There are numerous old wives tales, home remedies and myths that one comes across when researching or discussing fertility enhancement. Infertility is a complex medical condition that involves many factors.
Since working with Dr. Deborah Metzger, a reproductive endocrinologist, I’ve learned a tremendous wealth of information regarding fertility. She helped me to dispel some of my misconceptions about fertility. We sat down and she shared some of her knowledge with me.
Myth: Birth control pills reduce fertility
Fact: Birth control pills can be prescribed for many medical conditions that are associated with infertility, such as irregular periods, heavy periods, or endometriosis. For these women, the pill may actually perserve fertility. For women who use birth control pills for contraception, the hormones are very quickly eliminated from the body and do not cause infertility.
Myth: Fertility problems occur only in women
Fact: Infertility affects both women and men. Since working with women on preconception care, I’ve found that many of the cases of infertility often are due to problems in the male partner. And, because of this, I’ve learned to become well versed in addressing male infertility with a natural approach. Dr. Metzger shared it’s about 40 percent of her cases are due to problems in the male partner. It’s important that both partners be tested early during the infertility evaluation.
Myth: Healthy women over 40 can conceive easily
Fact: A woman’s chance of conceiving in one month without medical assistance after age 40 is under 10% compared with a 25% chance of conceiving each month in those in their early 20’s. In addition, miscarriage rates are markedly increased in women over the age of 40. This fact was a wake up call to me. I’ve always known the statistics of fertility declining as one gets older. I’ve pride myself on staying healthy to delay having kids until my career was stable. I’ve even turned away nice dates and potential partners to sacrifice for what I thought would be a great rewarding profession. The reality is that I’ve already hit advanced geriatric age in the fertility world and still have not found my potential partner (mostly because I’ve focused too much on my research and career). Dr. Metzger co-authored a fantastic book: Stay Fertile Longer: Everything You Need to Know to Get Pregnant—Or Whenever You’re Ready. This book provides key points to perserving fertility. The reality of the matter is that as a woman gets older, her chances of conceiving becomes less with each cycle. However, this does not mean that achieving a successful pregnancy is not possible, but it can be more difficult and also may require an aggressive approach. The vast majority of women who become pregnant after their 43rd birthday have used another women’s egg to achieve conception.
Myth: Stress does not cause infertility
Fact: As demonstrated in a number of medical studies, there is no doubt that infertility causes stress, but the stress of an overcommitted lifestyle and poor health can also adversely affect fertility.
Myth: If you work hard enough at trying to get pregnant, you will eventually get pregnant.
Fact: Dr. Metzger explains it well. Becoming pregnant is not like getting that promotion at work or saving money to buy a house—results are not proportional to the effort, whether it is on your own or with medical intervention. It is more like gambling in Las Vegas, except that you have a better chance at success with conceiving. If you want more control over the situation, you and your partner need to determine how much time, emotional turmoil, expense, and medical intervention you are willing to allow for conception.
Myth: Once you have had a child, it is easy to conceive again.
Fact: Fertility problems can emerge at any age, any time, even if you have conceived in the past. The term “secondary infertility” is used to describe couples who have previously achieved a pregnancy, but who have not been able to achieve a consecutive pregnancy. The range of reasons for secondary infertility is nearly as extensive as primary infertility.
Myth: Just adopt and you’ll get pregnant
Fact: Adoption is a wonderful way to build a family and many couples who experience infertility choose that route. When a pregnancy follows, it is a delightful surprise and gets lots of attention. It is not a cure for infertility. The reality is that only about 5% of couple who adopt later become pregnant.
Myth: Now that we’ve had success with fertility care, getting pregnant the next time should be easy
Fact: The same factors that were present before the success are very likely to still exist. Conditions affecting the female such as uterine or tubal damage, ovarian dysfunction, endometriosis or sperm factors in the male may well impede conception again and require specialized care. In addition, age will have increased and may pose an additional concern.
Myth: Services for infertility (like IVF) are too high tech and too expensive for most couples to consider
Fact: IVF is expensive, yet many couples find that there are acceptable ways to manage the costs. Sometimes health insurance will pay a part of the fees. In addition, there are low interest loans available and some couples choose to save until the money is banked for this very special use. Dr. Metzger mentioned that some IVF programs offer a refund or free cycles after the first unsuccessful one.
Myth: The best and fastest way to achieve pregnancy is by doing IVF.
Fact: There are couples who require IVF in order to achieve a pregnancy, such as those with blocked tubes or few sperm. The truth is, most couples do not require IVF, especially if they have participated in preconception preparation. When couples undergo preconception care, achieving a natural healthy pregnancy becomes more probable.
Myth: IVF is associated with the greatest risk for multiple pregnancies.
Fact: IVF provides the safest way to avoid multiple pregnancies by limiting the number of embryos that are transferred to the uterus. If a couple does not want more than twins, only two embryos will be transferred. Other types of fertility treatments, such as fertility drugs combined with intrauterine insemination, do no offer a way of controlling the number of eggs produced, fertilized fertilized, or implanted.
Myth: A man is only fertile when he changes his underwear from briefs to boxers
Fact: One of the reasons that the testicles hang outside the body cavity is that they function better for sperm production if they remain below core body temperature. This might lead one to believe that boxers would be better than briefs. Dr. Metzger described one study that compared scrotal temperature and sperm quality between the two types of underwear found no difference. There is no harm in making the switch, but it is recommended to stay out of hot tubs.
Myth: We are both very healthy; there is no way we could have infertility problems.
Fact: While you may feel perfectly fit and healthy on the outside, feeling this way is no indicator of your fertility. Many men and women have severe fertility problems and show no outward signs. Of course, being unhealthy can be a risk factor for infertility, but id does not necessarily work the other way around.
Myth: As long as I am younger than 35, I am very fertile.
Fact: It is true that a woman’s fertility dramatically decreases once she is older than age 35, women in their 20s can also have fertility problems.
Myth: I will get pregnant if I have sex 14 days after my period starts.
Fact: This is probably true if you have a consistent 28-day cycle since ovulation occurs around day 14. Many women have cycles that vary from month to month so it is difficult to determine when ovulation is occurring by the dating method. Research shows that if intercourse occurs even one day after ovulation, conception is unlikely to occur since the egg is fertile for only 24 hours. Intercourse 3-4 days before ovulation is effective, but the most successful time is on the day of ovulation. Intercourse after ovulation is ineffective. A ovulation predictor kit, “pee stick”, can most effectively determine when ovulation will occur.
Myth: My partner and I need to use the missionary position and pillows in order to conceive.
Fact: The most important aspect of conceiving is that the sperm have access to the cervix and that there is no interference by toxic substances. This means that you can use any sexual position that you want, but stay away from lubricants and saliva. If sperm does not enter the protection of the cervical mucous within 5 minutes, it is inactivated by the normal acidity of the vagina which means that lying on a pillow for half an hour is unnecessary.
Myth: Cough syrup improves cervical mucous and improves fertility.
Fact: Guaifenesin is the ingredient in cough syrup that thins mucos and is thought to promote fertility when the cervical mucous is ‘hostile’. The only study to support this use was in 1982 and no studies have been done since. It should be noted that guaifenesin is classified as Category C in pregnancy (the benefits should be greater than the possible risks). If couples use guaifenesin, they need to know that it is often combined with dextromethrophan, alcohol, or antihistamines that can be detrimental to fertility or the fetus.
Myth: A woman must have an orgasm to conceive.
Fact: Everyone knows that a woman does not have to have an orgasm to conceive, but does having one help? During an orgasm, blood flows to the pelvis increases and the uterus contracts which helps the sperm get to the fallopian tubes. Ideally the woman must climax before her partner ejaculates. It isn’t important whether it is true or not, but since it enhances the journey to parenthood!
A great big thanks to Dr. Metzger for sharing her knowledge and spending the time to educate me on fertility myths and facts.