Conception Myths & Old Wives Tales
Myth #1 – You can control the sex of your baby
False. While there are many theories about controlling the sex of your baby, there are no set in stone scientific results that you can rely on to pick the gender of your child. Here are the three most popular theories on gender selection that you can make up your own mind about.
Diet. While it is true that a healthy diet is important for both parents-to-be, the idea that consuming a heavily acidic or alkaline diet will result in a preferred sex is hard to prove. Some studies have shown a correlation between a woman’s diet pre-conception and the PH levels inside her reproductive tract, which in turn could provide a more preferable environment for a certain chromosome (X – Girl, Acidic & Y – Boy, Alkaline).
Sexual Position. It is true that some sexual positions can favour a certain sexed sperm’s chances of reaching the cervix first, but after that it is really all up to them again. The male sperm, or Y-chromosomes, are typically more aggressive and faster swimmers than the female sperm, or X-chromosome, who are heartier and more resilient. Some sexual positions that offer a deeper penetration can give a male sperm a head start over the slower females, while shallow penetration gives the advantage to the more robust nature of the X-chromosome as the males die out before they reach the ovum.
Timing and Frequency of Intercourse. Because sperm can stay alive inside a woman for up to (on average) about 6 days, the amount of time that passes between intercourse and ovulation can increase or decrease the chances of conceiving a particular sex. Again, this refers to the speed versus resilience of the different chromosomes.
Myth #2 – I will get pregnant as soon as I stop using contraception
True and False. You may well get pregnant as soon as you stop using birth control, but then again, it may take you several months or even up to a year to revert back to your natural fertility levels and conceive. The amount of time that it could take you to become pregnant depends of many factors, including age, natural fertility, general health and of course, the method of birth control you have been using.
Barrier contraception methods, such as condoms or a diaphragm do not affect your natural fertility and your body will be ready for pregnancy immediately after ceasing use.
Combination hormonal methods, such as the pill, contain both estrogen and progestin (a kind of synthetic progesterone) and may affect your natural fertility short term after ceasing intake, which is not to say you wont fall pregnant straight away, but it is more likely to take between 3-12 months.
Progestin-only hormonal methods (mini-pill, implant, shot) differ in the period of time you can expect to wait before your body is in its natural cycle, ranging from straight away to up to 18 months.
Intrauterine devices, or IUDs, come in 2 different types; copper and hormonal. In both cases fertility is expected to return with the first menstrual cycle after IUD removal.
Falling pregnant immediately after ceasing birth control does not increase the risks of miscarriage or fetal problems.
Myth #3 – If we don’t get pregnant in the first couple of months, there must be something wrong
False. While each person’s fertility is entirely unique, it is not uncommon for even a fairly fertile person to not fall pregnant straight away when you first start trying. Most doctors say that you shouldn’t worry too much until you have been trying for a year with no success. If you are worried that there might be a problem, you should definitely not hesitate to ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist for some tests. If there is a physiological reason for you not conceiving, the more time you have to explore your options the better. If you are over 35 and are having difficulty conceiving after just 6 months, most doctors recommend looking into the issue then.
Myth #4 – I only have to quit smoking and drinking alcohol after I am pregnant
False. While everybody knows that smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant is detrimental to your baby’s health, continuing to smoke while trying to conceive can severely decrease your chances of falling pregnant, and the chemicals present in cigarettes and other smoking products can stay in your system for a significant amount of time, and continue to affect your baby once you do conceive. Quitting smoking will also be more difficult if you wait until after you are pregnant, and the risks associated with smoking during pregnancy are high – things like increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. Your baby also might have a higher chance of developing behavioural problems, chest infections, severe asthma and heart defects as they get older.
While drinking alcohol while pregnant is also a no-no, drinking before conceiving will not adversely affect your baby once you do fall pregnant. Most doctors do however recommend reducing your alcohol intake significantly if you are planning to become pregnant, especially if you drink heavily in your normal life, due to the health risks that are involved with fetus’ exposure to alcohol, and ceasing to consume alcohol entirely once you are expecting.
Myth #5 – I will be fertile until I am 40, then I will have trouble
False. You are at your most fertile in your teens to late 20s with your fertility levels starting to decline from around the age of 30. From the age of around 35 your fertility drops steeply and once you are age 40 your chances of conceiving naturally are decreased by about 50 percent.
Once you are older you are more susceptible to certain conditions that may affect your pregnancy; like endometriosis, fibroids and, while technically not a ‘condition’, multiple pregnancies.
Men stay fertile longer than women, with the drop in their fertility occurring gradually and usually starting in their 50s or later.
Myth #6 – Lying on my back for 20 minutes after sex will help me conceive
False? True? Who knows? This old wives tale has been floating around for generations – the idea that remaining horizontal after intercourse would help the chances that the sperm would successfully reach and fertilize your egg. While the idea that lying flat would help to reduce the gravitational effects of being upright and walking around seems very sound, there is no scientific proof that it does actually assist the sperm with their travels. Although lying around after sex doesn’t sound that bad, maybe better safe than sorry!
Myth #7 – Certain sexual positions are better for conception
True. The whole point of conception is for the sperm to reach the ovum and fertilise it, and so the idea that a position which allows for deeper penetration and a shorter distance from ejaculation to cervix makes a lot of sense. There are a lot (a LOT) of websites with advice on different sexual positions that allow an advantage to the sperm.
Myth #8 – I’ve already had one baby, so I will conceive easily
False. There is a very real chance that you might have difficulty conceiving, or just have more difficulty conceiving than you had with previous pregnancies when you try to add more children to your family. This condition is known as ‘secondary infertility’ and is becoming more and more common. Age, change of lifestyle, medical conditions occurring since you last conceived, and ongoing health concerns are all contributing factors that may be involved in causing it.
If you find that you are having difficulty falling pregnant after 1 year of trying to conceive, you should consult your doctor about tests and treatment options. Many couples will be able to conceive naturally, sometimes with the aid of various medications, but some will find that they need to take assisted reproductive techniques and even in certain cases, serious surgery in order to conceive again.
On the opposite side of the coin, many people find becoming pregnant after already carrying a baby to term easier than their original conception.
Myth #9 – Having a miscarriage will make it harder to conceive
False. A miscarriage, even more than one, will not make you less fertile, however if you suffer multiple miscarriages in a row, you may be suffering from an existing condition that is affecting your fertility. Miscarriages can be caused by a multitude of things including genetic and uterine abnormalities, fibroids, infections and auto-immune conditions, and age. After age 35 the risk of miscarriage is increased significantly, and increases again after age 40. Miscarriages can also occur with no identifiable cause. Miscarriage is, sadly, a common problem and occurs in approximately 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies, and most doctors will not advise testing unless you experience 3 recurrent miscarriages in a row.
Myth #10 – Abstaining from sex will make his sperm count higher
True. Although not doing ‘it’ will make his sperm count higher, it’s best not to abstain too long. While abstaining from sex will generally increase the amount of sperm present in his ejaculate, it will also decrease the motility of that sperm. If he has a low sperm count naturally, abstaining will actually harm the sperm he has at a faster rate. Most scientific research supports the idea that having sex every 2-3 days (or more) is the best time frame to ensure his little swimmers are the strongest.