The Truth Behind Fertility Myths
Having children is one of the many blessings a married couple can enjoy. However, there are couples who have been married for two years or more yet do not have children.
Having children is one of the many blessings a married couple can enjoy. However, there are couples who have been married for two years or more yet do not have children. I remember reading an article from Reader’s Digest Asia two years ago. It mentioned a report on fertility and childlessness by the World Health Organization (WHO) which said twenty per cent of Asian women have fertility and conception problems. Usually when couples do not have children, the woman is held responsible. Others practice unusual fertility rituals backed by false beliefs to increase their chances of pregnancy yet amounted to nothing. This prompted me to delve into the fertility myths that people have believed in. Here is a rundown of the ten widely-held beliefs on fertility and the truth behind them.
Ovulation can happen only on the fourteenth day of a woman’s cycle. This might be true for women who have a perfect 28-day cycle but it is definitely not true for everyone. There are women who only have a 21-day cycle or even a 36-day cycle. Thus, ovulation for these women does not happen on day 14 but could probably be any day in between day 8 to day 23. This belief could be the reason that some women do not conceive. They would think they should have sex only around this time. Unknowingly, they miss out on the exact day of the woman’s ovulation.
Ovulation occurs when there is an increase of basal body temperature. Though basal body temperature (BBT) may help determine if a woman is ovulating, yet it is not a clear indication. A woman’s egg can only survive within one day or less and by that time; basal body temperature may have risen or fallen. BBT cannot exactly determine ovulation. Instead, a woman should focus on her cervical fluid secretions to determine if she is fertile or not.
A man’s sperm can only thrive in a woman’s body for up to three days. This belief has led to other myths such as: a woman is fertile only one day during her cycle and pregnancy will not occur when having sex during a woman’s menstrual period. The truth is a man’s sperm can remain up to five days in a woman’s reproductive tract. So even if a woman’s egg can only endure for 12 to 24 hours, a woman’s fertility is lengthened for the sperm’s sustainability. Moreover, if sex is done during the fourth or fifth day of the menstrual period and the woman has an early ovulation, most likely will meet the egg to fertilize it when it is released. Thus, if you do not want to get pregnant yet, do not have intercourse during your period.
Conception can only happen when a woman has orgasm. Many believe that a woman’s eggs can only be released if there is orgasm which will cause a woman to conceive. However, this is not at all true. A woman’s egg is released during ovulation which is caused by the hormone oestrogen and not because of an orgasm. If a sperm happens to meet the egg during its release then conception takes place but if there is no sperm then fertilization and conception will not occur.
Having sex daily can increase chances of pregnancy. For most couples who want to have a child, they think that having sex daily will increase chances of conception. This may not entirely be true. Even if a couple has intercourse daily but the woman has not yet ovulated then it still cannot guarantee conception. Ideally, a woman should predict when she is most fertile through her cervical fluid. If she thinks she is near ovulation then the couple should have sex around this time. This will somehow increase the chances of fertilization and pregnancy.
Infertility is a woman’s problem. Not so! Infertility can also be a man’s problem. According to Dr. Suresh Nair, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist of Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, only 35 per cent of infertility cases are contributed by the female while the male contributes 30 per cent and the remaining percentage is contributed by both men and women. So, women should not be blamed solely for a couple’s inability to have children. It may be good for a couple to consult a doctor if the woman has not conceived even after one year of trying.
Infertility is caused by stress. This is partly false and partly true. It is wrong to believe that stress exclusively affects fertility. But it can affect fertility if it upsets the hormones that inhibit ovulation. Dr Nair also confirms that stress may cause sleeplessness and tiredness which in turn will affect a couple’s sexual drive.
Infertility cannot be treated. For some couples who have serious fertility problems, it may take a long time. But for others who have problems in determining a woman’s ovulation, timing of intercourse, or low sperm count, treatment may easily be found. It is recommended that a couple ask a doctor to determine their problem so as to find an appropriate treatment as early as possible.
It is easy to conceive a child if one is healthy. This is another belief that many hold on to but is not always true. Yes, health practices such as having a healthy weight, exercising appropriately, and avoiding too much caffeine or alcohol may enhance fertility yet it can still be affected by age-related factors. For women, it is really ideal to be pregnant between 25 to 30 years old as stated by Dr. Gautam Allahbadia of Rotunda The Center for Human Reproduction in India.
Pregnancy is easier after the first baby. Conceiving a second baby is not at all guaranteed even when a woman has already given birth to her first. In fact, being pregnant for the first time may cause what is called as secondary infertility. Again, a woman’s age should be taken into consideration. According to Dr. Nair, if a woman is already 35 years old and above, her fertility rate will decline to about 25 per cent. If she is in her 40s, fertility rate goes down to 20 per cent.
On the basis of these fertility myths, one cannot pinpoint what causes the problem of a couple not having children. But of course, it is best to consider these things and seek professional help when one's efforts have failed. As it has been said, the earlier you detect the problem, the better!