Do you know these myths about fertility and reproduction?

By (gynecologist) and (embryologist).
Last Update: 07/22/2021

There are many myths surrounding reproduction (both natural and assisted) and pregnancy. Some of them are not false and are real and scientifically based claims, while others are simply rumors that have taken root in society.

It is important to know which of these beliefs about fertility and reproduction are false. This avoids spreading these rumors, doing unnecessary things that we think are good for getting pregnant, the problems that these misunderstandings can cause when looking for a pregnancy and false expectations regarding assisted reproduction.

However, if you have any doubts about fertility or reproduction, it is always best to consult a specialist.

Fertility Myths

Among the general population, there are several myths that can be heard associated with fertility, some of them very widespread. Next, let's talk about some of them.

40 is the new 30

Although a woman in her 40s may feel young and believe that "40 is the new 30", biologically speaking it is not so. From a reproductive point of view, the body of an older woman no longer has the optimal conditions for fertility.

A woman in her 40s may believe that it is the best time to start a family because of her economic stability and her professional and romantic situation. However, the truth is that after the age of 40, a woman's chances of conceiving naturally decrease drastically. This is why women of advanced age may end up resorting to assisted reproduction techniques to achieve gestation.

The ideal age to be a new mother is under 30. Between the ages of 30 and 35 might be a reasonable age for a woman to seek pregnancy, but after 35 the chances of pregnancy decrease.

Infertility is only for women

When a woman is unable to get pregnant, it is common to think that she has the infertility problem. However, the reproductive process involves both women and men. Therefore, problems in the male can obviously also be the reason for not getting pregnant.

In fact, the percentage of infertility due to female factor and male factor are equal at around 30-35%. In addition, there is another 20-30% where infertility is caused by factors that concern both. The remaining 10% represents cases of infertility of unknown origin.

I have children, I can't be infertile

Based on logic, the statement "if we have previous children, we cannot have infertility problems" may seem true. However, this belief is false. In fact, this situation of infertility when you already have previous children has a name secondary infertility.

In addition, in cases of secondary infertility, the age of the woman, above all, usually plays an important role. As we have seen above, female fertility decreases sharply as women get older. Therefore, a woman has been able to have children in her youth, but then have fertility problems if she wants to get pregnant when she is 40 or older.

However, it is important to mention that age is not the only cause of these secondary infertility problems, which can also occur for other reasons. For example, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that have been contracted after the last pregnancy, or problems resulting from the first pregnancy, among others.

Pregnancy Myths

Another type of myths are those related to getting pregnant and the practices that need to be carried out. In this case we are going to highlight some of them.

It's easy to get pregnant the first time

Although it may happen that a woman gets pregnant on the first attempt, the truth is that it is not easy to get pregnant the first time, either naturally or through assisted reproduction techniques.

The chance of achieving a pregnancy in a young woman without fertility problems, who has sexual intercourse in the ovulatory period, is approximately 20-25% in each menstrual cycle. It should be noted that this percentage depends on the age of the woman, decreasing to 15% up to 30 years of age and over 3% in women over 38 years of age. This is due to the age-related impairment of female fertility.

Sexual intercourse every day

When pregnancy is desired, both too short and too long abstinence can be detrimental. Both situations can cause semen quality to suffer. In addition, the feeling of scheduling sex on a daily basis and reducing it to just getting pregnant is not optimal for the couple either.

It is advisable to have sex every other day, especially during a woman's ovulatory period. This period corresponds to day 14 of the menstrual cycle, if the woman has regular 28-day cycles, and the adjacent days. In this way, having sex during these days increases the chances that the egg and sperm will meet and fertilization will occur.

Legs up after sex

This is possibly one of the most well-known myths among women who are looking to get pregnant. However, it is not true that lifting your legs after sex improves your chances of getting pregnant.

It will be the sperm that will be in charge of ascending from the vagina to the uterus through the cervix. However, cervical mucus, whose characteristics in the ovulatory period of the woman will favour the passage of spermatozoa, can facilitate this ascent.

Similarly, there are no sexual positions that make it easier to get pregnant.

Myths about assisted reproduction

Assisted reproduction has also been the subject of certain myths and claims that are not true. These include those mentioned below.

I'm sure I'm going to get pregnant

Although we would like it to be true, using assisted reproduction techniques does not guarantee that a pregnancy will be achieved. There are occasions in which the patient does not manage to get pregnant after one or more cycles.

Not even ovodonation, which is currently the assisted reproduction technique with the highest success rate, has a gestation rate of 100%.

Assisted procreation, as any other medical treatment, requires that you rely on the professionalism of the doctors and staff of the clinic you choose. Obviously, each clinic is different. Get now your Fertility Report, which will select several clinics for you out of the pool of clinics that meet our strict quality criteria. Moreover, it will offer you a comparison between the fees and conditions each clinic offers in order for you to make a well informed choice.

I am having a multiple pregnancy

When a patient undergoes assisted reproductive techniques, attempts are made to maximize her chances of success. For this reason, in in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycles a few years ago, more than one embryo was transferred to the woman's uterus at a time, with the aim that one of them would implant. Of course, it could happen that several of these transferred embryos could implant, resulting in multiple pregnancies.

Thanks to the optimisation of embryo culture techniques and systems, embryo selection is now possible, increasing the chances of implantation in the uterus. Thus, it is currently recommended to transfer only one embryo, which reduces the possibility of multiple pregnancies.

However, if there are more good quality embryos as a result of the cycle, the remaining embryos will be preserved and stored in cold storage (vitrified) for future transfers.

I can decide the sex of my child

In an IVF cycle with preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) it is possible to determine the sex of each embryo. Despite this, this practice is currently only permitted in Spain to prevent the transmission of hereditary sex-linked diseases.

So, with this exception, you will not be able to choose whether your baby will be a boy or a girl even if you go for assisted reproduction.

FAQs from users

Do oral contraceptives affect fertility?

By Dra. Alicia Francos Pérez (gynecologist).

There has always been much concern on the part of women who take or have taken contraceptives as to whether they will affect their future fertility. There have also been many studies that have tried to find the relationship between contraceptives and their implication for fertility... and the answer is now clear. Contraceptives do not affect future fertility.

It must be understood that a woman's follicular endowment is depleted over the course of her reproductive life, and does so on the basis of a programmed follicular atrophy mechanism. This does not depend on the contraceptives she takes, nor on the pregnancies she has, nor on breastfeeding..... In other words, the fact that the ovaries are not functioning in a normal hormonal cycle, because they have stopped functioning, either because of contraceptives or other situations such as pregnancy, does not stop this programmed atrophy, which will continue to occur month after month, regardless of this.

Therefore, it is clear that taking contraceptives will not affect a woman's follicular endowment or future fertility. On the contrary, there are women who need to take contraceptives as therapy for certain pathologies, such as endometriosis, so that if they stop taking them when indicated, the disease may progress and the follicular endowment may be lost at an accelerated rate.

However, this does not mean that contraceptives do not affect fertility at the time they are taken. The composition of contraceptives based on the hormones produced by the ovary means that the hormonal axis that governs the reproductive function in these women is annulled, ovulation does not occur and therefore pregnancy is prevented.

Is it true that diet influences fertility?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez (embryologist).

A varied and balanced diet and a Mediterranean-type diet, as well as healthy lifestyle habits, have been linked to good fertility.

These good habits include moderate exercise, maintaining an appropriate weight and avoiding tobacco, alcohol and drugs.

Is it true that ovarian stimulation in IVF treatments brings forward the menopause?

By Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez (embryologist).

No, this is not the case. Ovarian stimulation carried out prior to in vitro fertilisation treatments is aimed at developing follicles which, if they were not stimulated in this way, would have been lost in a natural menstrual cycle in favour of the dominant follicle that would have reached ovulation.

Therefore, ovarian stimulation does not entail an extra loss of ovarian follicles and does not bring forward the menopause.

Suggested for you

In this post we have talked about secondary infertility. For more information and to learn how it differs from primary infertility, we recommend reading this article: Differences between primary and secondary infertility.

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

References

Crawford NM, Steiner AZ. Age-related infertility. Obstet Gynecol Clin North Am. 2015 Mar;42(1):15-25.

Jurema MW, Vieira AD, Bankowski B, Petrella C, Zhao Y, Wallach E, Zacur H. Effect of ejaculatory abstinence period on the pregnancy rate after intrauterine insemination. Fertil Steril. 2005 Sep;84(3):678-81.

Kabukçu C, Çil N, Çabuş Ü, Alataş E. Effect of ejaculatory abstinence period on sperm DNA fragmentation and pregnancy outcome of intrauterine insemination cycles: A prospective randomized study. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2021 Jan;303(1):269-278.

Leaver RB. Male infertility: an overview of causes and treatment options. Br J Nurs. 2016 Oct 13;25(18):S35-S40.

Seshadri S, Morris G, Serhal P, Saab W. Assisted conception in women of advanced maternal age. Best Pract Res Clin Obstet Gynaecol. 2021 Jan;70:10-20.

Vander Borght M, Wyns C. Fertility and infertility: Definition and epidemiology. Clin Biochem. 2018 Dec;62:2-10.

Walker MH, Tobler KJ. Female Infertility. 2021 Jan 1. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan–.

FAQs from users: 'Do oral contraceptives affect fertility?', 'Is it true that diet influences fertility?' and 'Is it true that ovarian stimulation in IVF treatments brings forward the menopause?'.

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Authors and contributors

Dra. Alicia Francos Pérez
Dra. Alicia Francos Pérez
Gynecologist
Dr. Alicia Francos has a degree in Medicine from the University of Salamanca and a Master's degree in Mastology and Breast Pathology from the Autonomous University of Madrid and another Master's degree in Human Fertility from the Complutense University of Madrid. She also has a diploma in Gynaecological Endoscopic Surgery from the Université Clermont Ferrand. More information about Dra. Alicia Francos Pérez
License: 330840199
 Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
Embryologist
Graduate in Health Biology from the University of Alcalá and specialized in Clinical Genetics from the same university. Master in Assisted Reproduction by the University of Valencia in collaboration with IVI clinics. More information about Silvia Azaña Gutiérrez
License: 3435-CV

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