Top 10 Fertility Myths Debunked
When you’re trying to conceive, you’re likely to hear a lot of misconceptions from family, friends, social media and even books. Many can prompt unnecessary worry while others can pose real health complications. Let’s discuss some common myths and whether or not what you’ve read or been told is true – and why they may be inaccurate.
It’s easy to get pregnant.
False! We’re told from middle school that it is easy to get pregnant and taught all the ways to protect ourselves from pregnancy. So when you’re finally ready to start trying to have kids, you think, “Oh, this shouldn’t take too long.” All the different parts of a women’s body to be in sync: creating a follicle, releasing an egg from the follicle during ovulation, making sure the fallopian tube is open to catch that egg, having the sperm meet the egg in the fallopian tube to fertilize it, creating a nice lining for an embryo to implant. It takes a lot to establish a pregnancy. In reality, the chance of pregnancy in any given month is between 15-25%. For a couple under 35, if you have been trying for a year to get pregnant without success, it makes sense to schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist. If you’re 35 or older, it is recommended to see a specialist if you have been trying to conceive for six months.
“Being on birth control for a long time will affect my fertility.”
False! Many women are prescribed the birth control pill as a means to prevent pregnancy, but the pill also has a variety of other uses: the treatment of acne, regulation of menstrual cycles, treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome, and reduce symptoms of endometriosis, to name a few. Many women worry that being on the pill for too long will affect their fertility. There is no evidence that this affects your fertility long-term. Women who stop the pill may achieve pregnancy as early as the following cycle. It may take longer for other women to get the pill out of the system, and may not be able to conceive for a few months. It is important to remember, however, that there are other factors that affect fertility other than stopping the birth control pill.
Women are most fertile on the 14th day of their cycle.
False! If the average cycle length is 28 days, then the average ovulation day is Day 14. If your cycles are not 28 days in length, then you may not be ovulating on the 14th day of your cycle. Fertility apps tend to base their recommendations on averages, so don’t just trust the apps, use ovulation predictor kits to determine your fertile window.
Fertility issues are always the woman’s fault.
False! Though 1 in 9 women will have fertility issues, 1 in 11 men will have fertility issues. In an infertile couple, one-third will be due to male infertility, one-third due to female infertility, and one-third either due to a combination of the two or unexplained infertility. When going through testing, it is always important to make sure that both female and male partners undergo testing to identify the underlying issues and discover the best treatment plan to achieve pregnancy.
IVF always works.
False! Once patients decide to move forward with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), many believe that this is the treatment that will be successful on the first try. Data from almost all IVF programs in the country found that for women under 35, IVF had a 40% success rate from the first round of IVF. For women between 35 and 37, the chance of success with the first cycle drops to 32%, and 22-25% for women between 38 and 40. This does not mean that IVF will not be successful, but it helps to go into the IVF process knowing that this has helped many couples in their journey to start or grow their families, but it may not happen in the first cycle.
Success also depends on the number of embryos transferred, whether the embryos are aneuploidy tested or not, the quality of the oocytes, sperm and embryos, and any other factors that may be contributing to infertility in the couple.
If you put a pillow under your hips after sex, it’ll help you get pregnant.
False! Though the concept of gravity makes sense, sperm is mobile, so it doesn’t need gravity to get it where it needs to go. The sperm has to go up into the uterus and into the fallopian tubes, so putting your legs in the air or a pillow under your hips won’t really help sperm know where to go. It only takes one sperm to fertilize that egg, and the strong sperm will get there.
Only women have a biological clock.
False! Men also have a biological clock. Although their fertility doesn’t decline as early as women, older men are more likely to have fertility issues related to decreased testosterone levels, quality and quantity of sperm, and sperm’s motility.
“If I relaxed, I’ll get pregnant.”
“Just relax, it’ll happen” is probably one of the most overused and unhelpful pieces of advice that people give to women struggling with infertility. Though stress does play a factor in fertility issues, it is not the only reason that couples have difficulty getting pregnant. It is always recommended to have different outlets in place to help reduce stress, as fertility can be one of the most stressful times in a couples’ life, but figure out what works for you. If acupuncture helps alleviate stress, do it. If yoga helps alleviate stress, sign up for a class. Figure out what works for you and do what makes you happy.
“It was really easy to have my first child, it should be easy to have my second.”
Secondary infertility comes as a big shock to a lot of couples. Many who were able to conceive their first child without much difficulty find it very frustrating and concerning if conception of the second child takes much longer than the first. A lot of couples with secondary infertility don’t seek treatment because they had success with their first. Secondary infertility occurs in almost 1 million couples in the United States, and can be caused by a variety of reasons. Fallopian tube damage during delivery, ovulation disorders, endometriosis or uterine conditions, as well as complications related to prior pregnancy or surgery may contribute. Risk factor changes for either partner, such as age, weight gain or loss, or use of certain medications may also affect fertility.
Every fertility center is the same.
Just as you establish and cultivate a relationship with your primary care physician or obstetrician, you’ll want to make sure you have a trusting relationship with your fertility specialist. Do your research, make sure that you go to a fertility clinic that aligns with your fertility goals. If you are interested in moving straight to IVF, look more closely at IVF success rates. If you are interested in more thorough diagnostics and want to try less invasive options first, look for fertility clinics that may not push IVF so rapidly. Wherever you decide to move forward with treatment, you should make sure that you feel comfortable with the physician and the clinic staff, as they will be part of your support system as you move forward with treatment.