Knocking Boots and Knitting Booties: TTC Sex 101 (What you didn’t learn in biology class)

Knocking Boots and Knitting Booties is a bi-weekly Friday series from MsBehaved contributor Brighid about the joys of sex before, during, and after pregnancy! 

When we first started trying to conceive (“TTC”) I was excited and a bit nervous. On the one hand, it meant lots of sex with no excuses. On the other hand, I have very long and irregular menstrual cycles and didn’t anticipate it being “easy.” You see, according to most biology textbooks, a woman will have cycles every 28 days, meaning she will ovulate about 13 times a year. I have cycles that last 33-40 days, meaning I only ovulate 9-10 times a year. Because ovulation is necessary for baby-making, I had 30% fewer chances to get pregnant in a year than the aforementioned textbook case. As a grad student trying to finish her dissertation, and a type-A Virgo who is on a schedule, dammit, I wanted to make sure we were having sex at the right times to maximize our chances.

There are two basic approaches to getting pregnant:  “Spread the Love,” and “Aim and Shoot.” Spread the Love encourages sex every other day from the last day of your period. If you’re being really technical, you want to have sex every other day until you think you’ve ovulated (determined by temperature changes or ovulation test sticks), after which you can tone things down a bit. Most women assume they have 28 day cycles which means 14 days of every-other-day sex. Because sperm can survive up to 72 hours in utero, the idea is that you’ll have a solid bank of the little buggers up near the fallopian tubes when your monthly egg finally bursts free from the ovary.

Aim and Shoot requires a little more planning. With this method, you just plan to have lots of sex, every day to every other day, in the week or so leading up to ovulation. It helps to know when ovulation is coming, something you can predict with ovulation predictor kits or charting cervical position, cervical fluid, and temperatures.

As much as I love to think that we’d be on board for every other day sex for the 26 days leading up to my ovulation, in reality we’re not 22 anymore. This schedule would be very difficult to maintain if getting pregnant was going to take many months, or even years. It’s ironic that after years of worrying that I would get pregnant just by walking past an unsheathed penis, I quickly discovered it’s actually harder to get pregnant than you might think. The biggest frustration: everything kills sperm!

  • Saliva – disrupts the vaginal pH,  resulting in a less sperm friendly environment.
  • Lube – again with the pH. You can use sperm-safe lubes such as Preseed. As a lube-happy couple who has multiple lubes in rotation for different activities, this was a huge negative for us. Sperm friendly lubes are supposed to “mimic a woman’s natural secretions.” That translates into: watered down KY. Sticky, gross, and not that effective as a lubricant.

What this means is that if you’re taking baby making sex seriously: no oral sex on either partner, no saliva as lube, and no good lubes as lube, which puts a major block on the use of penetrative sex toys for foreplay and masturbation, in addition to interrupting our regular sex. Using the “Spread the Love” method would mean vanilla sex with no oral sex, no good lube, no sex toys, every other day for weeks on end. No thanks.

Rather than put up with crappy lube for months on end, we decided to speed up the baby making process by using the “Aim and Shoot” method. As a woman who has no problems with manually checking her on cervix, charting to predict ovulation seemed like the best way to go. So, armed with a copy of Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I entered the exciting world of charting.

For those interested, fertility charting isn’t about just taking your temperature. It uses a series of indicators from hormonally-influenced bodily changes to judge more and less fertile times. Cervical position and cervical fluid can tell you when you are more or less fertile. Temperature shifts can tell you if you’ve ovulated. For those wishing to avoid pregnancy, charting, if done correctly, can provide a fantastic, body-centered, non-hormonal alternative to birth control. For those trying to conceive, charting is a really useful way to figure out when they are most fertile (and thus should have lots of sex w/ no saliva and lots of crappy lube), and when they can go back to their more regular boot knockin’ routines. Resources for those interested in fertility charting:

  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility is both a book and a web-based community. They are pretty much the gold standard in fertility charting both to achieve and avoid pregnancy.
  • Fertility has an online charting course (free) and online charting software (paid after a trial).
In the next installation of Knocking Boots and Knittin’ Booties: Holy crap, we’re pregnant!


  1. shannonhumphreys says:

    I used Fertility Friend’s software for this and my previous pregnancy! Also, the TTC board that I was active on promoted the Sperm Meets Egg method of conceiving, which I believe was aimed at couples who had suffered multiple miscarriages, but everyone on the boards was trying it. It was (basically) starting with day 8 of your cycle, have sex every other day until you got a positive ovulation test result. Then you were meant to do it that day and the next two days. That was pretty much it. I didn’t really get a chance to try it, as I got pregnant right away.

  2. Brighid says:

    I am also a huge fan (and current user) or Fertility Friend and agree that it’s a very easy-to-use program for fertility tracking.

    Despite great success with cervical fluid, positioning and temp, I never managed to get a positive OPK (ovulation perdiction kit – you pee on a stick and the results tell you if you LH is surging and ovulation should happen in 24-48 hours). And getting that temp spike, and the go ahead to dump preseed and go back to non-baby making sex, was something we both looked forward to. Helped ease the pain of giving up booze and reducing caffeine ;).

    • shannonhumphreys says:

      I never managed to get a positive OPK either. I don’t think they exist. Like unicorns or something.


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