Fertility Facts vs Fertility Myths: What You Need to Know

Myth: Age Doesn’t Affect Fertility If You’re Healthy. Plus, There's IVF Anyway.

Fertility and age
You can't stop your biological clock from ticking. Image: Nanette Hooslag / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: Age doesn't affect fertility if you're healthy. Plus, waiting to have children isn't a problem anymore because of assisted reproduction technologies, like IVF.

Fertility Facts: While certain unhealthy habits, like smoking, may speed up the effect of age on fertility, living a healthy lifestyle will not stop your biological clock.

Fertility begins to decline in a woman starting at age 27. At age 35, that decline speeds up, and after 40, it declines even more steeply. A healthy lifestyle cannot stop the natural process of aging.

Another misconception is that age isn't such a big deal since we have IVF, but IVF and other fertility treatments cannot reverse the effects of age related infertility. Egg donation can help, but even that is not a guarantee.

More on age and fertility:

Myth: If You Can't Afford IVF, There's No Point In Seeking Treatment.

Fertility treatment costs can add up quickly.
Fertility treatment costs can add up quickly. Photo: Rob Melnychuk / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: There's no point in seeking treatment if you can't afford or don't want to try IVF.

Fertility Facts: While IVF treatment gets a lot of press, it's actually not used as often as you might suspect. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, IVF treatment is used less than 5% of the time.

Instead, in over 80% of cases, fertility drugs, corrective surgery, or other lower tech treatments are used. These treatments may be covered by health insurance, or if not, they are usually more affordable than IVF treatment and worth considering.

Even if you do need IVF treatment in the end, don't assume right away you can't afford it. Insurance does cover IVF treatment in 15 states, and some clinics offer payment plans or refund programs that can make treatment costs a little less burdensome.

More on IVF:

Myth: Infertility Can Always Be Resolved By Treatment.

Positive pregnancy test
How long will you have to wait before you get a positive pregnancy test?. Photo: Don Farrall / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: While infertility may be a difficult experience, at least it can always be resolved by treatment.

Fertility Facts: Unfortunately, not every fertility patient will get a baby who is biologically connected to them in the end.

The statistics are in your favor, however, with two-thirds of fertility patients eventually having a baby after treatment.

This myth often comes up in family conversations, as a way of dismissing your concern or feelings. "Don't worry," someone may say, "You'll get pregnant as long as you do enough treatments."

But that's not true, and this attitude can sometimes lead to a couple pushing for too many treatment cycles beyond what's recommended, even when it'd be in their best interests to consider alternative family building options or a child-free life instead.

More about fertility treatment success rates:

Myth: If a Couple Can't Get Pregnant, It's Probably the Woman's Problem.

Infertility affects men and women equally.
Infertility affects men and women equally. Photo: Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: If a couple can't get pregnant, it's probably the woman's problem.

Fertility Facts: Infertility affects men and women, almost equally.

Of couples facing infertility, one-third will discover female infertility, one-third will discover male infertility, and the remaining third will discover either problems with both male and female infertility, or receive a diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

This is why it's important both partners are tested. The fertility test for male infertility, semen analysis, is relatively simple compared to the testing a woman goes through.

If for some reason your doctor does not order a semen analysis, request one. Too many couples take fertility drugs for months only to discover male infertility prevented success.

More about male fertility:

Myth: Being Young Means You Don't Need to Worry About Infertility.

Even the young can be infertile.
Even the young can be infertile. Photo (c) User lemon_drop from Stock.xchng

Infertility Myth: If you're young, you don't need to worry about infertility.

Fertility Facts: Age is only one factor of many when it comes to infertility.

It's true that as you age, your chances of facing infertility increase. But even a couple in their early 20s has a 7% chance of dealing with infertility.

Other potential causes of infertility include:

Myth: If You Just Calm Down and Stop Trying, You'll Get Pregnant.

Infertility commonly causes stress.
Stress doesn't cause infertility, but infertility commonly causes stress. Photo: Paul Bradbury / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: If you just calm down, stop trying, and go on vacation for awhile, then you'll get pregnant.

Fertility Facts: Infertility is not a psychological disorder.

According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, the "spontaneous cure" rate for infertility after one year is only 5%. Infertility is a physical disease, not one that will not resolve on its own if you vacation in Hawaii.

While stress itself does not cause infertility, infertility causes tremendous stress for a couple. Research has shown that women going through infertility experience many of the same emotions and mental stress as those with cancer, HIV, and chronic pain.

More about the stress of infertility:

Myth: If You're Young and Lead a Healthy Life, You Won't Be Infertile.

Keeping fit is important, but overdoing it can impact your fertility.
Keeping fit is important, but overdoing it can impact your fertility. Photo: Chase Jarvis / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: If you lead a healthy life, you don't need to worry about infertility.

Fertility Facts: Infertility can occur in otherwise healthy people with healthy lifestyle habits.

You and your partner may have the perfect weight, go on daily walks, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, and be young and relatively stress free. But even you may end up struggling with infertility.

There's a blame mentality with many diseases, and perhaps this myth comes from others wanting to assign a reason to why you can't get pregnant. "If you just led a healthier life, you wouldn't have problems." However, it's not always true.

Oddly enough, if you work out too much, it can backfire and lead to problems conceiving. Being too thin or not having enough body fat can also lead to infertility.

There are, of course, some lifestyle issues that may lead to infertility, like smoking, drinking too much alcohol, or being obese. But for most couples, this is not the sole reason.

More on infertility and lifestyle:

Myth: If You Already Have a Child, You Can't Have Infertility.

Secondary infertility, or infertility after you already have at least one child, is more common than
Secondary infertility, or infertility after you already have at least one child, is more common than you think. Photo: Mel Yates / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: Once you have a child, you're proven "fertile" and won't have trouble getting pregnant.

Fertility Facts: Secondary infertility, which is infertility that occurs after you've already had at least one child, is more common than you think.

According to data collected by the Center for Disease Control in 2002, 11% of couples who have already had at least one child experience secondary infertility. That's approximately 4 million couples in the United States of America, or about half of all infertility cases.

Unfortunately, couples going through secondary infertility are sometimes not taken as seriously as those experiencing primary infertility. They may be told that "You've had one, so you can for sure have another." As the statistics above show, this isn't always true.

Another issue couples coping with secondary infertility face is being told they should be grateful for the child or children they have. Of course, they are grateful, but this does not undo their desire for another child or negate the emotional pain of not being able to easily conceive another. They still experience a sense of loss.

Myth: If You Can't Get Pregnant, You Must Be "Doing It" Wrong.

Infertility is not caused by
Infertility is not caused by "doing it" wrong. Photo: Jan Tyler / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: If you can't get pregnant, then you must be "doing it" wrong.

Fertility Facts: Infertility is not sexual dysfunction.

While certain positions may deposit semen closer to the cervix and slightly increase the chances of pregnancy, not using these positions will neither prevent pregnancy nor cause infertility.

You might have heard the advice to raise the woman's hips during sex with a pillow, or that the man-on-top position is best for getting pregnant, but there's no research to back up those claims.

The emotional impact of infertility can, however, have a negative effect on a couple's sex life. Feeling less feminine or masculine because of an infertility diagnosis is common, and sex can easily begin to feel more like a chore than a passionate way to express your love for one another.

More about sex and fertility:

Myth: If You Use IVF, You'll End Up Like Octomom.

Fertility drugs increase your risk of having twins, triplets, or more.
Fertility drugs increase your risk of having twins, triplets, or more. Image: Craig Smallish / Getty

Infertility Myth: If you use IVF, you'll end up like "Octomom".

Fertility Facts: The reasons stories like Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. "Octomom", make the news is because they are uncommon.

Plus, Suleman's doctor transferred 6 or more embryos at once. This is way beyond the American Society of Reproductive Medicine's recommended limit of one or two embryos per cycle, for women younger than 35.

Of all the fertility treatments, IVF treatment may be the least likely to lead to high order multiples. According to a European study, which included about 400,000 treatment cycles, 78.2% of successful IVF cycles resulted in a singleton, 21.0% led to a twin pregnancy, and only 0.8% led to triplets. (Notice no quads, and certainly no octuplets, were found in this study.)

Gonadotropins, like Gonal-F and Follistim, used either alone or along with IUI treatment are more likely to lead to higher-order multiples. Some report that up to 33% of treatment cycles using gonadotropins lead to triplets, quadruplets, or (rarely) more.

(By the way, "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" used IUI treatment along with gonadotropins to conceive their septuplets.)

More on fertility drugs and their risks:

Myth: Adoption Is Easier And Cheaper Than Fertility Treatments.

Adoption is a beautiful way to build a family.
Adoption is a beautiful way to build a family, but it does not simply erase the grief of infertility. Photo: Bloom Productions / Getty Images

Infertility Myth: It’s easier and cheaper to adopt than to use fertility treatments. Couples who seek out fertility treatments instead of adopting are just being selfish.

Fertility Facts: Adoption isn’t as easy as they portray in the movies. Unlike Annie, you can’t just walk into an orphanage and pick a child to take home the same day.

There is a legal process to go through, a home study, and oftentimes, the adoptive mother has to choose your profile for you to get the child. The cost of adoption varies, starting at no cost up to $30,000, depending on what kind of adoption you pursue, and the entire process can take several months or years.

In addition, adopted parents also go through a range of emotional ups and downs along the way, as they wait to hear if and when they will get a child.

Adoption is a beautiful way to build a family, but it is not a simple choice. Even if a couple decides to pursue adoption, it does not take away the pain of not being able to have a child naturally. There is a grieving process that must be resolved first.

As for being selfish, the desire to have children is biological and deeply rooted. To call wanting a child of your own selfish is the same as calling the desire to have a place to live selfish. It's not selfish, but merely human.

Myth: Couples With Infertility Probably Wouldn't Be Good Parents.

Infertility is not nature’s commentary on whether or not you’d be good parents.
Infertility is not nature’s commentary on whether or not you’d be good parents. Photo © User asifthebes from Stock.xchng

Infertility Myth: Couples who suffer from infertility probably wouldn’t be good parents anyway.

Fertility Facts:Infertility is a medical condition, not nature’s commentary on whether or not you’d be good parents.

There are so many bad parents out there who have no trouble having children, and plenty of couples who struggle with getting pregnant who become wonderful parents. Your fertility doesn’t say anything about your parenting ability.

In fact, a couple who experience infertility may become stronger parents, because they may have a greater appreciation for the miracle that a child is. Don’t they always say that you appreciate more what you have to fight for?

Myth: It's Impossible to Have a Happy Life Without Children.

Moving on from infertility is possible.
Moving on from infertility is possible. Photo (c) User omar_franc on Stock.xchng.

Infertility Myth: It's impossible to have a happy life if you never have children.

Fertility Facts: There's no doubt that infertility is painful, and it can leave a couple feeling that something essential is missing from their lives. That said, it is possible to move on from infertility and have a happy life.

The decision to stop treatments and lead a child-free life is difficult, but it's also an important one to make consciously. Once made, it can allow you to seek closure on this part of your life, and begin the grieving process.

You'll never forget your experience with infertility, or forget the family you once imagined you'd have. But with time, you will eventually be able to enjoy life fully again, and not have your infertility at the forefront of your identity.

However, you shouldn't try to do this alone. Therapy can help.

More about finding help:


Frequently Asked Questions. American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Accessed May 10, 2010. http://www.asrm.org/awards/index.aspx?id=3012

Myths and Facts about Infertility. Resolve: The National Infertility Association. Accessed May 10, 2010. http://www.resolve.org/support-and-services/for-family--friends/myths-and-facts.html

Chandra A, Martinez GM, Mosher WD, Abma JC, Jones J. Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. National Center for Health Statistics. Vital Health Stat 23(25). 2005. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_025.pdf

Nyboe Andersen A, Goossens V, Bhattacharya S, Ferraretti AP, Kupka MS, de Mouzon J, Nygren KG; European IVF-monitoring (EIM) Consortium, for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). "Assisted reproductive technology and intrauterine inseminations in Europe, 2005: results generated from European registers by ESHRE." Human Reproduction. 2009 Jun;24(6):1267-87. Epub 2009 Feb 18.

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