Published February 10, 2014
We’d like to think that we’ve gained a little expertise about baby-making since our teenage years. After all, we no longer think you can’t get pregnant your first time or that birth control ruins your future chances of having a baby. But apparently most women still have a ton of misconceptions about their fertility, according to a recent study in the journal Fertility & Sterility. And while having the wrong info in high school was embarrassing, believing these myths now can really affect your chances of getting pregnant.
Check out some of the most common myths the study uncovered, and get the facts behind each one.
Myth #1: Your Weird Period Won’t Affect Your Chances of Getting Pregnant
If your time of the month is wildly unpredictable, it can definitely impact how long it takes you to get pregnant. If you have only a few periods a year, you’re automatically reducing your probability of conceiving, says study author Lubna Pal, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine. And if your cycle varies in duration from month to month, it’ll be harder to pinpoint exactly when you’re ovulating.
Myth #2: Having Sex More Than Once a Day Will Up Your Odds of Getting Pregnant
Half of women falsely believe this myth, and while it almost seems probable, it’s definitely not true. “Unlike a woman, who releases one egg each cycle, in an ejaculate there are millions of sperm, and only one sperm is needed to do the job,” says Pal. Plus, every time a man ejaculates, the volume of it goes down, as well as the number of sperm released. “Having intercourse more than once does not enhance the ability for that one sperm to get where it needs to be,” says Pal.
Myth #3: That STD You Had in Your 20s Probably Didn’t Affect Your Fertility
More than one-quarter of women don’t know the impact that STDs can have on fertility. Unfortunately, many STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and pelvic inflammatory disease can result in damage to your fallopian tubes, says Pal. And when your tubes are blocked, the chances of sperm and egg meeting are decreased. Even if they do meet, your odds of having an ectopic pregnancy increase with tubal damage.
That’s why it’s crucial to diagnose and treat STDs as soon as possible, says Pal. And if you’ve had a history of STDs, consult your physician as soon as you’re ready to get pregnant in order to identify any damage and improve your odds of conceiving.
Myth #4: Getting Older Doesn’t Have a Huge Impact on Fertility—Tons of Women Have Babies in Their 40s!
Shockingly, one-fifth of women are unaware of the effects of aging on fertility. While it certainly seems like many women are getting pregnant later in life, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to get pregnant past your mid-30s. In general, it’s around age 36-37 when you see a change in your ability to conceive, says Pal. “It takes longer to get pregnant, you’re more likely to miscarry, and more likely to have a child with genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean that every woman follows the same trajectory—how quickly you get pregnant will vary, depending on various factors (like if you’re a smoker or if your mother conceived much later in life). “Advancing age is detrimental to egg quantity and quality, but that concept needs to be individualized to the woman,” says Pal.
Myth #5: Certain Sex Positions Increase Your Chance of Getting Pregnant
No, gravity doesn’t play a role in getting you pregnant, though more than one-third of women think specific positions could work better than others. Even though this is totally false, it’s not exactly a harmful myth to believe, says Pal. That is, it won’t negatively impact your chances of getting pregnant.
Myth #6: When You’re Trying to Get Pregnant, You Should Wait Until Ovulation Occurs or Just After It Occurs to Have Sex
Only 10 percent of women in the study knew that sex should happen before ovulation in order to get pregnant. If you’re using an at-home ovulation test, that will tell you when you get the surge of hormones right before ovulation, which means ovulation may be 24 to 48 hours away, says Pal. That means you should start having sex pronto because sperm can live in your body and fertilize an egg up to three to five days after you have sex. So if you wait until ovulation begins, you’re essentially missing your window, says Pal.
Myth #7: Your Gyno Will Let You Know If You Have Any Problems With Fertility
Only 50 percent of women reported ever having discussed their reproductive health with their doctors. That’s huge because when you go in for your annual gynecological visit, your doctor is usually only focused on what’s going on that day. They’re probably not going to talk to you about your chances of getting pregnant and what factors can help or hinder your odds—unless you bring it up first, says Pal. Her advice: Make a point of discussing your fertility—and be sure to take notes!