Sex and Trying to Conceive (TTC): 5 Ways to Stay Intimate on Your Fertility Journey
By Chelsea Skaggs, Certified Professional Life Coach
For couples focused on getting pregnant, sex life dynamics can change. Something that was once spontaneous and without rules can become an experience marked by trying to ensure the best timing, position, sperm count, lube, and more. According to a 2018 study, about 9% of men and 11% of women of reproductive age in the US have experienced some type of reproductive struggle.
Whether you’ve just started trying, or have been on a fertility journey for many months or even years, understanding how to stay intimate with your partner is important. Intimacy can include physical connections and also mental, emotional, spiritual, and social connections. Continuing to be on the same team will allow you to share intimacy in many forms as you try to conceive.
Frequently asked questions
What does trying to conceive (TTC) mean?
The concept of trying to conceive goes beyond the act of sexual engagement. It can also include the practices of tracking, charting, planning, and sometimes utilizing additional fertility resources to improve the chances of getting pregnant.
What is a fertile window when trying to conceive?
The best chances of getting pregnant are during the “fertile window,” which is 5-7 days before ovulation. According to research done by the New England Journal of Medicine, “The probability of conception ranged from 0.10 when timed intercourse occurred five days before ovulation to 0.33 when it occurred on the day of ovulation itself.” For this reason, many couples who are TTC use trackers (like cervical mucus or ovulation predictor kits) to help ensure they have sex on and around ovulation. Ovulation is the phase of your menstrual cycle when you are most likely to get pregnant.
Is having sex every day bad when trying to conceive?
The more you have sex, the more you increase the opportunities for the sperm and the egg to meet. There are mixed opinions and recommendations about whether it’s better to have sex daily, or every other day, for the best chance at conceiving. However, if you know your partner has oligospermia (low sperm count), it’s likely better to take a day or two off between sexual encounters.
Does position matter when trying to conceive?
When you are having sex to conceive, you may want to consider some of the “best” sex positions. Remember that it’s not about the actual position, but getting the sperm close to the cervix. All penetrative sex creates an opportunity for this to happen. So, use the positions you like best to have an enjoyable sexual encounter with your partner.
What lubrication should I use for sex when trying to conceive?
When trying to conceive, the type of lubricants you use is important. Most lube products have a negative impact on sperm motility, meaning sperm can become immobilized, and therefore unable to swim to the cervix. If you can engage in foreplay to encourage natural lubrication, that will likely decrease your need for other lube. If you do want to use a lubricant while TTC, know there are several fertility-friendly lubricants on the market specifically for families who are trying to conceive.
TTC tips for staying intimate with your partner
When you’re in the midst of your TTC journey and learning all about your reproductive health, finding ways to be and stay connected with your partner is vital. Not only does this make the act of sex more enjoyable, but it keeps you on the same team. Also, understanding how your partner feels helps you both be able to better navigate the highs and lows of TTC.
When discussing intimacy, we look at the physical connection of sex, foreplay, and physical pleasure, along with the ways we stay intimate mentally, emotionally, and beyond. Here are 5 ways to stay intimate—even if or when your sex life becomes focused on fertility problems and getting pregnant.
1. Stay connected to what you love about your life and relationship right now
It’s easy to get caught up in family planning and the future. It’s fun to dream about life with a baby. After some time has passed, it’s also normal to start worrying and learning about fertility treatments, reproductive medicine, and any bumps you could face on the road. However, what you do know is the love and connection you have with your partner.
When you start to wander into past or future thinking, take time to recognize and enjoy the things you love about your life in the present. Practice gratitude with your partner. Let them know what you love and appreciate about them. Try not to miss out on the connection, fun, and excitement you can enjoy in your relationship today.
2. Protect your mental health and body appreciation throughout your TTC journey
Having a great connection, and great sex, can be a struggle when we’re not feeling well with our mental health, and with our experience in our bodies. You must make space and intention to stay as well as you can with your mental health. Whether you are starting to use an app to track your cycle, or going through fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), remember that your mind needs time to unwind, and try your best to let go of any stress or anxiety. Talk to your partner about how you’re feeling, and if you think it might be helpful, find a TTC support group, or a mental health professional. Protecting your mind and emotions means you are taking care of yourself, and in return can better show up for your partner.
Similarly, the way you think about and experience your body can impact the way you feel about sexual intimacy with your partner. When you are confident in and kind to your body, you become open to your partner appreciating and loving your body. When you can both share a love for your body, and know how wonderful it is, you’ll be more likely to share meaningful and fun sex as well.
3. Have sex that goes beyond the focus of a positive pregnancy test
While you are focused on conceiving, sex can become functional. And while that might be a necessary part of the journey, try to stay tuned into the other connections that sex brings you and your partner. Sometimes sex might happen to “get it done” at the right time, but make time and space for other sexual encounters. Perhaps you want to set the intention of being playful with your partner because things have felt so serious. Or perhaps you want to set the intention of being emotionally open and receptive with your partner. Setting an intention around the way you want to share that time with your partner can help you enjoy the many ways you can be intimate.
Anytime that’s not in your fertile window is a great time to remember all the other ways you can enjoy sex. Try to let down your expectations and let sex take on different forms.
4. Have sex before the date night (or other social activity) to take off the pressure of the baby-making end goal
Don’t let having sex become a stressor on date nights or for other social activities. In the seasons of life when you are trying to conceive, you do not want to lose out on the fun. To be able to show up to the other things in your life, try having sex before you go out on your date or with friends. If you do not, you might feel stressed about leaving in time to have sex, or making sure you fit it into the window. If you have sex beforehand, there is less pressure (figuratively and literally), and more ability to enjoy the activities you are a part of. Make sure you stay moderate with drinking alcohol while trying to conceive, as heavy drinking is linked to reduced fertility in both men and women.
5. Build in fun and other connections during your fertile days
Look ahead at your calendar to anticipate your fertile window and the time for the best chances of conception. During this time, make sure to also schedule other ways to have fun and connect with your partner. For many couples, it can be easy to fully focus on reproduction during this window, but without other connections and enjoyment, you may become quite stressed. This is a great time to plan a date or organize a night out with your friends. Just make sure you revisit tip #4 so you can have sex in the right window, but also get out for fun too.
On a TTC journey, teamwork is so important
Whether you are brand new to the TTC journey, or you have spent years off of contraceptives and have a full understanding of reproductive medicine, you and your partner are in this together and you deserve to enjoy intimacy in many forms. This means not only having sex, but connecting emotionally, having mentally stimulating conversations, and growing together throughout the fertility process. The love and connection you can share during this time builds a foundation for your future together and the family you lead, no matter what the road is to get there.