When it comes to having sex or getting pregnant, there are many nuggets of so-called wisdom most of us take as gospel.
Many will have been reassured with advice like ‘you can’t get pregnant on your period’ or told to stick their legs in the air if they are trying to conceive.
Others include those with dodgy hearts or bad backs taking it easy or abstaining all together.
As it turns out, most such messages are nothing but myths, Healthista reveals.
Here, experts separate the facts from the common, and widely-believed, myths….
YOU CAN’T GET PREGNANT ON YOUR PERIOD
There is no time at which a woman between the ages of 15 and 50 can’t get pregnant, says Dr Gillian Lockwood, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and medical director of Midland Fertility Services.
Ideally, the window of opportunity for implantation when conception can occur is a brief three to four day time which occurs round about cycle days 18 or 19, taking cycle day one as the first day of the period, she says.
But a good egg released during ovulation has a life span of possibly about four or five days days and healthy sperm have fertilising capacity for up to four days, she asserts.
‘This is why we hear about lots of women who’ve thought, ‘Oh, it’s the tail end of my period. I’m perfectly safe’, but actually, they get pregnant.’
Furthermore, according to Dr Gabrielle Downey, consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician at BMI Hospital, The Priory in Birmingham, post-pregnancy you might be at increased risk.
During pregnancy, all your hormone levels are high generally, except the ones that stimulate your ovaries to make eggs are low, she explains. But this changes.
‘After you have had the baby, the brain tries to stimulate the ovaries again to make eggs so it can induce another pregnancy, so it sends out strong hormonal signals to the eggs to say: ‘Right. Start working,’ she says.
HEADACHES ARE A GOOD EXCUSE NOT TO INDULGE… WRONG – SEX MIGHT ACTUALLY HELP
In women, orgasm might actually help the pain of a headache cancelling out the age-old ‘Not tonight darling…’ excuse.
In fact, in research published in 2013, a team of neurologists from the University of Munster, Germany found that over half of migraine sufferers who had sex during an episode experienced an improvement in symptoms.
Staggeringly, one of five finished with no pain at all – a difference seen in male sufferers in particular.
The researchers theorised that sex triggered the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, through the central nervous system, which could reduce or eliminate a headache.
Indeed, according to Dr Beverley Whipple, the neurophysicist from Rutgers University who discovered the G-spot in the late 70s (on the front wall of the vagina, 5cm from the entrance), having this area stimulated to orgasm increased women’s pain threshold by 106 per cent.
SEX AND ORGASM CAN STIMULATE EARLY LABOUR
Theoretically, sex can induce labour, but the cervix needs to be ready, explains Dr Downey.
Semen contains hormones called prostaglandins (which come from the man’s prostate gland) which can soften the cervix and stimulate contractions.
Synthetic forms of these are used medically to induce labour, which is why – theoretically – it’s possible that sex may hasten labour.
But only if you’re close to your due date.
‘Your cervix has to ripen and be receptive to prostaglandins and this only happens near the end of your pregnancy,’ Dr Downey says.
‘If your cervix isn’t ready, having sex at 20 weeks won’t make you go into early labour.’
Having said that, sex may induce Braxton Hicks contractions, caused by the pain from tightening of the uterine muscles felt often in the second or third trimester and sometimes mistaken for labour pains.
‘Anything that stimulates movement in the uterus can cause Braxton Hicks – including sex – but the difference will be that they tend to only last 20-30 seconds and will rarely stop you from doing what you’re doing, which is a tell tale sign you’re in labour’.
If your midwife or consultant have said your membranes have ruptured (when a tear develops in the fluid-filled bag that surrounds the baby), if you have low-lying placenta (usually detectable at your 20 week scan), if you are having twins, are at increased risk of infection or expecting a premature baby, you may be advised to avoid sex during part or all of you pregnancy, Dr Downey explains.
PEEING BEFORE SEX REDUCES THE RISK OF A URINARY TRACT INFECTION
Around half of all women and one in 2,000 men will develop a urinary tract infection (UTI) each year, according to the NHS.
UTIs develop when the bladder becomes infected, usually by bacteria which most commonly enter through the urethra.
Sex is a common cause of UTIs in young women in their 20s, says Dr Zaki Almallah, consultant urologist at BMI Hospital in Edgbaston.
HAVING SEX INCREASES YOUR CHANCES OF A HEART ATTACK… (MYTH EXCEPT IF YOU’RE CHEATING)
Heart attack patients are often apprehensive about getting busy between the sheets but a paper published last week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests they needn’t worry.
Researchers looked at the health histories of 536 heart disease patients aged 30 to 70 and found that sexual activity was not a risk factor in any subsequent heart attacks.
Less than one per cent of patients reported having sex within an hour before having a heart attack while 78 per cent said they had sex more than 24 hours before the heart attack.
IF YOU LIE WITH YOUR FEET IN THE AIR YOU INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF GETTING PREGNANT
In fact, lying down instead is more effective at increasing your chances of pregnancy.
‘A woman’s uterus is bent slightly forwards so if you tilt your pelvis upward a little, say by putting a pillow under your lower back as you lie down, the sperm will have less of a distance to travel,’ says Dr Downey.
‘That means they are effectively travelling downhill and need less energy to get to where they want to go.’
But why 15 minutes? Post-sex sperm have to get into the womb, travel across it and through the fallopian tubes, she explains.
PEOPLE WITH BAD BACKS SHOULD AVOID STRENUOUS SEX
A staggering four out of five people experience at least one episode of debilitating low back pain in their lifetimes and up to 84 per cent of men and 73 per cent of women with the condition report a decrease in the frequency of sex.
But research published in October last year in the journal Spine found that certain positions could make sex less painful for sufferers – depending on the type of back pain you have.
Women who get low back pain when they arch their backs or lie on their stomachs experienced less pain in the missionary position, the researchers found.
For men with back pain (especially if it hurt when they touched their toes or sat for too long), doggy style was the best position and adopting a ‘hip-hinging motion instead of thrusting with their spines’ could also lessen the pain.
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Source: Daily Mail