Common Fertility Myths

Ovulation usually occurs on Day 14 of the cycle.

Probably the most widely held fertility myth is the notion that women always ovulate on Day 14 of their cycle. If this were indeed true, there would be virtually no need for birth control, since couples could simply avoid that one day. And scores of couples desiring a child would simply have intercourse on Day 14, and Bingo, get pregnant.

There are several serious consequences to the Day 14 fallacy:

    * Many unplanned pregnancies occur because couples think they are safe for unprotected intercourse on any day but Day 14.
    * Many couples who desire to get pregnant actually impede pregnancy by timing intercourse on Day 14, when, in reality, the woman may ovulate either much earlier or later than that one particular day.
    * Many diagnostic tests and therapies are performed at an inappropriate time in the woman’s cycle. These include infertility procedures such as post-coital tests and endometrial biopsies, as well as general health procedures such as mammograms and diaphragm fittings.
    * If a woman does get pregnant, the doctor’s office will usually utilize a "pregnancy wheel" to determine her due date. But this device assumes that women ovulate on Day 14, and therefore could be off by several weeks, leading physicians to perform diagnostic tests at inappropriate times (e.g. amniocentesis) or even induce labor before the baby is fully developed.

A normal menstrual cycle is 28 days.

Actually, a normal menstrual cycle can vary from about 24-36 days. And not only do cycles vary substantially among women, they often vary within each individual woman. One of the most unfortunate results of this myth is the needless anxiety that it causes women desiring to avoid pregnancy, who are led to believe over and over again that they may be pregnant because their periods are "late."

The perpetuation of this belief is related, in part, to people's perception of the perfect Pill cycle (boy, that’s a mouthful of p’s!). What people often do not understand is that oral contraceptives, by definition, hormonally manipulate the woman's cycle to be a perfect 28 days. This belief in the perfect cycle is probably less widely accepted among women who have never been on the Pill.

A woman can get pregnant only one day per cycle.

While it is true that a human egg is only viable for 12 to 24 hours, a woman can actually get pregnant from an act of intercourse occurring anytime from about five days prior to ovulation to even occasionally two days after, for a total of about seven days.

The reason for this is that the sperm can survive up to five days inside the woman's reproductive tract, and a woman can release two or more eggs within a 24 hour period.. Hence, for all intents and purposes, a women can get pregnant for about one week per cycle.

A woman can spontaneously ovulate at any time in the cycle.

This is simply not true. Even though the timing of ovulation can vary from cycle to cycle, once a woman ovulates, it is virtually impossible for her to ovulate again until the following cycle. This is because once ovulation occurs, the hormone progesterone will suppresses the release of all other eggs until the following cycle.

Even in the case of a multiple ovulation, the eggs are released within 24 hours of each other. During those 24 hours, one or more eggs will be released, and then no more until the next cycle.

Women are fertile all the time.

Not true! Women are only fertile the few days around ovulation. In fact, a human egg can only survive 12-24 hours after being released from the ovary, and thus the only reason women are considered fertile for longer than 24 hours (or 48 hours in the case of a multiple ovulation) is because sperm can live for up to five days if fertile quality cervical fluid is present. Interestingly enough, it is men who are always fertile!

Orgasms cause women to release eggs.

This is an especially intriguing myth -- that orgasm can lead to spontaneous ovulation. In fact the process that leads to ovulation is the gradual increase of estrogen over a period of several days, not a sudden surge.

Women cannot get pregnant from intercourse during their period.

This is tricky, because there is potential ambiguity in the phrasing of the assertion. In other words, whether or not a woman can get pregnant during her period depends on the precise question asked. "Can a woman get pregnant during her period?" is quite different from, "Can a woman get pregnant from intercourse during her period?"

A woman can NOT get pregnant during her period because the hormonal levels that trigger ovulation are completely opposite during menstruation.

However, a woman CAN get pregnant from intercourse during her period if she has an early ovulation and has sex on Day 5 or later of her cycle.

Ovulation occurs on the day of the drop or the day of the rise in BBT.

This is one of the most common myths perpetuated by the medical community. In reality, the exact day of ovulation cannot be determined by the basal body temperature. Only about 10% of women even have a drop in basal temperature. And once the temperature has risen, it is virtually certain that the egg is already gone (assuming conception hadn’t occurred beforehand.) This is because an egg only lives 12-24 hours, and by the time the temperature has risen, the egg is no longer viable. Therefore, if a couple wants to achieve a pregnancy, the sign to focus on is not the basal temperature, but the cervical fluid.

Worrying about a late period may only delay it.

This myth is often perpetuated by the most well-meaning friends. But the reason it’s not true is that stress does not delay one's menstrual period; it can only delay ovulation. Once ovulation has occurred, the woman's body has already determined when she will menstruate. In other words, the time from ovulation to menstruation varies little from cycle to cycle.

Vaginal secretions usually indicate an infection.

Perhaps the most prevalent undiscussed biological phenomenon that women experience is their vaginal fluids. Their natural and healthy secretions are no doubt something that virtually all women occasionally notice on their underwear. Yet because they are not taught what this is, they often assume it is infectious "discharge" needing to be treated or douched away. Women are not unhealthy or dirty, just uninformed.

Conception occurs in the uterus.

Conception actually occurs in the outer third of the fallopian tubes, and not in the uterus, as many people think. The reason for this is that an egg can only live 12-24 hours, so by the time 24 hours have passed, the egg has only traveled as far as the outer third of the tubes. Implantation on the other hand, does occur in the uterus.

Sperm can only live up to three days.

Actually, sperm can survive up to five days in the woman's reproductive tract. This is the reason why even though a woman's egg can only live for 12-24 hours, she is potentially fertile for about one week per cycle — five days for sperm viability, plus two days for the possibility of two eggs being released in any given cycle.

A woman's cycle is such a mystery that there is no way to understand it.

Wrong! We've all been led to believe that the menstrual cycle is so confusing that it is best left to medical professionals to interpret our cycles. In reality, a woman can easily take control of her fertility by understanding her cycle on a day-to-day basis.

Stress causes infertility.

Actually, the role that stress plays on one's fertility is fairly complex. Stress, per se, does not prevent conception. However, it can delay ovulation by suppressing the hormones necessary for it to occur. If a couple adheres to the myth of ovulation always occurring on Day 14, they then may inadvertently prevent pregnancy by timing intercourse at the wrong time, thus triggering a vicious circle of misperceived infertility causing more stress. Charting her cycle would allow the couple to regain control by correctly identifying the woman’s fertile phase.

Infertility is primarily a female problem.

In reality, it is about 40% female, 40% male, 20% both.

A woman is more likely to become pregnant if the couple adopts a child.

This is simply not true. For one thing, stress does not necessarily stop once a couple adopts! The other point is that a woman is not statistically more likely to conceive after adopting. People tend to hear about those cases and not all the cases where women did not get pregnant following adoption.

Infertility is a reflection of a person's sexuality.

In reality, fertility and sexuality are totally unrelated. Fertility refers to a person’s ability to procreate. Sexuality is completely independent of that ability.

Women run out of eggs at menopause.

Wrong. Women are born with over 400,000 eggs, but have nowhere near that many periods in their life, thank goodness! Instead, at menopause, the woman’s body stops responding to the hormones that cause the eggs to mature in the ovary before being released at ovulation.

The Fertility Awareness Method is the Rhythm Method.

The Fertility Awareness Method is NOT the Rhythm Method. The Rhythm Method is nothing more than an obsolete, ineffective guessing game that uses past cycles to predict future fertility. The Fertility Awareness Method, on the other hand, is a scientifically-validated, effective, and natural method that involves charting three primary fertility signs on a daily basis, so that a woman's fertility can be accurately determined.

The three primary fertility signs are waking temperature, cervical fluid, and cervical position. The method is based upon the functioning of estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and the corpus luteum. Unlike the Rhythm Method, whose contraceptive effectiveness cannot be taken seriously, the Fertility Awareness Method, when used properly, is 98% effective.

Fertility Awareness is based on the moon and the stars and astrology.

Actually, Fertility Awareness is based upon medically accurate and purely biological occurrences within the woman's body.