In his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, H.P. Lovecraft said, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” One area the fear of the unknown is prevalent, is with infertility. For most people struggling with it, there are several unknowns that leave them afraid. However, infertility doesn’t have to be scary.
Ignorance is not always bliss. In fact, arming ourselves with the knowledge of how to fix the things that are plaguing us could just be where true bliss is found. With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to address some of the unknowns related to infertility in hopes of making your journey to parenthood, a less frightening one.
Fear #1 - The Fear That You Might Be Infertile
When you first start trying for a baby, all is well. That is until several months have gone by, and you’ve still not achieved pregnancy. Come month six you might fear something is wrong. At the one year mark, you could begin fearing that you’re infertile. Yes, you could be, but until you get more information sitting with that fear can be frustrating. Painful even.
How can you stop the fear?
First, if you’re a female under the age of 35, know that it’s not time to panic. It can take up to a year for a normal, healthy couple to get pregnant. Even if you are 35 or older, it still might not be time to panic.
If you’re under the age of 35, first make an appointment with your primary care physician.
Schedule a physical, to check in and see if it could be something simple like an infection that can be managed with antibiotics. Have a blood panel run as well to see if any other underlying disorders/issues could be in play.
If you’re 35 or older, and have been trying for six months or longer, it might be a good idea to go ahead and schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist.
The unfortunate reality is that as women age, it can become harder for them to get pregnant. The phrase “your biological clock is ticking” is an accurate one. At age 35 your egg supply has already decreased significantly, and around age 40 your egg quality starts to decrease as well.
Fear #2 - You or Your Partner ARE Infertile - Now What?
Assuming you learned the bad news that you are in fact infertile, now what do you do? The fear of what comes next can be daunting, but don’t lose hope yet. Keep in mind that learning you are infertile just means you need more information. The next step is to find the cause of the infertility so that you might find a means to correct it.
There are several causes for both men and women to be infertile. In men the causes could be a hormonal imbalance, blockage of sperm, some kind of disorder, an abnormality with the testicles, or something else. In women the causes could be related to a problem with your uterus, the inability to ovulate, an infection, or some other disorder.
Different tests can be run, and other exams can be performed to get to the root cause of your infertility. After that typically comes the next fear.
Fear #3 - Addressing the Cause of the Infertility
For some men and women, knowing the cause of the infertility is nothing compared to the fears associated with addressing the cause. Common fears for treating the causes of infertility can include, but are not limited to:
- Will correcting my issues actually help us get pregnant?
- What if it’s more than one thing causing infertility?
- Is this difficulty getting pregnant “a sign”?
- Could the results/diagnosis be wrong?
- Should I get a second opinion? What about a third or fourth opinion?
- Will it hurt, be difficult, or be expensive to correct my infertility cause?
This list could go on and on, but it’s important to note that being nervous, or even afraid of treating your infertility causes is normal.
Fear #4 - The Treatments Chosen Didn’t Work
Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the cause of infertility in an otherwise healthy 29 year old female is determined to be polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS. There is no cure for PCOS, but in some cases where a woman has the disease, ovulation induction is all that is needed in order to increase the chances of achieving pregnancy.
The fear here could be that the chosen method for treating the infertility won’t work. What happens if that undesired outcome becomes reality? What is the next step in the event that the patient is treated with ovulation induction drug therapy, and is still unable to conceive? It could mean:
- More time is needed to continue with the drug therapy and trying to conceive
- A different drug therapy regimen is needed
- Additional factors are in play that have not yet been determined
Although speculations are easy to come by, with something as unpredictable as getting pregnant, there is no real certainty. In truth your chosen treatment might not work, but that doesn’t mean nothing will work.
Any fertility doctor who promises you that you will definitely get pregnant on the first try is giving you an unfair and false sense of hope. It’s impossible to guarantee what will work and what won’t. However, when you are working with a reputable fertility clinic, you will at least have significantly better odds of achieving pregnancy.
Fear #5 - The Treatment Will Work Too Well
One fear many couples have is that the treatment chosen will work too well, and they will end up with twins, triplets or some other unexpected number of children. Here are some facts that may put this fear to rest:
- Yes, with in vitro fertilization, doctors do implant multiple embryos. The reason why is because when multiple embryos are implanted, the odds of at least one successfully becoming a pregnancy are greatly increased.
- The truth is that one about 25% of IVF procedures produce a single pregnancy, even with the most skilled fertility doctor.
- Yes, IVF does slightly increase the odds of having multiple children simply due to the fact that multiple embryos are implanted at the same time.
- Only about 10% of successful IVF cycles end in twins or triplets.
Bottom line - yes, there is a chance you will end up having multiples. However, it’s unlikely to be the case.
Fear #6 - I’ll Get Pregnant, But It Will End in Miscarriage
When you’re putting a lot of time, energy and finances into something, it’s understandable to fear a negative outcome. As such, it’s completely normal for women to fear that their pregnancies resulting from fertility treatments will end in miscarriage.
With every pregnancy, regardless of how it came to be, there is a risk of miscarriage. According to the Mayo Clinic, about 10 to 20% of known pregnancies do end in miscarriage. They also stated that the actual number could be higher because “many miscarriages occur so early in pregnancy that a woman doesn’t realize she’s pregnant.”
So far, no clear link has been found between fertility treatments and an increased risk of a miscarriage. However, the risk of miscarriage does increase with maternal age. As the Mayo Clinic states, “Women older than age 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage than do younger women. At age 35, you have about a 20 percent risk. At age 40, the risk is about 40 percent. And at age 45, it's about 80 percent.”
Other factors that can contribute to the risk of miscarriage include, but aren’t limited to:
- Hormonal problems
- Thyroid disease
- Previous miscarriages - if you have had two or more, you're considered to be at a higher risk
- Cervical and uterine problems
- Being under or overweight
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Infections and other diseases
Is there anything you can do to decrease your risk of miscarriage?
Barring any genetic abnormalities, there are a few things that doctors do recommend to help you reduce your chances of having a miscarriage. These include:
- Maintaining a well-balanced, healthy diet
- Keeping your stress under control
- Taking prenatal vitamins
- Maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height
- Don't drink alcohol
- Stop smoking
- Cut back or completely stop drinking caffeinated beverages
- Don't take illicit drugs
- Avoid excessive and strenuous activities
- Protect your abdomen area (i.e. avoid things like contact sports)
- Always wear a seatbelt while driving or riding in a vehicle
We could keep going, but the most important thing is to try and stay as healthy as possible throughout your pregnancy.
Fear #7 - I Won’t Be Able to Afford Fertility Treatments
It’s no secret that going through fertility treatments can be an expensive endeavor. Costs vary widely depending on the treatment options that will work best for your unique case.
Some insurance plans will cover an initial consultation with a fertility clinic. There are some plans that even have some coverage for testing and treatment. Unfortunately though, most insurance policies do not cover fertility treatments unless they are medically necessary. You'll need to consult with your insurance company to learn more about what they can and cannot cover.
On the other hand, for people who don't have insurance coverage, the good news is that some fertility treatments are surprisingly affordable. In the best case scenario, you’ll have a simple problem with an equally simple solution.
The difficulty arises when there is a complicated scenario, as these generally are met with more expensive treatments. We understand how painful it can be to make the decision that you can’t afford the treatments necessary to try to have a child. That’s why at the Center of Reproductive Medicine, we offer financial counseling to each and every patient.
Our compassionate counselors will talk about your finances in a frank and open manner, helping you make decisions that maximize your chances of a pregnancy without undermining your future financial goals.
Fear #8 - I’ll Never Have a Baby
A fact that may ease this fear is that about 90% of couples who experience infertility will eventually get pregnant. What’s more is that fertility medicine is always advancing, so everyday there is more hope.
Sadly though, the fear that some couples will not be able to have a biological child is a valid one, because not every case will be successful. The truth is that some people have medical issues that can’t be corrected, and for some the reasons for infertility may forever remain unknown.
In the event your treatment options are limited or nonexistent, there is the option of third party parenting to build your family. Two of the third party parenting options available through the Center of Reproductive Medicine are egg donation and gestational carriers. To learn more about third party parenting options, click here.
Fear #9 - I’ll Be Judged For Not Getting Pregnant
Infertility is not your fault, and is not something to be judged. When you’re working with our staff, no one here will ever judge you for your inability to achieve pregnancy. We’re compassionate in our care with you, and have a deep understanding of the unique challenges you’re facing.
Know this - if you are struggling with infertility, you are not alone. As many as 1 in 8 couples, and up to 15% of individual men and women, struggle with fertility issues. You're not broken, and the problems you encounter can very likely be fixed.
Want to Squash Even More of Your Unknowns?
If knowledge is the key to stopping fear of the unknown, then we’d like to offer you a way to learn even more about getting pregnant. You can download a free copy of our eBook, Getting Pregnant 101: Facts, Myths, and Secrets to Fertility. In this enlightening book we separate fact from fiction, and get to the heart of what it actually takes to achieve pregnancy. Download your free copy here!
After you’ve learned more about infertility, you may find you’re ready to speak to a fertility specialist. We’d love to help you along in your pregnancy journey. Read more about becoming a Center of Reproductive Medicine patient by clicking here. And remember, infertility doesn't have to be scary.