7 Fertility Myths Busted and Truths Revealed
There is a lot of misinformation out there about fertility and pregnancy. Let’s dive into some of the myths about fertility that need to be forgotten ASAP.
Myth #1: Only the woman’s age matters when trying to conceive
While women get more attention on matters of the ticking “biological clock” and must accept the inevitability that there's a limited amount of time for them to have a baby, men face reproductive issues with increased age as well. As men age, the rate of erectile dysfunction increases, their sperm count declines, and sperm quality worsens. According to experts, sperm of older men may be associated with infertility, lowered in-vitro-fertilization (IVF) outcomes, and miscarriage risk. Studies have demonstrated a higher risk of abnormalities in children born to men over the age of 40, including rare birth defects, autism, and schizophrenia. With these findings, it's quite clear that women and men both experience age-related declines in fertility, and therefore the man’s age also needs to be taken into account when trying to conceive.
Myth #2: Irregular cycles means you’re more likely to be infertile
Just as regular cycles are no guarantee of fertility, irregular cycles are not an indication of infertility. In fact, many women occasionally experience irregularity with their menstrual cycles. Women may worry that irregular periods are a sign that certain mechanisms are not working properly within their body, and will affect their chances of becoming pregnant.
While period irregularity is not a sign of infertility, it does present challenges for women to accurately predict their “fertile window” and make it difficult to pinpoint the proper timing for sex. However, these challenges can be largely addressed with period tracker apps and digital ovulation test kits such as the Eveline Digital Ovulation Test, which help women, and especially those with irregular cycles, monitor and identify the days when they are most fertile and have the highest chances of conceiving.
Myth #3: You must have a baby before the age of 35
This is another common false belief among women. Does fertility decline with age? Yes. Does it gradually decline in a woman’s 30s and encounter a steep decline by her 40s? Yes. Are there increased health risks with having a baby at a more advanced age? Unfortunately, also yes. But is it nearly impossible to have a baby after age 35? Not at all.
In fact, not only are women able to achieve natural pregnancy (albeit with lower odds) after age 35, there are many fertility options that they can tap into, such as IVF, a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that assists in conception through a fertilization process involving combining an egg with sperm outside the body.
Myth #4: Smoking will not affect your fertility as long as you don’t smoke when pregnant
This misconception likely comes from the fact that although there is no clear association between alcohol and fertility prior to pregnancy, it is strongly advised that women not drink while pregnant. Along these lines, it’s natural for women to assume that smoking has no effect on fertility and will not affect pregnancy as long as they quit when becoming pregnant.
However, studies have shown that women who smoke are far more likely than non-smokers to be infertile. Smoking also leads to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy and lowers the chances of achieving a positive fertility treatment outcome. Authors in the research study Cigarette smoking accelerates the development of diminished ovarian reserve as evidenced by the clomiphene citrate challenge test also concluded that smoking leads to a decline of ovarian reserve for women.
Myth #5: You are less fertile if you have been on birth control pills
Sometimes women are hesitant to go on the pill due to warnings from friends and family that taking birth control may make it more difficult for you to get pregnant once off the pill. Fortunately, that’s not the case. It's probably more likely that the reason for having trouble getting pregnant after coming off the pill is attributed to other reasons such as increasing age or other fertility problems including undiagnosed endometriosis.
In actuality, after you stop taking birth control pills, you have the same chances of pregnancy as if you had never started birth control in the first place.
Myth #6: There are specific positions post-sex that help you conceive
It’s a popular belief that lying with your legs in the air after sex increases your chances of conception. OB-GYNs are often asked by female patients how long they should lie flat after sex, the assumption behind the question being that due to gravity, sperm will escape the woman’s body once she stands up after having sex.
To address this misconception, there was a study that found no difference in pregnancy rates between women who lied flat on their back for 15 minutes or stood up immediately following an insemination procedure in a doctor’s office. So to summarize, there is no need to contort yourself into any specific body position after sex.
Myth #7: You must have sex during ovulation to get pregnant
Even though having sex when you’re ovulating will definitely maximize your chances of getting pregnant, sex in the days leading up to the day of ovulation can also increase your chances of pregnancy. As explained by Dr. Jingwen Hou, an OB-GYN specializing in reproductive endocrinology and infertility, with chances of conception peaking on the day of ovulation as well as the 24 hours before it, and since sperm can survive for up to five days in the female reproductive tract, a woman should have unprotected sex up to five days prior to ovulation to improve chances of conceiving.
These myths represent just a few out of a multitude of false beliefs out there about fertility and pregnancy. When in doubt, you can always ask your OB/GYN for their input as not to compromise any chances of becoming pregnant.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to offer medical advice.