You only have to spend a bit of time on a fertility forum to read conflicting advice and opinion about many aspects of fertility. How many times have you wondered whether what you are reading is fact or fiction? Here are eleven popular fertility myths and their factual answers:
- Myth: You only need to have sex around the time you ovulate. Fact: You should have sex every 2-3 days throughout the cycle. Why? Regular sex keeps sperm healthy. You want to maximize the health of the sperm so that at the time of ovulation you have healthy sperm to fertilize the egg. New research also shows that the more sex you have the more fertile you are!
- Myth: You always ovulate on day 14 of a cycle. Fact: Womens' cycles can really vary in length. If they have a long cycle then they will ovulate later than day 14 and if they have a short cycle they will ovulate earlier. This is another reason why it is important to have sex every 2-3 days as you never know when you might have a longer or shorter cycle than normal and ovulation can easily be missed. In actual fact the majority of couples are just not having enough sex in a month to conceive.
- Myth: It's all in your head. Why don't you relax and then you'll get pregnant. Fact: Medical reasons are most often the cause of fertility problems; however, recent research does show an increased association between stress and infertility. That said, it is very unhelpful and upsetting when someone tells you to ‘just relax’.
- Myth: Infertility is always the woman’s problem. Fact: Actually it’s pretty even. 35% of infertility is associated with the woman and 35% with the man. A mixture of both partners in 20% of cases and 10% unexplained infertility.
- Myth: Infertile couples will never be happy or fulfilled. Fact: Being unable to conceive can fill a couple with sadness, grief, anger, despair, and even a sense of personal failure. While it's normal for infertile couples to experience a range of powerful emotions, most people do move through this life crisis successfully and gradually put it into better perspective. For some couples, 'moving on' means letting go of their initial dreams of having a baby. Other couples decide to adopt. But in either case, couples do learn that there is life after infertility and find myriad ways to fulfill themselves, with or without children.
- Myth: Age doesn’t matter for the man. Fact: Whilst a man is able to father children throughout his adult life, research shows that men of 35 years and older are 50% less likely, during a 12-month period, to conceive a baby than men who are younger than 25.
- Myth: Smoking is okay as long as I quit once I’m pregnant. Fact: Smoking adversely affects fertility. Research shows that it can affect the movement of the egg from the ovary to the uterus and also has a detrimental effect on ovarian aging.
- Myth: Alcohol boosts your chances of conceiving. Fact: Alcohol damages both the egg and the sperm and prevents the absorption of minerals essential for fertility. That said the occasional glass of wine to help you wind down and relax may have important therapeutic benefits. The good news is that alcohol damage to sperm is reversible and if the man reduces or gives up his alcohol then sperm health will improve.
- Myth: The sexual position you choose will help you conceive. Fact: There is no evidence to suggest that anyone's sexual position is better than the other. There is however value in lying in bed for a short while after sex to allow the sperm to have the best possible chance of entering the uterus. There is conflicting advice on whether having an orgasm actually helps you to conceive, it is known that the cervix (neck of the womb) contracts at the point of an orgasm and appears to ‘scoop’ up sperm, though women get pregnant whether or not they have achieved orgasm at point critique!
- Myth: Little can be done to improve a man’s sperm count. Fact: Lifestyle really matters when it comes to sperm count and general health. Giving up smoking, reducing alcohol, avoiding drugs, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, moderate exercise and a healthy weight can all help to improve a man’s sperm count. Positive changes to a man’s lifestyle can increase sperm health relatively quickly.
- Myth: A woman can delay getting pregnant to have a career, and even if there’s a problem then IVF will fix it. Fact: It is well documented that a woman’s fertility declines sharply at the age of 35. Although I believe no woman is purely static and we all age differently, it is very important that women are aware of their fertility ageing if they choose to delay motherhood. Whilst advances in science mean that women are able to turn to fertility treatment in their 30s and 40s, IVF is not always successful. The percentage of live births following IVF for women over 35 years of age is 27.7%. This falls sharply to 13.6% in a woman aged 40-42 and down to only 5% in women aged 43-44.
Hope this blog has helped.