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Fertility Myths: Separating Fact from Fiction

Whether you’re stressed about trying to get pregnant now or you’re panicked at the idea that you won’t be able to later, being in the dark about the future never feels good. To help shed some light on the situation, we tapped the minds of top experts to breakdown what really messes with your fertility—and what you can relax about. [Tweet this!]

Fact: Unsafe Sex
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While simply having sex without protection won’t directly hurt your chances at having kids, the consequences of doing so are another story. Chlamydia is currently the most frequently reported STI in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if left untreated, can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). “PID scars your fallopian tubes, which ultimately prevents your eggs from reaching your uterus,” says Jen Landa, M.D., an ob-gyn and hormone specialist. Another common cause of PID: gonorrhea, which is another common STI that is on the rise.

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Fiction: Birth Control

No matter what method of contraception you fancy, hormonal birth control typically only impacts your fertility while you’re using it. Some women who use Depo-Provera—which is the clinical term for the shot—may take a little bit longer to conceive after they stop using it, says Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., research scientist at Indiana University and author of Sex Made Easy. But that time period typically only lasts a few months, she notes.

Fact: High BMI
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Obesity—often classified as a BMI of 30 and above—accounts for 6 percent of primary infertility, suggests data from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. And this may be because extreme weight gain leads to insulin resistance, explains Sara Gottfried, M.D., author of The Hormone Cure. When your cells become numb to insulin, polycystic ovary syndrome kicks in—which basically means your hormones become unbalanced, says Gottfried. The more off balance your body is, the more male sex hormones your ovaries create—and this can cause you to stop ovulating.

Fact: Low BMI
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Women with low BMIs—often classified as 19 and under—have lower clinical pregnancy rates than women with healthy BMIs, according to research in the journal Gynecological Endocrinology. This may be because the hormones that tell your ovaries to release your eggs get stored in body fat. Without the proper amount of fat, ovulation doesn’t occur.

Fiction: Caffeine

The data on caffeine is fairly mixed, says Herbenick. Although a recent study in the journal Epidemiology found that caffeine in general does not have a negative impact on time to pregnancy in normal women. Now that’s not to say you should sip a Venti coffee with every meal. But as with most things, caffeine consumed in moderation shouldn’t impact your fertility.

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Fact: Smoking

Up to 13 percent of female infertility is caused by cigarette smoking, according to data from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. While there is strong evidence that nicotine has a significantly negative impact on fertility, there are so many other toxic components that can adversely affect your ability to conceive too, says Landa.

Fiction: Termination

About 30 percent of women in the U.S. have had, or will have, an abortion at some point in their lives, says Herbenick. But contrary to popular belief, abortions do not affect future fertility, she notes. Scar tissue—a common cause of infertility—can develop within the uterus as a complication of abortion, but if a trained medical provider performs the procedure, you should have nothing to worry about.

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Fact: Stress

New research published in the journal Human Reproduction found that high stress levels are associated with an increased risk of infertility. The reason: An increased level of the stress hormone cortisol can halt the creation of progesterone, a hormone which is necessary to make the uterus a cozy place for successful implantation, says Gottfried. The researchers speculate that stress may also prompt men and women to have less sex—another explanation for lack of conception. [Tweet this!]