If you're trying to get pregnant, chances are you've been overwhelmed with tips and advice. Books, magazines, Web sites, and well-meaning friends and relatives are full of suggestions. But how do you separate the myths from the facts? Here are some common misconceptions about conception.
1. You'll have a better chance of conceiving if you relax and stop worrying about it. Even assuming this were possible, there's no clinical evidence that it makes a difference. While extreme stress can affect your ability to ovulate in very rare cases, "worrying about it" -- especially if that worry takes the form of monitoring ovulation and timing intercourse to coincide with your most fertile time -- can only help.
2. Drinking Robitussin before you ovulate will make you more fertile. The theory is that guaifenesin, the expectorant ingredient in Robitussin, will help thin your cervical mucus in the same way it thins the mucus in your lungs, making it easier for the sperm to swim through your cervix and reach the egg. While guaifenesin may, indeed, result in thinner mucus, it's not clear that thin mucus alone will make you more fertile. The quantity of mucus is as important as its consistency, and Robitussin will not affect this.
3. You'll conceive more quickly if you make love during the day, with the lights on. While studies have shown that sperm levels are somewhat higher in the morning, there's no clinical basis for keeping the lights on. (If you enjoy it, of course, that's another matter.)
4. Having sex every day increases your odds of getting pregnant. You can have sex 10 times a day and it won't result in pregnancy unless it's timed to coincide with ovulation. And even if you've timed things correctly, the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) reports that a major study found no difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex daily and those who had sex every other day.
5. If you have sex early in your fertile period, the baby will be a boy; later, a girl. There's an old wives' tale that "boy sperm" (those with Y-chromosomes) swim faster than their female counterparts, but the NEJM study found no difference.
6. Bike riding will reduce your husband's sperm count. If your partner is an Olympic-level, long-distance cyclist, it is theoretically possible (although not clinically proven) that the extra heat, jostling, and grinding on the testicular region will affect fertility.
7. Eating nonorganic bananas can make men sterile. This claim is based on a report that chemicals used in growing bananas had a negative effect on the sperm of farm workers. There is no clinical proof that men who eat the bananas could be similarly affected.
8. Cooling your husband's "jets" with an ice pack can increase his fertility. Like many conception myths, this one has a basis in fact: Sperm counts tend to rise in cooler temperatures. For this reason, men who are trying to conceive are advised to wear loose underwear (boxers instead of briefs), and avoid long, hot baths, saunas, and hot tubs. However, since it takes at least two months for a man's sperm count to be positively affected by cooler temperatures, using an ice pack on his genital area is hardly a practical solution.
Sources: New England Journal of Medicine; American Society of Reproductive Medicine, www.asrm.org
Reviewed by Elizabeth Stein, CNM
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