My husband and I are trying to conceive. Obviously when I’m ovulating we have a lot of sex, but this concentrated period seems to mean he’s much less up for it the rest of the month – I’m disappointed.

Trying to conceive can be difficult for a relationship. It’s easy to convert into a spreadsheet with ovulation windows, temperature charts and alarm-inducing fertility trackers. Even if two people are healthy and all their biological stars align, it can take years to conceive. For every 100 couples who have sex two to three times a week, about 20 will get pregnant within a month, 50 will get pregnant after six months, and 80 within a year.

I’m not sure how long the two of you have been doing this, but sticking to a solid intercourse schedule for months is a total turn off. Many people find it difficult to work on demand, and there is evidence that pressure can increase the risk of sexual dysfunction. However, one recent study at Guy’s and St Thomas’s Hospital, which tracked the experiences of couples who had been trying to conceive for more than a year, found that while temporary intercourse significantly increased the likelihood of sexual dysfunction compared to regular intercourse, it had absolutely no effect for the time it takes women to get pregnant.

My advice is to change your approach to this. Cramming all your intimacy into a few days or even a week is not very romantic. And therefore it is not surprising that during the rest of the month, sex loses its appeal and becomes something useful, not joyful. It’s understandable that people try to target sex to increase their chances of getting pregnant, but remember that the human race managed to perpetuate itself for millions of years before we understood ovulation.

There are evolutionary hypotheses that suggest that men do know instinctively when a woman is fertile, whether it’s due to changes in the perception of attractiveness, smell, or pheromones. Last year, Lara Schleifenbaum of the University of Göttingen called them nonsense. She did a pretty convincing study of 25,000 diary entries from 384 couples and found absolutely no evidence that men knew about their partners’ fertility. Although Schleifenbaum wondered whether men notice signs of fertility within a woman’s cycle, she ended up finding a much more compelling explanation for how women manage to get pregnant. While men didn’t notice any changes, women reported a strong mid-cycle increase in desire.

These studies show that if you want to have a baby, micromanaging your ovulation windows is more likely to put you off than to get pregnant. Yes, you need to have sex to get pregnant, but you also need to forget about fertility and make sex fun, not procreation. For at least a few days a month, I suggest you completely give up penetrative sex. Focus on foreplay, oral and manual sex, intimate touching, kissing, massage. Take the pressure off – especially in the middle of the month. If your husband has one time for sex based on the number of days since your last period, tell him that from now on you want to be guided by changes in your sexual appetite. Have sex whenever and however you want, but if you feel an unusually “strong” peak of sexual desire, go for it.

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