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Houston Fertility Journal

Fertility Myths Exist For Many Reasons: What Are They And Why

[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 17, 2017 9:00:00 AM / by Center of Reproductive Medicine   

Center of Reproductive Medicine

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Each woman has different expectations, hopes, and dreams when it comes to her life and her fertility. If those expectations include having children, it is hard to imagine that it would require much more than deciding to stop taking the pill. Getting pregnant seems so easy for some couples.

Still, in reality, 1 in 8 couples are affected by health issues that cause infertility. Many want to believe that they will be able to conceive when the time is right, and a lot of them shy away from reading too much on the topic of infertility. Once they find themselves in this situation, it is easy to get upset and frustrated. Most people do not talk about such things at dinner parties with friends or family functions. 

Because of this lack of transparent discussion surrounding the issue, a large number of myths and misconceptions have been formed based on tidbits of information that have been passed around and changed through hearsay and gossip.

Myths are also often formed based on coincidences that have occurred, appearing as trends and causing people to expect that they will continue to repeat. If you or someone that you love is struggling with infertility, is is extremely important that you are aware of the facts and do not fall into the trap of grasping at straws and believing such tales.

Below, we will address some of the most commonly heard myths about infertility. Amongst some of these myths there does lie some truth, so we will weed out the valuable information and dispel the rest.

Read on in order to be sure that you are correctly informed about the details of infertility and what can be done to make a change. 

Myth 1: Women Cannot Get Pregnant After 40

True, the odds of achieving pregnancy do lessen after a woman has reached a certain age. Many experts have stated that it is pretty much impossible to get pregnant using your own eggs if you are over the age of 45. Still, many 40 year old women are able to get pregnant. Some of these women are using fertility treatments and others are not. There are even some, such as therapists and financial consultants, who advise people to have children in their 40s.

Their reasoning for giving this advice is that:

  • you are more experienced
  • you are wiser than you once were and
  • you have a better handle on your financial situation

Yet, there is always the flip side. In this case, postponing parenthood appears to have the potential of more cons than pros.

Serious problems could arise, such as:

  • a harder time conceiving, causing physical and emotional distress
  • a higher chance of difficult pregnancy, such as placental problems and birth complications
  • a higher risk of an underweight or preterm baby
  • the fact that the male’s sperm is also probably older, which has a higher rate of genetic defects than a younger man’s sperm

The fact is, it is possible for a woman to get pregnant at 40, it can prove to cause some major challenges and the result could be much different than what is hoped for. If you are 40 or older and having trouble conceiving, your healthcare provider will most likely encourage you to speak to a fertility specialist.

A specialist will be able to check for possible issues residing in the:

  • ovaries
  • fallopian tubes or
  • the man’s sperm

Myth 2: Men Don’t Have Fertility Problems

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This one may seem laughable to some. After all, what on earth could keep men from having just as many chances for issues with their reproductive health than women? However, there are a lot of people who believe that infertility is solely the woman’s problem.

Those who do are, unfortunately, in major denial. A baby is made by the joining of a man’s sperm and a woman’s egg, and the dysfunction can exist on either or both ends. 35% of infertility in the United States is due to the female’s issue, 35% is due to the male’s issue, 20% is due to a problem found in both partners, and 10% is due to unknown causes.

There are number of possibilities for why a man could be experiencing fertility dysfunction. Some examples of these include:

  • chromosomal or genetic causes
  • undescended testicles
  • infections
  • medicines and chemicals
  • radiation damage
  • prostate-related problems
  • absence of vas deferens
  • vasectomy
  • failure to ejaculate
  • erectile dysfunction
  • spinal cord injury
  • damage to nerves
  • pituitary tumors
  • steroid abuse
  • and more

As you can see, a man can struggle with infertility on the very same level that a woman can. In most cases, there are no obvious signs or symptoms that will signal this infertility exists and medical tests will need to be done in order to determine if there is indeed an issue.

Myth 3: Infertility Is Psychological

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There are some friends and relatives that may think they are being supportive when they tell you that your inability to conceive is simply “all in your head”. They may blame it on your innate tendency to worry too much, jump to conclusions, and not handle stress well. While stress can cause your body to shut down in many ways, it cannot be the main source for your infertility. Infertility is a physical disease or condition of the reproductive system. The most common reasons for infertility are: 

  • ovulation disorder - when ovulation fails to occur, or occurs on an infrequent or irregular basis
  • low sperm count
  • poor sperm health
  • blocked fallopian tubes
  • endometriosis - is an often uncomfortable or painful disorder in which tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus grows outside your uterus. Endometriosis exists in your ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining your pelvis. On some rare occasions, endometrial tissue may spread beyond the pelvis.
  • polycystic ovarian syndrome- is a condition where a woman’s levels of the sex hormones are out of balance and lead to the growth of ovarian cysts.
  • poor egg health - egg quality refers to how prepared your eggs are to develop into embryos once they are fertilized. In order to be healthy enough to grow into a baby, an egg needs to have the proper chromosomes and be able to combine those chromosomes with sperm. Some eggs don’t have the right number of chromosomes and are unable to achieve successful pregnancy.
  • anti-sperm antibodies- once sperm and blood come in contact, whether in the male or female, specific antibodies are produced against them by specialized blood cells called T- and B-lymphocytes.
  • vas deferens blockage - when the epididymis becomes blocked it prevents sperm from entering the vas deferens and getting into the ejaculate.

If there is any psychological reason for a person’s inability to conceive, it would be in a situation such as stress causing a lack of libido and resulting in the inability to have sex. If all is transpiring in a normal fashion in the bedroom and it has taken more than a year for a couple to conceive, there is more than likely a physical explanation for it.

Myth 4: Lifting Your Legs In The Air For 20 Minutes After Sex Will Help You Get Pregnant

You can find a lot of articles that claim that keeping still upside down for a certain amount of time after sex will help the man’s semen to swim in the right direction. Laying with your legs in the air is not going to do anything for you besides causing all of the blood to rush out of your feet and leave your legs feeling numb and uncomfortable. No matter what position you are sitting in, sperm are chemically programmed to swim directly toward your uterus. If the sperm do not successfully result in a baby, it is not because they didn't know which direction they were supposed to swim in. If you are looking for ways you can physically affect change in your fertility,  start by:

  • getting regular exercise
  • avoiding artificial lubricants
  • getting your body to a healthy weight
  • eating all of your healthy fats
  • making love when you are ovulating
  • cutting down on caffeine and alcohol 

Myth 5: Being On Birth Control For Too Long Can Cause Infertility

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A lot of women worry that their long term use of birth control is the cause of their inability to conceive. It is true that birth control can cause irregularities in a woman’s menstrual cycle, and it may take some time for that regularity to return once she stops taking the pill. This can cause some alarm, but it is not the reason for infertility.

Whether they have been on the pill for 3 months or 15 years, most women return to a normal menstrual cycle within 1 to 2 months after they have stopped taking the pill. Though birth control is not the prescription that you are taking that you should worry about, there are some prescriptions out there that have been known to take negative effects.

Prescribed medications that have proven to cause fertility issues include:

  • psychiatric medications (anti-depressants or anti-psychotics)
  • steroids
  • anti epileptic medications
  • thyroid medications
  • skin products with hormones
  • chemotherapy

If you are about to begin using any of these medications, you may want to consider freezing your eggs before they can affect your body in a way that prevents you from having children. This is a common course of action when such treatment is necessary and the individual wants to ensure that they will be able to start a family at some point down the road.

Myth 6: Egg Freezing Success Rates Are Always Low

Some people see the success rate for the probability of 1 frozen egg resulting in pregnancy and mistake it as the probability for the success of all frozen egg endeavors. The chance of pregnancy per egg is 2-12%. Yet, this number changes with the more eggs that are frozen and the age that the woman is when she freezes them.

For women who are younger than 38, it is often recommended that they freeze 15 to 20 matures eggs. With this amount, they have a 70% to 80% chance of it resulting in live birth. 

Myth 7: Once A Couple Adopts, The Woman Will Get Pregnant

Okay, it has miraculously occurred that a woman you know has finally achieved pregnancy after she and her partner gave up trying to conceive on their own and decided to adopt. The fact that such a thing can happen is so hard for people to understand, that they choose to project some sort of meaning to it to make it easier to comprehend.

Such ideas only instill false hope. When it comes down to it, the factors that go into a couple’s successful pregnancy are different and specific to each situation. Comparing yourself to others will not help you to acquire the knowledge about your own particular state of health.

In order to get to the core of the issue that is responsible for your difficulty achieving conception, it  will require having to dig a lot deeper. If you desire a real change, you will have to discover true source of the problem.

Getting The Facts From The People Who Know

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Before you read anymore about the possible reason you may be experiencing trouble conceiving, make sure the you are getting your facts from people that you know have the knowledge that you can depend on.

You can start by talking with your gynecologist or family physician, but these doctors do not have the advanced training that a fertility specialist does. If you are not getting the answers that you require, it is time to turn to an expert. It is so easy to work yourself up and worry at home as you google all of the possible things that could be wrong with you or your partner.

Save yourself all of that unnecessary turmoil and speak to someone who can help. Learn more about the facts and myths about fertility in our newest eBook, Getting Pregnant 101: Facts, Myths, and Secrets To Fertility.

Getting Pregnant 101: Facts, Myths, and Secrets To Fertility

Topics: Fertility Myths, Fertility Journey

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