Conception Perceptions: Myths vs. Facts


You’ve educated yourself on the best ways to stay emotionally and physically fit. Closely examined your diet and lifestyle choices to see whether there’s room for improvement or proactive measures (there almost always is). And you’ve monitored your potential and real exposure to toxins, pollutants, and chemicals to avoid their harmful effects on your fertility.

Having done all or some of the above, you’re now ready to start a family, which opens up new areas of concern: Does the amount of sex you have with your partner increase your odds of conceiving sooner? Are there times where you and your partner should avoid having sex? Are there special techniques that could improve your and your partner’s chances of conceiving?

Many ideas about successful conception fall under what have been colloquially referred to as “old wives’ tales”, legends passed down among friends and family that morph into fiction. Some cautionary stories, though, prove truer than not. Herewith a short overview of a few myths and facts:

No, saliva does not kill sperm cells, says Healthline. A few studies suggest that larger amounts of saliva could hamper sperm motility (swimming ability) – in infertile couples. For men who possess normal sperm motility and count, though, the presence of saliva shouldn’t pose a problem. If in doubt, forego oral sex while attempting to conceive.

While attaining orgasm during intercourse produces pleasurable sensations, women achieving this milestone do not simultaneously provide critical energy for the sperm to reach their desired location.  According to Today’s Parent, studies have concluded that there is no relationship between female orgasm and conception; in fact, sperm can survive in the reproductive tract for some days.

It’s understandable that if your partner tends to experience unpredictable menstrual periods that there might be some worry about the best time for a successful conception. This appears to be well founded. Women’s Health magazine quotes Lubna Pal, associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine, as saying that women who have just a few periods each year have automatically reduced their chances of conceiving.

A woman who lifts her legs in the air for 20 minutes after having sex likely only increases her chances of getting a couple of “sleepy” feet, complete with the accompanying uncomfortable tingly feeling. Sperm, much like salmon swimming upstream, are “chemically programmed” to defy the forces of gravity, says The Bump. It might not hurt to elevate the pelvis slightly by placing a pillow under a woman’s hips after sex but doing pelvic- or hand-stands belongs in an exercise class, not the bedroom.

When it comes to optimal sexual positions, hopeful couples need not stick with one tried-and-true configuration. As in, the missionary position and only the missionary position.  An article from Very Well Family points out that sexual positions that assist ejaculate in getting closer to the cervix could improve chances for pregnancy. But pregnancy can also occur if ejaculate is present near the vaginal opening. So, the position tends not to matter.

Then again, anything that tends to help gravity (without producing numbness or other unpleasant side effects) also tends to help, not hinder, efforts to get pregnant. James Goldfarb, director of the infertility service at the Cleveland Clinic, tells WebMD that while couples don’t need to do gymnastic routines in order to improve conception outcomes, “[Y]ou don't want all the semen to run out -- and semen are quick little critters”.

When it comes to having sex during pregnancy, warnings in this department tend to fall more into the myth category. Babies tend to be well protected in nature’s amniotic sac, says Ovia Health. Plus, the cervix is strongly shut during pregnancy, providing another layer of protection.

Even so, the American Pregnancy Association says to pay close attention to any bleeding that a woman experiences during pregnancy. This may occur as a result of intercourse, since the cervix, while strong in protecting the fetus, is also sensitive and tender and may bleed. If it does, intercourse should cease until the woman has consulted a doctor. Bleeding may also be due to other factors, including a urinary tract or pelvic cavity infection – conditions that, once again, should receive the prompt attention of a physician.

In an age when people tend to have access to greater knowledge than ever before, it’s more critical to sort fiction from fact – particularly in matters of sexual and reproductive health. Your children’s lives might very well depend upon such wise discernment.