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Trying to get pregnant? Doctors clear up 7 common myths

Figuring out what's truth and what's fiction is no easy task when you're ready to have a baby.

From what to wear to what to eat to what position to assume, there are countless rumors out there about how to get pregnant, some more substantiated than others.

Most people know the basics: have sex, preferably during a woman's most fertile days. But beyond that, are there any other ways a couple can boost their chances of getting pregnant? And is there any truth to these suggestions many people hear from their friends, strangers, family members — or even their doctors?

Here's how experts answered some common questions.

1. Should my husband wear boxers instead of briefs?

Some men might ditch their tight underwear if they're trying to conceive — and actually, that might not be a bad idea.

"The thought is that briefs bring the scrotum closer to the body and keep it warmer, which could affect sperm count," explained Dr. Megan Gray, an OB-GYN at Orlando Health Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women and Babies.

There's no scientific proof that boxers are the better option, but doctors say it would make sense.

"It's an old wive's tale, but it's one that may have a bit of truth to it," said Dr. Michael Edelstein, a fertility specialist with Shady Grove Fertility in Richmond, Virginia. "We know that for optimal sperm production, the testicles have to be at a temperature lower than the body's core temperature. So there may be some evidence that wearing boxers as opposed to briefs can keep the temperatures of testicles lower."

He added that men should also avoid extensive use of hot tubs and saunas to keep sperm count in check.

2. Is there a best position to get pregnant?

"There really isn't, and that question comes up a lot," said Dr. Lauren Streicher, an OB-GYN and medical director of the Northwestern Medicine Center for Sexual Health and Menopause in Chicago.

Basically, any position is a good position, as long as you're having sex.

3. Should you raise your legs and hips after sex?

As for after sex, elevating your hips makes no difference either, Streicher said.

Morning relaxation
Elevating your hips after sex? It can't hurt, but it probably won't help either. Getty Images stock

"There's this whole idea of putting your legs up the wall after sex and it's absolutely nonsense," she added. "There's always going to be a certain amount of semen that is going to fall out."

There's no scientific evidence that elevating your hips or lying down after sex helps sperm reach the cervix. (In fact, according to one 2016 European study of nearly 500 intrauterine insemination (IUI) patients, those who got up immediately after the procedure actually had higher, although not statistically significant, pregnancy rates than those who remained lying down for 15 minutes.) That said, many doctors still have patients stay on their backs after IUI, and if you want to do the same at home, it won't hurt.

"If a woman wants to keep her legs elevated after sex for five or ten minutes, go for it, but there's no evidence it will make a difference," Edelstein said.

4. Can you get pregnant while on your period?

The short answer is yes. It's not likely, but it's possible, especially if you have irregular cycles, short cycles, or simply misinterpret some mid-cycle spotting as your period. (It happens!)

"For example, let's say your period is typically five days and you have sex on day five, and then you happen to ovulate early, like on day nine of your cycle," said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, an OB-GYN and clinical professor of obstetrics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. "The chance of having good sperm hanging around for those four or five days is not good, but it's possible."

But if your periods are pretty regular, you probably won't get pregnant.

"If you never skip months and your periods are always spot-on, I think the chances of you getting pregnant are slim to none," Gray said. "But you really have to know your body and your cycles. I wouldn't count on that as a reliable method of birth control."

5. Can you get pregnant while breastfeeding?


"Fertility is definitely diminished when you're breastfeeding, but women get pregnant all the time when they're breastfeeding," Streicher said.

There are some hormonal changes happening in the body when a woman is breastfeeding, which could affect ovulation and also help explain why some women don't get their periods while they're nursing, but using breastfeeding as a form of contraception isn't a safe bet.

6. Can you get pregnant right after stopping the pill?

"People have this idea that hormones from the pill will stay in their system for a while," Streicher said. "That's not true."

For most women, their bodies adjust pretty quickly after stopping the pill.

Within a month or two, most will start ovulating again and their fertility returns to normal, Edelstein said.

"The issue, of course, is that while the birth control pills don't cause any fertility issues, they might mask fertility issues, like if a woman has underlying ovulation problem," he added. "You wouldn't know it when you're on the birth control pill."

7. How to conceive a boy? (Or a girl? Or ... twins?)

Sorry, you can't — unless you're doing in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

While the sex of the baby is determined at conception, there's nothing a couple can do to increase the chances they'll have a boy or a girl.

"You have a 50-50 chance," Gray said. "There is no way to control what sperm successfully meets an egg."