Top 10 Women’s Health Myths & Misconceptions Debunked By A Fertility Expert

Over the years, Dr. Brian Levine has been cited as one of the nation’s leading fertility experts in The New Yorker, New York Post, NBC, CNN, Avenue Magazine among others, offering valuable insight on everything from fertility misconceptions, egg-freezing 101, to how men can boost their fertility. Dr. Levine attended New York University School of Medicine, served as the President of the NYU Alumni Association, and was the only physician on NYU’s Board of Trustees during his 7-year tenure. Recently he was awarded the Meritorious Service Award, the highest award bestowed upon an alumnus for their extraordinary service and continuing devotion to NYU and who embodies the University motto: To Persevere and to Excel. Haute MD Expert, Dr. Brian Levine, clarifies the facts behind these myths and misconceptions about women's health and fertility.

Dr. LevinePhoto Credit: ShutterstockWhen it comes to our health, too often we go down Google rabbit holes seeking out answers and solutions. While the internet is a valuable education tool, it is also ripe with misinformation about women’s health, which could send you down the wrong path or scare you into inaction. By learning the facts, you can help take charge of your health and make informed decisions about your medical care.

Here are some common myths and misconceptions on women’s health you may find online:

Myth: A clean vagina has no bacteria!
Fact: The conversation usually starts by educating patients that a "healthy" vagina actually has lots of bacteria that help fight off infections and maintain a normal pH which is of critical importance. Douching can disrupt this delicate balance and lead to a risk of infections (both bacterial and fungal) and also lead to discomfort.

Myth: The vagina is far from the mouth, so what you eat has no effect.
Fact: Foods that I recommend for women who have discomfort (vaginitis) or want to maintain a healthy vagina include but are not limited to fresh cheeses and yogurts with live and active cultures, supplemental probiotics which are also great for bowel health, vitamin-E supplementation, and "healthy fat" nuts like almonds. Don't forget about water aka hydration; since the vagina is just like the inside of the mouth- when a woman is thirsty and "parched" her vagina probably is too!

Myth: Some women just have pain with sex, that's normal!
Fact: Pain with intercourse can be a sign of decreased lubrication which is typically a function of low estrogen, which can also be a sign of an ovarian problem that may cause infertility. Painful sex can also be associated with a disease called endometriosis; whereby the cells of the uterus are growing outside of the uterus inside the body. This too is a common cause of infertility. If it hurts, or when in doubt, go see a doctor; no need to accept painful sex as the norm!

Menstrual CyclePhoto Credit: ShutterstockMyth: Sex every day is how to get pregnant.
Fact: The fertile window is approximately 14 days after a woman starts her menstrual cycle. Therefore, the two days before and two days after that peak day, are the days to try. Outside of that, provided the woman has a regular cycle, sex is more for sport/pleasure, and likely will not lead to pregnancy (although contraception should always be used because a woman can have an irregular cycle).

Myth: If I'm not trying to get pregnant, I don't need a fertility app.
Fact: As outlined above, a fertility app can be used "in reverse" to help advise a woman when she is MOST fertile, and therefore, when to avoid having sex.

Myth: Outside of HIV, STIs can just be treated with antibiotics.
Fact: Even those infections that can be treated with antibiotics, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can lead to devastating irreversible damage to fallopian tubes, which are critically important when trying to get pregnant in the future. Furthermore, syphilis is on the rise and is often not caught in the earliest stages. Lastly, genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection, and they can require life-long anti-viral medication.

Myth: The HPV vaccine just prevents HPV infections.
Fact: According to the Planned Parenthood website: “The HPV vaccine helps protect you against certain types of HPV that can lead to cancer or genital warts. Also known by the brand name Gardasil 9, the HPV vaccine protects against HPV types 16 and 18 — the 2 types that cause 80% of cervical cancer cases. HPV types 6 and 11, which cause 90% of genital warts cases.” However, it is important to know that cervical cancer is the result of a sexually transmitted infection, and therefore safe practices are needed – even if vaccinated!

Dr. LevinePhoto Credit: ShutterstockMyth: You're too old to have kids at 40
Fact: According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the recommended age cut-off for women of advanced reproductive age is 55! This means that women under 55 are viable candidates for getting pregnant. With that said, for many women over 40, the highest success rates are with donor eggs (the eggs of another woman), but there is no cut-off if you’re in your 40s!

Myth: It's easy to get pregnant after 40
Fact: Getting pregnant in your 40s has been called a lot of things, but one thing it is usually not called is EASY! Quite often it might take advanced reproductive technologies such as fertility medicines, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in-vitro fertilization (IVF), or using donor eggs. The uterus, however, is an organ that does not age like the ovaries, and as such, can work well into your early to mid-50s.

Myth: It's impossible to get pregnant after 40
Fact: Impossible is the WRONG word to use when talking about being pregnant over 40! Fertility clinics would not be in business if they couldn’t get patients pregnant over 40.

When it comes to health information online, it’s important to stick to credible websites and stay off internet forums. When/if you do find something that seems in-line with your symptoms or your concerns, reach out to your doctor and discuss it. For instance, your symptoms might seem to indicate high blood pressure. There are lots of medications, exercises, diet modifications, and procedures that can help with high blood pressure. No one would try to “hack” their own cardiology plan; why do the same for fertility?