Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Infertility Myths

National Infertility Awareness week and Myths About Infertility Diagnosis  

I found these myths quite interesting and thought I'd share them with you all and also share some of my own thoughts and experiences in relation to them all.

Myth: If you just relax, you will get pregnant.

Busted!:  If only it were that easy! The fact is, the vast majority of individuals who have infertility have a medical reason, not a stress-related one. Upwards of 90% of all infertility cases are caused by physical problems.  In the female partner, the major causes of infertility are absent or irregular ovulation, blocked fallopian tubes, abnormalities in the uterus, and endometriosis (a chronic painful condition where tissue from the lining of the uterus migrates into the pelvis and attaches to the reproductive organs).  The male partner can have issues with sperm production which can lead to too few sperm, sperm which can’t swim correctly, and abnormally shaped sperm.Where the stress/infertility connection may come in tends to be after one has been trying for a while, and the stress of not conceiving easily may then contribute to the problem. But there has never been a study which shows that simply relaxing increases pregnancy rates. Research does show that infertility patients who learn and practice a wide variety of stress reduction techniques can have higher pregnancy rates than patients who don’t learn those techniques.

-Yup I am one of the ones who has fertility problems due to both absent and irregular ovulation, or as my doctor put it that I probably haven't ovulated in YEARS! I always thought stress played a larger role though, guess that's why it needed to be busted. I was incredibly stressed the 2 1/2 years trying to get pregnant, both at my body for not doing the job that I needed it to do(ovulate) and then it not doing its job led to another month of me not getting pregnant which equals more stress.  It is nice to read though that stress reduction rates have lead to higher pregnancy rates; hence why I am doing acupuncture again and plan on having a massage and body wrap before ttc again in June.

Myth:  You waited too long to have kids.

Busted!:  While it is true that fertility decreases with age, youth does not guarantee fertility. Many men and women in their 20’s have infertility. And women in their early 40’s can get pregnant and deliver healthy babies. However, if you know that you want to have children, the earlier you try, the less likely it is that you will have trouble. 

- I just turned 30, so I guess I am right in the middle. My body now just has to do its job and work, but it is nice to know that infertility can strike at any age. Actually I wish none of us ever had to deal with infertility, that would be better.

Myth: It’s the woman’s fault.

Busted!:  Sometimes the fertility diagnosis lies with the woman, but it is just as likely to be an issue with her male partner. In order for a man to be fertile, he needs to have enough sperm (count or concentration), they need to be able to swim properly (motility) and they need to have normal shapes (morphology).  Other contributory causes can be erectile dysfunction or lack of libido. 

-I wish I could blame the man, but in my case it is all my fault we were having a hard time getting pregnant. According to my Dr. after the sperm tests were done on my husband she states that his sperm are "wonderful!"

Myth:  Something you did caused your infertility (you are too fit, too fat, ate the wrong food, had a STD…).

Busted!:  There are few lifestyle factors which permanently impact fertility. Smoking can be one of them, but many people have stopped smoking and been able to conceive within months. Obesity, and being underweight, are both associated with an increased risk of infertility, but losing or gaining weight can relatively quickly bring you back to the fertile zone. Eating unhealthy food can put you at risk for diseases such as heart disease and cancer, but switching to a more healthful diet- focusing on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and dairy products are associated not only with a lower risk of disease but may increase one’s chance of ovulating normally. Once again, if you know that you want to have children, it is indeed a good idea to look at your health habits and if you have any which might hamper fertility, such as smoking, excess alcohol intake, being over or underweight, extremely vigorous exercise habits, or a big caffeine habit, adapting healthier habits can decrease your risk of experiencing infertility.

-Yeah this one I have issues with. I eat pretty healthy I would say. I don't eat fast food and eat very little deep fried food. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables, choose lean cuts of meat, eat whole grains, get enough calcium, and do enjoy some chocolate or ice cream. I do have a wee bit of a caffeine addiction, but when I became pregnant with Liam I was really good about only having 1-2 cups a day of coffee. I also rarely drink alcohol. I am a mover though, meaning I hate sitting still. I love to get outside hiking, walking, jogging, skiing, etc-. I am on the move a lot but I would never say I am an athlete- good shape- yes, but that was a huge concern to my doctor. She had told me I needed to exercise less, eat more, and gain some weight!  I always thought I lived a fairly healthy lifestyle, but hearing that upset me when I know so many people eat horrible or never exercise and have no issues with getting pregnant. So if any of this is a myth, my doctor sure felt it was a huge concern to me. I did however gain 5 pounds before the second IUI and did acupuncture, so maybe between the two, something did help. Not too sure on some of these myths, hmmmm.

Myth:  Infertility isn’t a disease.

Busted!:  Yes, it is. According to the dictionary, a disease is a “disorder or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body”. Infertility in either the male or female partner is in fact directly due to some malfunction in the body, whether it be hormonal or structural. 

- Stupid hormones is all I have to say about this one.

Myth: If you already have one child, you know you are fertile and will have no problems conceiving again.

Busted!: Infertility does not discriminate and can strike anyone at anytime throughout the childbearing years. Secondary infertility — the inability to get pregnant naturally or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving one or more children — is very common.  Approximately 12 percent of women in the United States have secondary infertility, and it accounts for more than half of all infertility cases.
Unlike those experiencing difficulty having their first child, people who are affected by secondary infertility are much less likely to seek  infertility treatments. Many in this situation are told that they have nothing to worry about, to just keep trying. This can lead to much frustration and loss of precious time.
A number of things can cause secondary infertility including age, damage or blockage to the fallopian tubes, ovulation problems, 
endometriosis, and problems with sperm production. The testing and diagnosis process is the same as for primary infertility.
Don’t wait to see a fertility doctor (reproductive endocrinologist).  If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, the rule of thumb on 
when to see a fertility specialist is if:
  • You are under 35 and aren’t pregnant within a year of actively  trying, or
  • You are over 35 and haven’t conceived within six months of trying.
If you have experienced two or more miscarriages, have a history of sexually transmitted infections, have irregular periods or have 
especially painful periods, you should make that appointment even sooner.

- I just included this because I never had heard of secondary infertility until I read another blm's blog about it and find it quite interesting.  I guess I always assumed you were either fertile or just had infertility issues from the start. So naive I am, but love that I have learned so much from everyone's blogs and websites like these.

by Alice D. Domar, Ph.D.
The Domar Center for Mind/Body Health


  1. Love that you've covered a few myths... there are so many nonsense myths out there and lead to so many hurtful comments by others. IF is a nightmare however or whenever it strikes :(( The awareness raising from NIAW is fantastic... wish we had an organisation like RESOLVE in Oz. Love to you always xoxo

  2. I identify with you when you said you eat healthy. When they say pre-term birth, I've read that they associate with smokers. I'm not a smoker. Rarely drink alcohol. I ate the 'right stuff' during my pregnancy. Yet ended up delivering early.

  3. Thanks for this. I do not suffer from IF, and can't imagine what baby loss + infertility must be like.
    Myth #1 must be the most infuriating one out there. I have read from a number of blogs how frustrating it is to be experiencing infertility only to have someone say "Oh, if you just relax, it will happen!!". I would want to punch someone out for that.
    Thanks for sharing, and I will be thinking of you and sending positive vibes your way in June. I hope all goes well. Continue to keep us posted!

  4. IF + babyloss = the crap end of the stick. It's difficult and unfair and there are way too many people walking that road. Much love and hope to you as you move toward bringing home a healthy baby~


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