Timing matters a lot when it comes to starting a family

Timing sexual activity for family planning: What you need to know?

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The timing of sexual activity is one of many variables that affect fertility. The term “fertile window” refers to a cycle period, from a few hours after ovulation to around five days prior, during which conception is possible.

Urine ovulation tests (dipstick devices that can detect changes in hormones released into the urine, signifying when ovulation will occur), fertility awareness-based methods (FABM) (including calendar tracking, monitoring changes in cervix fluid and body temperature), or determining when the egg is released on ultrasound are some of the techniques used to determine a woman’s cycle period. This review aimed to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of scheduled sexual activity for expectant couples in terms of pregnancy, live births, adverse consequences, and overall quality of life.

The new study evaluated the benefits and risks of ovulation prediction methods for timing intercourse on conception in couples trying to conceive. The study was conducted by scientists from Oxford University in collaboration with the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.

It included seven randomized controlled trials involving 2,464 women or couples who had been trying to conceive. According to the study, using urine ovulation tests to time sexual activity around the fertile period boosted the likelihood of pregnancy and live birth to 20% to 28% from 18% when not using them. This was notably true for women under 40 who had just been attempting to get pregnant for a year.

Tatjana Gibbons, a DPhil researcher at Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health and lead author, said: “Many couples find it difficult to achieve a pregnancy, which can lead to concerns about their fertility.”

“The finding that a simple and easily available urine test can increase a couple’s chance of successful conception is quite exciting because it can empower couples with more control over their fertility journey and could potentially reduce the need for infertility investigations and treatments.”

Professor Christian M Becker of the Nuffield Department of Women’s & Reproductive Health said“The high threshold of evidence required in a Cochrane review makes even this moderate quality evidence for the effectiveness of urine ovulation tests quite impressive, as well as surprising considering how long they have been available for.”

The results should, however, be read with caution, the researchers advised, as several of the studies were supported by the producers of the urine ovulation test.

The use of FABM in timed intercourse compared to intercourse without ovulation prediction and the effect of the other strategies in the study, such as timed intercourse on clinical pregnancy (ultrasound-confirmed pregnancy), were similarly deemed to have insufficient evidence.

Journal Reference:

  1. Tatjana Gibbons, Jane Reavey, Ektoras X Georgiou, Christian M Becker et al. Timed intercourse for couples trying to conceive. Cochrane. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD011345.pub3