Dr Sonya Jessup of Demeter Fertility looks at the most common fertility misconceptions to determine fact from fiction.
1. "Once I hit 40+ my fertility falls off a cliff"
FACT – Age is one of the most important factors when conceiving and women are less likely to conceive in their 40s because they don’t ovulate eggs with the potential to make babies as often as women do in their 20s. In fact, on average women aged 40-43 will produce one egg a year with the ability to make a baby. Getting pregnant when you are still in your 30s is easier both naturally and gives you a far greater success rate with IVF cycles, so start earlier.
2. It’s important for men AND women to take supplements to help fall pregnant
FACT – While traditionally women have taken supplements to boost their fertility, it’s important for men also!
3. My weight isn’t a major factor in falling pregnant
FICTION – It’s important to maintain a healthy BMI (18.5 to 25) in order to fall pregnant. Being under or overweight not only can cause you to not ovulate regularly, but also independently decreases the chance of any given embryo implanting. Overweight men have low sperm counts in general also, so get eating healthily!
4. Too much exercise can hinder the chances of conception
FACT – While moderate physical activity can increase the ability to conceive, excessive exercise can negatively alter energy balance in the body and affect the reproductive system.
5. Certain foods won’t help me fall pregnant
FICTION – We’ve heard for decades that eating a balanced diet is important, but there are two compounds in certain foods that are essential to maximising health at all life stages. These are compounds called polyamides and isoflavones. Polyamines are essential for embryo and foetal development growth and cell proliferation and can be found in fresh grapefruit juice, orange juice, sauerkraut and oranges. Isoflavens are powerful antioxidants found in soy products. In fact, recent studies show that consuming more than 20-40mg of soy a day, doubled pregnancy rates. I recommend eating 220g of tofu, two cups of cooked soybeans, 56g of soy flour and drinking three cups of soy milk.
6. Vitamin B may help prevent miscarriages
FACT – A new study from Sydney has suggested that it is important to take vitamin B3 in pregnancy. The good news is that vitamin B3 (Niacin) is already in the common pre pregnancy multivitamins. I recommend patients take at least a pre-pregnancy supplement or a vitamin B supplement as well as their folic acid.
7. Having sex on the day of ovulation increases the chances of conception
FICTION – Studies show that having sex on the day before you ovulate gives you the greatest chance of conceiving . The second highest chance is two days before you ovulate and having sex on the day of ovulation comes in third. This is because the sperm is still able to fertilise an egg for 72 hours inside the females body. The egg however, only has a window of fertilisation of 12 hours and after that time conception will not take place. I advise my patients to have sex to conceive at least on the day or two before they are due to ovulate. Also have sex at other times just for fun and to keep your relationship about the two of you and not just about a baby.
8. Coital position doesn’t affect the chance of conception
FACT - Regardless of the position taken, sufficient sperm are deposited in the net of the womb and are able to begin their journey towards the egg.
9. Potency is improved by 'saving up' semen through infrequent intercourse
FICTION - Abstaining from sex in order to accumulate sperm so that more are deposited during sex will not increase your chances of achieving conception. In fact, the stored, older sperm may be of inferior quality and even hinder the newly produced, healthier sperm from reaching the egg.
10. Lubricant makes it easier for sperm to slip, slide and get inside
FICTION - Most lubricants change the pH or acid balance inside the vagina, and that in turn may affect sperm motility and ultimately prevent, or at least reduce the chances of a pregnancy occurring. Using natural vegetable products, such as olive oil, is less likely to cause sperm any serious problems.
Dr Jessup is an experienced Fertility Specialist and Gynaecologist at Demeter Fertility, who has studied and worked in Reproductive Medicine for the past decade. She provides a thorough and personalised assessment of a patient’s situation and can quickly organise and perform any procedures, tests or surgery they may need. Dr Jessup has been through IVF herself and works to create a happy, low stress, sustainable approach to fertility treatments.