If you’re trying to get pregnant (or even if you’re not), you’ve probably heard a lot of rumors about the habits that influence your ability to put a bun in the oven. “Certain sex positions are better for conceiving.” Not true! “Exercising can make it tough for a pregnancy to stick.” Uh, about that… With all of the advice floating around, how are you supposed to know what’s legit and what’s just noise? To set the record straight, we tapped experts and asked which factors affect a woman’s fertility, both positively and negatively. If you’re trying to get pregnant, take note; we bet you’ll be surprised to learn about a lot of these—especially since routines that are “good for you” aren’t always the best for conceiving.
You know that having regular sex is key to baby making, but if you rely on lube to get things going, you could be undermining your efforts. Water-based lubes (like KY Jelly and Astroglide) can inhibit a sperm’s ability to reach your egg because sperm absorb the water in them, says Alyssa Dweck, M.D., a gynecologist and co-author of The Complete A to Z for Your V. Meanwhile, Kristin Bendikson, M.D., a fertility specialist at USC fertility, says that petroleum-based lubes may alter the pH level of your vagina, which can kill sperm—and glycerol (another common lube ingredient) also impairs sperm motility. If you’re trying to get pregnant, both Bendikson and Dweck recommend opting for a lube like PreSeed, which is specifically designed for women who are trying to get pregnant.
Dweck says antidepressants are a big culprit here because some types raise the level of a hormone called prolactin in your brain, which can interfere with ovulation. The big takeaway here? If you’re trying to get pregnant, let your doctor know, as it may affect the meds she prescribes you—or advises you to take OTC.
Overweight women have higher odds of experiencing fertility issues—and have an increased risk of suffering from pregnancy complications or even a miscarriage, according to research from the Journal of the Turkish German Gynecological Association. However, being underweight can negatively impact your fertility, too. This is because both weight extremes can affect your hormone levels, leading to irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. “Most people don’t realize that if you’re too thin, that can actually be a bad thing,” says Bendikson, who notes that it can make you less likely to ovulate.
Your exercise routine
You may think that working out and eating well will keep you healthy and make you more likely to conceive. But that’s really only the case if you’re overweight and need to lose a few pounds to improve your fertility (because of the issues mentioned above), says Bendikson. If you’re at a normal weight, working out excessively can affect your hormone levels and lead to your experiencing irregular cycles. And if this over-exercising is prolonged—and coupled with a low-calorie diet—you might stop ovulating altogether.
That being said, exercise can also positively influence your fertility because it promotes heart and lung health, along with emotional wellbeing, says Sheeva Talebian, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist in New York. The key is to exercise moderately. That way, you’ll reap the fertility-boosting benefits of staying active without overdoing it, says Talebian.
How do you know if you’re over-exercising? Keep an eye on your flow, and discuss any irregularities with your doctor, says Bendikson.
“If your mom had trouble getting pregnant or experienced early menopause, it could be harder for you to get pregnant,” says Bendikson, who says she has noticed an anecdotal link between the fertility of mothers and daughters. Granted, if your mother conceived in her 40s, this is not a guarantee that you will, too, Talebian says. Discuss your family history with your doctor to make sure you know what your genes can tell you about your chances of getting pregnant.