Ovulation and Intercourse Timing
With natural conception, it is, of course, important to know when ovulation is happening. Knowing this allows you and your partner to make love around this time in your cycle. Most women are aware of the changes in their bodies when they are nearing ovulation. Cervical mucous is more abundant, and often takes on the classic egg white appearance. You may experience increased libido at ovulation. While this cannot be generalized to everyone, in my opinion, having a strong interest in sex at ovulation is a positive sign of good health and fertility.
Ideally, cervical mucous changes would be all you need to tell you when it’s best to have sex. But for some of you, determining your ovulation time may take a bit more work. Tracking cervical mucous in combination with the first morning temperature, also known as basal body temperature (BBT), is considered to be a fairly accurate way to determine ovulation time. The thermometer can be placed under the tongue or in the center of the armpit (axilla). Most thermometers will beep once the reading is complete, and the temperature is recorded on the corresponding day on the BBT chart.
It can take a while to get into the habit of taking a BBT every morning, as it has to be done upon waking, before getting out of bed. (I’ll often suggest to patients to put up a sign with “BBT” written with glow in the dark marking pens, next to their alarm clock.)
Once you are adept at charting when you are nearing ovulation, you and your partner can plan to make love in the days leading up to ovulation, as well as the day of ovulation. The standard recommendation used to be to have sex every second day or so, but now what is considered more important is not to miss the day(s) when the cervical mucus is abundant. Abundant cervical mucous means you are secreting plenty of vaginal fluid with the consistency and appearance of egg white. It could be clear or it could be a combination of clear and white.
You’ll know you are ovulating if your temperature drops on the day of ovulation and then rises by 0.5 to 1.0 degrees Celsius the next day. Keep in mind that if you are planning to have sex when you see the temperature rise, you may have missed your ovulation.
If taking morning temperatures and charting doesn’t appeal to you, there are a number of ovulation testing kits on the market. These kits monitor luteinizing hormone (LH) which is the hormone that will peak just before ovulation. The main drawback is that the testing strips are expensive. I will often recommend that a couple use the testing kit for at least two cycles. The egg white type of cervical mucous should coincide with the LH peak, and once you’ve seen this happen for two cycles you can be fairly confident about tracking ovulation by just noting the appearance of the cervical mucous.
You should also be aware that you may ovulate one month on day 14, but on day 18 or later the following month. There could be a number of reasons for delayed ovulation, including traveling or facing a stressful situation, and it can be a normal occurrence during a woman’s reproductive life. I will encourage you to simply trust your body’s signals, chart as best you can, and focus more on having a satisfying sexual relationship with your partner.
Learning your body’s signs leading up to ovulation and charting your temperature during your natural cycle is also important if you think you are ovulating on a certain day based on previous fertility treatment cycles. When taking fertility medications ovulation may happen earlier or later than the actual ovulation time during your natural cycle. Believing that ovulation is set for day 12, for example, may result in missed opportunities for conception if it turns out ovulation is actually taking place on day 16 or later of the cycle.
Additionally, if you are noticing that cervical mucous is not that plentiful, then it’s a good idea to use a fertility friendly lubricant. There are two lubricants on the market, one is Pre-seed and the other is Zestica Fertility. Both are formulated to mimic the more alkaline pH of cervical mucous. In Canada, it is somewhat difficult to get Pre-seed, but Zestica Fertility is sold in most Shoppers Drug Marts. Whichever product you choose, a lubricant that helps sperm to stay alive and increase chances of natural conception could be the additional aid you need. It’s also important to create a sperm-friendly environment: vaginal sprays and douches as well as scented tampons and artificial lubricants should be avoided as they might endanger sperm survival.
I am not a sex therapist, but I have counselled couples on love-making when they express concern about libido, maintaining erections, and sexual positions. I have learned from my patients that libido and issues with erectile dysfunction (ED) are often improved with a healthy diet and lifestyle. In fact, patients who adopt a mostly vegetarian diet seem to have the best improvements when it comes to libido. This also appears to be true for males with ED.
I believe this is due to improving circulation. Diets high in animal fats are being implicated in heart disease. One of the first signs of coronary artery disease in males is ED. Therefore it is a simple step to consider eating vegetarian to prevent coronary artery disease and ED.
When I am asked about what sexual positions are the best for conception, my answer is always the same. The best positions are the ones where the couple is enjoying sex. Usually this means adopting sexual practices that do not put a strain on the muscles and the skeletal system. I would also advise that after intercourse, you do not immediately get up. Try to relax and stay in a laying down position for at least 20 minutes.
I hear of women who after sex are advised to lay for a half hour with their bottoms propped up by a bunch of pillows, or with their legs positioned high up against a wall. Gravity does help to keep the seminal fluid around the cervix. But if holding this position is putting undue stress on your body, then don’t do it. Being close to one another after sex, holding each other, cuddling, talking, and laughing together probably offers the best opportunity for sperm to get to the waiting egg, in my opinion. I think being relaxed and happy is the kind of environment natural conception is most likely to take place in. Add to this good nutrition and lifestyle, and my hope is that your chances of baby-making success will be as strong as your health and your libido.