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Best timing of intercourse for pregnancy

Updated: May 18, 2020

Chances of Pregnancy Relative to Ovulation.  Optimal day of intercourse is 2 days before ovulation.  Even on that day, there is only a 25-28% chance of getting pregnant.

Not knowing when a woman can get pregnant could be contributing to difficulties conceiving.  73% of US women cannot identify when during their menstrual cycle they can get pregnant. 25% think they can get pregnant any day during their menstrual cycle (Zinaman, 2019).  Men were not included in this survey.   What days during our menstrual cycle can we get pregnant?  There are 6 days of the month we can get pregnant (the fertile window).  These 6 days include the 5 days before ovulation (when a woman releases an egg) and the 24 hours after ovulation.   When do we ovulate? Ovulation occurs 4 days before or after the mid-point of the menstrual cycle in 95% of cycles.  Ovulation occurs exactly at the mid-point in 30% of cycles. Therefore, if your menstrual cycle is 28 days long, then ovulation occurs somewhere between day 10-18 in 95% of cycles or on day 14 in 30% of cycles. When should we have intercourse to optimize getting pregnant - Intercourse 2 days prior to ovulation would provide the best chances (25-28%) of getting pregnant. - In a study of 330 women trying to conceive, researchers compared the study subjects’ estimated ovulation day to their actual ovulation day.  They found that less than 13% were correct, and only 55% of their estimated days were within their fertile window (Zinaman, 2012).   - If you’re not among this 13% of women that can accurately identify when they ovulate, you could consider other strategies.  - Many health care providers recommend having intercourse every other day starting on day 7 of the menstrual cycle for 2 weeks. - Tracking cervical secretions.  Cervical mucus varies with cycle length and from woman to woman.  The Billings Ovulation and Creighton Model methods require women to subjectively monitor their secretions and monitor their cervical mucus several times a day.  However, monitoring cervical secretions, although a lot of work, is an effective option. If these methods are used correctly, the failure rate is 3 per 100 women.  However, these methods are complex and burdensome. Typical user failure rate is 23 per 100 women. - There are many other products and methods available to identify ovulation.  All have their own pros and cons. Stay tuned for more information in future blog posts. In the meantime, if you're trying to get pregnant, we hope you find a method that works for you!  


Jennings V. Fertility awareness-based methods of pregnancy prevention. Schreiber CA and Eckler K, eds. UpToDate. Waltham, MA: UpToDate Inc. 2019.

Zinaman MJ, Johnson S, Foster L, Zanzi G, and Mollard C. Fertility Knowledge of Women in the United States [6M]. Obstetrics & Gynecology. May 2019. 133(5).

Zinaman M, Johnson S, Ellis J, and Ledger W. Accuracy of perception of ovulation day in women trying to conceive. CMRO. 2012. 28(5): 1-6.

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