The Facts About InFertility
Infertility is often a misunderstood topic. Confusion and inaccurate information abound that can cloud the facts. At Shady Grove Fertility, we encourage you to do your homework and become informed with accurate, reliable, truthful information about infertility. We are hopeful your physician, your health care team, and this website will serve as a wonderful resource for you.
11 Fertility Facts
Fact #1: Infertility doesn’t discriminate.
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system and it affects both men and women. For this reason, during the initial infertility work-up, it is imperative to test the male partner’s fertility as well as the female partner’s fertility. In 40 to 50 percent of infertility cases, male factor is the cause, making it necessary to review the male’s test results—in addition to the female’s—as part of the diagnostic work-up.
Fact #2: You are not alone.
It seems that everyone knows someone who has had trouble conceiving. On average, one in eight couples of reproductive age will be infertile. However, our experience at Shady Grove Fertility is if couples seek treatment, most will be successful in having a baby. Patient advocacy groups and online patient networks are great resources for information about support and finding other couples experiencing infertility. Remember, you are not alone.
Fact #3: The female partner’s age is a key indicator of future success.
You will find this fact emphasized throughout this website and it cannot be repeated often enough. The single most common misconception among women is that they can achieve a pregnancy at any age. Unfortunately this is not true. A woman’s fertility naturally decreases with age and fertility treatment results follow the same downward trend; they decrease beginning in the early 20s and drop more rapidly after 35. Even with in vitro fertilization (IVF), pregnancies over the age of 42 are uncommon. But what about those Hollywood stars who are having babies at 45, 48, and even 52? Those women are most likely using donor eggs or froze their eggs when they were younger.
Fact #4: Even if you’ve already had a child, secondary infertility is possible.
Secondary infertility—the inability to get pregnant naturally or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving one or more children—is actually quite common. According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, approximately 12 percent of women in the United States have secondary infertility, and it accounts for more than half of all infertility cases. However, unlike those with primary infertility, people affected by secondary infertility are much less likely to seek infertility treatments. For some, this is out of guilt or shame, for others it’s because of confusion surrounding how infertility could now exist even though they already have a child. In reality, a number of things can cause secondary infertility, including advanced maternal age, damaged or blocked Fallopian tubes, problems with ovulation, endometriosis, and problems with sperm production.
Fact #5: Knowing when to seek help gives you the most options.
For women younger than 35, infertility is defined as 12 months of unprotected intercourse without conception occurring. For women older than 35 to 39, it is defined as 6 months of unprotected intercourse without conception. For women 40 and older, we recommend seeing a specialist after 3 months of trying to conceive.
Additionally, it is important to realize that the definition of trying to conceive does not mention frequency or timing of intercourse, the use of ovulation predictor kits or temperature charts, checking the mucus, or any other methods other than having unprotected intercourse. Therefore, a couple having regular, unprotected intercourse is effectively “trying to conceive” whether they realize it or not.
Further, if a woman is experiencing irregular periods (or none at all) or has experienced two or more miscarriages, she should speak with a fertility specialist, regardless of how long she and her partner have been trying to conceive.
Lastly, as for knowing when to seek treatment, early intervention can make all the difference in your ability to get pregnant sooner. In many cases, a referral from your OB/GYN is not required and the initial consult is covered by insurance 90 percent of the time. In fact, 50 percent of SGF patients self-refer.
Fact #6: Knowing where to seek medical help is critical. Investigate the center’s reputation, expertise, experience, and outcomes.
Women who are trying to conceive have options for the type of specialist they choose to visit first: many women begin at their OB/GYN or primary care provider, while some will go directly to a reproductive endocrinologist or fertility center. Most doctors will begin the same way, ordering an infertility work-up of the male and female partners to uncover any potential causes of infertility. The OB/GYN may perform surgery to improve physical conditions, or possibly prescribe clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene) treatment to induce ovulation or to overcome a very mild form of male factor infertility. If pregnancy is not achieved after 3 months of Clomid or if the woman’s age is a factor, it’s best to be under the care of a fertility specialist. In fact, more and more OB/GYNs are referring patients to Shady Grove Fertility when infertility is first suspected, citing the advantages of patients going to a specialist whose entire practice is focused on infertility. Infertility impacts couples medically, emotionally, and financially. You want to be sure that you are going to the best place for you and your partner.
From a medical perspective, evaluate your doctor’s training, the clinic’s track record of success, and their treatment volume. At Shady Grove Fertility, the volume of patients we care for gives us tremendous insight into the best fertility practices. The data we can collect in a few months may take many other centers/physician groups years to gather.
From an emotional perspective, what kind of support resources do they offer and is it integrated into the practice or part of an outside service? Are you comfortable with interactions you’ve had with staff? Cost is a big issue—do you get the sense they are on your team when it comes to insurance and payment options? Most importantly, seek a recommendation from people you trust: your OB/GYN or friends who have gone to the fertility center.
Fact # 7: Insurance may not cover fertility treatment, but there are many affordable options.
Shady Grove Fertility participates with more than 30 insurance companies, and 70 percent of our patients have some coverage for testing, treatment, or medications. For those patients without insurance benefits, we offer many exclusive financial options, including guarantee programs and multi-cycle and medication discounts, even assistance programs such as Shared Help for people with limited income. It is part of our mission at Shady Grove Fertility to make treatment as affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.
Fact #8: IVF is typically not the first step.
Many patients will begin with basic treatment, achieve a pregnancy, and never have a need for in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is considered an advanced treatment. However, some patients may need to go straight to IVF or donor egg treatment due to their diagnosis, such as blocked Fallopian tubes or advanced maternal age. At Shady Grove Fertility, we practice a stepped-care approach, always balancing your chances of success with the simplicity of the procedure. While IVF offers outstanding success rates, it may not be necessary. In fact, more than 50 percent of the treatment cycles our physicians perform are considered basic treatments.
Fact #9: IVF is not experimental but a proven, reliable treatment method with success rates continuously on the rise.
Since Louise Brown was first born from IVF in 1978, the reproductive medicine field has seen remarkable technological advances that have made it possible for millions of couples to conceive through assisted reproductive technology (ART). Pregnancy rates from fertility treatment have nearly doubled since the advent of IVF, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has nearly eliminated the need for donor sperm in severe cases of male infertility.
Fact #10: IVF does not always mean multiples and the incidence of multiple pregnancies is drastically decreasing.
Shady Grove Fertility has nearly eliminated the incidence of high-order multiple births by leading the charge in transferring only one embryo, called elective single embryo transfer, or eSET, whenever possible.
Fact #11: More of the same treatment is not always better.
When you are going through any fertility treatment, it is important to understand that your chances for pregnancy are most likely going to be optimized by three to six treatment cycles. If pregnancy isn’t happening and your health care team has not discovered any new information to help improve the current treatment plan, it is time to move on to the next option.