Planning for a baby is one of the most important times in a couple's lives, but for many it can be confusing and complicated. Here we dispel some of the common fertility myths below.
Myth: Having sex every day will increase our chances of conceiving
Couples trying to conceive are encouraged to have intercourse regularly to increase their chances of conception, but having intercourse everyday is likely to leave you exhausted, particularly as it takes many couples 6-12 months to conceive. However, as sperm can survive up to 5 days after release, and predicting ovulation is an in-exact science, most GP's advise having intercourse every 2-3 days to maximize the chances that sperm are around to fertilize an egg once ovulation occurs.
Myth: You can't get pregnant when you are menstruating
While women cannot conceive during menstruation as the hormones resulting in menstruation are the opposite of those required for a pregnancy to occur, she can conceive from sex during menstruation as she may ovulate early and sperm can survive for up to 5 days after release. Research in the USA1 has found that women may be fertile as early as day 4 of their cycle (day one is taken as the first day of bleeding) therefore pregnancy could occur at any point in a cycle.
Myth: You can only conceive from sex on the day that you ovulate
Not true. The human egg is viable for fertilization for around one day after it is released from the ovaries. However given that sperm can survive for up to 5 days after intercourse and women may produce more than 1 egg in a 24 hour period, technically a woman can conceive from intercourse occurring from anything up to 5 days prior to or even up to 2 days after ovulation, i.e. for one week of each menstrual cycle.
Myth: A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days
Not true, this is a myth perpetuated by the pill which makes all menstrual cycles regular and 28 days in length. In fact menstrual cycles can vary from anything between 24-36 days, and not only vary between women but can vary considerably in any individual woman from month to month.
Myth: Lying down with legs raised after sex will increase chances of getting pregnant
While there is no scientific evidence to support this approach, some people claim it helps and as it is totally harmless it has to be worth a shot.
Myth: Eating oysters will boost my fertility
There is a grain of truth in this because oysters are a rich source of zinc, low levels of which can be a factor in hampering fertility. Take stock of your diet and ensure that you are eating plenty of fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, which are rich in antioxidants, include oily types of fish twice each week (e.g. salmon, herring, sardine etc) to boost essential fatty acid and cut down on caffeine and alcohol both of which can hinder conception if taken in excess. Don't forget to keep active and if you are a smoker, quit.
Myth: You can get everything you need from diet and don't need to take supplements
This is definitely not true, and in fact all women are advised to take a supplement containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily while trying to conceive and for the first 3 months of pregnancy. Taking a folic acid supplement is important for neural tube development in the baby. As most of us don't manage to eat a perfect diet all the time, taking a supplement specifically designed for conception or pregnancy can help to ensure that there are plenty of all the vitamins and minerals important for conception.
1.Fehring RJ, Schneider M, Raviele K (2006) Variability in phases of the menstrual cycle. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs 35: 376-384