Debunking the top 7 pregnancy myths

SINGAPORE - What are some misconceptions about conception? Dr Jason Lim, associate consultant at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital, gives the facts.

Myth #1: Infertility is always a female problem

Fact: The issue of infertility or subfertility is multi-factorial and not always down to the woman.

Female factors contribute about 30to 50 per cent of fertility problems, some scientific studies have estimated. Another 30 to 40 per cent are due to male factors.

The remaining 10 to 20 per cent are attributed to combined male and female factors.

There are many reasons for infertility in both men and women.

It is advisable to consult your doctor or gynaecologist on the tests which can be performed to determine infertility.

But be prepared for there not being an obvious underlying cause which can be identified.

Myth #2: Daily sex raises the chance of pregnancy

Fact: A higher frequency of sexual intercourse plays a more important role during a woman's ovulation period, as this can increase the odds of getting her pregnant.

The difficult part is trying to define the actual timing of ovulation, which is when a mature egg is released from a woman's ovaries. It varies between individuals and depends on the length of the menstrual cycle.

Disorders of ovulation can also result in drastic variations in a female menstrual cycle. This can play a significant part in a couple's difficulty in conception. In such cases, it would be advisable to consult a gynaecologist. There are certain treatments available for ovulatory disorders.

Myth #3: Certain positions during sexual intercourse can increase a woman's chances of getting pregnant

Fact: There are myths that certain specific positions during sexual intercourse can help to increase a woman's odds of getting pregnant. These include deep penetration or adopting certain pelvic postures during and after intercourse in the hope of retaining semen within the vagina.

Despite all these myths, scientific studies conducted to date have not managed to find any real or significant difference in the conception rates between the varying positions adopted during intercourse.Myth #3: Certain positions during sexual intercourse can increase a woman's chances of getting pregnant

Myth #4: A woman is most fertile 14 days after her period

Fact: Unless the woman has a "perfect" regular 28-day cycle, ovulation does not usually fall around day 14.

In fact, most women experience variations in their individual cycles, which can be different during different months.

There are many different ways of determining a woman's fertile period, for example, calendar counting, tracking of personal body temperature changes, or physical body changes.

These methods are generally time-consuming and offer limited accuracy.

Other common and more reliable methods of assessment include blood tests and timed ultrasound scans.

It will be advisable to discuss such methods of evaluation with your gynaecologist.

Myth #5: Stress affects one's chances of getting pregnant

Fact: Nowadays, stress is part and parcel of everyday life.

This can be in the form of psychological or physical stress from work, family commitments, relationships and so forth.

Despite all the myths and theories about stress being a cause of reduced fertility, there is actually no robust scientific evidence to suggest a direct cause-and-effect relationship between stress and subfertility.

Nonetheless, stress may affect a couple's frequency of sexual intercourse and this can reduce the chance of a pregnancy.

Myth #6: Conceiving again should be easy after having a baby

Fact: Generally, this is true. However, the mother's age also plays a pivotal role in future conceptions.

The ovarian reserve for each woman steadily declines as she ages.

A woman has the most number of follicular eggs around the time of her birth and this declines exponentially as she gets older.

Therefore, the reproductive capacity of a woman tends to be reduced as she advances in age, despite having had previous successful pregnancies.

The rapid decline may also be complicated by medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and obesity.

Certain gynaecological conditions - such as pelvic infections, endometriosis (when the tissue or endometrium normally lining the womb grows on organs outside of the womb) or previous ectopic pregnancies (in which the fertilised egg implants itself outside of the uterus) - can also adversely affect the reproductive capacity of a woman.

The effect of ageing on male reproduction remains controversial, although some studies have found some correlation between ejaculatory disorders and advancing paternal age.

Myth #7: Pregnancy can be avoided with the "pull-out" method

Fact: The male partner withdrawing just before ejaculation is an unreliable method of pregnancy prevention.

During unprotected sexual intercourse, pre-ejaculate fluid can be deposited in the vagina.

Studies have shown varying individual concentrations of sperm in this fluid.

Moreover, the life span of sperm ranges from two to three days after being ejaculated from the penis.

Such factors can increase the risk of an unexpected spontaneous conception despite the "pull-out" method.

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