There are many that claim certain foods, exercises, and habits escalate the chances of pregnancy. Some are plausible, others seem absurd, and some just seem so crazy that people believe they might actually work. But do they really? Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls that we face when it comes to our beliefs on fertility.
Firstly, we think that certain habits increase fertility, when they don’t.
In a study by Laura Bunting and Jacky Boivin, it was found that an overwhelming majority of participants wrongly assumed that healthy habits such as eating fruits and exercising would increase their fertility.
The truth? These healthy habits are only effective in that they prevent risks of damage – they don’t actually increase fertility. The same goes for abstaining from unhealthy habits – these just minimize your chance of infertility and keep you at a “baseline”, but they don’t make you more fertile.
Case in point: quitting smoking minimizes the risk of lung cancer, which in turn minimizes the chance of infertility from lung cancer. But simply quitting smoking won’t make a person more fertile.
If engaging in healthy habits and abstaining from unhealthy ones don’t improve fertility, then what will? Women should maximize their egg health by taking prenatal vitamins; men can also take supplements to help them increase sperm count and decrease sperm abnormalities.
Another way in which we don’t understand fertility? We’re unable to accurately pinpoint which unhealthy habits are the most damaging to fertility.
When asked about obesity as an issue to fertility versus smoking and drinking alcohol, participants in the same Bunting and Boivin study said that smoking and drinking had a heavier negative impact than obesity. This is actually untrue – obesity has been proven to be significantly more damaging to fertility than smoking or drinking.
More specifically, according to a study led by Jan Willem van der Steeg from Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Centre, women who are severely obese are 43% less likely to conceive as opposed to women who are of normal weight or overweight.
Participants of the study were categorized according to their BMI, with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 indicating that the participant is of normal weight, a BMI of 25 to 29.9 indicating that the participant is overweight, and a BMI of above 30 indicating that the participant is obese.
Other than finding it harder to conceive, obese women also have 8 times the risk of gestational diabetes, as compared to women who are of normal weight. That’s not all – obese women are also twice as likely to suffer from a miscarriage, and infants born to obese women are more likely to need neonatal intensive care, or be born with a birth defect.
Understanding these misconceptions is the first step in a couple’s journey to conception. When in doubt, couples looking to get pregnant should always seek the advice of a professional, instead of blindly believing old wives’ tales that they hear from their friends and family. Articles on pregnancy websites should also be taken with a pinch of salt unless specific research and/or notable people are referenced. Read widely, but remember to be discerning!