Fertility myths: separating fact from fiction

Myth: If men ejaculate they are fertile.

Truth: Males may have very low sperm count, low sperm motility or poor-quality sperm and still ejaculate. In some cases the ejaculate may contain no sperm at all. The only way of knowing what ejaculate contains is through analysis in a laboratory.

Myth: Fertility issues are more likely to affect women than men.

Truth: Conception difficulties occur equally in men and women. Male and female factors each account for about a third of complications. The remaining third are either a combination of both or are unexplained. 

Myth: There’s time to keep trying until the age of 40.

Truth: Age affects the success rates of infertility treatments as well as your natural ability to get pregnant. Fertility declines steeply after the age 35. By the age of 40 a healthy women has about 5% chance of getting pregnant in a given month.1 It is recommended to seek medical advice after 12 months of trying, or after 6 months for women over age 35 years.2

Myth: We shouldn’t have any problems because we’re both young and healthy.

Truth: Age affects fertility, but it doesn’t determine it. And just because you're young and healthy doesn't mean you are particularly fertile. If you’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for a year without success, arrange to see your doctor.2 Your medical history could be standing in the way of conception. Find out more about the kinds of medical conditions that affect fertility.

Myth: Women going through fertility treatments end up with twins or triplets.

Truth: The majority of women who succeed with fertility treatments will have a single child. The risk of multiple pregnancies with infertility treatments is higher than usual, but can be minimized. Currently on average 21% of pregnancies resulting from IVF and ICSI are twins and 1% are triplets.4 This is primarily due to the practice of transferring several embryos into the uterus to increase chances for success. Discuss with your doctor ways to minimize the risk of multiple pregnancies.

Myth: Our first baby was easily conceived, so we’re not expecting any problems with the second.

Truth: There is cause for optimism. But things may also have changed since then. Some couples are diagnosed with secondary infertility, which can occur despite a successful pregnancy.

Myth: Fertility treatments go against nature.

Truth: Being able to conceive a child is the most natural thing for humans. Fertility treatments attempt to remove or bypass barriers causing your conception difficulties hoping that nature will do the rest.

Myth: Couples often get pregnant once they adopt a child.

Truth: There is no proof that pregnancy and adoption are linked any way. Some stories travel better then others and you probably don’t hear about those couples who adopt and don’t get pregnant.

Myth: Both partners need to orgasm to conceive.

Truth: Of course to ejaculate, a man must reach orgasm. But female orgasm is not essential for a woman to become pregnant. Some research suggests female orgasm may aid sperm along the reproductive tract. However, pressure to achieve female orgasm can also add stress, which is unhelpful.

Myth: The more often we have sex the higher our chances of getting pregnant.

Truth: Frequent intercourse (every 1 to 2 days) yields the highest pregnancy rates, but results achieved with less frequent intercourse (two to three times per week) are nearly equivalent.3 The best time to conceive is during the “fertile window” – that is, during the 6-day interval ending on the day of ovulation.Use the ovulation calculator to help determine your fertility peak.

 

1. Age and Fertility. A Guide for Patients. ASRM 2003; http://www.asrm.org/Patients/patientbooklets/agefertility.pdf  2. Definitions of fertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. Fertil Steril 2008;90:S60.  3. Optimizing Natural Fertility. Fertil Steril 2008; 90:S1-6.  4. ESHRE. The European IVF monitoring programme (EIM), for the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE). Assisted reproductive technology in Europe, 2005. Results generated from European Registers by ESHRE. Hum Reprod 2009;24:1267-1287.