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When Should We Be Having Sex?

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Fig1 From Wilcox et al. Timing of intercourse in relation to ovulation NEJMed.

There are a number of questions that commonly crop up from patients seeking infertility management at the clinic, and I thought it might be helpful to consider them over the next few weeks from a medical perspective. I’ll start with a very useful one…

What is the optimum timing of sexual activity to achieve a pregnancy?

The chance of conception from a single act of intercourse rises from 7 days before ovulation, until it reaches a peak at about 48 hours before ovulation. Following ovulation the chance of conception falls to zero by about 12 hours post ovulation.

This is because fertilization only occurs within hours of ovulation, but sperm can live for up to a week in the female reproductive tract. This was shown in a well-known study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995. This article also addressed another common question, “Can the sex of children be influenced by the timing of intercourse in relation to ovulation?” finding that it cannot.