14.06.2024

I’m a fertility doctor — these are the 5 biggest myths about getting pregnant

Yet the same surge in interest around conceiving has also spawned a catalogue of myths and misconceptions. Wannabe mothers have been told to lie down after sex to boost their chances, and assured that breastfeeding makes it impossible to get pregnant.

Here, MailOnline asks top fertility experts for their thoughts on five common claims peddled online…

Advice like lying down after sex to increase your chances and myths that it is impossible to get pregnant while breastfeeding can make it hard to separate fact from fiction

You can only conceive on two days of your cycle

That women can only fall pregnant two days a month is a common misconception that is likely based on the fact that women are at their most fertile for two days each month.

But a women’s fertile window lasts for around six days — the five days leading up to ovulation and the day of.

Ovulation is when an ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tube.

If sperm fertilises the egg in this period, conception occurs and the fertilised eggs attaches to the lining of the uterus — which is known as implantation.

Advice like lying down after sex to increase your chances and myths that it is impossible to get pregnant while breastfeeding can make it hard to separate fact from fiction

While each egg only survives 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, the fertile window is much longer because of how long sperm can live, says Tim Bracewell-Milnes, a consultant gynaecologist at the Lister Fertility Clinic in London.

‘Sperm can survive in the body for up to seven days after you have sex, which means you could become pregnant at any point during your cycle if you have sex without contraception,’ said Jenny Saft, CEO and co-founder of fertility benefits company Apryl.

She added: ‘Having said that, there are around six days per cycle when women are at their most fertile: this includes the day that you ovulate, and the five days leading up to it.’

Mr Bracewell-Milnes said: ‘The traditional advice for couple trying to conceive was therefore that if you have sex two to three times per week untimed to your cycle, there should always be enough sperm to fertilize the egg.

‘These days with the advent of apps lots of women are tracking their cycles, and will have sex more regularly in the run up to when they ovulate.’

The fertile window is much wider than just two days because sperm can live for longer in the woman's body, it can be up to a week

The fertile window is much wider than just two days because sperm can live for longer in the woman’s body, it can be up to a week

Stress can stop you from getting pregnant

Stress can have many negative effects on the body, from disrupting sleep to increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

But experts say it’s a myth that it stops you getting pregnant.

Although people who are struggling to conceive might experience higher levels of stress, it is not known if stress and infertility are directly linked, Ms Saft explained.

Mr Bracewell-Milnes said: ‘The stress hormone cortisol has many negative implications on the body, and may well have a negative impact on conception.

‘However, there is no good evidence to prove this.’

That said, high levels of stress can cause periods to stop, or for your menstrual cycle to become longer or shorter.

This is because the stress hormone cortisol interferes with reproductive hormone levels.

‘However, if you are stressed but still having regular cycles, then you should still have a good chance of conceiving,’ says Mr Bracewell-Milnes.

Women can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can stop ovulation — preventing the ovary from releasing an egg, which must occur in order to fall pregnant.

Studies suggest it can act as a contraceptive if a new mother is breastfeeding at least every four hours during the day and every six hours at night, is not having periods and their baby is under six months.

However, experts urge against relying on it as a method of contraception.

Mr Bracewell-Milnes said: ‘Breastfeeding will prevent a lot of women from having regular cycles and ovulating and they will therefore struggle to conceive.

‘However, spontaneous cycles often resume.’

He added: ‘It is therefore very important to use contraception while breastfeeding, such as the mini-pill.

‘This will have no impact on the production of breast milk but will stop you from getting pregnant.’

While women can fall pregnant within just three weeks of giving birth, health chiefs recommend waiting at least 18 months to ensure the body has time to recover.

Doctors say you can even get pregnant as early as three weeks after the birth of the baby, even if you are breastfeeding

Doctors say you can even get pregnant as early as three weeks after the birth of the baby, even if you are breastfeeding

You should lie flat after sex when trying to conceive

It may make sense that lying down after sex will draw the sperm towards the cervix.

However, experts say that the jury is out on whether the act boosts the odds of getting pregnant.

Sandy Christiansen, embryologist and fertility coach at London-based Bea Fertility, said: ‘Studies have been carried out which have tested whether lying flat after artificial insemination makes a difference to conception rates.

‘Whilst some studies suggest that lying flat for 15 minutes can increase your chances of pregnancy, others suggest that it makes no difference at all.’

The same studies were also carried out on women who went through intrauterine insemination, which involves directly inserting sperm into a woman’s womb.

They were asked to either lay down or move around for 15 minutes immediately afterwards.

But there was no conclusive evidence to determine whether lying on your back after regular sex makes a difference to pregnancy rates, according to Ms Christiansen.

Forty per cent of those who moved around fell pregnant, compared to 32 per cent of those who stayed horizontal.

She said: ‘Lying flat won’t do you any harm, but it won’t necessarily help either, so it’s really up to you.’

Orgasm increases your chances of pregnancy

It won’t hurt your chances of getting pregnant.

But having an orgasm won’t increase your chances of getting knocked up either.

‘There aren’t any scientific studies to support this claim,’ said Ms Christiansen.

She said: ‘Some experts say that it makes sense that the contractions that happen in the uterus when you orgasm could help move the sperm along to the egg.

‘[But] it’s incredibly hard to study this, so there’s little evidence to prove that this is the case.’

Experts say that worrying about it won’t make it any better.

Ms Christiansen said: ‘What’s clear is that worrying about reaching orgasm when you’re trying to conceive can make having sex more stressful — and less enjoyable.

‘What’s more important for increasing your chances of pregnancy is that you have sex when you are at your most fertile.’

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