Medical City Healthcare - February 10, 2016

Infertility Myths: Will One More Latte Make a Difference?

Planning to add a new family member should be an enjoyable and rather straightforward endeavor. You simply stop whatever form of birth control you've been using and voila' — overnight parenthood, right? For most couples that may be (almost) true, but sadly one in six will have infertility issues.

For women under 35 with regular menstrual cycles, that means not getting pregnant after one year of frequent, unprotected sex. For older women and those with irregular cycles, six months is considered time to call an infertility specialist.

Whether you're in the "thinking about it" or "actively trying" stage, knowing the facts about ovulation and infertility could help increase your chances of becoming pregnant without professional intervention — although you should always check with your OB about any specific questions. See how many of these common myths — heard every day by infertility docs — you already knew were false.

Myth: My age doesn't matter: I'm in great shape, I exercise and eat right. I won't have problems getting pregnant.

Bust: Even if everything else is working fine, fertility is finite and decreases with age. A woman's egg supply declines rapidly in her late 20s, again in her 30s and most sharply after 35. According to the CDC, a 40-year-old woman has less than a 5 percent chance of conceiving, compared with a 20 percent chance at age 30. Men also experience a drop in sperm quality and quantity with age.

Additionally, being fit and healthy doesn't automatically guarantee conception; there may be other fertility problems.

Myth: I already have a child, so I can't have fertility issues.

Bust: Having a child — or children — is no indication that more will follow. In fact, the CDC found that 11 percent of couples with a child are unable to conceive again after one year.

Myth: I have great baby-making genes; all the women in my family had later-life babies, so I should be able to as well.

Bust: While family fertility history is taken into account during treatment, it won't help or hinder your fertility potential.

Myth: Weight shouldn't be an issue in our family planning.

Bust: It's not the actual pounds that cause problems, it's their release of hormones that affect ovulation and semen production. Even a loss of just 5 to 10 percent of body weight can boost fertility in men and women.

Myth: I plan to stop smoking after I get pregnant, but it doesn't matter now.

Bust: It's estimated that up to 13 percent of female infertility diagnoses are due to smoking. And you don't have to be a heavy smoker; as few as five cigarettes a day have been shown to decrease fertility in both sexes.

Alcohol and other legal and illegal substances can also affect your ability to conceive. For additional healthy lifestyle tips, check out Babies on the Brain? Before You're Pregnant is the Perfect Time to Plan.

Myth: Okay, I get how alcohol, tobacco and drugs can affect my ability to conceive, but coffee? No way.

Bust: Some studies show women who drink more than one cup of caffeinated coffee a day have a 50 percent less chance of becoming pregnant; other studies fail to back this up. What does seem to hold up is the finding that women who drink more coffee than most differ from their less-caffeinated counterparts in other significant ways, including being more likely to smoke. So it's hard to tell what's affecting what, but limiting caffeine can't hurt if your goal is a baby bump.

Myth: The best time to get pregnant is within 24 hours after ovulation.

Bust: Sperm must come into contact with the egg within 24 to 48 hours of ovulation – which is about two weeks before menstruation – for pregnancy to occur. So it's best to have sex two to three days before and during ovulation. If you're not already, get your calendars out and start tracking your cycle.

Myth: Pregnancy supplements are only for pregnant women.

Bust: Women definitely have additional supplemental needs during pregnancy, but there are advantages to starting some regimens preconception. Folic acid in particular can help prevent neural tube defects that occur very early in pregnancy. Having sufficient levels in your system — at least a month prior to conceiving — is best for your baby, which is why the U.S. Public Health Service recommends 400 mcg of folic acid (folate) for all women of childbearing age.

But this essential B vitamin doesn't gender discriminate. High levels of folic acid (over 700 mcg) have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of chromosomal abnormalities in sperm. And healthy swimmers mean a better chance of conception and a healthier baby.

In addition to supplementing, you can get folic acid from a wide variety of foods. It turns out mom was right when she told you to eat your spinach and other dark, leafy greens — a top source. Also consider Brussels sprouts, asparagus, beans, peas and lentils, fortified breads, cereals and pasta, rice, avocados, and nuts and seeds.

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