When you’re struggling to conceive, you might find yourself getting advice from all sides. Your co-worker, your aunt, and your next door neighbor all want to tell you about a recent article they read, a new diet they heard of, or that friend of a friend of a friend who finally conceived after doing just this one thing. It can be overwhelming, and hard to sort out fertility myths from facts.
As a genetic counselor who spends a lot of time evaluating scientific studies and helping people gain a better understanding of their health, I’m happy to weigh in on a few common fertility myths that you’re likely to have read online or been told by a nosy neighbor.
Don’t worry. You’ll get pregnant once you relax and stop trying so hard.
We’ve all heard the story of someone’s friend or sister who decided to adopt and then she got pregnant - it must be because she stopped trying so hard! (insert eye roll) This is a particularly frustrating fertility myth to hear, because when you really want to conceive, how do you try not to try? Well, there is no evidence that ‘not trying’ increases someone’s chances of conceiving. It’s more likely that someone who is not actively trying appears to get pregnant faster, because they are not tracking each and every menstrual cycle and peeing on a stick every month. That being said, severe stress can have lots of health consequences, and may have a negative impact on fertility. So if trying to conceive or something else in your life is causing you a significant amount of stress or anxiety, it’s a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about ways to help manage your stress.
Infertility is always the woman’s fault.
Sigh. And no, it’s not! In fact, when the root causes of couples’ fertility struggles are identified, the problems stem equally from male factors as they do female factors. There are many factors that can affect a man’s ability to conceive, and these include the quality and amount of sperm a male produces, and the ability to successfully deliver those sperm to an egg. So, in any fertility workup, it’s equally important to assess the reproductive health of both the male and the female partner.
A past abortion can reduce your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
This is a particularly damaging fertility myth that can cause a lot of guilt and blame. However, there is no evidence that surgical abortions, when performed in a regulated healthcare setting, have a negative impact on fertility. There is also no evidence that medical abortions (when a medicine is taken to terminate a pregnancy), if done under the care of a healthcare provider, reduce your chances of getting pregnant in the future.
Losing weight won’t help you conceive.
(Get ready for some tough love here.) If you are overweight, losing weight can actually be one of the most important things you can do to improve your fertility. Excess weight can affect hormone levels leading to disruptions in menstrual cycles. Being overweight is also associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common causes of infertility. Studies have found that even losing a small amount of weight can help restore normal menstrual cycles and improve fertility. Of course, losing weight is a lot easier said than done. Many people, due to genetics, certain health conditions, or other factors, will struggle with losing weight, even with diet and exercise. If you are overweight and are concerned that it may be impacting your ability to conceive, talk to your healthcare provider, who can help you with a guided weight loss plan.
Eating pineapple can boost your fertility.
It’s a much buzzed about myth in the IVF community, that eating pineapple core can increase the chances of embryo implantation. Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which has both anti-inflammatory and blood thinning properties. But does it actually help you get pregnant? Sorry, at this time, there are no scientific studies to suggest that it does. Does it hurt? Probably not. Pineapple has a lot of healthy nutrients and, in moderation, can be part of a well-balanced fertility diet.
No doubt you have heard many more fertility tips and pieces of advice, and are wondering if they are fact or fiction. In fact, our team of fertility experts would love to answer your questions about the craziest myths you’ve heard. Download the FertilityAnswers app to ask them anything.
And next time someone tells you that you’ll get pregnant if you just ‘relax’, maybe show them this post, or just smile and suggest that they be the first to contribute to your massage fund.