Running hand in hand with 'traditional' ways of inducing pregnancy, there's no better breeding ground for myths than in the cradle of conception. As one of the greatest moments of anticipation and anxiousness in the lives of any prospective parents, we understand the eagerness to accept a magic secret to speed things along, but even in the hopes of receiving a child, knowledge is always preferable to ignorance. Hence we've decided to do a top 10 rundown of the most widely touted and evidently untrue myths of conception:
#1 It has everything/nothing to do with stress
Scroll around the internet and you'll find some baby sites that tell you to live in a stress-free environment when trying to conceive (which seems like a contradictory proposition..), and others that go so far as to say it can actually help your chances. In reality, a lot of the positive results are little more than anecdotal, and when it comes to conclusive evidence the research is anything but. This article by the NHS on the meagre research into stress on fertility gives a decent idea of how up in the air the subject still is. By all means, always do whatever it takes to remove any extreme stress for your day to day, but don't be too convinced that striving for zen is the way to go.
#2 Or light
Now we branch into the slightly more bizarre rituals and routines associated with making babies. Whilst having sex earlier in the day does actually have some potential (men have slightly higher sperm levels in the morning), deciding to keep the lights on as you do the deed really has no bearing on the outcome. Maybe you enjoy it more, but your hypothetical baby will take no notice.
#3 More sex = better chances
In conception, it's all accuracy, not amplitude. By that we mean the timing is what you want to be keeping in mind, not keeping to a daily routine. The two of you could be confined to bed all the way from morning to midnight, but unless it's scheduled to coincide with your ovulation, then as the research has shown, the outcome will be less than negligible.
#4 You can control the baby's gender
Whilst Preimplantation genetic disorder (PGD) does provide a method for sex discernment, it is actually illegal to do in the UK unless you qualify for having a dangerous genetic trait you don't want to be passed on. Absent of the science of embryology, all that we're left with is a lot of old wives tales. Even where studies seem to find a correlation between, say, eating breakfast cereals and delivering more boys, there's still nothing in the way of proof that the muesli is to thank. You can even buy Sex Selection kits for £100+, and though they cite a high success rate, the experts (and ourselves) are less convinced.
#5 These affect fertility: having taken the pill, and boxer shorts
To be sure, there is a huge list of things that can affect fertility in men and women; everything from weight, drugs and alcohol to exposure to certain chemicals and congenital defects. But there are a few things often touted as such that aren't reasons to worry. The biggest is that women who were taking oral contraception will have their fertility affected; but all the studies so far have found that former pill-takers are just as likely as those who favoured alternative contraception.
On the flipside, for some reason it's taken as fact by some that boxer shorts and loose pants has a part to play in a man's fertility, but as researchers at the Univserity of New York found when they put this newer wives tale to the test, roomy shorts aren't any better a holster than tighter undies.
#6 Not getting pregnant immediately means infertility
Now to be fair, the guideline put forward by organisations like the American Society of Reproductive Medecine (ASRM) that a one year mark defines infertility doesn't mean you shouldn't look for professional advice before then. In fact, there's a great article on Babyzone listing all the possible problem signs for both men and women. We want to stress though that there's no reason to jump to any unfortunate conclusions. 80% of couples conceive well before this time limit, and overall this idea that you'll instantly nail pregnancy is just not realistic, and worrying it about won't help with the conception.
#7 Breastfeeding is a form of birth control
We're the biggest fans of breastfeeding around, and we do wish it could do anything, but even we know this idea is bunk. Old bunk at that. Whilst breasfteeding can in a certain point of view keep women out of baby-making range by making them period-free for longer, relying on it as your go-to birth control isn't recommended. Even if you're period has been MIA after delivery, you're constantly feeding you baby and your baby is less than 6 months old, you still have a 1.2% chance of conceiving; and that's at the absolute best.
#8 Lifting your legs in the air for 20 minutes will help you get pregnant
Just...no. This is armchair biology (and physics) at its absolute laziest. Instead of paving the way for your partner's sperm, all you'll get is a pair of numb legs and a chance for him to see you at your silliest. Sperm are chemically wired to travel directly to their most desired destination after ejaculation - all 20 to 80 million of them!
#9 Eating certain foods won't help you conceive
As a kind of flipped myth, this isn't quite true. There are a number of foods which do help with conception, and there's a fair amount of science to accompany the logic. Oysters, with their high zinc concentrations, is not only a classic way to boost the libido but fertility too.
Other good things to add to the menu include beans, lentils, tofu, nuts and other high protein foods, leafy green vegetabes, whole wheat bread, olive oil, wild salmon and ice cream (doctors aren't sure why on that last one, but whatever; score!). As great as that sounds, avoid trans fats, as these will just decrease your body's ability to react well to insulin, leading to irregular ovulation.
#10 Your best chance to conceive is on day 14 of ovulating
The last lie is also a very prevalent one. Though this makes sense on a cursory glance, not every woman has a 28-day cycle with ovulation scheduled right in the middle, and thinking that you do could lead you to miss your best window. Some doctors recommend you start having sex four to five days prior to ovulation, and keep at until three to four days after. Others also recommend grabbing a at-home fertility monitor and ovulation kit.