Dr. Beth Malizia is a fertility specialist with Alabama Fertility Specialists at Brookwood Baptist Medical Center and the founder of Integrative Women’s Care in Birmingham. In the second installment in our 3-part series, we break down infertility myths with Dr. Malizia as she explains the myths, science and hope involved with trying to conceive. Read part 1 here and part 3 here.
Myth #4 – “Relax and you’ll get pregnant.” This is impossible – there is no way for a woman who is trying to get pregnant to simply “forget” or pretend not to know the day of her cycle or time of ovulation. Healthy coping mechanisms that decrease stress are recommended – a hot bath, a walk in the woods, a good book, acupuncture, yoga, massage, meditation, and counseling may be helpful. Be sure to speak with your fertility specialist about these treatment options and do your homework – there may be practitioners in your community who treat women with infertility and recognize the unique needs you have.
Myth #5 – I have to try on my own for a year before I see a specialist. You can make an appointment to see a specialist at any point in time. Many couples desire an evaluation prior to trying on their own, while others seek care once they have been trying for 2 months, 10 months or longer. If you have irregular periods, a history of endometriosis or fibroids, are over 35 years old or have other health or gynecologic conditions, you will want to seek the advice of a fertility specialist earlier than the general population. The visit does not mean you have to commit to expensive, invasive fertility treatment and usually the consultation is covered by your health insurance!
Myth #6 – I have to stand on my head after intercourse. Positioning during and after intercourse is one of the most common questions I get as a fertility specialist. Despite what you’ve heards, it does not matter in what position you have intercourse, how long you lay down or how much you elevate your hips after intercourse when attempting to achieve pregnancy. Sperm can be found within a woman’s cervix within seconds and within a woman’s tubes within minutes after ejaculation into the vagina.
Myth #7 – I can’t have caffeine, exercise strenuously or have artificial sugar, etc, etc. The best things to do to help your fertility are: Practice good health habits, Stop smoking (it can dramatically decrease your chance of pregnancy), Maintain a normal body weight for your height and see your physician if you have any chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes before you begin attempting pregnancy. As for caffeine, there is some data on the detrimental affects of caffeine on fertility. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 1 to 2 8-oz. cups of regular coffee each day. For reference, a cup of coffee contains about 100mg of caffeine, tea about 50mg and a soda about 40mg. Aim to limit you caffeine intake to less than 200mg per day. There are many benefits to exercise, but extreme levels of exercise can affect your menstrual cycle. If you are experiencing irregular periods and have questions regarding your level of exercise, then consult a physician.
Myth #8 – I have to analyze my cervical mucus! Tracking your monthly cycles is helpful. Get a simple calendar (or app) that tracks the day you start your cycle each month. The first day of full flow of your period is day one and you simply count the days from this day forward. After you see how far apart your periods are (i.e., 26-, 28- or 32-days), take that number and subtract 14 days to get an idea of when you are ovulating (i.e., with a 26-day cycle, you are ovulating on day 12, a 28 day cycle ovulation is on day 14 and with a 32 day cycle it is on day 18). The majority of women ovulate between day 10 and 18 of their cycle. Changes in cervical mucus can be helpful. Look for the mucus to become clear and thicker (like an egg white). Some women also monitor their basal body temperature each morning. This is helpful when looking back on your monthly cycles, but it is not predictive of ovulation since the temperature does not rise until after ovulation. Home testing kits for ovulation are also available and can be helpful for busy couples. These tests monitor your urine for the hormone LH (luteinizing hormone) which stimulates the final maturation and release of the egg.
Myth #9 – My husband is healthy . . . it can’t be his problem. When a couple presents for a fertility evaluation an issue is found in approximately 40% of women and 40% of men. The remaining have either a combination of factors or simply unexplained infertility. An issue with your husband is one of the first things evaluated as part of a fertility visit. He will be asked to give a semen sample for analysis, which many husbands are particularly reluctant to, but it is an everyday occurrence in the fertility world. Fertility specialists like husband’s to keep in mind that this is the ONLY thing they’re asked to do. The wife’s testing is much more invasive including testing to evaluate the ovaries and their function (usually blood work and ultrasound), as well as tests to ensure the fallopian tubes are open and the uterus is normal.