch – the benefits don’t stop there! Regular sex will encourage good blood flow to the reproductive organs in both genders. This is a major goal in most holistic fertility treatment, working to ensure all the reproductive organs are receiving a good flow of blood and nutrients, and receive blood flow to build a healthy uterine lining, and ensure the ovaries and testes are receiving vital nutrients to assist in egg and sperm quality. Regular sex also reduces stress hormones and encourages the release of endorphins and oxytocin which not only make us feel good, but reduces cortisol levels which are vitally important for good hormone regulation, and therefore fertility.
Sex also has a big influence on the immune system. One study found sexually active women had higher Type 2 T-cell counts in their luteal phase (post-ovulation) than women who were not sexually active. These Type 2 T-cells help the body to be more receptive to a pregnancy, as without them the immune system will treat sperm and embryo as foreign entities that need to be removed. The same study found that during the follicular phase (prior to ovulation) Type 1 T-cell count surged in sexually active women which help to protect the women from an illness that can inhibit the chance of becoming pregnant.(https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26385401). All of these processes just…happen. Your body is truly incredible. Blows my mind!
For couples undergoing IVF, sex has the potential to improve your chances of having a baby even if this is not the way you are going to conceive. A recent study conducted in Australia and Spain found couples engaging in sex around the time of embryo transfer had a significant increase in viable pregnancy rates at 6 to 8 weeks than those in the group abstaining. While the initial pregnancy rate itself was not much higher between the control and the research group, this increase in ongoing pregnancy in the sexually active group led the researchers to conclude that semen exposure around the time of transfer aids embryo implantation and development (https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/15/12/2653/2915864/The-effect-of-intercourse-on-pregnancy-rates).
So there it is. Sex is good for baby making in more than just the most obvious way of assisting sperm to meet egg. It has a multitude of emotional and physical benefits that enhance your health and your fertility. Don’t feel pressured into having sex every day, or every second day all month long if that is not your thing. But keep in mind that regular sex is a key element in your quest to conceive, so make it a priority. And enjoy!