How much do you know about fertility and conception? What if I told you that much of what you think you know, may actually be inaccurate? When reading about fertility and conception, it can sometimes be tricky deciphering truth from fiction. There are many myths on the topics of ovulation, timing of intercourse, and charting that have been repeated so often that we readily believe them. Let’s take a look at a few of these myths and debunk them once and for all!
1. You can only get pregnant one or two days a month.
Although it is true that the egg only lives 12 to 24 hours after ovulation, sperm can live for up to five days in the uterus and fallopian tubes, nourished by the woman’s fertile cervical fluid. If a woman produces fertile cervical fluid for several days before ovulation, there are potentially up to 5 days before ovulation where sex could lead to pregnancy, and then the actual day of ovulation as well. This means that there can be up to 6 days in a cycle where conception is possible.
2. Waking temperature can let you know when you are most fertile.
Some people mistakenly recommend that women chart their waking temperature (basal body temperature) in order to know which day they will be most fertile. Some say to watch for a temperature dip just before ovulation, yet others tell women that they will ovulate on the day that their temperature rises. Unfortunately, both of these statements are wrong.
Although some women do see a dip in their temperature on the day of ovulation, not all women do. Furthermore, when trying to conceive, you ideally want to have sex on the days leading up to ovulation, not just on the day of. As for the temperature rise, it is caused by the release of the hormone progesterone after ovulation. Your temperature only rises after ovulation has already occurred. Waking temperature is a great thing to chart, but temperature alone cannot predict ovulation – charting your cervical fluid is the most reliable way to determine when you are fertile and about to ovulate.
3. You can ovulate twice in the same cycle.
Not exactly. Although it is possible to release two or more eggs in the same cycle, this usually occurs as part of a single ovulatory event. The eggs would be released within 24 hours of each other or less. You wouldn’t ovulate this week, and again next week, for example. Once ovulation happens, there is a big hormonal shift that occurs and future ovulations are simply no longer possible. It is believed that multiple ovulation may occur as frequently as 5 to 10% of all cycles.
4. Your diet doesn’t impact your fertility.
It most certainly does. Diet affects your nutritional status, and your nutritional status plays a significant role in fertility. It also affects your health during your pregnancy, your baby’s health, and your recovery postpartum. Kind of a big deal, right? Although there isn’t a one size fits all diet, there are general guidelines that can be followed to help optimize your chances of conceiving. You can read more about the fertility diet here…
5. You should have sex as much as possible to increase your odds of conception.
Not necessarily. The ideal frequency primarily depends on the health of the man’s sperm. A man with a low sperm count may benefit from the every-other-day strategy, in order to build up his numbers. A man with a normal sperm count is most likely to conceive if he and his partner try every day leading up to ovulation, and on the day of. However, more than once a day has been found to diminish the quality of the sperm and lower the chances of conception.
6. If you have regular cycles, you won’t have any problems getting pregnant.
Unfortunately, having regular cycles doesn’t guarantee that there aren’t hidden issues that could affect your fertility. Some forms of ovulatory dysfunction, and even premature ovarian failure, can go undetected unless you are charting your cycles or have blood work done. In addition, a luteal phase defect is fairly common in women with regular cycles. With a luteal phase defect, the cycles may be the same length month to month, but the concern is that the second part of the cycle, called the luteal phase, will be shortened due to low progesterone. The average luteal phase is about 14 days long. A luteal phase shorter than 12 days does not give the uterus enough time to build a lining thick enough to support the implantation of an embryo. If implantation does occur, low levels of progesterone increase the likelihood of having a miscarriage.
7. Infertility is a women’s issue.
Absolutely not. Infertility actually affects men and women equally. When a couple is struggling with infertility, especially when it is unexplained, there often seems to be a focus on the woman’s fertility status. The woman may make efforts to improve her diet, exercise more, and get acupuncture treatments. Meanwhile, her partner is not encouraged to do the same. I believe it is extremely important for couples dealing with infertility (unexplained, or otherwise) to work on improving their health and fertility together, through diet, exercise, and beyond. Even though the woman will be the one to carry the child, the man’s health will affect the health of the sperm that will become his future child. The sperm’s health is just as important as the egg’s health.
About the Author
Kathryn Cardinal is a community herbalist and Fertility Awareness teacher. She is passionate about working with women to help them reconnect to their sacred womb wisdom. Kathryn’s work focuses on natural contraception, holistic hormonal health, and conscious conception. Starting in October 2014 she will be offering her Fertility Awareness Method course online. More information can be found on her website, www.springmoonfertility.com
- Weschler, T. (2006). Taking charge of your fertility: The definitive guide to natural birth control, pregnancy achievement, and reproductive health. New York, NY: Collins.
- Singer, K. (2003). The garden of fertility: A guide to charting your fertility signals to prevent or achieve pregnancy–naturally–and to gauge your reproductive health. New York: Avery.
- Fast Facts About Infertility. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.resolve.org/about/fast-facts-about-fertility.html