For over two decades we have harnessed the power of the internet to help in every facet of life, from dating, to shopping, to medical questions. When it comes to fertility, a topic not generally discussed at dinner parties or lunches with friends, looking for information online prior to a doctor’s visit can provide either helpful reassurance or added stress. But either way, researched information does not necessarily hold the answers for fertility questions. Last week, Shady Grove Fertility’s Isaac Sasson, M.D., Ph.D., told the Chicago Tribune, “There is lots of good information out there but also lots of myths and unproven remedies.” Adding to the potential confusion is the recent flurry of apps that have replaced hand-written calendars and notebooks to help track physical indications of fertility. While this data can be helpful, there are many generalities that can lead to misconceptions about your fertility before you have stepped through your doctor’s front door.
With help from Dr. Sasson and fertility specialists around the country, the Chicago Tribune’s Alison Bowen rounded up the most common fertility myths and facts.
Fertility Myth #1: Day 14 is not always the target number.
Since high school health class we’ve been taught that a woman’s menstrual cycle is 28 days long, which (divided in half) makes day 14 the right day to try to conceive. The truth is that most women don’t ovulate on a 28-day cycle, so longer or shorter cycles will change the ideal date for conception. According to the article, 65 percent of women ovulate outside of days 13 to 15.
Fertility Myth #2: Wait a year before seeing a doctor.
At Shady Grove Fertility, we advise couples to learn as early intervention leads to the most favorable outcomes. When a woman is under 35, we recommend couples try for 1 year before consulting a physician. Sasson told the Tribune that couples 35 and older should check in at 6 months, and even sooner for over 40. Women with previously known conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), frequently irregular periods, or recurring miscarriages should see a specialist immediately; along with men who have known lower testosterone levels.
Fertility Myth #3: I’m in good shape so my fertility must be too.
Your healthy diet and strict workout routine won’t affect your ovarian reserve or indicate how long it’ll take to get pregnant. “I think the common myth that I hear is, ‘I’m young, and I’m healthy; I’m not going to have any trouble,'” Sasson said. One of the best indicators of a woman’s fertility is her anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level. This hormone level provides insight into a woman’s current egg supply, or how many eggs a woman has. At Shady Grove Fertility, we recommend women who are either trying to conceive or who are considering freezing their eggs for future use, to have their AMH tested.
Fertility Myth #4: Taking testosterone helps produce more sperm.
For men who are diagnosed with low testosterone, physicians caution that artificial testosterone—whether in the form of a gel, injection, or long-acting pellet—can “trick” the brain into thinking the production of testosterone from the testicle is higher than it actually is. Thus, with testosterone supplements, the natural response is for the pituitary to start reducing the “charge” to the testicle that normally leads to sperm production. Over a few months, this under stimulation effect actually leads to significantly lower sperm production. Bottom line for men, during their most fertile years, physicians advise to avoid low testosterone products completely.
Fertility Myth #5: It’s ok if I wait to start a family until I’m 35.
The reality is, a woman’s age is the number one indicator of fertility potential. However, the common misunderstanding is that fertility potential does not change until much later in life. Often, Sasson said, “women think that their fertility will continue until menopause. The truth is that it’s not easy to have a baby for anybody at any age. We talk about 35 as an important number, because at 35, egg quality significantly starts to decline.”
Age is an important factor for both men and women. As men age, their testosterone levels decrease, affecting the quality and quantity of their sperm. As a woman ages, both her egg quantity and quality decreases. At 20 weeks gestation, women have about 6 million eggs; by the time a woman reaches puberty, she will only have about 200,000 eggs left. This decrease is steady until about the age of 35, when the decline in fertility starts to expedite. For example, “At 35 years old, I would expect about 50 percent of the eggs to be normal, compared with about 75 percent of eggs in a 25-year-old,” Sasson explains.
With many couples trying to conceive in their mid-to-late 30s, conception has become more difficult. The good news is that vitrification, the most reliable flash-freeze technology, is available for couples who wish to freeze embryos or women who wish to freeze their eggs for future conception.
Click to read the entire 5 Common Fertility Myths article.