Surprising as it may seem in this era of IVF, egg and embryo banking and amid stories of pregnancies at advanced age, myths about conception still abound. Trying to conceive? Worried about a low sperm count? Take a look at 7 common misconceptions:
Misconception #1: The pill is to blame
Women who have been unsuccessfully trying to conceive, beat themselves up for the long years they were on the pill. They believe their fertility issues are due to the pill. But this is not true, says Dr. Alyssa Dweck, a practicing gynaecologist at CareMount Medical in New York. According to her, the pill does not mess with fertility. Since the pill was rigorously tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before its approval in 1960, it doesn’t harm a woman’s ovulation cycle. The good news is that once a woman gets off the pill, her fertility goes right back to what it was ‘destined to be,’ says Paul Blumenthal, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Johns Hopkins University Medical School and adviser to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Misconception #2: Biological clock for men? Nah.
Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School has confirmed that the biological clock ticks for men too. The advancing years don’t just age a woman’s eggs, but a man’s sperm count, quality and motility too. Since studies such as this have shown that older men find it harder to impregnate a woman, a man’s age plays a crucial factor in determining the success rate of fertility treatments. Doctors advise both sexes to heed their biological clocks. Men can no longer afford to be smug about becoming fathers at any age, as their reproductive organ may not function at an optimum level as they turn older.
Misconception #3: Freezing my eggs will guarantee a pregnancy at any age
Pregnancy is not a given for women, even if they froze their eggs as a precautionary measure in their younger years. A competent fertility specialist doesn’t ensure a 100 per cent success rate for pregnancy through assisted reproductive procedures. Sometimes, it might take as many as 20 eggs to fertilise and grow into one healthy embryo. This is especially the case with older women who are being misled into believing that freezing their eggs will assure them of starting a family even well into their 40s. According to Melanie Davies, an NHS fertility expert at University College London hospital, clinics and regulators must keep women informed on the success rates of egg freezing and not give them false hope about the prospects of becoming pregnant through this method. Even if a woman had her eggs frozen when she was young, there is no guarantee that they will survive and fertilise to achieve a pregnancy, says Adam Balen, chair of the British Fertility Society.
Misconception #4: Impotency and infertility are the same
A recent opinion poll revealed that a majority of men fail to distinguish between impotency and infertility. They often believe erectile dysfunction, or male impotence, is the same as infertility. Impotency (Erectile dysfunction or ED) is diagnosed when a man is unable to provide sexual satisfaction to his female partner as he struggles to maintain erection during sexual intercourse. It could also mean his erection decreases during intercourse and ejaculation is absent. Infertility, on the other hand, male infertility means a man suffers from reproductive issues such as no or low sperm count or motility, hormonal problems, testicular problems, abnormal sperm function, varicoceles, among others.
According to Dr. Michael Roizen, even if a man produces perfectly good quality sperm, he could have trouble with erection. Or conversely, if he manages an erection effortlessly, but is unable to get his female partner pregnant, then he could be suffering from infertility issues.
Misconception #5: A woman’s fertility is preserved because she keeps fit
Fitness has nothing to do with your ability to become pregnant. No matter how healthy and fit a woman is, as she ages, her fertility level also diminishes. This is because her eggs mature and decline in quality and quantity, especially after she enters her 30s. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, perfectly healthy women may not be able to conceive due to medical problems pertaining to ovulation, blocked fallopian tubes and other infertility issues.
Advanced Fertility Care, a fertility centre located in Arizona, warns couples from assuming that getting pregnant is easy. Even among perfectly healthy couples, it might take up to a year to conceive. So, while being fit and healthy bodes well for the overall health of a woman, it’s not a given that she will effortlessly conceive.
Misconception #6: IVF is the one-stop solution for all infertility problems
It’s not easy for couples desperate to become parents to opt for expensive fertility treatments such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). Such treatments not only burn a hole in one’s pocket but are also emotionally draining. Sadly, most couples rush into IVF without pausing to consider other alternatives to successful conception.
Couples should be counselled to consider other fertility treatment options and not feel pressured to seek IVF intervention, says writer Jema Kennedy, who experienced a traumatic IVF treatment. According to Dr. Elizabeth Fino, Assistant Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, New York University. IVF shouldn’t be the go-to solution for all fertility treatments. Since medical technology has advanced manifold, couples can opt for numerous other assisted treatments, too, that might be cheaper and less harmful to the body. Artificial insemination, microsurgery and even basic drug treatments could be viable options to consider.
Misconception #7: My ejaculate looks normal, so I’m fertile.
Reproductive science has advanced so much that men shouldn’t take even their ejaculate for granted if they are seriously trying to impregnate their female partner. They should become more knowledgeable about how their own reproductive organs and system function to identify potential fertility problems.
Semen is usually white or grey, and occasionally yellowish in colour. If it’s pink or red, the ejaculated liquid should be checked for the presence of blood in it. However, according to Dr. S. Zev Williams, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Columbia University Medical Center, male factor infertility cannot be diagnosed by just looking at the ejaculated fluid. The sperm has to be microscopically analysed to confirm whether the male patient suffers from any infertility problem. A great way to begin this process is by using recently available home sperm tests such as YO Home Sperm Test.
Whether you’ve believed in one or more of these misconceptions, the truth is that many interventions are available if you find you are facing infertility. A few words to the wise: Don’t wait too long, take action early on if you believe you have a problem and get his sperm tested – it’s painless and will provide valuable information for your conception journey.