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Should You Wait Until Ovulation to Have Sex?

Figuring out when to have sex can be one of the most difficult and frustrating parts of trying to get pregnant. While it make seem logical to "save up" sperm by waiting to have sex until you're ovulating, it's actually better to have sex more frequently -- although not too frequently -- in the weeks leading up to ovulation. Having sex every two to three days ensures that you'll have fresh sperm waiting and also allows enough time to replenish the supply in between.

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Sperm Life

The testes produce over 12 billion sperm each month, Penn Medicine reports. Once ejaculated, most sperm have 12 to 48 hours to traverse the vagina, cervix and fallopian tube, reach the egg and hopefully and fertilize it. Some sperm might survive for as long as seven days. Sperm production is a continuous process, unlike the once-a-month production of the female egg. Sperm can't actually penetrate and fertilize an egg until around seven hours after ejaculation. That's the amount of time required for capacitation -- the removal of the coating on the head of the sperm that prevents them from entering the egg.

Ideal Timing

Pinpointing the exact moment of ovulation can be difficult, even if you possess every known ovulation prediction gadget. By having sex every other day or so, you cover the possibility of early or late ovulation even if you're not keeping close track of your menstrual cycle. You also ensure that there's always viable sperm ready and waiting at any given time during the month. If you can pinpoint when you're ovulating, having sex every day during that period may help you achieve your goal.

Having Sex Too Often

Having sex more often than every other day or so could exhaust the supply, meaning that, at the crucial time, there could be less than the average 200 to 300 million sperm in the ejaculate. While that sounds like a wasteful number of sperm, just 1 percent of sperm enter the cervix and only 300 to 500 reach the egg, according to the textbook "Langman's Medical Embryology."

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Not Having Sex Often Enough

Waiting to have sex until you're ovulating could mean you miss the optimal fertilization time altogether. Eggs have a shorter shelf life than sperm, living just 24 hours after ovulation. Since it takes seven hours for sperm to reach the egg and be capable of fertilizing it, waiting until you know you've ovulated may miss the expiration time. Abstinence periods of several days can also result in lower sperm motility, the textbook "Clinical Reproductive Medicine and Surgery" cautions. In a study published in the June 2005 issue of "Fertility and Sterility," both sperm motility and morphology -- the appearance of normal sperm -- decreased with 11 to 14 days of abstinence.

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