When it comes to women’s health, the internet can be both a helpful tool and a major source of false information. In an effort to combat some of the less-than-accurate sources out there, Refinery29 teamed up with Allergan to bring you some facts, straight from our favorite healthcare providers.
Call them superstitions, lucky rituals, or old wives’ tales, but when it comes to reproduction, there are wild ideas out there about what can be done to sway the odds of getting pregnant. And while you might think it would be easy to spot the mistruths, some have been around for so long that we’ve accidentally stopped questioning their legitimacy. In fact, we’re willing to bet that even the most discerning among us have been duped by at least one of these.
To get to the bottom of what’s truth and what’s fiction, we connected with paid Allergan consultant Jessica Shepherd, MD, and asked her which pregnancy myths she hears most often from her patients. We also polled our own Refinery29 team — a group of inquisitive and informed women who span the spectrum of trying to get pregnant, actively avoiding it, and exploring their options with their healthcare providers — to see what pregnancy beliefs they want a little clarity on. Read on, and reach out to your own healthcare provider with any follow-up questions. Ready to start debunking?
We all know someone who swears pulling out is a valid form of birth control, based only on anecdotal evidence. Maybe you’ve got a friend who’s been doing it for years and has never gotten pregnant, but Dr. Shepherd has some definitive words on the subject. “Pulling out is the least effective form of birth control out there, and you can quote me on that!”
So why should you think twice before relying on pulling out? Besides offering no form of protection for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), it also doesn’t account for the sheer amount of sperm that exists in the semen. "There are millions of sperm in semen — and when I say millions, I mean millions — so for people to think you’d be able to avoid it all is impossible. Also, during excitement and sexual intercourse, you have pre-ejaculation. This is a clear seminal fluid that’s present before ejaculation. There’s sperm in there, too.”
It’s hard to pinpoint where this myth stems from, but many internet message boards espouse that taking birth control pills for a long time grants a sort of “grace period” where you’re still protected against pregnancy even when you stop taking the pill. “I see that myth all the time,” says Dr. Shepherd. “It is absolutely a myth that you cannot get pregnant once you’re off birth control pills.” Note that before you stop taking the pill to actively try to get pregnant, it's a good idea to schedule a pre-pregnancy checkup with your healthcare provider.
Speaking of message-board logic to avoid, internet users also recommend everything from sneezing to peeing right away to prevent pregnancy. Some even say that pregnancy is impossible unless an orgasm occurs. Unfortunately for these folks, Dr. Shepherd confirms that none of these tricks have a basis in medical knowledge.
“I have no idea how people come up with these ideas,” says Dr. Shepherd. “There are women who come in and say they stand on their heads after sex to increase the odds of getting pregnant. People also say certain positions can determine a baby’s gender.” Unfortunately, none of these ideas are supported by scientific evidence.
While it is always a good idea to closely monitor any changes in your body and to share these changes with your healthcare provider, spotting is not a sure sign of pregnancy or birth control failure. “There are multiple reasons why spotting might happen,” explains Dr. Shepherd.
If you’re new to the pill, your body could be adjusting to the estrogen and progesterone. Dr. Shepherd says that spotting is common during a patient’s first few months of use and, for some women, it can be even longer. Missing pills can also cause spotting or bleeding and increase your risk of pregnancy. If unscheduled bleeding or spotting is heavy or lasts for more than a few days, you should discuss this with your healthcare provider.