You’re clear on the mechanics of making a baby, but how much do you really know about conception and fertility? There are a lot of wild stories, downright falsehoods and notions that are actually rooted in a kernel of truth out there. In the interest of sticking to the facts, we’re debunking 15 of the most common myths about conception and fertility.
1. After Sex, You Should Stay In Bed With Your Legs Against the Well
This surprisingly persistent myth is based on the idea that staying still with your legs up will help sperm find their way. But it really is a myth. Healthy sperm are excellent swimmers and they immediately head north in pursuit of an egg. Seconds after ejaculation, sperm are already in the cervical canal—it’s the seminal fluid you’ll notice trickling down, so feel free to get up and on with your life.
2. You Should Just Have Sex Every Day
That’s a lot of action, and if you aren’t up for it every darn day, don’t stress. Most women ovulate about 14 days before their period begins. Between the 12 to 24 hours an egg is viable after ovulation and the 3 to 5 day lifespan of sperm, the peak fertility window is about six days long (up to five days before ovulation and about a day after). This is the best time to have sex either daily or every other day for the very best shot at making a baby.
3. You’re More Likely to Conceive if you Orgasm During Sex
There’s some logic to this one. Since the uterine muscles contract when you orgasm, doesn’t it make sense that it could help draw sperm into the uterus? Science says nah. There’s no proven link between orgasm and conception (1). Remember, sperm can hang out for up to five days in the fallopian tubes, so an orgasm makes no difference. But… maybe don’t tell him that!
4. Men Should “Save Up” Their Sperm
Actually, frequent ejaculation and sexual activity supports sperm health. Experts advise ejaculation once or twice weekly to maintain healthy sperm production. By “saving up” sperm, you’re actually working with an older pool that you would if you were ejaculating more frequently. In other words, saving sperm isn’t like stashing cash in the bank. These guys have a definite shelf life. Sex every other day around the fertile window is your best bet.
5. Your Partner Needs to Prep For Conception Too
This one is absolutely true! The preconception health of both parents-to-be has enormous repercussions on a healthy conception and pregnancy, which is why couples are advised to actively embrace a healthy lifestyle. External factors like nutrition, stress management, exercise and sleep have a direct effect on fertility health. Since you want to be the healthiest you can to bring a new little life into the world, you should both be prioritizing good habits. Pro tip: prenatal vitamins for him and her can help shore up nutritional deficiencies to support your fertility health, and we have an excellent recommendation for you both!
6. Certain Positions Are Better For Conception
Like the legs-in-the-air myth, this recommendation is based on the idea that sperm need a little getting where they’re going. But again, healthy sperm have impressive motility—it’s one of the parameters of sperm health as a whole—so it really doesn’t matter what position you’re in (1).
7. Cough Syrup can help you Conceive
This is how rumors start! A few years ago, TTC forums went absolutely nuts over news that guaifenesin, an ingredient in some cough syrups to ease chest congestion, could help thin cervical mucus. The idea is that thinner mucus makes it easier for sperm to travel to the egg. Spoiler—there’s zero evidence to support this. Actually, Clomid (the medication used to treat cases of infertility) actually thickens cervical mucus. So, yeah, no cough syrup unless you’re actually coughing.
8. If You Wait Too Long, You’ll Need IVF
It’s true that fertility begins to decline in your 30s. But just because you want to try to conceive doesn’t mean you’ll automatically need in vitro fertilization (IVF). A lot of couples in their lates 30s and even early 40s conceive without fertility treatments.
9. Men Should Wear Boxers, Not Briefs
This is one of those kernel-of-truth things. The idea is that briefs keep testicles overly warm, and there is plenty of evidence that heat can impair sperm production. In fact, experts warn against things like hot tubs, high-intensity exercise and even laptops on the lap (2), since spermatogenesis is optimal at temperatures between 35 and 46 degrees cooler than body tempeature. In the interest of upping your conception chances, switching to boxers may not have a huge impact, but it definitely won’t hurt!
10. If You’re On the Pill too Long, You’ll Delay Pregnancy
This is a pretty normal concern for women who have spent years trying not to get pregnant, only to finally be ready to actively try for conception. It’s not true, though. For some women, fertility returns as soon as they stop taking hormonal birth control. For others, it can can a month or two to ovulate normally, assuming there are no other issues. But it is true that birth control can deplete certain nutrients, so it’s smart to take a prenatal vitamin while you’re on the Pill.
If that’s information you wish you had years ago, just start taking that prenatal vitamin right now. And get a good one! In addition to a healthy diet, a high-quality prenatal vitamin can ensure you’re getting nutrients you need to support your fertility health. Beli for Women includes vitamins B6 and B12, folate and zinc, among other key nutrients, all of which can help reduce the likelihood of miscarriage, trigger ovulation, support egg quality, and more.
11. The Average Couple Conceives Within Three Months
Nope, and that’s the trouble with statistics! It actually takes the average couple up to 12 months of actively trying to successfully conceive. Of course, that’s an average. Some couples will take longer and some will nail it on the first try. We have an entire post about how long it should take to get pregnant, with lots of tips and helpful information about what to do and when to seek assistance.
12. Men Don’t Have a Biological Clock
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Like women, men certainly do have a biological clock. It just has a longer battery life. Men can produce viable sperm well into their golden years (and beyond—just look at Al Pacino!), but they’re more likely to experience fertility issues than their younger counterparts. Sperm quality suffers with age, and that means a greater risk of birth defects, developmental disorders and miscarriage (and that’s regardless of a partner’s age, health or risk factors). To be specific, after 45, men are at risk of decreased fertility and sperm quality issues. Check out our post on the male biological clock for more information.
13. You Can’t Get Pregnant on your Period
You can actually conceive during your period, but it’s a timing thing (and pretty unlikely). Since cycles can fluctuate, the day of ovulation can vary from one month to the next. That means that sex at the end of your period could linger long enough to get you pregnant in the event you ovulate earlier than usual.
14. Stressed Women Can’t Get Pregnant
Yes and no. There’s plenty of evidence that women who are under high stress have more trouble conceiving, which is why stress management is recommended for couples trying to make a baby. But plenty of pregnancies still happen in stressful situations. Still, the general recommendation is to reduce stress because it’s better for your overall health, and that improves your fertility health as well.
15. You Should Eat Tons of High-Fat Dairy
In 2007, researchers found a link between a low-fat dairy diet and an increased chance of infertility. But there’s a bigger takeaway here, and that’s your nutrition as a whole. A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates can be terrible for fertility because it affects your insulin balance, which can be disruptive to your hormones. Instead, make sure you’re eating whole foods—lots of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds and legumes. Go organic whenever possible, too, since pesticides, herbicides and chemicals like BPA are all known hormone disruptors.
- Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion. (2013). https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(13)00790-5/fulltext
- Rao, M et al. (2016). Transient scrotal hyperthermia affects human sperm DNA integrity, sperm apoptosis, and sperm protein expression. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/andr.12228