Octomom, “John & Kate Plus Eight,” and countless other multiple birth stories spotlight alarming infertility statistics while often overshadowing the advanced reproductive technologies that are helping more than 6 million couples in the U.S. build their much-desired families. Often couples try for years to have a child before they seek help when they could get a basic fertility work-up much sooner, which would indicate if there is truly a fertility problem. Many people don’t seek help because of the myths surrounding reproductive assistance. Below, Dr. Elizabeth Barbieri, a board-certified specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Oregon Reproductive Medicine, debunks the most popular misconceptions in an effort to set the record straight.
Myth: You could get cancer from fertility treatments.
Fact: This debate is ongoing in the field, but the National Institutes of Health suggests there is no correlation. It finds that overall, ovulation-inducing fertility treatments like Clomid and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) do not significantly increase a woman’s odds of developing breast or other cancers.
Myth: Women are having children later and later, so the biological clock isn’t an issue anymore.
Fact: While many of the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) do treat women over age 40, there are more challenges as we age. Our bodies and reproductive capabilities diminish as we age making it more challenging to get pregnant. It’s best not to wait if you are considering having a child.
Many older women are able to create their families through the use of donor eggs, rather than their own eggs. A donor egg may be able to turn back biological clock, but many women may not disclose that this is how they conceived, supporting the misnomer that it is still easy to conceive as we age.
RELATED: Coming to Grips With Infertility
Myth: My period is always regular so I can’t have an issue with infertility.
Fact: A regular period is a good sign, but it does not mean you are fertile. There are many issues that you can have even with a regular period including but not limited to endometriosis. Also, a regular period will never tell you if there is a male infertility issue that is going undiagnosed.
Infertility can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as the male factor (a problem with sperm) or blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis. A woman with regular menstrual cycles may have one of these causes of infertility and not be aware of it since none of these factors affect her menstrual cycle.
Myth: I will have twins or triplets if I do IVF.
Fact: NOT true. Twin and triplet pregnancies most often occur after transferring two, three or more embryos. It is critical to go to a doctor who will be responsible and follow guidelines for limiting the numbers of embryos transferred. There is published data on www.SART.org that reports the twin and triplet rate for every IVF clinic in the United States. Your best research is to ask to speak with other fertility patients for a doctor who uses single embryo transfers.
Even with transferring one embryo, there is a 1 percent risk that the embryo may split into two, resulting in identical twins.
Myth: If I just keep trying each month, I will eventually get pregnant.
Fact: This is not always true and many couples waste very valuable “fertility time” with trying. Almost 99 percent of fertility issues can be solved with medication or treatment. Going it on your own for more than a year isn’t a good idea, at any age. If you are over age 40, seek help after 6 months of trying.
Myth: Our problems are too serious to be treated. We are meant to be childless even if we don’t want to be.
Fact: Almost all couples who undergo fertility treatment do have their child through one of the many options that are available to couples today. If you want to build a family, there are so many alternatives that can be explored, many including a variety of medical and surgical interventions, and advanced fertility treatments with donor egg, donor sperm and donor embryos.
Myth: I am too emotional and worried about getting pregnant. If I only could just relax, I’m sure I’d get pregnant.
Fact: Emotions and pregnancy do not go hand-in-hand. If you have a medical fertility issue, no amount of relaxing will ever help. Those who struggle to conceive often are upset and overwhelmed, and those are normal emotions when struggling to conceive. But your emotions are not preventing you from getting pregnant.
Myth: I need to eat better and exercise to get pregnant.
Fact: While eating well and exercising are good for everyone, these two things do not dictate whether or not you will get pregnant. Obesity, however, can cause issues conceiving, and you could require additional medical care if you are trying to get pregnant.
Elizabeth A. Barbieri, MD, is a board-certified specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Oregon Reproductive Medicine.