The vast wilderness of the internet is full of fact and fiction about fertility, infertility, TTC and what you can do to improve your fertility potential. If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s important both you and your partner read this article, 7 Common Myths Debunked From the Expert, from Dr. Kenan Omurtag, Reproductive Endocrinologist
MYTH #1: Having unprotected sex for one month = near 100% chance of pregnancy!
Surprisingly and despite what we heard in our high school health education classes, human reproduction is rather inefficient. There is a ~ 20-25% likelihood of getting pregnant in a given month. Still, that means one in four/five couples will get pregnant in the first month.
Imagine the anxiety a couple feels if they believe that, after one month of trying to conceive, they should be pregnant. Reproduction is a cumulative event, so if you keep having unprotected intercourse, your odds for becoming pregnant increase if you are both fertile.
Here are some statistics that can help set more realistic expectations:
- After 6 months of unprotected intercourse, 75% of couples will conceive
- After 12 months of unprotected intercourse, this increases to 85%.
And this is the reason that many doctors tell you to wait for one year before seeking medical advice.
MYTH #2: Infertility is mostly a female problem
It is JUST AS LIKELY that the cause of infertility is male-related as it is female-related. Female infertility is defined as no pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.
Three things need to be ‘working’ for a pregnancy to occur: sperm, open tubes and eggs. Since tubes and eggs are a female issue and account for 2/3 (~60%) of the process, up to 40% of couples who walk into a fertility clinic have male-factor infertility, which is found when a semen analysis is performed.
Understandably, it is not unusual for men to be apprehensive about having a semen analysis. The ritual of semen collection (by ‘hand’ or intercourse) for something other than pleasure can be disorienting for men and oftentimes results in their profound lack of enthusiasm for semen testing. Additionally, their apprehension at finding out their fertility status (OMG…it’s my fault) can be a definite barrier to a man’s fertility evaluation.
Since a couple’s fertility window is only open for so long, delaying diagnosis and treatment (if necessary) can result in a lower pregnancy success rate. Couples can now consider starting with a male home test such as YO (yospermtest.com) to help guys overcome their initial reluctance to be tested. The worst thing to do is to delay diagnosis.
MYTH #3: Male fertility is impervious to time
Female fertility declines with age because both egg quality and quantity decreases. Sperm quantity remains relatively stable as a man ages but sperm quality declines in men over 45. As a man ages, his sperm are more likely to be non-motile (not moving) and deformed. Furthermore, although men over 50 can contribute to a live birth, they are less likely to fertilize an egg after age 50, although this area of reproductive health is still being studied.
MYTH #4: If we see a fertility specialist, it means we will have IVF
It does not, and it should not! Seeing a fertility specialist is the first stop for a couple if they have been trying to conceive for 12 months and are still not pregnant. In some cases, I recommend seeing the woman after 6 months if she is over 35. A visit to a fertility specialist can be anxiety provoking because of the fear that the only solution is expensive, time consuming and invasive IVF. However, many times, oral medications and/or intrauterine insemination are successful, even if there is a male factor.
The fertility specialists’ goal is to perform a fertility workup and make sure the couple is educated about options going forward. You might find this article about next steps very helpful.
MYTH #5: As long as I am healthy and ovulating, I should get pregnant.
I hear this phrase often, but, unfortunately, reproductive biology can still go awry despite a person being the picture of health. It is well known that egg quality and quantity decline as the age of the woman increases; unfortunately, a healthy lifestyle cannot reverse this. That being said, there may be benefits to certain types of nutrition during fertility treatment, but these serve to augment treatment, not replace it.
MYTH #6: As long as I am healthy and can ‘perform,’ my sperm is good.
My response to this is similar to what I said about women and ovulation. Just because a man is in perfect health and not overweight does not mean his fertility is optimal. The fact is, I see men in my practice who are the picture of health and yet they present with idiopathic infertility. The cause is likely genetic but our full understanding is still emerging.
My advice is to check your sperm, if you are having problems conceiving. Making assumptions about your fertility based on your overall health can delay your and your partner’s treatment and potentially impact your ability to conceive a child as a result.
MYTH #7: Working out in the Sperm Olympics (having frequent sex) will improve my count and motility
Despite what you may have read on the internet, or heard from friends, frequent ejaculation (by hand or intercourse) doesn’t really impact semen parameters. What will happen is the volume of semen will decline after frequent, consecutive ejaculations but there should still be adequate motile sperm. Having intercourse 2 to 3 times per week will generally provide enough semen exposure to optimize natural fertility. Sex every day is not necessary (sorry guys), but if desired, will not be a detriment.