When you start on the journey of trying to conceive (or “TTC” as fertility shorthand talk goes) you’re bound to hear tons of tips and tricks that people swear will help you to increase your chances. Often, these myths (which can sometimes be just old wive's tales) have no merit—but other times they do. So, how can you navigate your way through these tricky tidbits? We talked with Dr. Alexis Melnick, assistant attending ob-gyn at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine, for her expert advice.
According to Dr. Melnick, there is no one sexual position that will make you more likely to get pregnant. And despite popular belief, while putting your legs in the air post-coitus might make sense in theory, “keeping your legs up after sex is probably only going give you some pretty bad leg cramps," says Dr. Melnick. "Sperm are programmed to move quickly toward the uterus and can make their way up to the fallopian tubes within minutes after sex. Plus, the average male ejaculate contains over 20 million sperm per milliliter, so even if a little is lost to gravity, there is more than enough for a pregnancy.”
You may have been encouraged to eat more pineapple, or avoid cold foods or liquids. According to Dr. Melnick, these are both false. “Eating pineapple core does not help with implantation,” she says, and “eating cold foods or liquids will not lead to a ‘cold uterus’ and decrease chances of implantation. And conversely, keeping your body warm, e.g., wearing socks to bed, will not make the uterus more hospitable and increase chances."
You may have heard there are certain ways to increase your chances of having either a baby girl or baby boy. “I’ve heard so many different things about this: sex before ovulation leads to girls and sex after ovulation leads to boys, changing vaginal pH can change chances of certain genders, certain positions are more likely to give you a specific gender, etc.," says Dr. Melnick. "These are all totally untrue. When it comes to gender, you get what you get."
Words of wisdom that do actually ring true: avoid stressors wherever possible. Dr. Melnick explains, “While mild day-to-day stress is probably fine, severe stress can actually affect a woman’s menstrual cycle and limit her fertility. As much as possible, women trying to get pregnant should try to minimize stress (easier said than done, I know). Whether that is through exercise, acupuncture, or getting a massage, it’s important not to give up relaxing activities.”
While there is no evidence to show that orgasming during sex leads to an increase in pregnancy rates, it does make sense in theory. “The thought behind it is that when the uterus contracts during orgasm, it creates a vacuum effect that could theoretically pull sperm into the uterus,” Dr. Melnick elaborates. While there might not be any evidence, it’s still a plus.
The “Two-Week Wait” is a time filled with anticipation, excitement, and maybe even stress as you wait to see if you are possibly pregnant or not. You may have heard a laundry list of things to do or to avoid during this window, but Dr. Melnick stresses: “The most important thing to remember during the two-week wait (post ovulation and pre-pregnancy test) is everything in moderation. The two-week wait is not the time to drink alcohol heavily, drink five cups of espresso per day, or start a new intense exercise regimen. But, having a glass of wine or going to a spin class will certainly not affect chances of conceiving. Maintaining normal activities, such as continuing a typical exercise regimen or having one cup of coffee a day, is completely fine.”
There are many confusing, tense, and exciting stops along the journey to baby-making, and patience is key. “Despite what many women think, it is not very easy to get pregnant," says Dr. Melnick. "I always tell my patients, humans are not like mice—human reproduction is actually pretty inefficient. The average chance of getting pregnant in a given cycle is only 20 percent, so don't be discouraged if it hasn't happened after a few tries. Having said that, as women get older, chances of pregnancy get lower so women over 35 should seek fertility treatment after six months of unsuccessfully attempting to conceive."