Tips vs. Myths When You're Trying For a Baby
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In our lives, we hear far too many wives' tales on how to get pregnant. From rumours in the playground about how girls get pregnant, to tips we hear as adults regarding how to increase the chances of conceiving, it can sometimes be hard to know fact from fiction! Some old wives' tales actually turn out be true however, and many are based on medical fact. Others are a load of nonsense. To make it easier for you to know what you should and shouldn't be doing to get pregnant, we discuss what can actually increase your chances of conceiving, and what is mere myth.
Having sex in certain positions can affect your chances of conceiving: false
You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex in any position. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that sexual positioning can affect your chances of conception. The vast majority of a man's sperm travels towards the fallopian tubes the instant he ejaculates, and the remaining fluid is very low in sperm, so it's unlikely that sex standing up or woman on top positions will affect your chances of conceiving. Some women have unusually shaped cervixes, which might make having sex horizontally more effective for conception, but this is extremely rare. Some people like to let gravity give nature a helping hand and advocate avoiding positions where the woman is upright, but it's completely up to individual couples whether they want to give this a go or not. It won't harm your chances of conceiving, but there's no evidence to suggest that it makes a difference.
Having sex underwater can affect your chances of getting pregnant: unlikely
Some people believe that they cannot get pregnant if they have sex in water, while others believe that having sex in the water can increase their chances of conceiving. The truth is that both of these rumours are wrong. You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex whether you're in the bath, shower, sea or on dry land. Having sex in the water doesn't increase your chance of conceiving, but it could possibly wash away some of the sperm.
Lying down after sex is more likely to get you pregnant: possibly
There is an old wives' tale that says if you lie down for 10-15 minutes after sex you're more likely to get pregnant. While there is no conclusive proof that this works, a study carried out in Amsterdam in 2009 found that women who were artificially inseminated were 50% more likely to get pregnant if they lay down horizontally for 10 minutes afterwards. So if you're trying for a baby, you could try staying put for a while after sex to see if it makes a difference. In any case, it certainly won't hurt your chances of getting pregnant.
Lifting your legs in the air after sex helps get you pregnant: false
It used to be believed that lifting your legs in the air after sex helps a woman get pregnant as gravity will help move the sperm towards the woman's cervix. This is completely false. Your pelvis doesn't move around when you lift your legs up, so it makes no difference. It'll just make your legs ache!
Tight underwear lowers men's sperm count: partly true
You may have heard that wearing tight underwear raises the temperature of the testes to such a degree that it lowers a man's sperm count enough to affect his fertility. The testes are located outside the body because they need to be one degree lower than body temperature for healthy sperm to be produced. Experts are divided on whether wearing tight underwear (and tight trousers) is a conclusive factor regarding male fertility. A study carried out by the State University of New York in 1998 concluded that boxer shorts are no better for men's sperm count than tight pants. However, more recent studies have concluded that wearing tight pants can actually affect male fertility more than smoking, alcohol consumption, and obesity. Studies conducted by the universities of Sheffield and Manchester found that men who chose loose fitting boxer shorts had higher quality sperm than men who preferred to wear tight pants. However, most medical experts believe that the effects of wearing tight underpants will most likely only affect men with low or borderline low sperm counts to start with. For men who are trying for a baby, it makes sense to avoid overly tight pants and trousers.
Too much, or not enough sex, affects fertility: partly true
It is widely believed that too much sex can decrease a man's sperm count, and that sex every day dilutes sperm. Another old wives tale states that not having enough sex is bad for fertility as the sperm will contain dead sperm. So which of these contradictory statements is true? And how often should you have sex to maximise your chances of getting pregnant? Well they both have some truth to them. We've all been warned by our mothers that it only takes one time to get pregnant, but too little sex could affect your chances of falling pregnant, as the less you have sex, the less chances you are providing your body to successfully conceive.
Not having sex very often could also potentially decrease the quality of a man's sperm, as waiting too long between having sex can make sperm less active, according to recent findings. In fact, there is a growing body which believes sex every day actually increases male fertility. A study conducted by Dr David Greening at an IVF clinic in Sydney, Australia, found that sex every day seemed to boost the quality and the mobility of a man's sperm. Experts believe that this is because regular ejaculation reduces the length of time sperm sits in the man's testicles, where it can suffer DNA damage. The theory is that daily ejaculation removes damaged sperm from the body, and stops new sperm becoming damaged. Dr David's study also found that daily ejaculation could lower the chances of miscarriage, which can be caused by defective sperm.
However, the jury is out on whether sex every day helps or hinders the reproductive process, as some experts still believe sex every day could cause sperm count to plummet, which is especially pivotal for men who have low or marginal sperm counts. The general consensus among medical and fertility experts is that the fastest way to get pregnant is to have sex every 2-3 days. See our article on When and How Often Should I Have Sex? for more information on timing sex to increase your chances of conception.
Men should avoid saunas and hot tubs if they and their partner are trying for a baby: true
The testes need to be at a temperature which is slightly cooler than normal body temperature for optimal sperm production, so immersing them in excessively hot environments such as hot tubs, saunas and steam rooms can affect sperm production. Even hot baths can affect sperm production. It takes 2 to 3 months to produce a mature sperm cell, so if a man goes to a sauna, hot tub or has a very hot bath, his sperm production could be affected for up to 3 months afterwards. Hot tubs, saunas, hot baths and steam rooms are more likely to have an impact on men who already have a low sperm count, but for couples who want to maximise their chances of conceiving, it's best if the male partner avoids prolonged heat exposure to maximise their chances of conceiving.
There is no evidence that hot tubs, hot baths and saunas affect women's fertility, but all these activities can be dangerous to pregnant women, so if you're trying for a baby you might want to avoid these as you could be pregnant but not know it yet.
Drinking alcohol can affect fertility: true
Studies have found that drinking alcohol can affect both male and female fertility, although it isn't understood why drinking affects female fertility. It also isn't clear how much women have to drink before it affects their fertility. Some studies suggest that even light drinking can affect fertility. Excessive alcohol in men lowers the quality and quantity of sperm, and affects libido. It can also cause impotence. As with most lifestyle factors, alcohol is likely to have the biggest effect on men who have an existing low or borderline low sperm count. The current advice is that if you're trying to conceive, cutting out alcohol (for both partners) can make a big difference to your chances of getting pregnant.
Riding a bike can affect a man's sperm count: in some circumstances
For the last decade or so there have been many reports in the news that cycling can cause male infertility. The theory behind this is the same as for tight underwear and hot tubs: that cycling causes the temperature of the testes to be raised to such a degree that not enough healthy sperm is produced to create a successful conception. However, there has still been no conclusive proof that cycling does affect fertility. A study by Professor Diana Vaamonde at the University of Cordoba Medical School which announced that cyclists were at risk of damaging their fertility has been labelled misleading by some critics for a number of reasons. Firstly, the men in the study were not actual cyclists, but 15 elite triathletes. So cycling could not be pinpointed as the culprit of these men's lower sperm count. Also, their decreased sperm quantity could be attributed to their extreme exercise regimes.
There is evidence however, to suggest that men who spend more than 12 hours each week mountain biking are more likely to suffer scrotal irregularities. This is due to the rough terrain mountain bikers ride over, rather than overheating of the testes, as riding over rough terrain and braking abruptly can shock the testicles and compress nerves.
So what does this mean for couples trying to conceive? Well cycling, as well as hot tubs, alcohol, saunas and tight y-fronts, are probably all fine in moderation for men who have good sperm counts. For the occasional and moderate cyclist, there is no need to stop cycling based on any medical findings, although it's a good idea to avoid rough terrain. If you have been trying for a while and are not pregnant yet, it's a good idea to avoid anything which might affect sperm count.
Using lubricants and oils can lower your chances of getting pregnant: true
Although non-spermicidal lubricants, oils and creams can't stop you getting pregnant and aren't methods of contraception, these products can affect your chances of getting pregnant if you are trying for a baby. This is because they can slow sperm down on their journey to find the egg, and stop them getting where they need to go. Some products designed for intimate use also contain ingredients that are toxic to sperm. If you are trying for a baby but want to use a lubricant, ConceivEase is a fertility-friendly lubricant designed by gynaecologists for couples trying for to conceive.
Oral sex can stop you getting pregnant: true
While female to male oral sex certainly won't result in pregnancy, male to female oral sex can actually affect your chances of getting pregnant. There is evidence to suggest that saliva can slow sperm down, and bacteria in saliva can damage sperm, so you might want to avoid this if you are trying for a baby.