10 Fertility Myths and the Truths Behind Them
Having children is truly a blessing. However, babies may not come easy for some couples. We debunk 10 fertility myths here.
A significant number of women today face fertility-related and conception problems.
Usually, when a couple does not have children, the woman is held responsible. Many people continue to practice unusual fertility rituals stemmed in false beliefs in order to increase their chances of pregnancy. Many of these often result in false hopes, emotional distress and heartbreak. To help you understand infertility better, we share 10 commonly held fertility myths and the truth behind them:
Fertility myth #1: Ovulation only happens on the 14th day of the cycle
This might be true for women who have a perfect 28-day cycle but it is definitely not true for everyone. There are women who only have a 21-day cycle or even a longer 36-day cycle. Ovulation for these women does not happen on day 14 but could probably take place on any day between day 8 to day 23.
Belief in this fertility myth could be the reason why some women do not manage to conceive. They would think to have sex only around the 14th day, disregarding their own menstrual cycles. Unknowingly, they miss out on the exact day of their ovulation.
Fertility myth#2: Ovulation occurs when there is an increase of basal body temperature
Though basal body temperature (BBT) may help determine if a woman is ovulating, it is not a clear indication. A woman’s egg can only survive for one day or less, and by that time the BBT may have risen or fallen.
BBT cannot be the exact determining factor of ovulation. Instead, a woman should focus on her cervical fluid secretions to see if she is fertile or not.
Fertility myth#3: Sperm can only thrive in a woman’s body for up to 3 days
This belief has actually spawned many other fertility myths such as a woman is fertile for only one day during her cycle as well as that pregnancy will not occur when having sex during a woman’s menstrual period.
The truth is that the sperm can remain in a woman's reproductive tract for up to 5 days. So even if a woman’s egg can only endure for 12 to 24 hours, a woman’s fertility period is lengthened for the sperm’s sustainability.
Moreover, if there is intercourse during the fourth or fifth day of the menstrual period, and the woman has early ovulation, it is possible that the sperm will meet the egg to fertilise it when it is released.
Fertility myth#4: Conception can only happen when a woman orgasms
Many believe that a woman’s eggs can only be released if she experiences an orgasm. However, this is not true at all. A woman’s eggs are released during ovulation, which is caused by the hormone oestrogen and not because of an orgasm.
If sperm happens to meet the egg during its release, conception takes place. However, if there is no sperm then fertilisation and therefore conception, will not occur.
Fertility myth#5: Having sex daily can increase the chances of pregnancy
Many couples who want to have a child believe that having sex daily will increase their chances of conception. This may not be entirely true. Even if a couple has intercourse daily, but the woman has not yet ovulated -- conception is still not guaranteed.
Ideally, a woman should be able to predict when she is most fertile through testing her cervical fluid. If she thinks she is near ovulation then the couple should have sex around this time. This increases their chances of fertilisation and therefore pregnancy.
Fertility myth#6: Infertility is a woman’s problem
Not at all! Infertility can also be as much a man’s problem as a woman's. According to Dr. Suresh Nair, Fertility Specialist, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, women are responsible for only 35 % of the total infertility cases, while men are solely responsible for 30% of them.
The remaining percentage is contributed by both men and women combined infertility. It is advisable that a couple should consult a doctor if they have not managed to conceive even after one year of trying.
Fertility myth#7: Infertility is caused by stress
While there is a grain of truth in this statement, it is not entirely true.
It is wrong to believe that stress exclusively affects fertility. But stress can affect fertility if it upsets the hormones that inhibit ovulation. Dr Nair of Mount Elizabeth Hospital confirms that stress may cause sleeplessness and tiredness which in turn can affect a couple’s sex drive.
Fertility myth#8: Infertility cannot be treated
For some couples who have serious fertility problems, it may take a long time to reach a point of conception. But for many others, who have problems in determining a woman’s ovulation, the timing of intercourse, or low sperm count, treatment can be found relatively easily.
It is highly recommended that a couple seek a doctor's opinion to determine the nature and extent of their infertility problem. This will help them find an appropriate treatment as early as possible.
Fertility myth#9: It is easy to conceive a child if one is healthy
This is another belief that many hold on to but is not always true. While, of course, having a healthy body weight, exercising appropriately and regularly, eating nutritional foods, and avoiding too much caffeine or alcohol can enhance fertility, there are other factors such as genetics and age that can still impact on the fertility of a woman and a man.
Fertility myth#10: Pregnancy is easier after the first baby
Conceiving a second baby is not at all guaranteed even when a woman has already given birth to her first child. Send infertility - that is the inability to have a second child - is not uncommon at all.
Age can play a big factor in this. According to Dr. Nair, if a woman is already aged 35 years or older, her fertility rate would have declined to about 25%. If she is in her 40s, her fertility rate would have gone down to 20%.
Infertility is emotionally and physically draining for most couples. As stated above, the cause is not always easy to pinpoint and could actually be a combination of factors.
It is best to seek professional help. And remember the earlier you detect the problem, the sooner you can begin treatment.
For more information about the maternity ward services at Mount Elizabeth Hospital and to book a maternity tour, please call (+65) 6731 2000 or visit www.mountematernity.sg.
Did you experience infertility? It would be great if you would share your experiences in the comments section below, to help other couples who are in a similar situation.