Throughout the years, couples have tried many things to conceive – and to not conceive. This has resulted in many trends in fertility, including the most recent where women are waiting later to have children and having fewer children than they used to.
These trends may be due to a number of factors, including marriage trends, economic development, cultural acceptance, education, employment, and contraceptive methods. According to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics, more 18- to 24-year-old women are enrolled in college while decline in employment rates have also affected when women have children.
Waiting until later to have children means a woman may not be as fertile as she was in her 20’s. As a result, she may try a certain trend to try and have a baby. These can range from methods used thousands of years ago (like acupuncture and meditation) or the latest advancements in in vitro fertilization (IVF). For many couples, IVF has meant they can achieve their dreams of having children, even at a much later date.
A lot of the old-fashioned trends come from old wives’ tales and don’t actually have a lot of scientific research supporting them. From planting a rosemary bush in a garden to eating yams as a means to conceive twins, some superstitions around having a baby seem a little “out there.”
However, most aren’t considered harmful to a woman trying to start her family or wishing to avoid conception. Whether old or new methods, these fertility trends can be important to know.
14 Old-Fashioned Trends: Drinking Grapefruit Juice
Women used to think that drinking grapefruit juice made them more likely to conceive. The concept behind drinking grapefruit juice for fertility is that grapefruit juice helps to make cervical mucus thinner. The benefits of thinner cervical mucus are that the sperm are more easily able to travel and fertilize the egg.
However, there’s no scientific evidence that links grapefruit juice and healthy fertility. However, a woman could try drinking the juice and see how it may affect her cervical mucus. Sometimes women will add evening primrose oil, an herb, as a means to increase their fertility and promote fertilization.
While grapefruit juice is usually just a tasty way to get extra vitamin C, it's possible drinking it can interfere with taking certain medications, including blood pressure lowering-medications, antihistamines, and anti-anxiety drugs, including buspirone (BuSpar), according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
13 Going For Acupuncture
Acupuncture is a technique that dates back thousands of years and involves applying small, ultra-sharp needles into sites on the body to promote improved energy flows in the body. When the body’s energy or “chi” is balanced, a woman can ideally improve her fertility.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, acupuncture can address conditions that may affect fertility. Examples include improving thyroid function, reducing inflammation, and improving blood flow to the endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus where a fertilized egg would implant.
Those who choose acupuncture for boosting fertility may wish to do it anywhere from three to four months before actively trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, acupuncturists should not place needles near the abdominal and/or pelvic area after artificial insemination to reduce any risks of adverse effects to the baby.
12 Steaming Up The Downstairs
While steaming a woman's nether regions isn't a new fertility trend, more women are choosing to do this lately, it’s actually an ancient Korean practice that is said to benefit women by promoting healing, reducing menstrual cramping, and boosting fertility. Spas and holistic centers offering the “v-steam” surface are popping up across North America.
The process involves wearing a tent-like skirt and sitting over a steaming water pot that contains cleansing herbs. Examples of these herbs include marshmallow root, rosemary, and wormwood. The treatment lasts anywhere from 20 to 45 minutes.
Vaginal steaming’s purported benefits stem from the idea the treatment dilates blood vessels, increases circulation, and relaxes the pelvic floor muscles to promote fertility. Mugwort specifically is said to support hormone production that keeps vaginal tissue healthy and aids in fertility.
A number of celebs have discussed their use of vaginal steaming for improving their intimate life, including twins Tia and Tamara Mowry and Gwyneth Paltrow.
11 Doing Fertility Meditation
Because higher levels of stress have been connected with infertility, the benefits of the decades-long practice of meditation may have some benefits for women who are trying to conceive. Meditation is a deep state of relaxation where a person focuses on their breathing and sometimes on a particular mantra, which can be a word or phrase.
Deep breathing combined with the guided imagery approach of promoting a saying or picturing a certain image, has been reported to lower anxiety levels, reduce pain, and, ideally, promote fertility.
Meditation can be performed anywhere and for any time duration. Even a few minutes a day could potentially help a woman to at least reduce her stress levels. Some women will play soft music during a meditation episode or smell aromatherapy oils, such as lavender, to promote greater relaxation.
Sometimes couples will also meditate together. This can be a symbol of commitment to conception and to each other.
10 Conception Caps
Conception caps have been used as an alternative insemination method since the 1950s to help women conceive. They involve first collecting the man’s semen and then placing it in a cap-like device. The device is then placed in the cervix, where the semen will ideally travel to fertilize the egg, resulting in pregnancy.
While conception caps may have been used for nearly 70 years, they’ve seen a few upgrades since the 1950’s. Previously, these caps were placed in a doctor’s office. Today, they’re available in FDA-approved devices that a woman can place at home. For example, a company sells a Conception Kit, which includes a special condom for collecting sperm and a cap that a woman can then put the sperm in to place at home.
For some couples who're trying to conceive, conception caps can ideally put the odds of conceiving in their favor. The sperm cells aren’t affected by the vaginal environment and ideally have to travel less distance to get to where they can fertilize an egg.
9 Mineral Oil As A Lubricant
Today’s modern lubricants may make intimacy more pleasurable for men and women, but sometimes they have the unwanted side effect of killing sperm when a woman is trying to have a baby. Some vaginal lubricants sold in drugstores are also associated with affecting the vagina’s pH balance. As a result, a woman may have greater difficulty conceiving.
Instead of using modern lubricants, a couple may wish to use old-fashioned lubricants, such as mineral oil. According to Kelly Pagidas, MD, a fertility specialist with Women & Infants Center for Reproduction and Infertility interviewed on Parents.com, “Good old-fashioned mineral oil is a natural option that seems to work well.”
Just as a tip for using mineral oil – it can stain furniture and bedding, so use with caution. It can also destroy latex condoms, so when a woman isn’t trying to conceive, it’s best to switch back to another lubricant option.
8 Using Honey To Promote Fertility
No, honey isn’t another lubricant option like the mineral oil listed above. Instead, honey has long been associated with fertility and fertility rites. The term “honeymoon” referred both to when a man would hide his new bride from her family and drank a mix of honey and wine. This is called Bunratty Meade.
In addition to this tradition, eating honey was a practice of the Egyptians in promoting fertility. Honey is known as the “food of love.” Mixing it with cinnamon is said to boost blood flow to a woman’s reproductive organs. The idea behind this is that it can promote conception.
While there’s no real studies to back up this claim (which is the nature of old-fashioned remedies), eating local honey (honey made in the area where a person is from) has been said to include many nutrients that are beneficial to women and also satisfy a sweet tooth.
7 Good Ol' Withdrawal
Perhaps the one of the oldest fertility methods to avoid conception is “coitus interruptus” or the withdrawal method in today’s terms. Writings from thousands of years ago have pointed to the withdrawal method for preventing pregnancy. According to research from the Guttmacher Institute, with “perfect” use, the rate of pregnancy from coitus interruptus is 4 percent.
This is compared to condoms use, where the rate of pregnancy is 2 percent. However, for some men, perfect use can be difficult to achieve. Some studies have rated the withdrawal method as somewhere between 5 and 18 percent.
While coitus interruptus may be a thousands’ year old practice, it remains a birth control method an estimated 2.5 percent of the world’s population still use. An estimated 50 percent have used it at some point in their lives as a birth control method. However, it’s important to note this method doesn’t protect against sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) like condoms can.
6 Six New Trends: Skipping The Pill
According to TheStar.com, fewer women are using the birth control pill as a form of contraception. An estimated 11 percent fewer Canadian women took the pill in 2016 as compared to 2015. Reasons behind women “skipping the pill” could include the desire to use more natural birth control methods or longer-lasting options.
Examples include intrauterine devices (IUDs), estrogen-free hormones, or fertility tracking apps.
According to Dr. Shurjeel Choudhri, a senior vice present of Bayer Inc., the company that manufactures the Mirena IUD, “The industry has seen an overall decline in the oral contraception market and a shift toward long-acting contraception.”
In addition to the desire to avoid artificial hormones, a study published in the 2015 version “JAMA Psychiatry” linked taking birth control pills to greater incidences of depression. In a study of more than one million women, researchers found that women who took birth control pills were 23 percent more likely to experience depression. However, additional birth control methods such as an IUD and vaginal ring are also linked with increased risk for depression.
5 Using Apps To Monitor Fertility
The saying, “There’s an app for that,” seems completely true when it comes to the fact that there are even apps for tracking fertility. Fertility apps allow women to track their cycles and symptoms that indicate a woman may be nearing ovulation. Some of the apps go way beyond a simple calendar.
For example, the Kindara fertility tracker app works with an oral thermometer called Wink. A woman takes her temperature daily and the thermometer transmits the information to the app, syncing it. In addition to tracking temperature, the app also allows a woman to describe her cervical mucus.
Because cervical mucus consistency and temperature are two indicators of ovulation, the app tracker can use this information to help predict the most fertile times for a woman.
Creators of the Kindara app and other apps, such as Ovia, have created unique algorithms for tracking fertility. These apps promise to help a woman conceive more successfully.
4 Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a technique used to fertilize eggs for in vitro fertilization (IVF). Instead of exposing the sperm to the egg, this technique involves directly injecting sperm into the eggs for the sperm to be fertilized. The procedure is performed using a special hollow needle that isolates one sperm and inserted into the egg. Ideally, the sperm fertilizes the egg, which then becomes an embryo for implantation for IVF treatments.
This approach to IVF is especially beneficial for couples who are affected by male infertility, where sperm counts may be low and sperm quality affected. According to Mousa Shamonki, MD, director of IVF and a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine interviewed in WebMD, “Routine use of ICSI, generally used for male factor infertility, has improved outcomes.”
3 Egg Freezing
According to Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, an estimated 65 percent of millennial Americans see freezing eggs (also known as fertility preservation) as a viable option for fertility treatments. An estimated 80 percent of people are delaying parenthood to focus on career and education or they aren’t sure they want to have children.
Also, childcare has become more expensive and some people may choose not to have children for fear they can’t afford them.
Because people are waiting longer and longer to conceive, freezing eggs to preserve for later use can be an option. In most instances, frozen embryo transfers are as successful as using fresh embryos for conception. Because a woman’s peak fertility is in her 20’s, by freezing eggs, she may be able to increase her chances of having a baby, should she desire to do so at a later date.
2 Fertility Insurance Benefits
Some employers and insurance companies are now offering “fertility benefits” as an insurance option. Fertility benefits include insurance coverage that would provide for services such as egg freezing or medical infertility treatments. Before these coverage options, the costs for fertility were relegated to the select few that could pay for them.
While this is a growing trend for those ages 18 to 40, a little over one-fourth of Americans work for a company that offers fertility benefits to its employees, according to the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.
According to RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, only an estimated 15 states have laws that require insurance coverage to receive fertility treatments. Examples of these states include Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Montana, New Jersey, Texas, and New York. The stipulations to this coverage can vary from state to state and many do not cover the costs of IVF treatments.
1 Decreases In Total Fertility Rates
Total fertility rates measure of how many children a woman will typically have over her lifetime. According to Statistics Canada, the total fertility rate in Canada is 1.61 children per woman. However, this number is smaller than previous years, down from 1.68 in 2008.
Canadian total fertility rates are slightly higher than China. China’s total fertility rate is 1.60 children per woman, which is likely due to the country’s one-child policy. However, India’s total fertility rate is 2.63. Statistics Canada projects that India will overtake China in population due to the fertility rates.
The world’s fertility rate is 2.4 children per women. The more industrialized a country, the lower the rate is. In less-industrialized countries, the average total fertility rate is 4.4 children per woman. In Africa, the number is 4.7 children per woman.
Resources: TheStar, JAMA Psychiatry, MedicalDaily, FDA, Parents