The best time to conceive a child is when you are both physically and mentally prepared for it. Our page on having a baby tells you how to prepare your body for conception, actually getting pregnant is a different matter.
Tracking your menstrual cycle is a key part of determining when you are ovulating and consequently when is your best time to conceive. You need to get to know your body's natural fertility signs in order to determine this. Fourteen days into your cycle high levels of estrogen trigger the release of the egg which then lives for approximately 12-24 hours. This is the tiny window of opportunity you have to fertilize the egg. However, sperm can live for five days in ideal conditions and so your chances of conceiving are best when you can predict exactly when you will be ovulating and plan intercourse around this time.
Our page on determining your ovulation calendar gives advice on how to record your basal body temperature (BBT), cervical secretion changes, and cervical position in order to establish the day of ovulation and the best time to conceive. You will increase your chances of conceiving if you have intercourse right before and on the day of ovulation. Stress, however, can hinder conception so even if you've been trying for some time, stay relaxed and don't pressure yourself. If your body is calm and at ease then it can take care of the rest.
Advice on using the timing and position of intercourse, eating habits and herbal remedies to influence the sex of your child is available everywhere from your mother's kitchen to the writings of the ancient Chinese. However, none of the methods have been scientifically proven to work.
One commonly known method is that of Dr. Landrum Shettles who concluded that sperm carrying the female chromosome live longer than those carrying the male chromosome. Anyone hoping for a girl should aim to have intercourse two to three days before ovulation; those hoping for a boy should plan intercourse the day before or on the day of ovulation. Frequent intercourse is advised for those hoping for a girl and ill-advised for any couple hoping to conceive a boy.
Sperm carrying the female chromosome are also more acidic than sperm carrying the male chromosome. A number of products have been developed for application during intercourse in order to deactivate unwanted sperm. For example, if a couple would like to conceive a male child the lotion would be more alkaline in order to neutralize the sperm carrying the female chromosome. Again, however, the manufacturer's claims are unsubstantiated.
Other folk remedies say that acidic and salty foods help conception of a girl and hinder the conception of a boy, while caffeinated drinks are supposed to activate the male sperm if drunk right before intercourse. Another common tip is that doggy-style sex supposedly delivers the sperm closer to the egg - effectively giving the faster swimming male sperm a head start. Orgasms are also supposed to help the male sperm as secretions of alkaline mucus into the vagina give them favourable conditions over the acid-loving female sperm.
In reality there is little you can do to influence the gender of your child; understanding your body though will help your decide the best time to conceive. For any expectant parent the joy of being pregnant and the baby's health and well being will soon be a much greater preoccupation than any factor influencing the baby's gender.