GUEST BLOG by Dr. Jessica: Pregnancy & Conception Myths
When it is difficult to conceive, it is often gut wrenching and stressful. As you watch other couples conceive on the (seemingly) first try, and you're ready to have the baby you’ve wanted for so long, the process of trying to conceive can be one of the most difficult endeavors of your life. Unfortunately, many couples have this experience. Perhaps this is what contributes to so many of the myths surrounding the topic of conception. I get asked questions related to these myths on a daily basis. Since it is such an important topic, I thought it worthwhile to discuss some of the common myths that I hear regarding conception.
Myth # 1: If you don't get pregnant right away, then you are infertile
In general, there is only about a 15-25% chance each month that a couple will successfully conceive (depending on age). That means, that under perfect conditions, a couple will only be successful in conceiving less than 25% of the time every month. The couples that get pregnant during their first month trying are the lucky ones and are in the minority. So please do not get discouraged if it takes longer for you. My best advice is to relax and try not to stress about it (easier said than done, I know).
92% of couples will become pregnant in the first 12 months of trying to conceive. If you are under the age of 35 and have been trying unsuccessfully for 12 months, or if you're 35 and older and have been trying unsuccessfully for 6 months, then it's time to seek a professional opinion.
Myth # 2: If you don’t reproduce in your 20s, it will be extremely difficult to conceive
While there is no exact threshold after which conceiving is less likely, there is a steeper decline in fertility in women in their late 30s and 40s. There is roughly a 20-25% chance a woman in her 20s will conceive every month and a 15-20% chance a woman in her 30s will conceive every month, with fertility gradually declining throughout her 30s. Conception rates also seem to decline if the male partner in the relationship is 40 or older. Although the chances do drop as you enter your late 30s and early 40s, plenty of patients easily conceive naturally at that age.
Myth # 3: You can control your baby's sex
Evidenced-based medical trials have not been able to prove that timing intercourse relative to ovulation can increase the chances of conceiving a girl or a boy (also called the Shettles Method). In fact, couples that try to follow these methods may have more trouble reproducing because they may avoid having intercourse at the most optimal times for conceiving.
Myth # 4: Different positions during and after sex can increase your chances of conceiving
We have all seen the women on TV shows or movies with their legs elevated after intercourse, trying to increase the chance of conception. Unfortunately, this, along with other post-intercourse rituals, have no effect on the likelihood of conception. Similarly, it has not been proven that some positions have better conception rates than others.
Myth # 5: Stop your birth control one year prior to wanting to conceive
Please do not do this unless you are okay with the possibility of getting pregnant immediately after stopping your birth control. I have had patients conceive 2 weeks after stopping the birth control pills they had been on for the previous 10 years. Generally, there is a short delay (weeks to a few months) in conception from cessation of most birth control methods, the exception being the depo shot that in many women could delay conception several months.
Every woman is different and the medications affect each woman differently. While some women ovulate and get their periods back very quickly, it can take longer for others to regain their regular cycle. Either way, it is important to stop birth control when you are ready to start trying to conceive, but make sure to use a back up method (condoms) until you’re ready.
Myth # 6: You must avoid all alcohol while trying to conceive
Several studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption has no effect on fertility, so don’t worry about having a few drinks while you’re trying to conceive. However, once you find out you’re pregnant, you should refrain from alcoholic beverages.
Myth #7: You can't exercise while trying to conceive
In general, exercise is healthy and will not affect your ability to conceive; regular exercise is good for you and can decrease stress. However, exercising until you are under ideal body weight may cause you not to ovulate. For women that are overweight and don’t ovulate regularly, exercise and healthy weight loss can help you ovulate more regularly.
Myth # 8: Miscarriage is very rare
Miscarriage rates usually fall between 15% and 20%, but at least half of those occur in the first week or so before women even know they’re pregnant. Many people believe miscarriage rates are low; this may be because some couples will not share with their loved ones or friends when they have experienced a miscarriage. The good news is that although miscarriage rates start out as high as 20%, as soon as a heart beat is seen in the normal range, the miscarriage chance drops to 5-10%. And, by 14 weeks, the chance of miscarrying is less than 1%.
Myth # 9: Frequent ejaculation decreases male fertility
Couples have told me that they have intercourse every other day or every third day while trying to conceive so they don't decrease sperm count or have lower quality sperm. While it is certainly okay to have intercourse every other day during the fertile window, studies have shown that normal sperm maintains in both quality and quantity, even with daily ejaculation. Abstinence of greater than 5 -10 days can lead to a decrease in healthy sperm cells. Having intercourse every day or every other day is ideal in that fertile window period.
Myth # 10: You're more likely to get pregnant if you have an orgasm during intercourse
The presence or absence of female orgasm does not affect your likelihood of conceiving.
I hope this discussion has helped ease your concerns if you've had difficulty conceiving. Please call me or make an appointment if you want to chat more about pregnancy, conception, and more.
Dr. Jessica Katz
Dr. Jessica Katz is a private practice OBGYN at South Suburban Women's Center, serving the Greater Cleveland community. She completed her residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Jessica lives with her husband, son, and Labrador. She enjoys cooking, being active in the community, binge watching shows on Netflix, and anything related to Cleveland sports.