Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.
1 in 10 American couples are diagnosed as infertile each year. This diagnosis can have huge implications on a relationship, altering it dramatically. The diagnosis can lead to depression, anxiety and a sense of shame as it threatens the lifelong expectations of hopes of parenthood.
Luckily, not all hope is to be lost. Medical advances such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) have made it possible for many couples who were deemed 'infertile' to conceive. However, fertility treatments such as these do carry risks. These treatments and risks can often be misunderstood.
Here are five common misconceptions:
1 - Women are more likely to be infertile than men
Due to the woman carrying the baby, not the man, people often think that the infertility issue must be related to the female anatomy. When in fact, men and women are equally responsible. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, there is an even split between putting the onus on the male, female and the couple. 1/3 of cases are down to the male, 1/3 of cases are attributable to the female and the rest are either both sides of the couple or unexplained.
The primary causes of infertility in males is low sperm count, poor sperm movement and abnormal sperm shape. The causes for women are irregular ovulation, endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome and diminished ovarian reserve due to age.
2 - Stress causes infertility
Anyone that has experienced infertility has at some point if their journey has gotten advice such as "Relax, you're trying too hard. Just take a break and you'll get pregnant."
While stress and infertility have been linked, stress does not cause infertility. Although, the research does not fully account for the indirect effects of stress, such as alcohol use, increased smoking, infrequent sex and dropping out of treatment.
Some studies have found that seeking counselling to help with the stress may improve pregnancy rates. Other studies have found this to only be evident in couples not receiving medical treatments. It's true that counselling can help couples reduce stress and cope more effectively but they should not expect that counselling will increase their chances of pregnancy.
Overall, the thought that stress causes infertility unfairly places the responsibility for treatment failure or success on the shoulders of the woman, a conclusion which is not supported by science.
3 - IVF works for most patients
4 - The Doctor can tell you what you need to know
5 - Science and healthy living have extended the biological clock