Some couples spend one cycle trying to conceive while others spend years hoping for two pink lines on a home pregnancy test. If only conception was as easy as sperm meets egg. Whether you’re new to the game or you’re a veteran who has tried every trick in the book to get pregnant, here are the most widely believed conception myths and the truths behind them.
Before beginning, it is important to note that a healthy, fertile couple in their 20s only has a 20-25% chance of conceiving during any given cycle. Male and female fertility issues, timing, and other factors can drastically impact the couple’s chance of conceiving, dropping the chances to as low as 0%.
Myth #1: Having Sex Every Day Will Increase Your Chances of Becoming Pregnant
As fun as doing the deed every night may be, many couples are hindered by work, children and existing obligations. But, you don’t need to have sex every night to become pregnant. Science shows that couples who baby dance every other night are just as likely to conceive as those who have sex once or multiple times per day.
Depending on male fertility, approximately 100 million sperm are released with each ejaculation. Although it takes just one sperm to fertilize a waiting egg, doing the deed only once during a woman’s fertile period will significantly decrease the couple’s chances of conceiving. OBs and fertility specialists recommend the every-other-day method beginning ten days after the first day of a woman’s period through cycle day 16. Women who have longer cycles than the average 28 days may wish to continue love making through cycle day 18 or 20. To help pinpoint ovulation, women may use ovulation prediction kits, which detect luteinizing hormones. In a healthy, fertile woman, this hormone is released approximately 12 to 36 hours before ovulation.
Myth #2: You Can Only Get Pregnant One Day a Month
Most calculations, including ovulation date and estimated due date when a woman is pregnant, are based on a 28-day cycle. Unfortunately, less than 15% of women actually have a 28-day cycle. Healthy, fertile women may have a cycle ranging anywhere from 26 to 32 days. Women who suffer from endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and other uterine or ovarian diseases may have shorter or longer cycles with or without ovulation.
Due to the variety in cycles, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint when ovulation will occur, even if you are using ovulation prediction kits. Even if a woman has a perfect 28-day cycle and ovulates on cycle day 14, avoiding sex only on the day of ovulation is not effective birth control. Sperm can live inside a woman for up to five days. Without knowing precisely when ovulation will occur, it is difficult to use part-time abstinence as a birth control method.
On the other hand, having sex only one day a month on the day ovulation is thought to occur will hinder a couple’s chances of getting pregnant. Specialists recommend doing the deed a few days prior to and through the date of suspected ovulation. Although the egg released during ovulation is only viable for 24 hours, sperm deposits from days before can be waiting to fertilize the egg.
Myth #3: You Can Time Sex to Conceive a Specific Gender
There is an old wives tale that suggests couples can control the gender of their soon-to-be conceived by timing intercourse. This myth may be particularly tempting to couples who have three boys and are hoping for a little girl or vice versa. Unfortunately, there is no scientific basis to prove this myth true.
The theory states that male sperm are stronger and swim faster than female sperm. It is also believed that female sperm live longer. Therefore, couples trying to have a boy should have sex closer to or the day of ovulation, whereas couples trying to have a girl should do the deed a few days before ovulation.
Couples may desperately want this myth to be true; however, adhering to these guidelines can negatively impact the chances of conceiving as they may miss a portion of the fertile window.
Myth #4: Putting Your Feet in the Air for 20 Minutes after Sex Will Help Sperm Travel to the Egg
The fastest sperm can travel from the vaginal canal to the fallopian tubes in half an hour. Although standing immediately after sex may cause some sperm to leak out, raising your legs above your head, especially for 20 minutes, will not increase the chances of conception. Instead, the lack of blood flow to your feet and legs may make it difficult to walk afterwards!
The idea of a woman raising her hips after doing the deed is not unfounded. Although sperm easily defy gravity, placing a pillow under her hips for five minutes after sex may help increase a couple’s chances of conceiving but not by much. The majority of the sperm deposited will have already made a beeline for the uterus and fallopian tubes. To compare, women who undergo an IUI (artificial insemination) are required to only have their hips elevated for five minutes after the procedure. After this time period, the sperm are already racing through the uterus to find the egg.
Some conception myths may be harmless while others can negatively impact a couple’s chances of conceiving that cycle. Before following or discounting any trick of the trade, ask your OB. She may be able to give you some factual tips to increase your chances of getting pregnant.