Timing is Everything: Managing Timed Intercourse for Fertility

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Fertility specialist Dr. Ralf Zimmermann with Neway Fertility offers tips on this proven method to improve odds of conceiving.

Dr.. Ralf Zimmermann

Timed intercourse for fertility is exactly what it sounds like: Carefully scheduling sexual intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI) – an assisted reproductive technique – around the most fertile days of a woman’s ovulation cycle.

The old adage, “Timing is everything” might not be truer than when applied to the time-honored pursuit of having a baby. In this context, however, managing timed intercourse for fertility may dramatically improve the odds of conception, according to fertility specialist Ralf Zimmermann, MD, Medical Director of Neway Fertility.

Timed intercourse for fertility is exactly what it sounds like: Carefully scheduling sexual intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI) – an assisted reproductive technique – around the most fertile days of a woman’s ovulation cycle. During each monthly cycle, a woman is fertile from about five days before she ovulates until 24 hours after ovulation (fertility window). If sperm are introduced to an egg during that so-called “ovulation window,” pregnancy is possible.

“Since sperm live longer – about 3 days – in the reproductive tract than an egg, these 6 days represent the greatest potential period to achieve pregnancy,” explains Dr. Zimmermann, formerly on the faculty of Columbia University’s Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. “Timing intercourse is simple and cost-effective when compared to other methods that help improve a couple’s chances of conceiving a baby.”

Who is timed intercourse recommended for?
The vast majority of couples under age 35 who try to conceive are successful within a year when engaging in regular, unprotected intercourse. But if that doesn’t happen, they should undergo infertility diagnostic testing, which can pinpoint possible reasons why conception hasn’t yet taken place.

Once testing is complete, it may indicate a couple’s odds of conceiving are higher if certain medical procedures are performed on the woman, man, or both; or if they undergo assisted reproductive techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). But the “fix” may be as straightforward as ensuring that intercourse or IUI – artificial insemination, which places sperm into the reproductive tract after medication stimulates ovulation – is timed to the woman’s most fertile period.

Who should consider timed intercourse? Dr. Zimmermann recommends it for:

  • Women whose fallopian tubes have no obstructions
  • Women whose uterus is normal
  • Women whose partner doesn’t have unexplained male factor infertility

“If timed intercourse alone doesn’t produce pregnancy, IUI is typically the next step,” he says. “But either way, the strategy centers around the same event – ovulation – and making the most of it.”

Success rates for timed intercourse
In a classic 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation occurs on day 14, although it can vary a bit from month to month, says Dr. Zimmermann. “So if you want to time intercourse for fertility, the best approach is to begin having intercourse on day 10, continuing every other day until ovulation and again one day after ovulation,” he advises. “This raises your odds of conception.”

Just how much do those odds go up? Under normal circumstances, Dr. Zimmermann says, the chances of pregnancy are about 10% if a woman has intercourse 5 days before ovulation. But these odds rise to between 14% and 23% following timed intercourse, according to research.

Want to maximize the odds of pregnancy? Consider working with a fertility specialist to make sure you correctly time intercourse during a woman’s ovulation window, Dr. Zimmermann says. “And if you’re 35 or older, consult a fertility specialist if 6 months of regular, unprotected intercourse doesn’t result in pregnancy,” he adds. “Be informed and strategic to make the process of conception as stress-free as possible.”

Neway Fertility is one of New York’s leading fertility centers specializing in customized and effective fertility treatments. http://www.newayfertility.com

Ralf Zimmermann, MD, is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Neway Fertility in New York City.

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