What's the truth, and what are just old wives' tales?
Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition, which is why there's so much confusion surrounding it. Here are seven common myths to watch out for -- and help dispel.
Myth 1: It's easy for most women to get pregnant.
While it's true that many woman conceive without difficulty, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States -- or one in every 10 couples -- have problems with infertility. Certain health conditions and factors, such as age, can affect a woman's ability to conceive. For instance, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month; while by age 40, her chances drop to about 5 percent a month. But infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background.
Myth 2: Men don't have infertility problems.
Though it's commonly believed that infertility is a "women's problem," nothing is further from the truth. About 35 percent of all infertility cases treated in the United States are due to a female problem. But 35 percent (an equal number!) can be traced to a male problem, 20 percent to a problem in both partners, and 10 percent to unknown causes.
Myth 3: Infertility is a psychological -- not physical -- problem.
Well-meaning friends and relatives may suggest "infertility is all in your head" or "if you'd stop worrying so much, you'd get pregnant." But in reality, infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system -- and not a psychological disorder. In fact, one or more physical causes are identified in the vast number of infertile couples. So while relaxing, going on vacation, or finding positive ways to de-stress can improve your overall well-being, these lifestyle changes won't solve your infertility problems.
Myth 4: Couples who "work" hard enough at having a baby will eventually get pregnant.
New methods of diagnosing and treating infertility have improved many couples' chances of having a baby. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), more than half of all couples who pursue treatment will achieve a successful pregnancy. On the other hand, it's important to remember that infertility is a medical disease and that problems sometimes remain untreatable -- no matter how hard a couple "works" at solving them.
Myth 5: Once a couple adopts a child, the woman will become pregnant.
This particular myth is not only painful for infertile couples to hear, but it's also untrue. First of all, it suggests that adoption is simply a means to an end (a pregnancy), and not, in and of itself, a valid and wonderful way to form a family. Secondly, only about 5 percent of couples who do adopt later become pregnant. This success rate is the same for couples who don't adopt and become pregnant without further treatment.
Myth 6: Husbands often leave their wives if they're infertile.
As stated earlier, infertility is a medical condition that affects both men and women equally. In fact, about 40 percent of the time, the male partner is either the sole or contributing cause of infertility, according to ASRM. While many couples do find the process of infertility testing and treatment rigorous, stressful, and intrusive (not to mention costly), they do get through it -- together. Many partners also find new and deeper ways of relating to each other and discover that their marriage has become even stronger.
Myth 7: Infertile couples will never be happy or fulfilled.
Being unable to conceive a much-wanted child (or carry a pregnancy to term) can fill a couple with sadness, grief, anger, despair, and even a sense of personal failure. While it's normal for infertile couples to experience a range of powerful emotions, most people do move through this life crisis successfully and gradually put it into better perspective. For some couples, "moving on" means letting go of their initial dreams of having a baby. Other couples decide to adopt. But in either case, couples do learn that there is life after infertility and find myriad ways to fulfill themselves -- with or without children.
Sources: American Society for Reproductive Medicine; RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association; The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary S. Berger, MD, Marc Goldstein, MD, and Mark Fuerst (Broadway Books)
All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others