If you are among the 7.3 million American women or 2 million couples in the U.S. living with infertility, you know the heartache and loneliness it can cause as you try to build your family. But if infertility doesn’t impact you personally, it is highly likely that someone you know has encountered infertility in the past or is experiencing it right now.
For National Infertility Awareness Week 2017, this year's theme is "Listen Up!" The public awareness campaign is created so that you can feel empowered to make a difference, either in your own family building journey or to help someone else. To help shed a light on this under-talked-about issue, here are 10 myths about infertility that you need to stop believing.
Myth 01: Infertility is rare.
Infertility can affect women of any age and from any background. In fact, approximately one out of every seven couples trying to conceive today experience difficulties with infertility. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 12 percent of women in the U.S. ages 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. That’s nearly one in five women in the U.S. So it’s likely that you know someone struggling with infertility, whether they choose to share it or not.
Myth 02: Stress causes infertility.
Women struggling with infertility are often told, "Just relax and it will happen!" But it's not as simple as that. Stress doesn't cause infertility, but it can delay ovulation through hormone suppression. On the contrary, infertility might contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression in couples trying to conceive.
Myth 03: Only women with "regular" cycles have normal fertility.
Researchers at the University of Utah Office of Cooperative Reproductive Health found that the 28-day length represents only about 13 percent of cycles. The distribution of cycle length looks like a bell curve, centered around the 28-day mark, which means that there is a lot of variability in average cycle length.
Myth 04: People who have children can't be infertile.
Infertility is defined by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists as not having become pregnant after twelve months of regular, unprotected sex. Some couples who struggle with subfertility—like women with PCOS or thyroid disorder—are able to conceive naturally with the right combination of lifestyle factors and/or medication. On the other hand, the CDC reports that 11% of couples who have had a child experience secondary infertility, meaning they are unable to conceive again.
Myth 05: Infertility is mostly a female problem.
One in ten men have experienced infertility, yet nearly half of them have not sought medical help. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that men had a higher rate of chromosomal abnormalities in their sperm when their diet was low in folic acid and vitamin E. And regardless of whether or not infertility is due to a male or female factor, infertility can often cause deep emotional suffering among men.
Myth 06: When a couple adopts, they are more likely to get pregnant.
The National Infertility Association reports, "This is one of the most painful myths for couples to hear. First, it suggests that adoption is only a means to an end, not [a] happy and successful end in itself. Second, it is simply not true." Studies reveal that infertile couples who adopt have the same rate of conceiving successfully as infertile couples who do not adopt.
Myth 07: Taking the pill doesn't affect fertility.
It can take 3-6 months for your cycle to regulate after stopping the pill. The pill works by suppressing your natural hormones—which are responsible for ovulation—and it can take a few months for your hormones to balance out, even after all of the medication is out of your system.
Myth 08: Age isn't a big factor in infertility.
Research published just this month shows that fertility declines significantly around the age of 35 for women. Professor Greg FitzHarris explains, "One of the main causes of female infertility is a defect in the eggs that causes them to have an abnormal number of chromosomes. These...become increasingly prevalent as a woman ages. This is a key reason that older women have trouble getting pregnant and having full-term pregnancies. It is also known that these defective eggs increase the risk of miscarriage and Down's syndrome in full-term babies."
Myth 09: Infertility is only caused by reproductive problems.
The CDC lists that cause of infertility includes genetic abnormalities, certain acute and chronic diseases, exposure to certain environmental toxins, smoking, and alcohol use (more than one drink per day).
Myth 10: Giving advice and solutions to infertility are the best answer.
Whether a woman chooses to pursue fertility treatments or not, offering solutions for infertility may be well-intentioned, but they are emotionally and physically draining. “I’m here for you. I want to support you. You are a strong woman," are what a woman struggling with infertility desires and deserves to hear most.
Photo Credit: Olivia Leigh Photography