There are so many old wives tales surrounding pregnancy and fertility that it can be hard for couples who are trying to conceive to know what to believe. One of the many fabrications held as ‘common knowledge’ is that having too much sex will reduce your chances of conceiving.
Obviously, your opinion as to whether this is fact or fiction will have a huge impact on your bedroom activities while you’re trying to get pregnant. However, if you are one of the many who takes this piece of information as a fact you could at best be abstaining for no reason and at worse, actually harming your chances of conceiving. So, to help you to enjoy the fun part of getting pregnant, we reveal the answer to this question.
Can you have too much sex when you’re trying to get pregnant?
In short, the general consensus from the medical profession is NO, there is no such thing as too much sex when you’re trying for a baby. However, as with most things fertility related the explanation is more complex than it may first appear. For starters, it’s not necessarily how much sex you’re having that’s important per se but instead when exactly you’re having it.
You only have approximately six days during your monthly cycle when you’re classed as being ‘fertile’. These are the five days leading up to ovulation and the day on which you ovulate. When you’re trying for a baby these are the ‘important’ days of your cycle when having sex could result in pregnancy. No matter how many times you have sex outside of this fertile window you’re unlikely to fall pregnant.
The reason for this is because only one egg is released during a menstrual cycle and, after ovulation has taken place, only 12 - 24 hours during which fertilisation can occur. As sperm can survive for up to five days in fertile cervical fluid this gives you approximately six days during which you can conceive each cycle.
When you’re trying for a baby the most important thing is to ensure that there is a plentiful supply of sperm available to fertilise the egg when you ovulate. Some people take this to the extreme and believe that by remaining chaste for most of their cycle and then only having sex on the day they ovulate they are maximising their chances of conceiving. While there is some logic in this thinking, for instance, a plentiful amount of sperm is likely to be produced in the ejaculate, this method is far from being a safe bet.
To begin with there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that sperm motility is improved by regular sexual activity. Additionally, having sex regularly also helps to make sure that healthy sperm are being produced. Last, but by no means least, even if you have the most regular cycle it is incredibly difficult to pinpoint the exact time when you ovulate, potentially meaning that you end up missing your window of opportunity each month.
So how much sex should we be having?
To maximise your chances of conceiving most medical professionals recommend that you have sex every two to three days throughout your cycle. This will help to make sure that whenever you ovulate a healthy supply of sperm will be present in your fallopian tubes to fertilise your egg. However, if you are charting your cycle and have a rough idea of when you will ovulate it can be a good idea to try and have sex every day leading up to, and including the day on which an egg is released as well, just to make sure.
How will I know when I ovulate?
Theoretically, women who have a very regular 28 day cycle will ovulate on day 14. However, in reality most women experience significant variation in the length of their cycle each month meaning that the 14 day rule won’t be accurate.
There are however some methods that can be used to predict when your most fertile window will be. These can be useful as long as you don’t fall into the trap of using your menstrual cycle as a schedule of when you ‘must’ have sex as this takes the fun out of trying for a baby and can just end up making you both stressed which really won’t help your chances of conceiving.
The most basic way to predict ovulation is by counting the number of days in your cycle over a number of months. This will help to give you a picture of how long your cycle typically is. As ovulation tends to take place approximately 14 days from the end of your cycle, counting backwards from the predicted last day should give you an idea of when you will be most fertile.
Monitoring both the amount and consistency of your cervical mucous (you should notice it becomes more abundant and has what can only be described as an ‘egg white’ appearance and texture around ovulation) and the position of your cervix (it should feel soft and be in a low position) can also help you identify your fertile window. Charting your BBT (basal body temperature) can also be useful although do take care as it is easy to misinterpret the results and miss ovulation. Some women also find shop-bought ovulation kits to be useful.
You should also try to listen to your body’s other natural signs. Around the time you ovulate you may notice that your libido is higher than normal, that your breasts feel tender or that you experience a mild ache at one side of your lower abdomen (a sign your ovary is getting ready to release an egg).
By combining all these ‘fertility predicting’ methods with regular sex you should be able to get a rough idea of when you are most likely conceive during your menstrual cycle.