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Misconception: Good Timing

FACT: This sounds so simple, but actually trying to time intercourse for the 12 to 24 hour window of opportunity when the egg is capable of being fertilized isn’t your best reproductive strategy. “It generally works best to have sperm waiting for the egg, rather than having the sperm trying to catch up with the egg,” says Brad Imler, Ph.D., president of the American Pregnancy Association. Sperm have a much longer “shelf life” than eggs, and can survive in the female reproductive tract for three to five days.

So what does this mean in practical terms? Most ob/gyns recommend that couples trying to conceive have sex every other day from the ninth or tenth day of the woman’s cycle (assuming a “classic” 28-day cycle) or approximately five days before you think you’re due to ovulate, up to the day of ovulation. Since sperm can survive for three to five days, having sex every other day for the days preceding ovulation is a way to ensure that live sperm will come in contact with an egg ready to be fertilized.

What about that once-lauded strategy of having men try to “conserve” their sperm by abstaining from sex—or any form of ejaculation—in the days leading up to ovulation? Forget about it, Imler insists. Trying that method means that instead of recruiting a large number of healthy, well-rested sperm for Operation Fertilization, you'll end up with aged, unhealthy, and even dead recruits—not exactly the best way to embark on a successful reproductive mission.

Can you get too much of a good thing? Yes. According to Imler, having sex every day is overkill, particularly if you're trying to minimize the stress of conceiving. Of course, if you're at the stage of baby-making when having sex more frequently is fun, you can take this information under advisement. Sometimes your sex life gets to trump the reproductive rules.