Home Remedies: True or False?

Folk wisdom. Wives' tales. Home remedies. Too good, too easy, to be true? In most cases, yes. While these tidbits of advice may work (sometimes) for the average fertile person, when it comes to conception difficulties, those little "words of wisdom" that you often hear are usually way off the mark.

Just for fun, we polled the gang on our forum to find out what kind of "helpful" advice is running rampant these days; then we turned that advice over to some real experts, reproductive endocrinologists (REs), to get their opinion on these suggestions. The docs kindly offered up some of their own personal favorites, too.

(Specifically, we defined "home remedies" as advice which had not been given by a qualified medical professional and/or any practices typically referred to and passed on patient-to-patient without oversight or intervention of professional practitioners.)

Advice Heard By Our Forum Visitors

First prefacing that his "usual practice is to recommend scientifically proven treatments" (but that he won't discourage alternative practices unless they are harmful), Dr. Alan Copperman of the Mt. Sinai Medical Center's Assisted Reproductive Technologies Program responded to our visitors' (very candid!) offerings:

FV: About a half hour before you have relations, you just gotta douche with soda water. That cleans everything out so the sperm has a clear shot to get you pregnant!

DR: "Not only will this not help you get pregnant, but there is some data that douching increases the incidence of PID and subsequent tubal disease."

FV: Have a skin graft about the size of a dime transferred from your husband to you. This is from a Native American ceremony and it really works when you are of different races.

DR: "No evidence at all to support this!!!"

FV: A friend of mine read an article that drinking green tea increases fertility. Tried it once, but couldn't stomach it.

DR: "Many herbal remedies may have medicinal benefits. The problem is that in many cases, alternative medicine has not allowed its treatments to be subjected to the same scientific scrutiny and standardization that traditional medicine has, making evaluation of its claims impossible."

FV: I've heard drinking regular tea helps...

DR: "I would not recommend more than 1-2 'servings' of any caffeinated beverage."

FV: Using egg whites if you need lubrication -- anything else can kill off the sperm...

DR: "Saliva is probably best."

FV: No oral sex b/c of bacteria that kill off sperm (ok, maybe not a home remedy but good to know).

DR:

"There are no data supporting or refuting this claim, however it is extremely unlikely that oral bacteria are any more toxic to sperm than the usual vaginal bacteria."

FV: Avoidance of sugar and alcohol -- clean living.

DR: "Certainly heavy alcohol intake is bad. Sugar is probably only a real problem in diabetics."

FV: Here's one from Ripley's -- use a turkey baster to get the sperm up there (no, never tried it, never will).

DR: "This should not be necessary except in cases of severe ejaculatory dysfunction (the husband is unable to ejaculate deep inside the vagina). Even in these cases, the best bet is probably to go to a reputable reproductive endocrinologist and have the sperm appropriately washed and inseminated."