32 Longstanding Health Myths That Need to Go Away
Biggest health myths of all time
About 80 years ago, the world watched in horror as Scarlett O'Hara fell down a flight of stairs and lost her baby in Gone With the Wind. And ever since, you've probably thought that a tumble like that could trigger a miscarriage. Well, probably not, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a clinical professor at Yale University School of Medicine. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Sometimes, it's hard to remember where we've heard some surely well-intentioned piece of health advice. But whether you get most of your info from a juicing roommate, online blog post, or even your parents, chances are that you believe something you shouldn't. But now we're setting the record straight. Here are 32 myths about women's health, nutrition, weight loss, fitness, conditions, and sleep that you should stop believing now.
Myth: Birth control pills need to "clear" from your system before you can get pregnant
"I hear this regularly," says Dr. Minkin. "It's been around for probably the last 40 years." But the truth is, once you stop taking the pills, you can get pregnant because your body is no longer receiving that extra dose of pregnancy-preventing estrogen or progestin hormones, she says.
(Remember, it's even possible—though very rare—to get pregnant while taking birth control. According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 2 or 3 women out of 100 may become pregnant while on the pill—even if they never miss a dose.)
Dr. Minkin says that she's seen women get pregnant a week or two after they stop taking the pill. And one 2009 study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology found that about 20% of women were able to get pregnant one cycle after they stopped using birth control.
Myth: Certain sex positions increase your chances of getting pregnant
We're not sure where this one came from, but it's definitely out there: According to a 2014 study published in the journal Fertility & Sterility, about 40% of women think that if you lie on your back with your pelvis elevated, you'll increase your odds of getting pregnant. (You might also have heard the reverse: If you stand up after sex, you'll minimize the chances of getting pregnant.) "[It’s] probably just the thought that gravity could work in your favor," says study author Jessica Illuzzi, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at Yale University. Alas, it doesn't work: "As long as the semen is released into the vagina, the sperm can usually find their way up the cervix, into the uterus, and into the Fallopian tubes."
Myth: You should get your period once a month
Not exactly. "The average cycle is every 28 days, which is every 4 weeks," says Dr. Illuzzi, "so every month is an easy way to think about it." But a normal menstrual cycle occurs every 25 to 35 days, so if you're on the shorter or longer end of that spectrum, you might have, say, a flow-free February—or a twofer. Even an occasionally irregular period is pretty common, says Dr. Minkin. If you're regularly long or short, it's a good idea to check with your doctor about your periods, but don't start stressing.
Myth: Your body makes new eggs each month
What you're born with is what you get. Still, nearly 40% of women in the Yale University survey think that women keep making eggs throughout their lifetime. "Since men make new sperm for each ejaculation, it is not surprising that people might think we 'produce' new eggs with each ovulation," says Dr. Illuzzi.
Females are born with an estimated 1 million egg cells (oocytes), according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. By the time we reach puberty, all but about 300,000 have wasted away. Each month, about 20 eggs start to get ready for ovulation, but usually only one—the biggest, and the one with the most hormone receptors—will 'win' the contest and actually ovulate. As we age, the eggs die off, and the cells break into small bits and are absorbed by the body. Overall, about 300 of the eggs are released by the ovaries during the reproductive years.