Common Misconceptions About Conception

Raise your legs after. Drink cough syrup before. Eat oysters. Avoid exercise. Take that laptop off your lap. Boxers or briefs. Quantity. Quality. Time of day. Time of month. Those are just a sampling of the countless age-old myths and old wives’ tales you’ve heard when it comes to the dos and don’ts of conception.

You’ve likely gotten an earful from a respected family member when trying for a baby. Perhaps, a tip from an excited co-worker. You’ve surely come across endless online articles, blogs or so-called studies. With so much information and misinformation out there, how can you best separate fact from fiction?

Passed down from person to person, generation to generation, even the most over-the-top, how-to pregnancy tricks have found their way into the mainstream. Generally speaking, DO NOT put much stock into all of that. For the most part, no harm will come if you do. But, as long as fertility is not in question, your chances of conceiving will be just the same if you ignore the noise and just go about it the old-fashioned way.

Start by knowing the facts about fertility – relax and be patient

The same information is often repeated from website to website – usually without a single citation of evidence. Where are the studies? What’s the scientific justification?

Given this backdrop, where do you start? Have a dialogue with your gynecologist. Ask questions, build trust and get educated. Understand the key differences between being fertile and infertile.

An important statistic to stress is that on average, couples will try to conceive for five months before getting pregnant. Some will surely be sooner, some will definitely be longer. It’s not unusual at all for conception to take up to eight months. But, as you’d suspect, some hit the panic button after eight days or less.

Getting pregnant is an emotional time for all involved and patience can wear thin. If you’re young and healthy, there’s no reason to get stressed. Blaming it on stress isn’t helpful. Don’t ask – What’s wrong with me? Or even, what’s wrong with him? For most hopeful parents-to-be, especially younger ones, it’s not until you hit one solid year of trying that a red flag should be raised. That’s a long time to keep trying without worry, but about 80% of healthy couples will conceive by this time.

Reality is that there are three primary factors that can either slow down or prevent the conception process and potentially lead to infertility. Each have about an equal likelihood, and similar impact on one’s ability to get pregnant.

  • First are factors related to the male’s sperm – a low sperm count or a combination of count, mobility and form.
  • Second, would be problems involved with a woman’s ovulation.
  • Last, the female could be experiencing issues with obstruction or some sort of functionality deficiency within her fallopian tubes.

When a couple has hit the one-year mark and is still unable to conceive, most gynecologists suggest coming in to the office to discuss and schedule tests specific to one or more of these possible scenarios.

Timing is critical – but, not so much what time or how many times a day

Without a doubt, fertility is age related. For a woman in her 20s, infertility rates are low, about 5-10%. That jumps about 10% for every decade of her life. Age factors are far less problematic for men, of course provided the male partner doesn’t already have issues related to sperm. For women, the older you get, the ability to conceive does diminish, as ovulation occurs less frequently.

As in life, timing is everything when it comes to making a baby. It’s arguably the most important factor. On average, women with a 28-day menstrual cycle will ovulate on or close to day 14. So, make sure you try to conceive during the days leading up to that point in time and just beyond. How many times within each of those days you try, or what time of day you try does not matter. If you hear that you should have sex three times per day, or first thing in the morning – know that it’s pure myth. Sex every other day is not helpful. Our best advice is to aim for once a day. After all, it takes only one sperm to fertilize an egg.

Taking this a step further, when you try to conceive has bearing. But, how you try truly does not. There is absolutely no scientific proof to support the best positions during or immediately after sex, relative to success in getting pregnant. Simply put, the millions of sperm from a male ejaculation travel and do their thing, regardless if the woman is on top, on her back, or lifts her legs after. Could it hurt for a woman to keep her legs elevated for 20 seconds after sex? If it gives you good vibes, keep them held high.

The last point relative to frequency, there is truth to be told that once you get pregnant, your chances of repeating will be more successful.  Anytime there’s proven fertility, the odds are in your favor the next go around. Of course, everything is subject to your body’s behavior and continued good health. Excessive weight gain or obesity can be a small factor for some people, due mostly to the hormonal imbalance.  Pay attention to your body and ensure your menstrual cycle is normal.

Oysters. Berries. Bananas. There is no correlation between what you eat and a woman’s ability to get pregnant – or a man’s capacity to produce more potent sperm. But, if you like them, make your stomach happy.

On the subject of consumption, some people believe in the pregnancy powers of sipping cough syrup. Well, there is a basis for truth but there’s no medical evidence to support the notion that it will boost your chances. Years ago, fertility tests looked at a woman’s cervical mucus as an important factor. Cough syrup does contain an ingredient known to loosen cervical fluid and, thus, theoretically enable sperm to travel more freely. We no longer review that as part of today’s work up.

Finally, let’s address a question as old as time – boxers or briefs? Is it true that men who wear tight underwear will lower their sperm count? There is a potential link between raised temperature in a man’s scrotum and reduced sperm mobility. In most cases, however, it’s not enough to make a difference in a man’s chances of producing offspring. So men, don’t think twice about going for a bike ride or occasionally sitting in a hot tub. Don’t sweat the heat from a laptop or even a cell phone in your front pocket. If you’re that concerned and want to beat the heat, wear looser underwear. It will give you peace of mind, but won’t really be a factor beyond that toward conceiving a child.

Stay the course and be positive

There are so many myths and baby-making tricks out there. Some probably date back centuries and have withstood the test of time, while new ones pop onto the radar in the blink of an eye. It seems that everyone has or knows about a timeless trick or magic solution.

For the most part, no harm will come from following any of them.  But like most things that involve the human body, making a baby does not involve magic and myths. Just trust the process and stay the course. It’s worked since the beginning of time, and we strongly suspect will remain so until the end of time.

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