When it comes to fertility, there are many smart ways to prepare yourself and your body for pregnancy. However, trying to conceive might not be as simple as stopping birth control pills and conception can take much longer than many women expect. While getting pregnant may be easy for some couples, the reality is, infertility is a pervasive public health issue that affects an estimated one in eight couples.

Although there has certainly been a significant rise in the number of fertility stories in the news over the last few years, it remains a topic that isn’t talked about at cocktail parties or among friends. It’s still very much a topic shrouded in darkness. That lack of discussion in an open forum has created a vacuum in our society filled with a plethora of myths and exaggerations about fertility and fertility treatment, despite the media’s focus.

At Shady Grove Fertility, we take a holistic approach to treatment and believe that education and information are two crucial components for couples starting on their fertility journey. Below are 11 common fertility myths and the real facts behind them.

Fertility Myth #1: It’s easy to get pregnant.

Many people are surprised to learn that a healthy couple 35 and under has a maximum 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. The woman needs to be at the peak of ovulation in her menstrual cycle where the endometrial lining is thickest. The sperm then must do a lot of work and make it through many barriers to just reach the egg. Once the sperm does reach the egg there are no guarantees it will fertilize, or implant. Timing and conditions must be just right.

Couples 35 and younger who have been trying for 1 year without any success should seek the advice of an expert, and couples over 35 should try for 6 months and then see a specialist if conception has not occurred.

Fertility Myth #2: Infertility is just more common today.

Although certainly a topic that is predominantly discussed privately among couples and their physicians, there has been a strong uptick in coverage of fertility in popular culture. This doesn’t mean that infertility is more common, it’s just being talked about more. Reality stars and celebrities have discussed their fertility problems publicly and new technologies like egg freezing have brought the topic of fertility and age into the public sphere as major companies offer egg freezing to their female employees.

Fertility Myth #3: It’s a “woman problem.”

Typically, the causes of infertility break down like this: 40 percent is female factor, 40 percent is male factor, 10 percent will have a combination of male and female factor, and the final 10 percent of infertility causes remains unexplained. With female patients 35 and younger, the causes for infertility tend to be PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), tubal or pelvic issues, endometriosis, and family history. As part of the preliminary workup to determine treatment men will submit a semen sample to analyze the sperm’s motility (how fast it’s moving), shape, and sperm count. Common causes of male infertility tend to be from prior surgery, infection, or a problem present at birth.

Fertility Myth #4: I can wait until I’m 40.

The most important consideration and predictor of success is a woman’s age. Around age 35 the quality and quantity of a woman’s egg supply will begin to sharply diminish. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have and once a month an egg will be released. If it isn’t fertilized by sperm regular menstruation will occur. Sometimes we hear from women nearing or over 40 that they exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and don’t partake in drinking alcohol or recreational drug use. While all of that contributes to a healthy lifestyle, that is ultimately not the way to determine fertility at 40 or after.

Fertility Myth #5: It won’t make a difference if I lose weight.

Besides age, body mass index (BMI) is one of the most important factors that can affect fertility. Repeated studies have shown that overweight men and women are more successful conceiving naturally after losing even a small amount of weight. Being overweight can pose health risks for the mother and the baby including gestational diabetes and an increased chance of heart disease. Overweight women also have a higher rate of miscarriage.

Fertility Myth #6: IVF is the only form of treatment.

Many couples are surprised to find out that there is a spectrum of treatment options that does not begin with the most medically invasive procedure, in vitro fertilization (IVF).  After a couple undergoes the diagnostic testing to determine the cause (or causes) that are contributing to their inability to conceive, the physician will recommend a course of treatment that oftentimes will begin with what’s usually referred to as low-tech or basic treatments. These include timed intercourse with an oral medication such as Clomid (Clomid is a prescription drug that helps the growth of a mature egg). If that protocol does not result in a successful pregnancy, the next step is intrauterine insemination (IUI). This is an in-office procedure where healthy sperm is directly injected into a woman’s uterus. It takes just minutes and the patient can return to her regular activities afterwards.

Fertility Myth #7: Fertility treatment always results in multiples.

For many years fertility experts were not able to examine the quality of embryos created during the IVF process. With a high level of uncertainty physicians would typically transfer two and sometimes more than two embryos in hopes of successful implantation. And yes, multiple births were more common. Today, technology allows embryologists and physicians to examine embryos much more carefully and select with confidence the one or two that we believe will implant and result in a successful pregnancy. At Shady Grove Fertility we’ve pioneered and are leading proponents of elective single embryo transfer, or eSET. Studying all embryos that have reached the blastocyst stage (when the cells are multiplying at a healthy level and the embryo continues to grow) we have drastically decreased the number of multiples and raised the number of healthy singletons born, thereby reducing the risks to both baby and mother.

Fertility Myth #8: I already have a child so I don’t have a problem with fertility.

Knowing the greatest detriment to a woman’s fertility is age, it only makes sense that secondary infertility is an important factor women should be aware of when trying for a second, or third child. For couples 35 and younger we recommend trying to conceive for 1 year before seeing a specialist, and for couples 35 and up, trying for 6 months. Besides age, other causes of secondary infertility include an internal complication because of the previous pregnancy, weight gain, and male factor (also due to age).

Fertility Myth #9: Birth control decreases fertility.

Yes, it is obvious that for women NOT wanting to get pregnant, birth control is a valuable tool. However, in some cases we will begin a patient’s treatment protocol with a 2 to 4-week dose of birth control pills, which has shown to improve the outcome of treatment. For example, for women with PCOS, a short period on birth control can suppress testosterone and LH levels. Birth control can help prevent ovaries from making a single dominant follicle instead of many follicles to create multiple eggs.

Fertility Myth #10: Treatment is too expensive.

We all agree that fertility treatment costs should be reduced and at Shady Grove Fertility we offer comprehensive financial counseling to every patient. The good news is that approximately 70 percent of patients have some level of insurance coverage for testing and treatment, depending on the carrier. Almost all patients have at least some coverage for the initial consultation with a physician. SGF also proudly offers our Shared Risk 100% Refund Program. Eligible patients receive up to six in vitro fertilization (IVF) or donor egg cycles and any subsequent frozen embryo transfers (FETs) for one flat fee. In the event the attempts are unsuccessful, the patient may be eligible for a 100% refund. SGF also offers the Shared Help plan, which provides discounts for most costs associated with testing and treating infertility.

Fertility Myth #11: Every fertility center is the same.

It is very important for anyone considering fertility treatment to do a bit of homework. The most important factors prospective patients should look for in a fertility center are the center’s success rates, and more specifically the delivery rate. The pregnancy rate is not analogous to the rate of live births. Second, look at the physicians’ experience and expertise. Find out if they are recognized as upstanding members and participants in the medical community and whether the center is active in research. Convenience should be on your checklist as well. During treatment, regular monitoring is necessary and traveling long distances every other day for up to a week will only add to your stress level.

If you are struggling to conceive, don’t wait to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist. The earlier you seek help, the sooner you will be on the road to parenthood.

Medical Contribution by: Dr. Paulette Browne of SGF’s Fair Oaks, VA location.

To learn more about fertility myths or to schedule an appointment, please call our New Patient Liaisons at 1-877-971-7755 or click here.