We’ve all heard at least one old wives’ tale about how to get pregnant. Elevate your hips for 20 minutes after intercourse, maintain a certain position during intercourse, use a lubricant to help the sperm swim faster. The list of myths goes on and on! The truth is, these just simply aren’t the truth. It all comes down to good ol’ science.
As a women’s health nurse practitioner at a reproductive center, I’ve heard countless falsities about trying to get pregnant. I put together a list of the top conception myths I’d like to bust, plus several facts that I’ve found to be most helpful to couples during the conception process.
Infertility does not only affect women. In fact, men can be affected in up to 30% of infertility cases.
Intercourse prior to ovulation is the key to conceiving, since an egg only survives 12 to 24 hours after it is released and sperm can live about five days in a woman’s body. Many of the things we do to keep healthy can also improve the health of sperm. Men can try some of these tips:
- Don’t smoke or use illegal drugs, especially anabolic steroids.
- Avoid contact with toxins, such as pesticides and heavy metals.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink.
- Eat a healthy diet and keep your weight under control.
- Keep your scrotum cool, because heat slows down the creation of sperm. To do this, avoid hot baths, wear boxers instead of briefs and try not to wear tight pants.
Pregnancy losses are fairly common, occurring in 15-25% of pregnancies. Of those losses, about 80% happen in the first three months of pregnancy.
If you have experienced two or more pregnancy losses, see your doctor or specialist for further evaluation.
Although pregnancy losses are fairly common, at least 85% of women who have miscarriages go on to have subsequent normal pregnancies and births.
The Top Conception Myths
Myth: Just relax and it will happen, don’t stress over it.
While stress can certainly alter a woman’s cycle, it often takes significant life events (such as a serious illness, death of a loved one, moving, etc.) to cause the reproductive system to shut down, making conception more difficult. Being unable to successfully conceive when desired can be stressful all by itself, but it is usually not enough to reduce fertility.
Myth: Eating specific types of food, or planning intercourse at a particular time, will promote a certain gender of your baby.
Many people claim that there are methods of conceiving that will allow you to determine the gender of your baby. However, no valid research studies have been able to demonstrate this claim is true. Studies that have tried to prove this claim have success rates between 49-51%, the same chances as not trying to influence gender outcome.
Myth: Prenatal vitamins are not important until you become pregnant.
The folic acid in prenatal vitamins is recommended three months prior to conceiving to allow an accumulation in your body. Folic acid can help prevent spina bifida and other birth defects.
Myth: It is easy to conceive.
On average, with each menstrual cycle, there is only an 18-20% chance of conceiving. There are multiple factors (such as health of the egg and sperm, receptivity of the uterus, hormone levels and more) that have to work together for conception to occur. Researchers have defined the fertile window as days 10-17 of a woman’s menstrual cycle. This fertile window is comprised of the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation itself.
Myth: After your first pregnancy, you’ll have no trouble conceiving again.
Secondary infertility can happen, and it is often correlated with advancing age. Pregnancy becomes more difficult after the age of 30 and even more difficult after the age of 35 because of the quality of the eggs. A female has all of her eggs for her lifetime at birth. Sperm quality also declines with advancing age.
Find more preconception and pregnancy resources here.
Written by: Lauren McCord, WHNP-BC, MSN, Nurse Practitioner at Midwest Reproductive Center & Labor Nurse in The Birth Place at OMC