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Everything you need to know about conception and pregnancy, clinically validated and written by experts.


The 24 weirdest fertility myths

We’ve compiled all the strangest fertility myths you’ll hear. Learn whether they’re true or false below.

Swallowing semen gives you a fertility boost 

False: The only way that sperm assists with fertility is when it’s in your vaginal canal or your fallopian tubes, on a path to find your egg. It does contain protein, but there are far more efficient ways to get your daily nutritional intake than from oral sex. Keep in mind that oral sex, masturbation, and anything else that causes ejaculation is healthy while you’re trying to conceive and won’t drain or reduce a man’s sperm count. See myth number 17 for more details.

You’ll have twins if you eat yams 

Unconfirmed, but probably false: This myth started when researchers discovered that the rate of twins was four times higher in West Africa than in the rest of the world. Researchers tried to determine what was causing the multiple births and examined the community’s diet, noting that the people ate mostly cassava plants, which are a type of yam.

Researchers have never conclusively linked a diet high in yams to having twins, though, and because yams are starchy and lack significant nutritional value, starting a yam-only diet in the hopes of conceiving multiples isn’t a good idea.

Just relax and you’ll get pregnant

False: Infertile people are sick of being told that not getting pregnant is “all in your head,” and for good reason: it’s not true. While staying relaxed and positive can provide some health boosts (and severe stress can affect your ability to ovulate in extreme cases), infertility is a medical condition with distinct causes. These causes require treatment, not just a smile.

You should have sex every day to boost your fertility

False: You can only conceive during the 5-6 days of your fertile window. That means that you can’t get pregnant during the rest of the month. You should focus on having intercourse during the fertile window, even multiple times a day if you’re feeling frisky, but sex during the rest of your cycle won’t do anything to boost your fertility.

If you want to have sex because you’re in the mood and want to feel closer to your partner, great! Just keep in mind that you’re doing it for other reasons besides making a baby.

The size of a man’s penis or testicles affects how fertile he is

False: This myth may have arisen because society puts a lot of penis size pressure on men, leading many people to associate a larger package with “manly” stereotypes like virility, sex drive, masculinity, and fertility. In reality, penis size has nothing to do with fertility. As long as a man is healthy and able to penetrate and ejaculate, size doesn’t matter.

Having sex in the morning gives you a fertility boost

False: This myth stems from a false belief that a man somehow “saves up” a store of more sperm overnight when he’s asleep, which morning sex then empties. Although there’s some research to suggest that a man’s sperm count is slightly higher in the morning, any difference is minor: it only takes one sperm to impregnate an egg, and sperm count might vary between 75 million and 76 million.

It’s more important to have sex during your fertile window, regardless of whether it’s morning, afternoon, night, or all of the above.

You can conceive a boy or a girl by doing certain things 

False: Have you heard any of these baby sex myths? To conceive a girl, put a wooden spoon and a pair of scissors under your bed and a pink bow under your pillow. Your male partner’s testicles should be warm if you want a son and cool if you want a daughter. If you have sex early in your fertile window, the baby will be a boy; have sex later to conceive a girl. Eat more calories and drink green tea to conceive a son. There are even mobile apps advertising that they let you pick your baby’s sex.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that any of these methods have any effect on your baby’s sex. Even the most well-known intercourse-timing strategies (the Shettles Method and the Whelan Method) contradict each other’s advice. You’re best off simply focusing on conceiving a healthy baby and learning his or her sex later.

Hang upside down for 20 minutes after sex to help sperm reach your egg 

False: Sperm are incredibly good at their task of swimming to reach your eggs. They’re chemically programmed to do it, millions of them at a time. That means they don’t need your--or gravity’s--help to get there. Don’t worry about doing a shoulder-stand, raising your legs against a wall, or hanging upside down on an inversion table after sex; none of them sound very comfortable, and no research has ever found a link between them and conception.

Drinking alcohol in moderation won’t hurt your fertility

True: Alcohol during conception and pregnancy is a controversial topic, but research suggests that drinking in moderation won’t interfere with conception. The key here is “in moderation,” which means up to one drink a day for women or two drinks for men. That one drink is only 5 fluid ounces of wine or 12 fluid ounces of beer, so it’s much less than you’re probably used to. A glass of wine here and there might help you get in the mood for all that sex around ovulation, too.

However, many people’s reactions to alcohol vary, so listen to your body: if you’re feeling that one drink the next morning with a headache and dehydration, avoid it. If one glass of wine makes you relax and feel great, then go for it.

Women in their twenties don’t have fertility issues

False: Although fertility drops as women get older, fertility problems can and do exist in women all the way from puberty to menopause. That includes twenty-somethings. Many women in their twenties struggle with PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, and other fertility-related conditions. Age is certainly a contributor to fertility, but so are lifestyle factors like weight, medications, diet, and athletic training. Just because a woman is in her twenties doesn’t mean she hasn’t experienced problems with fertility, so sensitivity is important.

Women are fertile and can get pregnant all the time

False: See myth number four above, but to reiterate here: a woman can only conceive during the 5-6 days surrounding ovulation, called the “fertile window.”

You shouldn’t use lubricant during sex because it’s bad for sperm

Somewhat true: Some kinds of lube are safe when you’re trying to conceive, but others aren’t. Avoid any lube that contains spermicide; it’s designed to kill sperm, so it’s the opposite of what you want when you’re trying to conceive. Even though they don’t contain spermicide, many of the most commonly-used lubricants, like KY Jelly, FemGlide, and Astroglide, can have damaging effects on sperm as well and change the PH balance inside your vagina. Don’t use anything for lubrication that isn’t specifically designed for use during sex, like petroleum jelly. Look for lubricants designed to assist in conception, including Pre-Seed, or baby oil, which previous research has found to be safe on sperm.

However, the best lubricant for conception is your own body’s. Many women don’t produce enough natural lubrication to have comfortable sex until they have at least twenty minutes of foreplay, so warm up and make sure you’re in the mood first. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help with hydration, too.

Infertility is always the woman’s fault...or the man’s fault

False: The causes of infertility are evenly spaced among couples. Infertility conditions caused by women occur 40% of the time; infertility issues caused by men occur 40% of the time; and the remaining 20% of problems have unknown causes. If you’re having problems conceiving, don’t assume that it’s your fault (or your partner’s). Seeing a fertility specialist is the only way to know more about the cause.

People tend to get pregnant more easily after they adopt a child

False: This myth comes from stories about couples who couldn’t seem to conceive, so they adopted...and then suddenly found themselves pregnant when they weren’t trying. Like most stories, it spreads because it’s ironic and interesting, but there’s no evidence that having another child in the house because of adoption provides a fertility boost to parents.

You can “sync” with other women’s cycles and get your period when they do, hurting your chance of getting pregnant

False: The myth that women who spend a lot of time together get so close that their menstrual cycles happen at the same time (also called “menstrual synchrony”) is a popular one because of a 1971 study claiming that it exists. More recent research, however, has failed to find evidence in support of it, and it seems to be more likely that periods simply overlap by chance. That means you don’t have to worry that your close female friends getting their periods will influence you to get yours and hurt your chance of conceiving during that cycle.

Caffeine is bad when you’re trying to conceive

Unconfirmed: The research is split on whether caffeine can harm your fertility, but most experts agree that a moderate amount of caffeine is safe. There’s far less caffeine in most teas than in a single cup of coffee, so switch to tea or limit yourself to a 12-ounce cup of coffee a day to be on the safe side. Also note that caffeine can be present in things you might not expect, including chocolate and supplements, so read your labels carefully.

Masturbation lowers a man’s fertility

False: Myths that masturbation drains a man’s sperm supplies and leaves him less fertile have existed throughout recorded history...and they’re not true. Regular masturbation actually helps procreation by keeping a man’s reproductive system flowing and functioning. It also cleans out older sperm and replaces it with newer cells, which research suggests are less damaged and have better motility.

You can get pregnant during your period

False:* We’re saying this myth is false with an important caveat. Although you can’t get pregnant during your menstrual phase--your period--you can get pregnant from sex during your period. It’s a little confusing, but here’s the difference: because sperm can survive in your vaginal tract for up to five days, it’s possible for you to get pregnant if you have sex during the very end of your period, then have an early ovulation no more than five days later. It’s very unlikely, though. In contrast, your body is incapable of having an egg be fertilized during your menstrual phase.

Drink cough syrup to boost your fertility

False: A study in the 1980’s identified one of the ingredients in cough syrup, guaifenesin, for its ability to thin cervical mucus. As you might know if you’ve been studying your cycle science, thin, stretchy cervical mucus is your most fertile type and aids in sperm movement. However, there haven’t been any studies finding that cough syrup actually boosts your chances of getting pregnant, so stay away from it unless you’re truly sick.

Orgasms cause women to release eggs 

False: The process that leads to ovulation is a gradual increase of estrogen over several days; it’s not related at all to orgasms. Orgasms are associated with release of the hormone oxytocin, which can cause minor uterine contractions that may assist in pulling sperm towards an egg. Orgasms don’t cause the release of any eggs, though.

A woman can get pregnant while she’s breastfeeding 

True: It’s rumored that breastfeeding is a form of birth control, and that it’s impossible to get pregnant while you’re nursing. Not true. It’s less likely that you’ll conceive while you’re breastfeeding because it inhibits the hormones that cause ovulation, but it’s not out of the question. Experts at La Leche League International say that your risk of pregnancy while breastfeeding is less than six percent if your baby’s only food source is breast milk, your child is less than six months old, or your menstrual period has not returned yet.

Missionary position is the only way you can get pregnant

False: This rumor probably originates from a mistaken belief that gravity plays a big role in sperm movement (see myth number 8 above). It doesn’t: you’re just as likely to conceive from woman-on-top as you are from missionary, and missionary is not the only position in which you can get pregnant. It’s not even the best position in which to conceive, which is another common myth. No one position is proven to boost fertility over any other, so choose whatever you like best.

Using the birth control pill makes it harder to conceive

False: Although your cycle may take a few weeks or months to get back to normal when you stop taking the birth control pill, you should be just as likely to conceive afterwards. Some studies have found that previously the pill increases a woman’s fertility when she tries to get pregnant after.

You need to have an orgasm to conceive 

False: Some evidence suggests that orgasms can help move sperm along to reach the egg, but they’re not necessary to conceive. If this myth were true, infertility rates would be much higher: about 75% of women never reach orgasm from intercourse alone, and 10-15% say they don’t orgasm at all. Orgasms are great, but they aren’t required to conceive or even have pleasurable sex.