If you are trying to conceive, you have probably heard many tips for getting pregnant and have a hard time discerning fertility fact from fiction. Which suggestions may actually help when you are trying for a baby? Let’s review some of the more common beliefs about fertility and see if the science backs them up.
Fertility dramatically declines with age for both men and women. FACT
The trend of declining fertility starts after age thirty for women. By their late 30s women have half the fertility rate of women in their early 20s. Male fertility decreases most after age 50 but starts to decline at 40. No amount of wishful thinking will change these reproductive aging patterns so plan accordingly!
Men should store up sperm for baby-making during the woman’s non-fertile time. FICTION
More frequent ejaculation by the man is better. The more he ejaculates the higher his testosterone will be and the better and more quality sperm he can make. Having hubby not ejaculate during your non-fertile time is negative for sperm production. Even daily ejaculation doesn’t harm sperm quality or numbers. New research data suggests that ejaculating at least every two days is good and every day ejaculation is best for sperm production, even for men with poorer quality sperm. If that sounds exhausting to you (it does to me!), remember frequent ejaculation doesn’t have to be from intercourse every time.
To conceive, you need to have sex every day when you are ovulating. FICTION
Regular intercourse is critical, meaning at least three times a week all month long. Daily intercourse during the woman’s fertile time offers a very slight improvement in conception rates, but for most couples, the stress of “having to have” intercourse every day is not worth the small increase in pregnancy chances. Couples who have sex every day during the woman’s fertile time had a 37% conception rate, while couples who had sex every other day had a 33% chance. The big change in conception rates (down to 15%) occurs for couples having sex only once a week. In general, having sex three times a week will allow most fertile couples to conceive. Regular sex is one of the most important things you can do to optimize your fertility.
The woman’s most fertile time is the six days of her cycle ending on the day she ovulates.FACT
Intercourse that occurs within the 3-day interval ending on the day she ovulates is most likely to end in conception. In absolute terms, the highest pregnancy rates are seen if intercourse occurs the day prior to ovulation, with rates declining if they occur ON the day of ovulation. The average woman is fertile around days 12-14 of her cycle. In fact, women having intercourse on day 21 of their cycle can still have a 2% pregnancy rate.
Ovulation and peak fertility can be determined by: 1) measuring daily temperature 2) tracking the presence of slippery “egg white cervical mucus” or EWCM and 3) using ovulation prediction tests to detect LH in a woman’s urine. FACT
In numerous studies, tracking EWCM and having intercourse on the peak production day is one of the most reliable methods of timing fertility. Pregnancy rates following intercourse on the day of peak EWCM reach 38% with a decrease to <20% for intercourse on the day before or after this peak. To understand how to track your temperature and EWCM, check out Toni Weschler’s book Taking Charge of Your Fertility. Ovulation prediction tests such as the First Response product are helpful if tracking your temperature or EWCM is just too much or if you are one of the women who doesn’t make good EWCM. One word of caution: ovulation can occur within a TWO day window after a positive LH surge, so have intercourse once a day for two days after a positive test.
Missionary position improves chances of pregnancy. FICTION
In actuality, having sex that feels extra good to the man and has him really turned on DOES increase the number of healthy sperm he makes, which will give his best chance of fertility. I suggest having “special gourmet sex” at least once during your fertile time. Every time you are baby-making, give your partner extra foreplay and use some unique positions just for your fertile time so he gets excited knowing it is coming! Just remember that even saliva can damage sperm like lubricants.
Canola and baby oil are safe for TTC. FICTION
Everyday lubricants kill sperm, as do oils and many homemade remedies. Studies suggest that oils like baby oil and canola oil damage sperm by making them only half as able to support normal embryo motility in animal model studies. Plus, these oils have no quality control for safety in reproductive use.
Being very under or overweight harms fertility in both men and women. FACT
Losing even just 5% of your weight can improve your fertility. You CAN do that! Remember that moderation is key– even for exercising!
Smoking has a hugely negative impact on fertility. FACT
It is one of the worst things you can do for forming a family. Men: smoking can pass on damaged DNA to your children. It has even been linked to higher childhood cancers. Stop when you are trying to conceive.
Drinking any caffeine is bad for fertility. FICTION
The good news for women who are TTC is that drinking 1-2 cups of coffee a day may not be as bad as we thought. There are no apparent adverse effects on fertility or pregnancy outcomes. I used to get my lattes as “half caffs” with half the caffeine so I could have two a day if I wanted.
Sperm are not stored in the cervix, but rather in the fallopian tube. FACT
Most physicians are taught that human sperm is stored in the cervix after intercourse and then released from a “cervical reservoir” over several days. In fact, no study has ever shown sperm form a “cervical reservoir” before reaching the fallopian tubes and participating in fertilization.