Getting Pregnant: Myths and Truths

There’s something about the holidays: maybe it’s the cuddling by the fire. Or wanting to stay indoors and out of the weather. Maybe it’s the eggnog.

Whatever it is, this is true: People tend to make babies this time of year.

Babies conceived in November and December are likely to be born in August and September. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data show that the most babies are born in July, August and September, in that order. (So some people are busy getting busy well before Thanksgiving.)

If you and your partner are looking to conceive, it’s good to parse fact and fiction about making a baby. Here are some myths you may have heard.

If I do a handstand for 10 minutes after sex or keep my legs in the air for 20, I’ll have a better chance of getting pregnant.

False. Adding gravity after sex does not direct any more sperm through the cervix, says Sarah Borders, MD, an obstetrician on the medical staff at Baptist Health Lexington.

“You could get up and go to exercise class after,” she says, and it wouldn’t make a difference. And position during sex doesn’t matter, either.

A mother’s age doesn’t matter anymore.

False. “If you watch TV and movies — or follow the lives of celebrities — you see a lot of older women getting pregnant but no real insight as to what they did to achieve pregnancy,” says William M. Collier, MD, an obstetrician with Baptist Health Medical Group in Richmond. “Fertility does begin to decline in a woman’s late 30s.”

Age is also a factor in male fertility, although a man’s fertility usually doesn’t dip until his mid-40s.

If I smoke, I don’t have to worry about quitting until I’m pregnant.

False. “The reality is that smoking impacts fertility,” Dr. Collier says. “I don’t think there’s a great explanation for why, but it can be associated with infertility.”

Plus, women don’t usually know they’re pregnant for several weeks. If you keep smoking, you could be harming your baby in the earliest days of pregnancy. And “just quitting” smoking when you have a positive pregnancy test isn’t so easily done; if you’re thinking about getting pregnant, make a quit plan first.

Men who want to conceive shouldn’t work with a computer on their laps.

True. The heat laptops generate can kill sperm, Dr. Borders says.

It’s the same reason men trying to conceive are advised not to wear tight underwear or spend time in hot tubs. In the case of wearing “tighty whities,” the testicles are drawn up toward the body, raising their temperature, she says. Hot tubs are just, well, hot.

If I drink cough syrup before ovulation, I will increase my fertility.

False. The theory around this one is that the medicine will thin your cervical mucus, just as it thins the mucus in your nose and lungs, and that makes it easier for sperm to reach the egg. But Dr. Borders gives this theory a big “no.”

There’s no evidence to support the use of herbal teas or supplements that are advertised to boost fertility.

True. These products have not been regulated or approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Nor have they been studied to show whether they make a difference, Dr. Borders says.

Taking them could pose risks, in fact, because the effects aren’t fully understood.

A man taking testosterone supplements will be more potent.

False. “Testosterone can actually cause something called azoospermia, which means absent sperm,” Dr. Borders says. “It can kill off every single sperm.”

The doctor has seen this so often with couples that she now asks during an infertility consultation whether a woman’s partner is taking testosterone supplements to help with mood or energy levels.

My weight should not interfere with conception.

False. “We have several patients who are obese, and obesity is associated with more ovulatory dysfunction,” Dr. Collier says. “You’re not ovulating, or you’re not ovulating regularly.”

He tells women that if they drop 10 percent of their body mass, their fertility would improve.

We’ve been trying to conceive for four months and haven’t. Something’s definitely wrong.

False. The chance of success with two healthy people each month is only 20 percent. That means an 80 percent chance you won’t get pregnant.
“I tell patients: Take a breath and give it a little more time,” Dr. Collier says.

Dr. Borders advises women younger than 35 to try for a year before seeking a fertility consultation; for older women, she asks them to return in six months. That’s because if there is a need for fertility treatments, it’s more effective to start them earlier.

Discover five tips to help boost your chances of getting pregnant.

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