Fertility: 8 Myths and Truths
The Real Fertility Facts
When it comes to babymaking, it seems as though everyone -- including your mother-in-law's best friend's sister -- has some insight to share. But chances are, a lot of what you hear is nonsense. "Fertility is a major part of our lives that we don't have a lot of control over," says Alice Domar, PhD, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. "When things don't happen the way we want, we look for explanations -- preferably something we can take direct action on -- and that's where the myths start to circulate."You've heard that...
...diet and exercise will preserve your fertility.
The truth: The quality of a woman's eggs declines with age regardless of how healthy she is, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University.
Some experts estimate that in 35-year-old women, approximately 1 in 2 eggs are likely to have chromosomal abnormalities; and about 90 percent of eggs are abnormal in women aged 42 or older. And with fewer viable eggs, your fertility rate declines.
Research does show, however, that women who exercise regularly during pregnancy may have fewer pregnancy-related aches and pains. Also, eating a low-fat diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will help you stay at a healthy weight, which can improve your chances of getting pregnant at any age. "Overweight or obese women often have more trouble conceiving, and they're prone to developing complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure," says Randy Morris, MD, an associate clinical professor for the division for reproductive endocrinology at the University of Illinois Medical School in Chicago.You've heard that...
...taking birth control pills will make it harder to get pregnant.
The truth: The pill doesn't affect your fertility. And menstrual-suppression pills (the kind you're on for months straight with no "weeks off") won't hamper your fertility either. Research shows that once you stop these pills, you'll start ovulating within three months and probably even sooner, just like with regular birth control pills. "You can start trying to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking them," says Dr. Morris. "They're so low-dose that the hormones are out of your system within a few days." In fact, the pill may have a protective effect. "It can help slow or even prevent the development of ovarian cysts and endometriosis, a condition in which uterine tissue grows outside the uterus in other organs like the fallopian tubes and ovaries," says Dr. Morris. Both cysts and endometriosis are conditions that can interfere with ovulation.
If you do have trouble getting pregnant once you stop taking the pill, it may be due to changes that have naturally occurred over time in your menstrual cycle. "Many women are on the pill for years, then go off it and find that their cycles are irregular," says Dr. Morris. "But the pill didn't cause those irregularities, it simply masked them."You've heard that...
...to get pregnant quickly, you should have sex every day.
The truth: Sperm live for about 38 to 72 hours in your reproductive tract, so there's no need to, um, overload it. "I see so many people who are making their lives miserable by trying to have sex all the time," says Mark Leondires, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director of Reproductive Associates of Connecticut. Plus, having sex more than once a day for a few days in a row may reduce sperm count. "Figure out when you ovulate, and have sex every other day two to three days before and after that," he says. You ovulate approximately 14 days before you get your period: So if your cycle is 28 days, you ovulate on or around day 14. To learn more about how to tell when you're ovulating, check out resolve.org, the Web site of the National Infertility Association. And relax: On average, it takes healthy couples about four to six months to get pregnant.
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