A blog about timed intercourse for those who are trying to get pregnant, with evidence and resources.
Page originally published: 20 March 2015. Revised and republished: 15 September 2023 to include the latest Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews. In systematic reviews we search for and summarize studies that answer a specific research question (e.g. is paracetamol effective and safe for treating back pain?). The studies are identified, assessed, and summarized by using a systematic and predefined approach. They inform recommendations for healthcare and research., NICE guidance, resources and take-home points.
It can be hard, wanting to get pregnant and finding it’s not happening – or not as quickly as you’d like. Eight in ten couples in the general The group of people being studied. Populations may be defined by any characteristics e.g. where they live, age group, certain diseases. will conceive within a year, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), if the woman is under 40 years old and they have regular vaginal sex without using contraception. Of the two couples that don’t get pregnant in the first year, one will conceive in the second year. NICE also says that having vaginal sex every two to three days gives you the best chance of getting pregnant.
What is timed intercourse?
It’s only possible to conceive during the ‘fertile period’ of about five days before ovulation (the release of the egg) and a few hours afterwards. Many people practice ‘timed intercourse’ by predicting ovulation and having sex during the fertile period in the hope of conceiving.
Ways of predicting ovulation include measuring hormones in urine, taking your temperature and having ultrasound scans.
How well does it work and are there any downsides?
A team from Cochrane looked at the latest evidence on Timed intercourse for couples trying to conceive (published September 2023) to see what research studies can tell us about the benefits and risks of ovulation prediction methods for timing intercourse to increase the chance of pregnancy. They wanted to know its effects on pregnancy rates but also whether it has negative effects on quality of life, stress levels and so on.
They found seven studies with 2464 women or couples trying to conceive. They compared timed intercourse with intercourse without ovulation prediction.
Here’s what they found:
- timing intercourse around the fertile period, identified using a urine ovulation test, probably improves the chances of pregnancy and live birth in women under 40 trying to conceive for less than 12 months compared to intercourse without ovulation prediction
- there isn’t enough evidence to say what are the effects of timed intercourse on pregnancy (confirmed by ultrasound), harms such as stress, or quality of life
- the effects of other fertility awareness-based methods, such as calendar tracking and monitoring changes in body temperature and cervix fluid, are also uncertain
A word of caution
As many of the studies were funded by the manufacturer of ovulation prediction devices, the authors urge caution in how much you trust their results and note that future studies may change the conclusions of the review.
How does timed intercourse compare with intra-uterine insemination (IUI)?
Intra-uterine insemination (IUI) is often used as a Something done with the aim of improving health or relieving suffering. For example, medicines, surgery, psychological and physical therapies, diet and exercise changes. for couples with unexplained subfertility. It involves choosing the best quality sperm and putting these into the womb. Doctors and researchers are still trying to find out if IUI is better than timed intercourse for these couples to improve their chances of having a baby.
The authors of a Cochrane Reviews are systematic reviews. In systematic reviews we search for and summarize studies that answer a specific research question (e.g. is paracetamol effective and safe for treating back pain?). The studies are identified, assessed, and summarized by using a systematic and predefined approach. They inform recommendations for healthcare and research., Intra-uterine insemination for unexplained subfertility (published March 2020) looked at the evidence for this. They found that, in couples with unexplained subfertility, it’s uncertain how IUI and timed intercourse compare (whether or not drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries) in terms of improving the chances of having a baby and without an unacceptable increase in the chance of having a multiple pregnancy.
Find out more
- The NHS website has useful information on Trying for a baby, including:
- Healthtalk has a section on Getting pregnant, including interviews with women sharing their experiences.
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Sarah Chapman has nothing to disclose.