Trying to get pregnant is stressful enough, so the last thing you need is everyone and their neighbor offering you unsolicited advice. Sure, they mean well, but with so much contradictory information out there it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. The best advice? Forget everyone else’s take on how to appease the fertility gods. Read on to find out which factors really contribute to infertility issues in order to boost your chances of starting, or growing, your family
Myth #1: A woman’s fertility begins to decline at 35.
According to Shari Brasner, MD, ob-gyn at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and contributor for BabyCenter.com, a woman’s fertility peaks earlier than most would imagine: between 22 and 26, and begins to decline soon after. That’s not to say women need to hop on the baby-making train as soon as they’re of legal drinking age, says Karen Elizabeth Boyle, MD, fertility specialist in Baltimore, who lays out the not-so-scary stats for us. Among women trying to get pregnant, 75 percent of 30-year-olds will conceive within a year. That number falls to 66 percent at the age of 35, and 44 percent at the age of 40. After that is when your chances really start to decline, says Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Domar Center for Mind Body Health at Boston IVF, and author of Conquering Infertility.
Myth #2: Conception occurs only during intercourse.
Think you can only get pregnant while having sex? Believe it or not, a man’s sperm can survive for three to five days in a woman’s reproductive tract, says Dr. Boyle. So, even if you’re not ovulating during those moments of passion, his little swimmers can still fertilize an egg if you start ovulating a couple of days later. In fact, says Dr. Brasner, a woman’s optimal window for fertility starts three to five days before ovulation and ends soon after, so “having sex in the few days leading up to ovulation, in addition to when you actually ovulate, is important for increasing your odds of conception.” And when it comes to getting pregnant, timing really is everything.
Myth #3: You should have sex every day when you’re trying to get pregnant.
You probably think the more sex you have, the greater your chances of getting pregnant. While that may sound like a fun (or exhausting!) theory, it’s not true, says Dr. Boyle. “If a man with a normal sperm count ejaculates every day or multiple times a day, it can actually drive sperm counts down,” she explains. If you’ve been trying for awhile, and your guy has an especially hearty sexual appetite, tell him to hold off a little. Instead, aim to have sex every other day around ovulation time to give his sperm time to replenish.
Myth #4: Tight underwear can impact a man’s fertility.
It’s the age-old debate: Boxers or briefs. But, will dictating what type of underwear your man wears increase your chances of conceiving? “Heat definitely affects the testes, and any activity that increases body temperature too much can kill sperm and drive down its production,” says Dr. Boyle. However, she says, working out in spandex and wearing briefs is fine, since it won’t drive up the temperature in the area too much. When you’re actively trying to get pregnant, the heat-inducing activities men should avoid include saunas, hot tubs, hot yoga and placing a laptop directly on the lap. Though the effects are reversible, it can take three to four months for his sperm to recover.
Myth #5: Using lube during sex won’t interfere with getting pregnant.
Personal lubricant can be a must for couples suddenly spending significant time in the sack—just be sure the one you’re using isn’t impinging on your efforts. Many lubricants on the market can stop sperm in their tracks by slowing them down and preventing them from reaching the uterus; plus, they may cause damage to the sperm’s DNA. According to Dr. Boyle and Dr. Brasner, mineral oil is a smarter option, as is the fertility-friendly lubricant Pre-Seed. If you’ve been diagnosed with fertility issues, talk to your doctor about which lubricants might be right for you.
Myth #6: Stress has nothing to do with infertility.
There’s stress and then there’s stress. A little is OK, but a lot can wreak havoc on your entire body, including your fertility. Stress impacts hormones, metabolism, mood, sex drive and appetite, so just about every aspect of your life can be thrown out of whack by too much tension. But not to worry: A recent study in the journal Fertility and Sterility found mind-body stress-reduction programs more than doubled pregnancy rates in couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization, suggesting that stress relief can assist fertility in frazzled couples as well. According to Dr. Domar, the study’s author, moderate exercise is one of the best stress relievers out there. Other options for melting away stress include meditation, yoga and diaphragmatic (or belly) breathing.
Myth #7: Your best chance of getting pregnant is on day 14 of your cycle.
While it makes sense in theory, not everyone has a 28-day cycle with ovulation occurring smack dab in the middle. If you assume that your cycle is not unique and only have sex on days 14 and 15, you could miss your window of opportunity completely, says Dr. Boyle. “Forget about hitting your peak day absolutely point on. Start having sex four to five days prior to ovulation—every other day—until three or four days after ovulation,” she says. To determine when you’re ovulating, don’t leave it up to chance. Instead, Dr. Boyle recommends buying an at-home fertility monitor and ovulation kit.
Myth #8: Taking birth control pills can ruin your long-term fertility.
According to a 2002 National Center for Health Statistics survey, oral contraception is the most commonly used birth control method in the U.S. So it’s no wonder many women worry about reports that the Pill could affect their future chances of getting pregnant. Though the Pill does suppress ovulation while you’re taking it, fears of sustained suppression are unfounded—once a woman stops taking the Pill, it no longer impacts her ability to get pregnant. A review of studies from 1960-2007 found that after the first few months of going off the Pill, women’s fertility returned to normal, and that former Pill-takers were just as likely to get pregnant as women who had previously been using other forms of birth control.
Myth #9: The numbers on the scale have nothing to do with fertility.
According to Dr. Brasner, how much people weigh can greatly impact their chances of conceiving. Several studies have linked obesity to low sperm count and poor sperm quality in men. And obesity in women is a risk factor for anovulation (the absence of ovulation). One study that followed 47,835 couples found that when both partners were obese, their chances of having to wait longer than a year to conceive were nearly three times higher than couples with normal body mass indexes (BMI). On the other hand, according to a study in the journal Sterility and Fertility, being excessively underweight (a BMI of 17.5 or less) is linked to nearly five times the risk of infertility since women with too little body fat can stop ovulating and/or menstruating altogether. The bottom line: A good-for-you diet will not only promote a healthy you, but it will also increase your chances of getting pregnant.
This article originally appeared on WomansDay.com and is republished here with permission.