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  • 7 Old Wives' Tales About Getting Pregnant: Ob-Gyn Clarifies the Truth

    Do contraceptives reduce a woman's chances of getting pregnant?
    by Kate Borbon .
7 Old Wives' Tales About Getting Pregnant: Ob-Gyn Clarifies the Truth
PHOTO BY iStock
  • We Pinoys have a lot of old wives’ tales, also known as superstitions or pamahiin, about everything from money and luck to pregnancy and child-rearing. You may have heard of some of them or even did them as long as they are not harmful. But just how credible are these old wives’ tales?

    Old wives’ tales on pregnancy explained

    SmartParenting.com.ph asked the help of Mariel S. Nevado-Gammad, M.D., an obstetrician-gynecologist and a fellow at the Philippine Obstetrical and Gynecological Society and at the Philippine Society for the Study of Trophoblastic Diseases, break down some common old wives’ tales on pregnancy and conceiving.

    “Fertility is a woman’s issue”

    If you still believe this, please stop. According to 2017 data from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a third of infertility cases in the U.S. can be linked to men, another third to women, and another third to a combination of factors in the two people.

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    “Male infertility is due to low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm,” says Dr. Nevado-Gammad. “Illnesses, injuries, chronic health problems, lifestyle choices, and other factors can play a role in causing male infertility.”

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    “There are sex positions that will make you pregnant”

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but according to Dr. Nevado-Gammad, no one sex position has been proven to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.

    However, she adds, “What may help is to put the sperm as close to the cervix — the canal that connects the vagina and the womb — as possible.” Some sex positions may be more favorable than others to get the sperm there, such as the missionary and doggy-style positions, which allow for deeper penetration.

    It is critical to note you can get pregnant as long as the sperm enters your vagina, regardless of the position you and your partner do during sex.

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    “Your chances of getting pregnant is reduced if you take birth control pills for a long time”

    While you take contraceptive pills consistently, you won’t get pregnant, says Dr. Nevado-Gammad. But even if you have been on birth control for a long time and are planning on getting pregnant in the future, you can rest easy as long as you have no existing fertility issues.

    A study co-authored by researchers from the Boston University School of Public Health has found that long-term use of oral contraceptives does not reduce a woman’s chances of having a baby. The researchers also revealed that while long-time users of oral contraceptives experience a temporary delay in fertility (particularly during their first few menstrual cycles after stopping their use of contraceptives), the likelihood of pregnancy did increase with more years of use.

    “Exercise negatively affects your ability to conceive”

    Dr. Nevado-Gammad clarifies, “No scientific evidence shows that vigorous physical activity lowers your chances of conception after sex.” However, according to an FAQ document posted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in 2017, it is important to avoid excessive exercise, referring to activities that may cause injuries or that you do on top of your regular routine.

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    Having the ideal weight for your body mass index and getting the appropriate amount of physical activity “promotes a healthier pregnancy, delivery, and baby.”

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    “Keep your legs elevated after having sex to get pregnant easier”

    Dr. Nevado-Gammad says that there is no scientific basis to this common old wives’ tale. “Sperm has fluid that will facilitate it to reach the egg,” she tells Smart Parenting. Furthermore, according to USC Fertility, within seconds of intercourse, sperm enters the cervix and then travels into the fallopian tubes within two minutes, so keeping your legs elevated will likely not make any difference.

    “Women have to experience orgasm to get pregnant”

    Women should not deprive themselves of an orgasm, of course. But do we really need to climax to conceive? “This used to be a recommendation during the early 1900s for infertile couples,” Dr. Nevado-Gammad shares. “This might be a concern for some women, but it doesn’t mean that they won’t get pregnant if they don’t have [an] orgasm.”

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    “Breastfeeding lessens your chances of getting pregnant”

    There is a grain of truth in this statement, and we have written before how breastfeeding can act as birth control. But you have to meet a couple of conditions. According to Dr. Nevado-Gammad, “Exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months is one form of contraception known as lactation amenorrhea.”

    The Lactational Amenorrhea Method (LAM) is recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) as an effective family planning method. The WHO defines it as “temporary contraception for new mothers whose monthly bleeding has not returned” which “requires exclusive or full breastfeeding day and night of an infant less than 6 months old.”

    If you use LAM, you have to meet these three conditions:

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    • You have to be less than six months postpartum, or your baby is less than six months old.
    • You are breastfeeding exclusively. You're feeding baby directly at the breast on demand, or every four hours to six hours daily. It also means you're not supplementing supply with formula or solid foods.
    • You have not gotten your period back since you've given birth.

    If your answer to all three questions is “No,” then you might be able to use the LAM as an effective contraceptive. If your answer to any one of the three questions is “Yes,” the association advises using another contraceptive to prevent pregnancy. This method can be 99% effective only if used correctly and consistently.

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