Q&A with Specialist Dr. Mary Jane Minkin
Dr. Minkin looks at popular conception advice in order to separate fact from fiction.
Q: I've been trying to get pregnant for 8 months and I'm worried that it hasn't happened yet. Is worrying preventing me from getting pregnant?
A: There's no research or clinical evidence to support that "worrying" hinders conception. Extreme stress can affect your ability to ovulate in very rare cases. "Worrying about it," on the other hand, can be useful if it moves you to action in the form of determining your ovulation and then timing intercourse to coincide with your most fertile time.
Q: Should my husband start wearing boxers now that we're trying to start a family?
A: Boxers are less constricting than briefs. They allow testicles to hang loose, away from the body — and keep cool. Testicles should stay a couple of degrees below normal body temperature to function optimally. While it's true that sperm counts rise in cooler temperatures, it takes at least two months for cooler temperatures to positively affect the sperm — so rapid cooling, as with an ice pack, won't help. However, staying out of the hot tub and sauna, avoiding long, hot baths, tight jeans and pants, and yes, wearing boxers instead of briefs may help.
Q: Does having sex more often increase my chances of getting pregnant?
A: Frequency of sex around ovulation is important and I advise my patients to have sex at least every other day during this time. I stress, unless you're ovulating, you won't get pregnant. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, a major study found no difference in pregnancy rates between couples who had sex daily and those who had sex every other day.
Q: I tend to have intercourse in the morning, then jump up and get ready for the day. A friend told me that I need to stay put if I want to conceive.
A: Lying down in bed for 20 to 30 minutes with a pillow under your pelvis helps keep the sperm inside and moving toward your egg. You may want to choose a time when you're able to stay in bed a little longer.
Q: Does having sex early in your fertile period result in having a boy; later will result in a girl?
A: It is thought that sperm with Y chromosomes (male) swim faster than sperm with the X chromosomes (female), and are able to reach the egg earlier in its journey to the uterus (i.e., right after ovulation). Although it sounds believable, a New England Journal of Medicine study found nothing conclusive to this theory.*
Q: I keep telling my husband that since we're trying to have a baby we should stop having sex in the morning. Is this true?
A: Actually, some studies claim that a man's sperm count may be higher in the morning. Furthermore, having sex with the man on top is recommended. The missionary position allows for the deepest penetration, placing sperm closer to the opening of the cervix, which will allow easier access to the egg.
*AJ Wilcox, M.D., PhD., CR Weinberg, PhD., & D Baird, PhD., "Timing of Sexual Intercourse in Relation to Ovulation - Effects on the Probability of Conception, Survival of the Pregnancy, and Sex of the Baby," New England Journal of Medicine, 1995.