Sorting Out the Crazy and Correct When It Comes to Fertility

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
October 25, 2021
Sorting Out the Crazy and Correct When It Comes to Fertility

You’ll hear all kinds of advice about what women should do to conceive. Here are some of the common wrong ideas and others that are actually correct.

Infertility can make you feel crazy, but it’s not uncommon. About 6 percent of married women ages 15 to 44 in the United States fail to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex.

If you add in women who aren’t married and who have trouble carrying a pregnancy to term, the figure is 14 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you or your partner are heavy or older, the chances of infertility rise, too.

You’ll hear all kinds of advice about what women should do to conceive. Here are seven of the common wrong ideas and seven that are correct.


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What’s not true

  1. You have to climax to conceive. Lots of women don’t regularly climax. The contractions of the uterus push sperm upwards, but they’re not essential. 
  2. Swallowing sperm will make you more fertile. Not so. 
  3. Sperm needs a boost to fight gravity — so you’d best learn how to do a headstand or at least lie with your legs in the air. There’s no science behind that idea. Sperm swim up your tubes even if you’re upright. 
  4. You can’t drink while trying to get pregnant. One large study found no connection between drinking and conception problems. But you shouldn’t binge or get drunk regularly because you could make your cycle less regular and increase your chance of miscarriage. 
  5. Women who take the pill too long or once wore an IUD have messed-up their fertility. Wrong. You can expect to ovulate within a few weeks of stopping the pill or having an IUD removed, assuming all else is normal. Within a year after discontinuing the pill, 80 percent of women who try to conceive succeed.
  6. Acupuncture will help. Many infertile couples try acupuncture, often alongside IVF. But, so far, the evidence is inconclusive. 
  7. If you adopt a baby, you’ll get pregnant. Let’s just call that coincidence.


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What is true

  1. Stay away from nasty chemicals and pollution. There is evidence of a link between exposure to pesticides and traffic pollution and miscarriages. 
  2. Limit coffee. Although there’s some controversy, more than 300 mg of caffeine a day —about a cup and a half of brewed coffee — has been linked to miscarriages.
  3. Quit smoking. A cigarette habit could increase your chance of a pre-term birth or a baby with congenital defects. 
  4. Take care of your teeth. Floss and see your dentist. One study found that women with gum disease took two months longer to get pregnant.  
  5. Have sex when you’re noticing smells. Ovulation, prime baby-making time, heightens your sense of smell.
  6. Get your partner’s fertility checked out. A CDC study found that 18 percent of men who saw a doctor about infertility had a problem. Diabetes, cystic fibrosis, trauma, infection, heavy alcohol use, smoking, exposure to pesticides and lead, or using steroids can hurt a man’s fertility. 
  7. Lose weight if you’re heavy. You’re less likely to get pregnant if you’re overweight and more likely to have pregnancy complications, and there is some evidence that trimming down helps. 


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August 10, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN