PETALING JAYA: When couples decide to start trying for a baby, it’s hard to distinguish between old wives’ tales and what really works to increase the chances of pregnancy.
However, doctors say the only way to truly increase chances of getting pregnant is by being aware of the woman’s ovulation period.
That doesn’t stop myths – even those claiming to be able to promote chances of getting a baby of a certain gender – from circulating, especially in the age of the Internet.
Myth no 1: Couples need to feel relaxed during intercourse
Fertility specialist Dr Wong Pak Seng said one of the major myths is that the couple needs to feel relaxed during intercourse, lest their stress contribute to infertility.
“However, stress can affect fertility in the sense that it not only causes the woman’s period to become unpredictable, the stress can reduce libido so they’re not together often enough,” he said.
Myth no 2: Orgasms increase chances of conception
He also debunked the notion that having orgasms would increase the chances of getting pregnant.
“An orgasm is basically a series of rhythmic contractions affecting the muscles, the pelvis and the uterus.
“People believe that these contractions can propel the sperm nearer to the egg, but this is just a misconception,” he said.
Myth no 3: If a woman gets up after having sex, sperm will flow out
Fertility specialist Dr Agilan Arjunan dismissed old wives’ tales that elevating a woman’s hips or lifting her legs would help the sperm along to find the egg in the fallopian tube.
“Sperms are pre-programmed to swim forward, no matter what,” he said, adding that getting up after sex won’t diminish a couple’s chances of getting pregnant.
“When couples see fluid coming out after intercourse, it is actually a mixture of sperm fluid, the semen and the vaginal fluid.
“Of course, there will be some sperm in the fluid, but most of the good sperm will find their way up.”
Myth no 4: Sex positions matter
Dr Wong explained that the vagina is a blind-ending pouch and once the sperm is in the pouch, the sperm can swim up to the fallopian tube, whatever the sex position is.
“Also, if you have a retroverted uterus, there’s no need to employ the rear entry position. In fact, it’s actually counterproductive, because in that position, the semen flows out even faster, so position doesn’t play a role in increasing the chances of conception,” said Dr Wong.
Myth no 4: Type of foods affect fertility
Dr Wong also dismissed the traditional practice of consuming the male organs of animals to enhance a man’s fertility.
“If you already have normal levels of the male hormone testosterone, and you consume some more, the brain will perceive there is too much and it will try to suppress the testosterone, at the same time suppressing sperm production,” he said.
He explained that this is because the body’s feedback system would decrease the production of testosterone when it detects there is a rise above the normal levels of the hormone.
Myth no 5: The occurrence of ejaculation means there is sperm
“Another myth is that as long as the male partner ejaculates, he can get somebody pregnant,” said Dr Agilan.
“What they see when they ejaculate is only the semen. They don’t even know if the semen contains sperm or not.”
Myth no 6: Male sperm prefer an alkaline environment
Dr Wong said there are those who mistakenly believe that male sperm prefer an alkaline environment.
“They think that if you want to promote your chances of having a baby boy, they take more alkaline-type of foods, like meat, cranberry juice or barley water.
“Some women even go to the extent of douching their vagina with some alkaline solution to promote the chances of getting a baby boy,” he said.
Dr Agilan shared that some have the misconception that sperm bearing the Y chromosome is lighter and swims faster than those bearing the X chromosome.
“People mistakenly believe that if you have sex earlier in your fertile period, the male sperm will be the ones who reach the egg first,” he noted.
Conversely, he added, those trying to get a baby girl would wait till the latter part of their ovulation to have intercourse so that the “female” sperm can stand an equal chance to reach the eggs.
“That’s not true as female sperm can also swim fast,” he said, adding that the chances of conceiving either a male or female baby is generally about 50-50 and is completely random.