The 7 most misunderstood myths about fertility, explained

False information about fertility is unfortunately everywhere. Ask five people on the street, and each will give you different advice on everything from preconception sex to what foods you should eat to get pregnant.

But since it’s estimated that one out of every eight couples experience infertility, it’s so important to separate fact from fiction. If you are worried about getting pregnant, the last thing you need is to feel overwhelmed with untruths.

With the help of Dr. Lucky Sekhon, board-certified OB-GYN and fertility specialist at RMA of New York, this article breaks down the seven most common fertility myths to help you sort through the noise.

Myth #1: Certain sex positions or lying down after sex can improve your chances of pregnancy

You may have heard that certain sex positions increase the likelihood of getting pregnant by making it easier for sperm to travel to the cervix, but studies say this isn’t the case. “The position you are in during sex does not impact your chance of conception,” Dr. Sekhon tells Motherly.

Lying down after sex follows the same logic as the sex position myth. But standing up doesn’t affect your chances of conception. “Once ejaculation takes place, sperm take seconds to minutes to enter the reproductive tract and travel into the uterus and the fallopian tubes,” Dr. Sekhon shares. “This will occur regardless of the position you are in during and immediately after sex.”

Myth #2: Having a baby means you’ll automatically get pregnant with a second

While having a baby is a good sign for future pregnancies, it doesn’t guarantee future fertility. “There is no such thing as an additive effect where having children increases the chance of success during future attempts,” says Dr. Sekhon.

Secondary infertility occurs when you’ve already had a baby but can’t get or stay pregnant after trying for another. Secondary fertility can be linked to reproductive concerns with either partner, and couples can benefit from fertility specialist support even after successful pregnancies.

Myth #3: Hormonal birth control causes infertility

Is it possible that the very same tool people use to avoid pregnancy can actually cause fertility issues down the road? According to Dr. Sekhon, no, fertility returns quickly for most people once they stop taking hormonal birth control.

She notes that there may be a longer delay for people who have been taking hormonal birth control for years, but it should return to normal within three to six months. A caveat is if you started birth control because of a medical reason like PCOS, there might be other underlying causes of infertility to look into.

Myth #4: A man’s underwear choice can affect his sperm count

The tight underwear myth may be partially true, according to Dr. Sekhon. The testes have a built-in reflex that helps muscles relax if they get too warm. “With tight underwear, it is more difficult for the scrotal temperature to be regulated with this reflex.”

While overheated testes can negatively impact sperm concentration, the impact on sperm count is temporary and shouldn’t affect long-term fertility. It just may be time to get your partner some new, loose-fitting underwear.

Myth #5: Stress causes infertility

The stress and fertility connection only perpetuates anxiety when trying to have a baby. Telling someone to stop stressing if they are experiencing infertility is like telling yourself you need to go to sleep when you have insomnia. 

So what’s the truth? Dr. Sekhon says that while stress doesn’t directly cause infertility, putting the body under “profound physical stress like starvation or even marathon training could interrupt regular ovulation which could indirectly cause infertility.” Managing daily stress is vital for overall health, but unless you notice irregular cycles, it’s likely not impacting your fertility.

Myth #6: If your mom had a difficult time getting pregnant, you will too

There are times when conditions affecting fertility can be genetic, according to Dr. Sekhon, but they aren’t the only causes. “There are many other forms of infertility that are not related to underlying genetic problems,” she says. Some of these are physical, while others are related to factors like age, sperm count or underlying health conditions.

That said, there are some instances where genes do matter. Chromosomal abnormalities, predisposition towards early menopause, or conditions like PCOS that interrupt ovulation can all be passed down from parents to children. Knowing your family history can help you recognize when it may be time to reach out for help from a fertility specialist.

Myth #7: Orgasms increase your chance of getting pregnant

Orgasms are fun, but they don’t necessarily mean you will get pregnant faster. “A longstanding theory is that the uterine contractions that occur during orgasm may help to propel sperm past the cervix and into the reproductive tract,” Dr. Sekhon shares. “However, this has been debunked and has yet to be proven in studies.”

If you are concerned with fertility, consider reaching out to your OB/GYN or a specialist like Dr. Sekhon, who can give you evidence-based guidance to support you on your journey.

Sources

Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Practice Committee of the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Electronic address: asrm@asrm.org. Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion. Fertil Steril. 2022;117(1):53-63. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2021.10.007

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Today’s Parent is Canada’s #1 source for parenting content that informs, inspires and builds a sense of community. We help parents celebrate the happy chaos that comes with having a family and remind them that they are not alone. If you’re trying to conceive, pregnant or have children from newborn to ages 9+, you’ll get insightful information for all ages and stages on discipline, health, behaviour, education, plus easy and nutritious recipes and so much more.

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