Written on January 24, 2024 by Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.
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Understanding the nuances of fertility can significantly increase the chances of conception. One crucial aspect to consider is how often to have sex, and when to have sex.
The menstrual cycle is one of the key building blocks in the foundation of understanding how often to have sex to get pregnant.
The reproductive system of those assigned female at birth (AFAB) is controlled by a variety of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Rising levels of estrogen cause an egg to be released from the ovary, and the lining of the uterus thickens to eventually accommodate the implantation of a fertilized egg, or embryo. Progesterone helps the uterus prepare for a pregnancy if and when one occurs.
A common misconception is that you can get pregnant at any point in your menstrual cycle, but that isn’t true. The National Health Service provides information stating that peak fertility occurs during ovulation, the phase when an egg is released from the ovaries. Typically happening 12 to 14 days before the onset of the next menstrual period, this period in the monthly cycle presents the highest likelihood of conception.  Per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), ovulation remains relatively uniform across individuals, irrespective of the length of their menstrual cycle .
If you maintain a fairly regular menstrual cycle, there are a handful of ways to monitor your fertility and determine when to have sex to conceive, including but not limited to :
Fertility math might seem confusing, but hopefully, this will help you get your bearings. The fertile period typically covers approximately six days, encompassing the five days preceding ovulation and the day of ovulation itself . This timeframe is based on the understanding that an egg maintains its fertility for a duration of 12 to 24 hours after being released from the ovary, and sperm remain alive in the uterus and/or fallopian tubes for up to five days after sex. 
According to the guidance from ACOG, the window of fertility extends from up to 5 days before ovulation to one day after. For optimal chances of conception, studies indicate that engaging in sexual activity every day or every other day within this six-day timeframe is recommended.
However, ideally, you would have sex as much as you and your partner can during your fertility period (within reason) to maximize the chances of getting pregnant. If you and your partner are comfortable having intercourse every day throughout the month, it is considered beneficial for increasing the likelihood of conception . One reason for this is that menstrual cycles can be variable, so you may not always know exactly when you will ovulate. Additionally, regular ejaculation can ensure sperm is healthy, as semen may deteriorate with ten or more days of abstinence .
While it's recommended to have regular intercourse during periods of fertility and outside of them to optimize chances of conception, it's important to prioritize the well-being of both you and your partner. The added stress of trying to conceive can affect the process and how successful you are in the end at becoming pregnant. Stress, particularly when associated with fertility efforts, has the potential to influence the body's hormonal balance, potentially interfering with the natural reproductive processes. Elevated stress levels can affect the regularity of menstrual cycles, disrupt ovulation, and even contribute to changes in sperm quality.
If the frequency of sexual activity becomes stressful or puts strain on the relationship, you should have an open and honest conversation with your partner. Communication is essential and allows you and your partner to address any concerns that may arise from the pressure of trying to conceive.
If, despite your best efforts, conception remains a challenge, you should seek counsel from a licensed healthcare provider, who can provide personalized advice, assess underlying issues, and offer appropriate fertility treatments if and when they are necessary. How soon to contact your healthcare provider after beginning to try to conceive depends on your age among other factors.
Are you trying to conceive, or are you interested in understanding your hormonal health?
Everlywell's Women's Fertility Test evaluates five crucial hormone levels in individuals AFAB that play a role in menstrual cycles, ovulation, and fertility. This test serves as a valuable initial step in gaining insights into reproductive and overall health.
The hormones assessed include estradiol, luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), and total testosterone. Explore the functions of these hormones on the Women's Fertility Test information page.
Simply order your test, collect a sample with a finger prick, send it to one of our CLIA-certified (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) Labs, and have your results reviewed by an independent board-certified physician in your state. You'll then receive easily understandable, personalized, and actionable results.
Gillian (Gigi) Singer, MPH, Sexuality Educator & Certified Sexologist is an American Board of Sexology Certified Sexologist and trained Sexuality Educator who primarily works in sexual health communications as a health writer. Gillian earned her BA in Gender, Sexuality & Women's Studies and Spanish from Union College (NY), spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar, and then continued her education with Modern Sex Therapy Institutes before earning her MPH from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health with a Certificate in Sexuality, Sexual & Reproductive Health. She is the owner of The Gigi Spot, LLC, a digital sexuality education platform and brand. Gillian aims to educate and use compassion and empathy to foster positive change and development. Her professional interests include sexuality education, curriculum design and consulting, and sex technology.