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Fertility basics

How Often Should You Have Sex to Get Pregnant?

Essential Takeaways

  • Men with low sperm count may be able to increase their fertility potential by having sex every day, or even multiple times per day
  • For couples with normal fertility, the chances of conceiving are very slightly higher with daily sex during the fertile window as opposed to every other day—but not enough to justify having sex every day if that feels like too much for you
  • If you don’t track ovulation, your best bet is to have sex every other day starting from when your period ends.

If you spend any time at all looking for fertility advice on the Internet, you’ve probably heard that you’re supposed to have sex every other day before ovulation occurs to increase your chances of getting pregnant. For many couples, that seems reasonable enough, and they don’t give it another thought.

But if you’re the inquisitive type, like we are, you might ask yourself: if every other day is good, wouldn’t every day be even better? Or maybe sex every other day seems like too much. Could you get away with having sex a little less?

How did we land on the consensus for sex every other day, anyway? Is it actually how to get pregnant fast? Or is it one of those Internet rumors that gets repeated so much people start to believe it?

It turns out that the recommendation to have sex every other day is pretty sound, but it’s a surprisingly complex path to get there. A number of factors influence the recommendation, some of them almost contradicting one another. We’ll spell it all out for you below, and reveal why some couples might be better off doing it every day.

Read on, then decide for yourself.

Does your partner need to “save up” his sperm for when you ovulate?

It depends on your partner’s sperm count. Normal sperm count is considered at least 20 million per milliliter of ejaculate. Chances of conceiving are higher with higher sperm counts (this tops out at 40 million per milliliter of ejaculate, above which there is no additional fertility benefit).

Regular ejaculation keeps sperm healthy, especially for men with low sperm count. If your partner goes more than a day or two without ejaculating, his sperm count will rise. But if he had a low sperm count to begin with, so too will the proportion of dead, immotile, or morphologically abnormal sperm increase—hurting your chances for conception.

Contrary to outdated recommendations that men avoid ejaculating for several days in order to “save up” sperm, this may actually be worse for sperm in men who already have a low sperm count.

A study of about 6,000 men found that for men whose sperm counts were already low, sperm motility decreased after one day of abstinence, and sperm quality decreased after two days of abstinence.

In men with normal sperm counts, sperm quality was not affected until 7 days of abstinence.

Bottom line: it’s not necessary to avoid sex for several days before ovulation. And for men with low sperm count, doing so might even be harmful.

Does having sex multiple times a day increase your chances of pregnancy?

Possibly—especially for men with low sperm count. A 1994 study of almost 600 men found that ejaculating within 1 – 4 hours, and again 24 hours later, increased the total motile sperm count. The researches concluded that these men could significantly increase their fertility potential by having sex daily, or even twice a day, at the time of ovulation.

More recent research echoes these findings. A small 2016 study of 73 men found that ejaculating twice in one hour produced more normal sperm and better motility in the second ejaculation.

These benefits were found only in men with decreased sperm counts, so if your guy has a normal sperm count, you shouldn’t count on increasing your chances from having sex multiple times per day. You just might wear each other out!

Is it better to have sex every day, or every other day when you’re ovulating?

Having sex every day during your fertile window (usually the five days leading up to the day of ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself) gives you a 25 percent chance at conceiving. Doing it every other day gives you slightly lower chances, 22 percent.

In other words, your chances of getting pregnant are only very slightly better when you’re having sex every day versus every other day of the fertile window.

That means that if it’s hard for you or your partner to find the motivation for daily sex (we don’t blame you!), you can rest assured that your chances are basically the same when you have sex every other day.

And if you’re purposefully having sex more than once during your fertile window, you’re already better off than couples who only have sex once per week without any regard for when ovulation occurs. Couples who have untimed sex once per week have only a 10 percent chance of conceiving in a given month.

You can track your fertile window with ovulation tests, vaginal discharge (aka cervical mucus), an ovulation tracker or the Ava bracelet. If you have a hard time tracking your fertile window or just don’t feel like it, just have sex roughly every other day all month long. With this schedule, you’re guaranteed to have sex at some point during your peak fertile time.**

Sex when you’re not ovulating

You might think that what you do in your non-fertile window doesn’t have much of an impact on your chances of conception. In fact, it does! A recent study shows, somewhat radically, that sex changes a woman’s immune system in ways that improve her chances of conceiving.

Don’t burn yourself out

One of the biggest problems that couples who are trying to get pregnant struggle with is a feeling of burnout when it comes to sex. When we asked a group of Ava users how they felt about having sex for conception, they used words like “robotic,” “tedious,” “stressful,” and “emotionally draining.”

For most couples, the slight increase in conception probability with daily sex versus every-other-day probably isn’t worth it. Then again, if you’re like the Ava user who told us “I’m always in the mood when I know I’m ovulating!” then hey, do it every day! (As long as your partner has a decent sperm count.)

how often should you have sex to get pregnant?

*Interesting fact: sperm concentration for a 35-year-old man went from an average of 73.6 million/mL in 1989 to 49.9 million/mL in 2005!

**In this scenario, your chances for conception *might* be slightly higher if you had sex every day during your fertile window. But without knowing exactly when that is, you’d have to have sex every single day for months on end just to make sure you were always hitting it. (Your fertile window, that is. You’d already always be hitting it.) Anyway, the modest increase in conception probability you’d gain probably isn’t work the decrease in sexual satisfaction most couples feel when they attempt to have sex that much.

 


View sources

Sexual activity modulates shifts in TH1/TH2 cytokine profile across the menstrual cycle: an observational study.

Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation — Effects on the Probability of Conception, Survival of the Pregnancy, and Sex of the Baby

Decline in semen concentration and morphology in a sample of 26,609 men close to general population between 1989 and 2005 in France.

Sperm counts and fertility in men: a rocky road ahead

Relationship between the duration of sexual abstinence and semen quality: analysis of 9,489 semen samples

Semen characteristics in consecutive ejaculates with short abstinence in subfertile males.

How often should infertile men have intercourse to achieve conception?

Lindsay Meisel

Lindsay Meisel is the Head of Content at Ava. She has over a decade of experience writing about science, technology, and health, with a focus on women's health and the menstrual cycle. Her work has been featured on The Fertility Hour, The Birth Hour, The Breakthrough Journal, and The Rumpus.

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