If you’re anything like me, you will try anything to help your odds of successful fertilisation, including believing a range of fertility and IVF myths. So when I read that cough syrup could make your cervical mucus more “sperm-friendly”, or eating Brazil nuts helps your egg quality, or eating pineapple core after an IVF embryo transfer, can help with implantation – you’d find me in the nearest supermarket with a basket in hand, loaded with my magic, hope-filled goodies.
However, I’ve never actually heard a doctor tell me these things. I was chatting recently to a consultant at one of our partner clinics about this and he was explaining all the myths surrounding trying to conceive and IVF. I thought I would share them, and others, here with you. I couldn’t believe how many there were!
Fertility myths 1: You have to use the missionary position
You may have heard you have to use the missionary position if you’ve tried to conceive naturally at any point. Healthy sperm are excellent swimmers and are focusing on their goal. As long as sperm enter the vagina, they’ll be headed on their way to their destination, no matter what the position. It’s best then to just go with the flow, enjoy it and not engineer anything.
Fertility myths 2: Bed rest can increase your chance of success
The myth that bed rest can help with implantation has been around for a long time. It was believed that the activity could cause the embryo to detach from the uterine. However, there is no evidence that this helps. Bed rest was a common prescription for all sorts of ailments in the past but, logically, we would have died out as a species ages ago if our reproductive organs were that fragile. So it’s ok to continue with your normal daily activities.
Fertility myths 3: Cough medicine can help you get pregnant
This myth about cough medicine helping you get pregnant comes from a belief that the ingredient that thins the mucus causing the cough can help to increase your fertility by thinning the cervical mucus. This then makes it easier for the sperm to get to the egg. There’s (obviously) no scientific proof for this so we can breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t need to go guzzling disgusting, expensive cough syrup.
IVF myth 1: IVF is the only solution for fertility issues
IVF is the first, and in some cases, the only thing people think of if they hear someone is struggling to conceive. In reality, though there are so many options, from fertility drugs, ovulation induction, intrauterine insemination (IUI), IVF and IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) through to surgery. The treatment will be specific to each individual but this highlights the need for greater fertility education.
IVF myths 2: Pineapple can improve embryo implantation
You’ll see from this list that lots of fertility/IVF myths are food-related. Mothermag.com describes the reason here: “a recent myth that has gained quite a bit of traction in fertility blogs over the years is that eating pineapple can help embryo implantation. Pineapple, particularly the core, contains an enzyme called bromelain. There have been some studies that indicate that bromelain may have anti-inflammatory properties and the theory is that these properties could help with implantation. While pineapple is delicious, there’s no clinical evidence that support any of these claims. But if you enjoy eating pineapples, then keep on eating them! They are actually a great source of vitamin C.”
IVF myths 3: Drinking pomegranate juice
Achieving that coveted 8-millimetre-plus lining is the holy grail of IVF. Many women swear by drinking it for the first 13 days of their cycle to get their uterine lining primed for implantation, but again there is no clinical evidence of this. However, if you like pomegranate juice, feel free to keep drinking it. It’s good for you but it’s not proven to help the uterine lining, mothermag.com.
IVF myths 4: Eating Brazil nuts during the two-week wait
Brazil nuts aren’t just tasty snacks — they’re packed with selenium too. One study published in the journal Metallomics found that selenium helps promote healthy egg follicles in female cows, and that same study also found that levels of GPX-1 (a protein found in selenium) were much higher in women who got pregnant after a single embryo transfer.
So it’s not hard to see why Brazil nuts have got a rep among IVF circles as a go-to food, but you should eat them “in moderation.” Too much selenium can be toxic, so it’s wise to stay within a healthy range. The recommended daily allowance for women ages 19 to 50 is 55 micrograms, with the highest maximum amount being 400 micrograms daily. Translation? One or two Brazil nuts — which typically contain 68 to 90 micrograms apiece — a day should more than do the trick, mothermag.com.
IVF myths 5: Stress lowers the success rate of IVF
The actual effect of stress during IVF treatment has yet to be studied and has no scientific backing. It is true that stress causes more people to drop out or discontinue IVF treatment, but there is no indication that a more stressful life leads to a decreased success rate throughout treatment. The success of IVF treatment is all based on an embryo being accepted by the uterus, and stress has little to no effect on this process studies currently show.
IVF myths 6: IVF is only used for individuals/couples struggling with infertility
Families with a history of genetic disorders can do IVF with pre-implantation genetic testing to screen their embryos for single gene disorders and to prevent the genetic condition from being passed onto their children. Also, IVF is used by single parents by choice and for LGBTQ couples to build their families.
IVF myths 7: Fertility is a woman’s issue
Despite women being the general target of pregnancy topics, infertility affects men and women equally.
IVF myths 8: Age affects women’s fertility, but not men’s
We’ve all heard of these older celebrity men fathering children later in life so there is a misconception that men have it easy and that their fertility is not affected with age. Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, so their egg reserve depletes as the years go by. Sperm, however, are ‘made to order’ so men are able to produce sperm, but the quality and quantity does decrease with age.
IVF myths 9: If you already have a child, you don’t have to worry about infertility
We receive many calls, and have patients at Access Fertility who have managed to have their first child through natural conception, but have then struggled with their second, or even third. This seems strange and many people think they will be fine if they have managed to get pregnant naturally once but that is not always the case.
We also have patients who have a child with an ex-partner but who are unable to conceive naturally with their current partner. This can also work the other way around where they have struggled with an ex-partner and fell pregnant naturally with their current partner. There are no hard and fast rules and infertility does not discriminate.
IVF myths 10: Wear warm socks throughout the two-week wait
A widely held principle in Chinese medicine is that a “cold” uterus — or one with poor blood flow and circulation — can be a cause of infertility. While many undergo acupuncture and ingest herbs to remedy this issue, some women also take the precaution of wearing warm socks throughout an IVF cycle so as not to let heat escape the body.
So do warm feet equal a warm uterus? Not really, says Quintero. “Your core temperature stays pretty much stable, and that’s where your embryo is [inside the body]. Even if you feel cold, your core is probably still a normal temperature.” That said, wearing socks certainly can’t hurt — especially if they’re a cute pair of IVF good luck socks, mothermag.com.
Although these myths may have no basis in science, if they are low cost and it causes no harm, who are we to discourage you from trying it? Go for it. Many people have lucky IVF pants, mascots or socks so why not indulge in some pineapple, Brazil nuts and pomegranate juice if you’re so inclined?