Infertility is a topic shrouded in myth and misconception. AskMen addresses some of the common ones.
This article originally appeared at AskMen.com.
When a couple is diagnosed as infertile, initial thoughts are often directed toward the woman. She can’t conceive. She is somehow incomplete. But the reality is that infertility factors are equally shared between men and women. What’s more is that men’s infertility is a common concern, with 2.1 million married couples being identified as infertile in the U.S. alone in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The idea that infertility is entirely a women’s issue is just one of a few recycled myths regarding the ability to conceive. Here are a few more.
Having sex daily will increase your chances of conception
For many men out there, debunking this common myth may be cause for commotion (warning: may result in less sex). The truth is that conceiving is all about timing. Generally, the best time to conceive is from the 11th to the 17th day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Since a man’s sperm can live for 48 to 72 hours in a woman’s reproductive tract, having sex daily will therefore do little to improve fertility—a notion confirmed by a recent study that found no difference in pregnancy rates between couples that had sex daily and those who had sex every other day. Another study suggests that daily sex may improve the quality of sperm, so while it may not increase your chances of conception, it might not hurt either.
Men don’t have fertility cycles
Generally speaking, the time of year and time of day can affect a man’s sperm count. Sperm counts are higher in the winter and lower in the summer, possibly because sperm production is increased in cooler temperatures. Sperm counts for men are also highest in the morning, mirroring the time when male hormone levels are also at a daily high. Despite these observations, experts do not really agree whether the time of day or year have an effect on fertility rates when looking at the big picture.
Bicycling doesn’t affect fertility
Before you take a crowbar to your bike in anger, this myth needs a little explanation. Sitting on a bicycle saddle for more than 30 minutes at a time — especially if wearing tight bicycle shorts — raises scrotal temperatures and temporarily affects sperm production. It’s the raising of scrotal temperatures that is mostly to blame. This is why it is ill-advised for men to frequent the hot tub or sauna when hoping to conceive. Even sitting with a laptop on your lap for prolonged periods may decrease sperm counts. The key is to take frequent breaks from sitting, and when cycling, choose a seat that’s not too hard or narrow and adjust it so that the weight is on your butt bones.
Lubricants won’t speed up sperm
Lubricants decrease friction, which increases the pleasure of sex, but they won’t help you get pregnant. In fact, using lubricants can actually be counterproductive as they can interfere with sperm motility and may have ingredients that are toxic to sperm. The same is true for lotions and even saliva. Despite this, many couples rely on lubricants for sex; steer clear of all such products when attempting conception. If an alternative is needed, vegetable oils or Pre~Seed Intimate Moisturizer are sometimes recommended to couples, but a doctor should be consulted in determining the best available option.
When it comes to weight, only an excess affects sperm
Most men know that obesity can affect sperm production, but the lesser-known fact is that being too thin can reduce sperm count as well. Being underweight is believed to affect sperm because it is linked to hormonal imbalances as well as malnutrition. Findings from the 2008 European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Barcelona showed that men with an optimal BMI (Body Mass Index) of 20 to 25 had higher levels of normal sperm than those who were either overweight or underweight. If you have a low BMI then it may not be a bad idea to discuss healthy ways of gaining weight with a nutritionist or doctor.
Get Busy with the Facts
Infertility is a topic shrouded in myth and misconception. The few misconceptions presented here only scratch the surface and it should therefore be the prerogative of any prospective parent to get their facts straight before attempting conception. Because, contrary to popular belief, getting pregnant is not always easy.
Photo credit: Flickr / Jeremy Vandel