Myth #1: Infertility Is Only a Female Issue
When the topic of infertility is brought up, most people immediately think of female infertility. Rarely is male factor infertility the focus of the conversation. According to the National Institute of Health, however, ⅓ of all infertility cases are caused by male factors.
Male factor infertility can be related to things like
issues with sperm count, shape, size, or their ability to swim
genetic disorders that can cause infertility
structural problems in the reproductive tract
Females alone only make up ⅓ of the remaining cases of infertility. The last third of infertility cases are a result of both male and female problems or unknown causes.
It’s important to shed light on male infertility to spread awareness that infertility is not just a female problem. All sexes and genders deserve support throughout their fertility journey.
Myth #2: Birth Control Causes Infertility
Many people are under the impression that being on birth control, especially long term use, can cause infertility. Birth control pills, IUDs, and implants all prevent pregnancy while they are in use. They work through different mechanisms and many use hormones to prevent ovulation. According to the Journal of Contraception and Reproductive Medicine, however, there is “no negative effect on the ability of women to conceive after termination of use [of contraceptives].” This means that birth control is a safe and effective way to prevent conception without hurting your future fertility. If you are on birth control and have plans to try to conceive in the near future, consult your physician to discuss when you should stop use of contraception.
It is important to note that if you have irregular cycles or don’t ovulate regularly before starting birth control, you can expect these issues to recur after you stop using contraception.
Myth #3: Only Women Over 35 Struggle With Infertility
The age of 35 is one that stands out in the fertility world. Many statistics use 35 as the cutoff age for the beginning of the decline of your fertility. While the 35 and older group does experience fewer eggs and lower quality eggs than their younger counterparts, infertility is not a problem that affects only this age group.
People younger than 35 can also suffer from infertility. There are a number of reasons other than age that lead to infertility. For example:
Structural issues in the reproductive system
Low egg count or quality (early menopause)
There are countless reasons for infertility, and sometimes the cause is unknown altogether. While age does play a role, infertility can affect anyone at any age.
Myth #4: If You Can Get Pregnant Once, You Can Get Pregnant Again
It’s often assumed that if you have had a child, then you won’t struggle with infertility in the future. “Secondary infertility” is infertility that occurs after successfully having at least one child. Secondary infertility can result from maternal age and time passing in between pregnancies, but other causes can come into play. Secondary infertility can be caused by
changes in the sperm quality
blocked Fallopian tubes
surgery on the reproductive organs
the recent growth of Uterine Fibroids or Uterine Polyps
And just like in primary infertility, sometimes the cause of secondary infertility is unknown. As far as when to seek help from a fertility specialist, the guidelines remain the same.
You may need to see a doctor sooner than the general recommendation if you have a known health condition that may affect your fertility.
Myth #5: IVF Is the Only Fertility Treatment Option
IVF is definitely the most talked about fertility treatment option, but there are many other choices. The first step into fertility treatment is often much less invasive and much less expensive than IVF. Here are some possibilities in order of complexity:
Timed Intercourse: Timed intercourse is the process of tracking Ovulation either at home using Ovulation Predictor Kit or through your doctor using ultrasounds and bloodwork, then timing intercourse to occur on the day of ovulation. If you don’t ovulate on your own, medications can be used to induce ovulation during this type of treatment cycle.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): During an IUI, a concentrated sperm sample is placed in a syringe with a thin plastic catheter attached. The catheter is inserted through the cervix and into the uterus where the sperm is placed. The sperm sample used for the IUI has been concentrated in the lab to contain only the highest quality sperm. The IUI procedure is timed to occur alongside ovulation. The idea is to cut down the journey for the sperm to meet the egg. Just as with timed intercourse, if you don’t ovulate on your own, medications can be used to induce ovulation.
Click here to learn more about IUI and if it may be right for you.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): IVF is a process that takes about 2 weeks. It consists of taking injectable fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries to grow many eggs. After about 10-12 of these medications, you will be ready to take the trigger shot to prepare for the Egg Retrieval procedure. During the procedure, the mature eggs are removed from the ovaries and are fertilized in the embryology lab to create embryos. Whenever you are ready to get pregnant, you work with your clinic to plan a Frozen Embryo Transfer cycle where you take medications to prepare your body for the transfer of an embryo into the uterus to hopefully implant and create a successful pregnancy.
If you want to learn more about what to expect during IVF check out our article here.
Other options include donor eggs, donor sperm, and gestational carriers (surrogate). Typically these options are reserved for couples who have been unsuccessful using their own eggs or sperm, same sex couples, or single people looking to start a family.
There are many assumptions made about infertility. Demystifying the facts about infertility helps to spread awareness and knowledge about a topic that affects millions of people worldwide.
“How Common Is Infertility?” n.d.
Girum, Tadele, and Abebaw Wasie. 2018. “Return of Fertility after Discontinuation of Contraception: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” Contraception and Reproductive Medicine 3 (1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40834-018-0064-y.