trying to conceive, or even just curious about it, you’ve probably heard plenty of fertility “tricks” that will supposedly help make sure that the sperm hits the egg: After sex, lie down with your legs in the air. If you want to have twins, eat yams. Have sex in missionary position. Men: wear boxers, not briefs.
Some of these tips have been around for thousands of years, passed from generation to generation. Ancient Egyptians associated honey with conception, considering it
sacred to Min, a god of fertility. Today, people trying to conceive are sometimes advised to snack on raw honey in order to increase their chances. “Seven people I know who had been trying to conceive between six months and three years gave me a tip... they were having two spoonfuls of Manuka honey a day... all of them now have children or are pregnant,” reads one such tip on a conception forum. But is there any proof that these “tricks” actually work? We asked Mary Jane Minkin, MD, Ob/Gyn at Yale University to find out. Eating honey
Dr. Minkin says there is “no data” on honey helping lead to conception. However, there’s one major benefit to eating honey: it’s not an
One 2018 study
found that, for patients doing intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) treatment, drinking artificially sweetened coffee was negatively associated with embryo quality on day two and three (though it had no effect on the odds of live birth). So, while eating spoonfuls of raw honey every morning probably won’t do much, swapping out the Splenda isn’t a bad idea.
You might have heard that eating yams will make you
. While this might sound remarkable, there may be some truth to it. “There is some suggestion that women in Africa who have a high yam diet have more twinning — based on somewhat more secretion of FSH from the pituitary gland,” Dr. Minkin says. “But I wouldn't go and eat yams for that reason!"
, who live in West Africa including Nigeria, Benin, and Ghana, have high rates of fraternal twins. Yams are also a staple in their diet, and many eat yams every day. Scientists believe there may be a connection between these two facts, because yams contain phytoestrogens, which can stimulate the secretion of
follicle stimulating hormone
(FSH). However, this connection is still being studied. Plus, the Yoruba people have eaten a diet high in yams their whole lives, so suddenly adding them to your meals as you're trying to conceive won't have the same effect.
Taking fish oil
While more research is needed, some studies indicate that taking
fish oil supplements
may have a positive benefit, because of the presence of omega-3 fatty acids.
One 2012 study
found that women over 35 who had a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids had improved oocyte quality.
A 2016 study
found that mice with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids had larger reserves of precursors of egg cells than other mice (though keep in mind that these were mice, not humans). And a
found that women with high BMI who took omega-3 fatty acid supplements had increased progesterone, which helps the body support a healthy pregnancy. Scientists stress that
is still needed, but research looks promising.
Taking prenatal vitamins before pregnancy
Doctors encourage people to take
before trying to conceive — but maybe not for the reason you expect. “The prenatal vitamin issue isn't really for fertility, but we know that moms who take
folic acid supplementation
before trying to conceive have a significantly lower risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect,” Dr. Minkin says. “That’s why we encourage women to take an over the counter prenatal vitamin before they try to conceive.”
Legs in the airPeople trying to conceive are often advised to lie down with their legs in the air after sex. While the position of your legs doesn’t really make a difference, Dr. Minkin says it’s a good idea to lie down. “Basically, we encourage women to lie down for 15 or so minutes after they have sex, to encourage the ‘guys’ to swim up to the cervix,” she says. Orgasming
There’s no data to suggest that
orgasming during sex
makes you more likely to conceive — some studies have been done, but they show
. But hey, orgasming might mean you enjoy the conception process a lot more.
Drinking cough syrup
Dr. Minkin says there’s no data to suggest that cough syrup effects conception. One
ingredient case study
asserted, “Evidence for the effectiveness of guaifenesin is almost entirely anecdotal.” Another
, “The efficacy of guaifenesin in fertility treatment is not supported by large prospective randomized, controlled trials.”
Having sex in missionary position
As long as ejaculation occurs in the vagina, any position could lead to pregnancy.
As one study put it,
“There is no evidence that coital position affects fecundability. Sperm can be found in the cervical canal seconds after ejaculation, regardless of coital position.”
Using special lubes
This is one suggestion with some truth to it.
“Many of your standard lubes are not sperm-friendly — you want a balanced lube (both acid-wise and what we call molality — a certain concentration of salts dissolved in it) to be kind to the sperm,” Dr. Minkin says. “Many infertility docs recommend one called
. And if you are trying to time sex, sometimes lubrication isn't so easy. So that does matter.”
(squatting over steaming water containing herbs) has become trendy in the past few years, Dr. Minkin says this is a definite no. Unlike eating honey or orgasming during sex, which you’ll probably enjoy even if they don’t increase your chances of conception, vaginal steaming could potentially hurt you.
“There is no potential good and only potential harm,” Dr. Minkin says. “Like a case report from Canada recently with a woman with
second-degree burns on her vulva
Having sex every day
According to Dr. Minkin, having sex on your
most fertile days
is more important than having sex every day. “Every day or every other day works fine,” she says. “You don't want to have sex more than once a day, as it may actually decrease the concentration of sperm. Now one thing that you can do is to use an ovulation predictor kit, such as the
First Response ovulation predictor kit
, which will let you know your most fertile days — and you can then concentrate activity!”
Don't wear tight underwearThere aren’t a ton of fertility “tricks” marketed to people with penises, but one of the most prevalent is that boxers are better than briefs. While briefs aren’t off-limits, you don’t want to wear too-tight underwear. “The testes like it cool!” Dr. Minkin says. “You've heard of the old movie Some Like it Hot — well, sperm like it cool.”