Fertility and infertility are areas in medicine that are prone to a lot of speculation and myth. Although they have become more popular in mainstream media in recent years, fertility and fertility treatment are not widely spoken about issues, creating a lack of public awareness on the subject. A big problem is that some of what you hear from your mother, friend or neighbour may not be true. Education and correct information are important when beginning your fertility journey. Below are some of the Fertility Myths that we have heard.
Myth: It’s easy to get pregnant so I am going to plan my pregnancy around my career.
Fact: For many people, getting pregnant is easy. However, one in ten couples will have trouble conceiving – that is about 5 to 6 million couples a year. It is very hard to predict in advance who will have trouble and who will not. There are many conditions that must be just right for the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg. It takes many healthy couples up to a year to conceive.
Myth: I have regular periods so I should get pregnant quickly.
Fact: Many women who have regular menstrual cycles struggle with infertility. In general, regular periods do indicate that ovulation is occurring, however, there are many other factors that influence whether pregnancy can and will occur.
Myth: I can wait until I am forty to start trying.
Fact: A woman’s fertility naturally decreases with age. Age decreases the quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs, and it can impact a woman’s hormone levels and cause irregular ovulation. In women less than 35 years old there is up to 20% chance of getting pregnant each month. By the age of 40, this percentage has dropped to approximately 5% with a significantly higher miscarriage rate. In addition, by the time a woman turns 40, it is well known that at least 70% of all her remaining eggs will be chromosomally abnormal. A well kept secret is that the Hollywood stars in the media that are getting pregnant at well over 40 years old are probably using donor eggs.
Myth: All fertility clinics are the same so I will go to the one closest to my home.
Fact: All fertility clinics are not the same. In the Phoenix Area, success rates for IVF vary dramatically, from as low as 20% to a high as 80% with the transfer of genetically normal embryos. Patients should do their research before choosing a clinic. Look for the clinic’s delivery rate and the experience of the physicians. Talk to others who have been through the experience and gain some insight about what they did and did not like about their fertility clinic. Needless to say, it may be worth your while to drive a little further to get significantly better outcome chances.
Myth: My weight does not affect my fertility.
Fact: A woman’s weight can affect her fertility. There is evidence that the amount of fat stored in a woman’s body can be correlated with the production and distribution of estrogen. Women who are overweight, obese, or even too thin may experience irregular or infrequent menstrual cycles and thus negatively affect ovulation. Being even slightly overweight poses serious health risks for both the mother and baby during a pregnancy, including gestational diabetes, a greater risk for heart complications and a higher rate of miscarriages.
Myth: If I just relax, it will happen.
Fact: Infertility is a medical condition and, with the exception of lifestyle choices, is not something that a person causes. Fertility issues are physical issues, not psychological issues. If you are struggling with infertility, sound advice is to seek treatment by a physician who has completed a three year subspecialty fellowship training in Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility.
Myth: Fertility problems are always because of the women.
Fact: Fertility problems are attributed to the women 40% of the time, to the male 40% of the time, to both the woman and man 10% of the time and unexplained the remaining 10%. The infertility breakdown is not solely attributed to the woman and often cannot be detected ahead of time. Family history, infection, pelvic problems, and polycystic ovary syndrome are some of the many causes. Diagnostic testing for infertility should always include a male factor evaluation.
Myth: If my Ob/Gyn does my annual exams and says everything is normal, I should have no trouble getting pregnant.
Fact: While OB/GYN annual exams are extremely important for your health, they have very little to do with fertility testing. A thorough annual exam will evaluate the breasts, vagina, size of uterus, size of ovaries and screen for cervical cancer with the Pap’s Smear. Infertility testing examines ovarian function and egg quality, tubal patency (open fallopian tubes), uterine abnormalities inside the uterus, and male factor. Some OB/GYNs are capable of performing some of the additional testing required in a true infertility evaluation, however, you would need to discuss this with your OB/GYN. In most cases, your OB/GYN will opt to refer you to a fertility specialist since they do not have the expertise, or in some cases, the time to do so.
Myth: We have already had one child, so getting pregnant again will be easy.
Fact: This may be true for some, but there is no guarantee. Many couples experience difficulty having their second child, especially if the woman is much older than when she conceived the first child. Internal complications from the first pregnancy can also be a factor when trying to conceive again.
Myth: Smoking cigarettes will not affect my fertility.
Fact: Cigarette smoke has a negative impact on the ability to become pregnant and carry a pregnancy to term. Virtually all scientific studies show that smoking has an adverse effect on fertility. For women, smoking is harmful to the ovaries. Cigarette smoke accelerates the loss and quality of eggs and may advance the time of menopause by several years. Based on the overwhelming body of scientific evidence, our physicians strongly advise all patients who smoke and are trying to get pregnant to QUIT IMMEDIATELY.
Myth: If I seek treatment, the fertility drugs will use up my remaining eggs.
Fact: A woman possesses all her entire lifetime supply of eggs when she is growing in her mother’s uterus, before she is born. In general this is estimated to be approximately 7-8 million. By the time she is born, this number has decreased to approximately 3-4 million and by the time puberty occurs, this number is more in the range of 500,000 to 700,000. Every month a group of immature eggs (cohort) in the ovaries is selected to be the ones that are either used or lost. In general, a woman in her early twenties could expect to recruit and lose 15-30 eggs per month. Every month, one of these eggs is chosen to be the “dominant” one which will grow to maturity and ovulate. The remaining will disintegrate and be lost. This recruitment and loss happens monthly regardless of whether a woman is pregnant, on birth control pills, or not ovulating regularly. As a woman gets older, there are less eggs available per month and her general cycle may become shorter causing more rapid loss. The goal of fertility treatments is to maximize the number of eggs per month that become mature and may be fertilized, rather than losing them. There is no fertility drug available that can alter the body’s natural recruitment of eggs on any given month.
Myth: It is okay to try Clomid with my OB/GYN for months with no success.
Fact: When you are going through fertility treatments, more is not always better. You should expect to get pregnant within 3 to 6 treatment cycles, or if pregnancy has not occurred, it is time to move to the next step. Statistics show that 85-90% of all women who will conceive using Clomid will do so within the first six months of trying it. If you have been taking Clomid for 6 months or more, it is probably time to try the next step.
Myth: All patients that go to a fertility specialist go right into IVF.
Fact: It is a sad fact that many fertility clinics do push patients into IVF treatments very quickly. At Advanced Fertility Care, Drs. Zoneraich and Larsen believe that prior to undergoing treatment, patients should undergo full diagnostic testing in order to establish a diagnosis and understand what may be causing the infertility. Only after the diagnostic testing is completed will they recommend a treatment plan, and the majority of patients try less invasive and less costly options first and never have the need for IVF.
Myth: Insurance plans never cover infertility.
Fact: Almost 75% of patients at Advanced Fertility Care have some insurance coverage for infertility testing, treatment or medication. For those patients without insurance coverage, we offer a number of financing options and competitive self-pay rates.