Since the month of April hosts National Infertility Week, I thought it would be fun to debunk some common fertility myths. While getting pregnant may be easy for some couples, the reality is, infertility is a pervasive public health issue that affects an estimated one in eight couples.
Although there has certainly been a significant rise in the number of fertility stories in the news over the last few years, it remains a topic that isn’t talked about at cocktail parties or among friends. It’s still very much a topic shrouded in darkness. That lack of discussion in an open forum has created a vacuum in our society filled with a plethora of myths and exaggerations about fertility and fertility treatment, despite the media’s focus.
At Denver Fertility, we take a holistic approach to treatment and believe that education and information are two crucial components for couples starting on their fertility journey. Below are 8 common fertility myths and the real facts behind them.
Fertility Myth #1: It’s easy to get pregnant.
Many people are surprised to learn that a healthy couple 35 and under has only a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. The woman needs to be at the peak of ovulation in her menstrual cycle where the endometrial lining is thickest. The sperm then must do a lot of work and make it through many barriers to just reach the egg. Once the sperm does reach the egg there are no guarantees it will fertilize, or that the embryo will implant onto the endometrial lining. Timing and conditions must be just right.
Couples 35 and younger who have been trying for 1 year without any success should seek the advice of an expert, and couples over 35 should try for 6 months and then see a specialist if conception has not occurred.
Fertility Myth #2: Infertility is just more common today.
Although certainly a topic that is predominantly discussed privately among couples and their physicians, there has been a strong uptick in coverage of fertility in social media. This doesn’t mean that infertility is more common, it’s just being talked about more. Reality stars and celebrities have discussed their fertility problems publicly and new technologies like egg freezing have brought the topic of fertility and age into the public sphere as major companies offer egg freezing to their female employees.
Fertility Myth #3: It’s a “woman problem.”
There are 4 major causes of infertility: 40 percent is female factor, 40 percent is male factor, 10 percent will have a combination of male and female factor, and the final 10 percent of infertility causes remains unexplained.
Fertility Myth #4: “I can wait until I’m 40 years old to try and conceive.”
The most important consideration and predictor of success is a woman’s age. Around age 32 the quality and quantity of a woman’s egg supply will begin to sharply diminish. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and once a month an egg will be released. If it isn’t fertilized by sperm regular menstruation will occur. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to your fertility, it ultimately is not the way to determine fertility success at 40 years old or after.
Fertility Myth #5: It won’t make a difference if I lose weight.
Besides age, body mass index (BMI) is one of the most important factors that can affect fertility. Repeated studies have shown that overweight men and women (BMI > 30) are more successful conceiving naturally after losing even a small amount of weight. Being overweight can pose health risks for the mother and the baby including gestational diabetes and an increased chance of heart disease. Overweight women also have a higher rate of miscarriage.
Fertility Myth #6: IVF is the only form of treatment.
Many couples are surprised to find out that there is a spectrum of treatment options that does not begin with the most medically invasive procedure, in vitro fertilization (IVF). After a couple undergoes the diagnostic testing to determine the cause (or causes) that are contributing to their inability to conceive, the physician will recommend a course of treatment that oftentimes will begin with what’s usually referred to as low-tech or basic treatments. These include vitamin supplementation, adequate ovulation testing, and/or timed intercourse with an oral medication such as Clomid (Clomid is a prescription drug that helps the growth of a mature egg). If that protocol does not result in a successful pregnancy, the next step is intrauterine insemination (IUI). This is an in-office procedure where healthy sperm is directly injected into a woman’s uterus. It takes just minutes and the patient can return to her regular activities afterwards.
Fertility Myth #7: Fertility treatment always results in multiples.
For many years fertility experts were not able to examine the quality of embryos created during the IVF process. With a high level of uncertainty physicians would typically transfer two and sometimes more than two embryos in hopes of successful implantation. And yes, multiple births were more common. Today, technology allows embryologists and physicians to examine embryos much more carefully and select with confidence the one embryo that we believe will implant and result in a successful pregnancy. At Denver Fertility we perform an elective single embryo transfer, or eSET. By transferring only one embryo, we have drastically decreased the number of multiples and raised the number of healthy singletons born, thereby reducing the risks to both baby and mother.
Fertility Myth #8: Treatment is too expensive.
We all agree that fertility treatment costs are expensive. The good news is that approximately 50 percent of patients have some level of insurance coverage for testing and treatment, depending on the carrier. Almost all patients have at least some coverage for the initial consultation with a physician. At Denver Fertility, we have decreased our costs to make fertility treatment options more affordable for patients and have some of the lowest costs in the Denver Metro Area.
To learn more about Dr. Dana Ambler or to schedule an appointment with Denver Fertility call us at 720-420-1570.