Planning to get pregnant can be lots of fun, including the having more sex part.
However, sometimes increased intercourse can take a toll on your body.
“When patients are trying to conceive, especially if they are [consulting with] a doctor or using a fertility app, most of them are having sex every other day during their fertile window,” Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, an OB-GYN in Mississippi, told Healthline.
Yet, with most people living busy lives, Richardson says that many couples don’t allow enough time for foreplay during sexual encounters.
“It takes about 20 minutes for female arousal, which can release a woman’s own natural lubricants in the cervix and vagina,” she said. “Since the frequency of sex increases when trying to conceive, time becomes an issue and most couples are using some kind of lubricant to [speed things up].”
The type of lubricant you use, though, can make a difference when it comes to getting pregnant, stresses Richardson.
When vaginal lubricants were originally developed, they were solely designed to provide lubrication for intercourse.
“We weren’t thinking about how they affect pregnancy, sperm, or eggs, and vaginal lubricants actually contained a spermicide, which absolutely helped people not get pregnant,” explained Richardson.
While most lubricants don’t contain spermicides anymore, she says many contain ingredients like petroleum, propylene glycol, glycerin, parabens, silicone, and Nonoxynol-9 (sometimes abbreviated as N-9). All of these ingredients can affect sperm motility — the ability of sperm to move properly through a woman’s reproductive tract.
“These [ingredients] decrease the ability of the sperm to make it through the product and into the cervix to meet the egg,” Richardson said. “They also can decrease the viability of the sperm, so even the sperm that actually can move through the product are not as viable when they actually meet the egg.”
In addition to avoiding lubricants that contain these ingredients, Richardson recommends using a sperm-friendly, glycerin-free, PHP-balanced, isotonic lubricant, such as Pre-Seed, made by First Response.
“I like this brand because they also make products that are for fertility testing, ovulation testing, and pregnancy testing,” said Richardson. “Now, most lubricant companies are making a product that they consider sperm-friendly or fertility-friendly. Some use the term TTC (Trying to Conceive).”
In addition to using the right lubricant, Richardson suggests keeping the following in mind when trying to become pregnant:
1. Take prenatal vitamins
Richardson suggests taking prenatal vitamins three months before you start trying to conceive.
The Mayo Clinic notes that women of reproductive age should take prenatal vitamins regularly.
The vitamins can help ensure that your body gets enough vitamins and minerals to create a healthy environment for a growing fetus should you become pregnant.
For instance, compared to multivitamins, prenatal vitamins tend to include more folic acid, which helps prevent neural tube defects. They also contain more iron, which supports the growth and development of a baby.
2. Avoid using products in the vaginal area
Products that can affect your vaginal PH or that could be harmful for sperm, such as vaginal creams or douches shouldn’t be used when trying to conceive.
“You cannot get pregnant in a hostile vaginal environment. Sometimes women don’t think about the other things that they’re doing, like using vaginal washes, that can create a hostile environment for pregnancy,” said Richardson.
3. Use an ovulation kit
While many women think that they ovulate on day 14 of their cycle, everyone’s ovulation day is different and based on the length of their cycle.
“Some couples are having sex on the wrong days,” said Richardson.
To ensure you understand which days you should be having sex, she recommends using an ovulation kit or app.
“Women can have a 21-day cycle all the way up to a 35-day cycle,” Richardson said. “If you use an ovulation kit, on the side of the box, it will tell you if your cycle is 21 days, 28 days or 31 days, these are the days you should test for ovulation. It doesn’t always fall on day 14.”
Ovulation apps can also help you determine this.
Dr. Jane Oh, an OB-GYN in Illinois, notes that determining when you ovulate can also help with comfort during sex because around the time of ovulation, the vagina produces a lot more discharge than other times of the month.
“Normal estrogen release in the follicular phase of the cycle should produce abundant discharge perfectly suited for sperm to travel around,” Oh told Healthline. “The time around ovulation should be when a woman produces more discharge than usual and should not even need lubricant — egg-white discharge, thin and slippery, that is ideal for sperm to get to the egg.”
4. Have your partner get tested first
If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant, Richardson says ask your partner to get tested.
“Most people think about the female being the problem with infertility, but you always want to have the male tested first,” she said. “It’s the easiest and cheapest, and you want to make sure his sperm count is healthy before you go down the expensive road of female infertility workup.”
Oh agrees, noting that sperm can often have poor motility.
“Omega-3 supplements like Carlson’s cod liver oil can help a lot with this. The tail of the sperm is made almost entirely of long-chain omega-3 fats. Cod liver oil has this in spades and in natural form,” Oh said.
5. De-stress and have fun
Both physicians point out that the stress some couples experience when trying to conceive can affect infertility.
“Sometimes, the best thing to improve fertility is to examine why diet and lifestyle is disrupting normal hormonal balance. Hint: Stress is often a big factor,” said Oh.
Richardson adds that relaxing and keeping sex fun scientifically increases your chance of becoming pregnant.
“When you’re stressed [physically or mentally], even if there are not any physical symptoms of stress, your cortisol levels are high and inflammatory markers are high, and that has been shown to decrease fertility,” Richardson explained.
She points out how some couples spontaneously get pregnant after they stop trying.
“We get caught up in counting the days and telling our partner we have to have sex today, and it becomes more mechanical and a job, and takes away from the intimacy from the relationship, and what trying to getting pregnant should be,” she said. “Try to make time for foreplay. Try to enjoy the experience.”