Over the years there have been many stories passed down through the generations about falling pregnant and the best ways to conceive. There are old wives tales about everything from how to conceive a boy or a girl, to avoiding mint and planting a rosemary bush to fall pregnant. While it’s easy to identify many of these ideas as myth, some are not as obvious. The following 7 pregnancy myths are still widely believed today.
Conception can only occur on the day of ovulation
Healthy sperm can survive for up to 72 hours in the genital tract. Depending on the conditions, sperm can even last for up to five days1. The ovum (egg) travels through the fallopian tubes for approximately 24 hours after ovulation.
If sperm cells have been waiting there for up to five days they are still able to fertilise this egg. Successful fertilisation is therefore still possible if sexual intercourse has occured three to five days before ovulation.
All menstrual cycles are 28 days long
Generally, menstrual cycles will vary between 24 and 36 days. This depends on the individual. Some women will have a short cycle, while others a long cycle. There can also be variation from month to month.
External influences such as emotional or physical stress can disrupt hormone levels and interfere with menstrual cycles. The belief that the menstrual cycle is 28 days long stems from the contractive pill, which introduces an artificial 28-day cycle. 2.
Daily sexual intercourse will improve conception chances
Regular unprotected sexual intercourse will help to increase the chances of falling pregnant, but daily sex is not necessary. In fact, it may reduce fertility.
If the male ejaculates too frequently, semen concentration and sperm count is reduced. Most fertility specialists recommend couples have sex every two to three days to improve conception chances. This should ensure that enough viable sperm is present in the female genital tract.
It’s not possible to fall pregnant while menstruating
The chances of conceiving after having sexual intercourse during menstruation are low. However, some women ovulate within four days of having their period. Therefore, pregnancy is technically possible, because sperm can live for up to five days within the genital tract.
Inverted positions after sex increase pregnancy chances
There’s a misconception that inverting following ejaculation may help to improve fertility chances by using gravity to propel sperm to the cervix faster. It seems logical in theory, but there is no research to refute or confirm this idea.
Fertility problems start after the age of 35
It’s true that once women reach their mid thirties fertility declines. Conceiving after the age of 40 can be difficult and accompanied by increased health risks. However, a seemingly healthy woman in her twenties can still have fertility problems. Poor reproductive health does not necessarily come with symptoms and can go undetected until trying to fall pregnant.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, and pelvic inflammatory disease can cause damage to the fallopian tubes3. Having a full medical check-up before starting a family is always a good idea to identify and treat any potential fertility problems.
A healthy diet provides all the nutrients for sustaining good reproductive health
It is thought that a balanced diet should provide all the necessary amino acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements to maintain a healthy body. However, many studies have shown that the vast majority of people are deficient in a variety of nutrients, in particular vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B9 (folic acid) and iron.
Remarkably, these very nutrients don’t just provide general health benefits, but have been shown to especially benefit both male and female fertility (in particular B9 and omega-3 fatty acids).
Ensuring an ample supply of these nutrients can be done either via the diet or more efficiently via food supplements. Conversely, a deficiency in certain nutrients can decrease fertility and increases the risk of complications during pregnancy.
- “Suarez, S. and Pacey, A. (2005). Sperm transport in the female reproductive tract. Human Reproduction Update, Volume 12, Issue 1, (pp. 23-37).” ↩
- “Fehring R et.al. (2006) Variability in phases of the menstrual cycle. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing. Volume 35, Issue 3, (pp. 376-384.” ↩
- “Cates, W. et.al. (1990). Sexually transmitted diseases, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility: An epidemiologic update. Epidemiologic Reviews, Volume 12, Issue 1, (pp. 199-220).” ↩