Fact Or Fiction: 10 Top Fertility Myths

Sponsored by Queensland Fertility Group

Words by Sophie Knox

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While making better food and lifestyle choices is important when you’re pregnant, there’s plenty to think about in the preconception phase, too.

When it comes to making smart food and lifestyle choices to increase your chances of conceiving a baby, there are several popular fertility myths that are worth busting – here are ten of the best.

Fertility Myth: “It doesn’t matter what you eat until you’re actually pregnant.”

Fertility Fact: How many times have you heard the phrase “balanced diet” bandied about? It’s an overused term, but when trying to conceive, this is the time to listen because a healthy preconception diet does increase your fertility. Eating five portions of fruit and vegies a day will boost your chances of conception, along with a good amount of unprocessed wholegrain foods, like bread and rice. A moderate amount of protein, such as lean meats, fish, eggs and pulses, will also do you good, as will low-fat dairy products to boost your calcium. It’s worth limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and salt.

Fertility Myth: “You don’t need to quit smoking until after you conceive.”

Fertility Fact: There is very strong evidence that smoking can diminish your fertility rate and possibly impact your chance of having a miscarriage. The good news is that the body can recover from smoking to a degree, so just when the best time to stop? Now.

Fertility Myth: “It’s safe to keep drinking alcohol while trying to fall pregnant.”

Fertility Fact: The National Health and Medical Research Council states that the safest option when trying to conceive and during pregnancy, is not to drink alcohol at all. Heavy alcohol intake is proven to affect male sperm health and production, and binge drinking is harmful for the baby, even in the early stages when you may not realise yet that you’re pregnant.

Fertility Myth: “If you want to have a baby, you need to give up caffeine altogether.” 

Fertility Fact: Although some studies have found that very high caffeine consumption can reduce a female’s fertility and the baby’s birth weight, the reasons are not obvious nor are the results conclusive. Many experts recommend keeping your daily caffeine intake below 100mg (about one cup of instant coffee a day).

Fertility Myth: “Don’t worry about losing weight now, wait until after you have a baby.” 

Fertility Fact: If you have a high Body Mass Index (BMI), reducing 5% of your total weight can improve your fertility. Being obese or heavily overweight can increase insulin levels, which may cause the ovaries to stop releasing eggs. Conversely, extreme weight loss or low weight may also affect fertility success.

Fertility Myth: “You need to stop exercising if you want to conceive.”

Fertility Fact: Regular moderate exercise is not only good for you, it maintains your fertility health. But persistent strenuous exercise can affect ovulation, so try not to exhaust yourself.

Fertility Myth: “Vitamins and supplements, like folic acid, aren’t necessary until after you fall pregnant.”

Fertility Fact: Once you’ve decided to try for a baby, specialists advise taking 400 micrograms of folate (B-group vitamin) daily for three months preconception, to prevent neural tube defects.  

Fertility Myth: “Oily fish is harmful to unborn babies, so avoid it altogether.”

Fertility Fact: Oily fish, such as sardines, salmon, trout and fresh tuna, is highly nutritious but may contain pollutants, so limit your intake to two portions per week. Some fish, such as shark, swordfish and mackerel, include high levels of mercury, which can be damaging to your baby, so yes, these are best avoided altogether even in the preconception phase, because you may be pregnant for weeks before you realise it. 

Fertility Myth: “Listeria is only found in soft cheeses, so don’t get too caught up in what you can and can’t eat.”

Fertility Fact: The listeria bacteria, which may be harmful – even fatal – to unborn babies, can certainly be found in soft cheese, like brie, ricotta and fetta, but it can also be found in processed meats, raw fish, soft-serve ice-cream, pâté and beansprouts. It’s also worth avoiding raw eggs as they may contain salmonella. And again, this is best practice before pregnancy as well as during, to protect your baby during those very first weeks.

Fertility Myth: “Avoid eating nuts to prevent you baby from developing an allergy.”

Fertility Fact: It’s only helpful to avoid nuts if you are allergic – it will have no impact on the chances of your baby developing a nut allergy.

If you’re unsure about any of these factors and how they impact your chances of conception, have a chat with your healthcare provider or fertility advisor.

Read more about how eating and living well can boost your fertility here.

Queensland Fertility Group

Queensland Fertility Group (QFG) is Queensland’s largest group of fertility specialists, with more than 13 clinics reaching from Cairns to the Gold Coast. Boasting some of the highest fertility treatment success rates in Australia, QFG offers patients the full range of fertility investigation and treatment options from simple techniques, like ovulation timing, right through to artificial insemination and IVF. To learn more about the leading fertility specialists in your area or to locate your local QFG clinic, please visit www.qfg.com.au.