Dr. Paulette Browne from SGF’s Fair Oaks, VA office talks with Today.com about common fertility myths and what is fact vs. fiction when it comes to fertility.

Myth: If your healthy, it’s easier to get pregnant.
While being obese makes it harder for women to get pregnant and men to impregnate women, there is no correlation between healthy eating and exercise habits and being able to conceive. There are plenty of women who have poor eating habits and are very fertile and the opposite of people who exercise regularly and eat well, but can’t get pregnant without assistance. The reality is—healthy habits don’t make women more fertile.

The real factor that impacts a woman’s fertility is her age. Women are born with all the eggs they’ll ever have, and the number will steadily decline as a woman gets older.

“Fertility declines with age,” says Dr. Browne. “The ovarian reserves are all the eggs you will have. At birth there are 2 million and at puberty there are only 200,000,” adds Browne.

Myth: Fertility drops dramatically after age 35.
While it’s true that a woman’s fertility declines as she gets older, most women’s ovarian reserve starts to diminish more rapidly around age 37 or 38.  And for some women, diminished ovarian reserve can occur in her 20s. “Thirty five was a little bit of a made-up number,” Browne said. Originally they called 35 ‘advanced maternal age’ because it was when they needed to decide to offer amniocentesis (a sampling of the amniotic fluid taken to test for genetic disorders).” “Some people’s fertility declines dramatically and some people’s fertility stays the same,” says Browne.

If you are trying to conceive, it’s important to follow the guidelines of age and length of time having unprotected intercourse to know when it’s time to seek help. This will give women/couples the knowledge they need to know when a fertility specialist is needed.

Myth: Celebrities get pregnant all the time in their 40s and 50s, it should be easy for me.
Most likely if you are getting pregnant in your 40s or even 50s, often those women are using eggs they froze previously or donor eggs from a younger woman. The chances of women in their 40s or 50s becoming pregnant naturally is much smaller, but that’s not to say it’s impossible. What is true is that women in their 40s and older have a higher rate of miscarriage than pregnant women in their 20s or 30s. And as women move further into their 40s, miscarriage rates increase, as does the likelihood of a chromosomal abnormality.

Getting pregnant with donor eggs from a younger women is the only fertility treatment option where the age of the female partner does not impact the outcome. Donor egg treatment is the same process as IVF except the egg used comes from a donor. Since donors are ages 21 to 32 and thoroughly screened, donor egg treatment is the most effective fertility treatment, with a 60 percent clinical pregnancy rate per embryo transfer.

Myth: Infertility is a woman’s problem.
Infertility does not discriminate. Men are just as responsible for not being able to get pregnant as women. The truth is, 40 to 50 percent of all infertility diagnosis are attributed to the male. Some of the common causes of male infertility include sperm production disorders (low sperm count or abnormal sperm parameters), obstructive problems (blockage prevents sperms ability to meet the egg), and immune system disorders (sperm can be weakened by natural antibiodies that hinder sperm from reaching the egg).

This is why, at SGF, we test both partners simultaneously—men have a semen analysis, and women have bloodwork and an ultrasound to determine the cause of infertility. A thorough work-up is key to helping couples achieve the ultimate goal of becoming a parent.

Myth: Relax and you’ll get pregnant.
This is probably the most frustrating phrase for people to hear who are struggling to conceive. There is no body of evidence that indicates that a woman’s level of stress affects her pregnancy rate.

Infertility is inherently stressful. Most individuals are used to planning their lives. They may believe that if they work hard at something, they can achieve it. So when it’s hard to get pregnant, they feel as if they don’t have control of their bodies or of their goal of becoming parents. With infertility, no matter how hard you work, it may not be possible to have a baby without help.

Decreasing stress may not increase pregnancy rates or treatment success, but it may improve feelings of well-being and quality of life as you continue on your journey to create or expand your family.

To learn more about fertility myths or to schedule an appointment with an SGF physician, please contact the New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or complete the brief online form.