Timing of sex for pregnancy

Having regular unprotected sex will give you the best chance of getting pregnant, but it may also help to be aware of the time of the month when you are most fertile.

On this page

When to have sex 

If I only have sex during my fertile window am I more likely to get pregnant?

Is there a best position to have sex in to conceive?

Sex and stress 

A note about mental health

When to ask for help

Other things to do when trying for a baby

If you’re worried about fertility

When to have sex 

You’re most likely to get pregnant if you have sex in the days around ovulation (when an egg is released from the ovary), with the day before and the day after being the most fertile days.  

  • An egg lives for about 12-24 hours after being released. The egg must be fertilised by a sperm during this time for you to get pregnant.  
  • Sperm can live for up to 7 days inside a woman’s body, so if you’ve had sex in the few days before ovulation, the sperm can ‘wait’ for the egg to be released.

This is called your ‘fertile window'. We can help you calculate this with our ovulation calculator tool.

If I only have sex during my fertile window am I more likely to get pregnant?

Although there are a number of days in the month when you are more fertile, there has not been a lot of quality research into whether timing sex around the fertility window increases your chances of getting pregnant. A review of the research that has been done found that some studies showed it did help, but more research is needed.

To give yourselves the best chance of success, have regular unprotected sex. This means having sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception.

8 out of 10 couples where the woman is under 40 years old will get pregnant within one year if they have regular unprotected sex. More than 9 out of 10 couples will get pregnant within two years. 

If you find that regular sex is not feasible for any reason, working out the time you are most likely to be fertile in the month is likely to be helpful. This is sometimes referred to as your ‘fertility window’ and there are a few ways you can work out when it happens for you, such as using ovulation sticks and checking your cervical mucus.

Find out more about ovulation and fertility, and apps and tools for conception.

Is there a best position to have sex in to conceive?

As long as the sperm ejaculates fully into the vagina, it can travel through the cervix and womb to the fallopian tubes where it can fertilise the egg, no matter the sexual position.  

It’s thought that sexual positions that allow for deep penetration might be best for conception as they allow the sperm to be deposited as close to the cervix as possible. The missionary position (lying down, woman underneath, face to face) is often recommended for this reason.

After you’ve had sex you might also like to place a pillow under your hips to tilt the pelvis and help the sperm to ‘travel’.

There is no science or research that proves or disproves either of these suggestions above. It is completely up to you whether you wish to try them out.

Sex and stress

Trying for a baby can be stressful, especially if it’s taking longer than expected. Whether it’s pressure to perform, feeling like you’re having sex on a schedule, or anxiety around not being able to conceive, your sex life can end up affected when it becomes all about the babies.

Try to remember that it’s normal for sex to start feeling a little mechanical when you’re trying for a baby. This is something a lot of couples go through and it doesn’t mean there’s a problem with your relationship.  

Tips for stress-free sex

You can’t always prevent stress, but there are things you can do to manage it. Spending time focusing on each other and your relationship, rather than worrying about conceiving, can help.  

Here are a few suggestions for putting the joy back into trying to make a baby.

  • Take time to rekindle the romance. Have a candle-lit dinner at home, invite your partner on a date, or send sexy messages to each other.  
  • Once you have worked out your cycle, book a break away around the next time you may be ovulating. It may help you relax and you may find sex more fun again.
  • Have sex for fun as well as for baby-making.
  • If all the sex is proving too much, try to work out the few days around ovulation to reduce the amount of sex you have on days you are least likely to get pregnant.
  • Some people may feel like a failure if conception doesn’t happen quickly. Even if pregnancy takes longer than expected there should be no blame attached to it. Infertility, if it occurs, can be male or female and is a treatable physical condition like any other.
  • Try not to get anxious about sex and fertility too soon. Most people conceive within a year of trying.

It’s also vital to remember that you and your partner were a couple first, so try to spend time doing other things that matter to you both. This may even help you put things into perspective and remind you why you wanted to start a trying for a baby in the first place.  

A note about mental health

If you take medication for a physical or mental health condition, talk to your doctor or specialist about it before you start trying for a baby.  

Don't stop taking it without chatting to them, as your symptoms could come back or get worse. Your doctor will talk to you about the safest treatment for pregnancy.

Find out more about planning a pregnancy with a mental health condition.

When to ask for help

If you or your partner are feeling stressed or anxious about trying for a baby for any reason, try to give each other time to talk about it.  

It can sometimes help to get professional support. Relate offers a space to talk about your worries together with a trained counsellor.

If you’ve been feeling extra stressed or anxious and it doesn’t go away, or your anxiety is affecting your daily life, it’s a good idea to see your GP. Some people struggle to talk about their feelings, but mental health problems can be treated with the right care and support.

Find out more about planning a pregnancy and managing your mental health.

Other things to do when trying for a baby

If you are trying for a baby there are things you can do to improve your fertility, reduce pregnancy risks and protect your baby’s future health.

Once you start having unprotected sex you won’t know you’re pregnant for the first few weeks. Trying to make some lifestyle changes now will give you peace of mind when you get pregnant.  

Find out more about things to do when trying for a baby.  

If you’re worried about fertility

If you’ve been having regular unprotected sex (every 2 to 3 days) for a year and you’re not pregnant yet, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant, but it’s a good idea to go and see your GP. Make an appointment sooner if:

  • you are over 36
  • you have a known fertility issue, such endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or premature ovarian insufficiency
  • your partner has a known fertility issue, such as low sperm count 
  • you are concerned you or your partner may have a medical problem that might be stopping you getting pregnant
  • you have irregular periods or no periods at all.  

Your GP will talk to you about your lifestyle, health and medical history. They can advise you how you might improve your chances of getting pregnant, and how your partner can improve their fertility.


Find out more about fertility and causes of infertility



NHS Natural family planning (fertility awareness) Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/natural-family-planning/ (Page last reviewed: 13 April 2021. Next review due: 13 April 2024) Accessed: 14 July 2023.

Manders M, McLindon L, Schulze B, Beckmann MM, Kremer JAM, Farquhar C. Timed intercourse for couples trying to conceive. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2015, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD011345. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011345.pub2. Accessed 30 May 2024.

NICE Guideline (2013) Fertility problems: assessment and treatment National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Available at: https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg156/ifp/chapter/Trying-for-a-baby (page last reviewed 6 September 2017) Accessed: 14 July 2023

NHS Stress feelings and symptoms Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/stress/ (Page last reviewed: 22 November 2022 Next review due: 22 November 2025) Accessed: 14 July 2023  

Grace, B et al (2018) You did not turn up. I did not realise I was invited...: Understanding male attitudes towards fertility awareness and poor engagement. Human reproduction (Vol 33 pp. 86-86) Oxford University Press 


Review dates
Reviewed: 07 June 2024
Next review: 07 June 2027