Infertility is a common struggle, and one we don’t talk about often enough. Approximately 1 in 6 Canadian couples struggle with infertility. Information is a powerful tool for any health journey, including reproductive health, and its crucial to stay on top of the science behind infertility and its causes, particularly if you are trying to conceive.
Here we’ve explored five myths related to infertility, in the hopes of spreading awareness and encouraging further education.
The Male Factor
Infertility is commonly thought of as a female problem, but this is simply not the case. Infertility does not impact women more than men. In fact, male factor infertility is present in nearly half of couples struggling to get pregnant.
Cisgender men may not have the same cut-off point as cis women in terms of age, but male fertility does decline as men get older. As Dr. Jen Gunter writes for the New York Times, “erectile dysfunction increases with age, and the quality of seminal fluid and sperm also declines.”
A study conducted in 2006 found that women with partners aged 35 or older had nearly three times as many miscarriages as compared with women conceiving with men younger than 25 years of age.
It’s important for couples who struggle with infertility to avoid blame, and to seek information that is backed by scientific evidence.
Birth control is designed to temporarily delay and prevent pregnancy, but can it have impacts on fertility in the long term? While many believe it can, this is based in myth.
As James Grifo (M.D., Ph.D.) writes in Forbes Health, “while it may take some time for a person’s menstrual cycle to return to normal after using hormonal birth control—including IUDs, the pill, a patch or an implant—there’s no evidence to suggest these contraceptives negatively affect fertility over the long term.
If your cycle hasn’t gone back to “normal” after three months of stopping birth control, it’s important to consult your OBGYN to see what’s happening.
While there is little evidence to suggest that birth control itself impacts a person's fertility, it can mask symptoms of underlying reproductive health issues, which can mean some people are left to discover these conditions later in life.
We see this a lot in popular culture—the idea that your choice of sex position can influence your chances of conceiving. This is indeed a myth! As Jennifer Kelly Geddes writes in an article for What to Expect, “Healthy sperm are excellent swimmers—and determined on their mission.”
This means that the best position for conception is the one that you as a couple enjoy the most.
Periods and Pregnancy
While your period is certainly not your most fertile time of month, you can in fact get pregnant during menstruation. It is rare, but it can happen.
Maria Masters explains in an article for What to Expect that people with irregular periods (those with short cycles, those whose periods last a long time, and those who have breakthrough bleeding or spotting) may have more trouble tracking their ovulation, and this can lead to unexpected pregnancy.
In an article for Northwestern Medicine’s Healthbeat, the publication discusses stress and its relation to infertility. Essentially, it is common for infertility to cause stress, but it is unlikely that stress is a direct cause of infertility.
In Forbes Health, Dr. James Grifo confirms that while stress does not cause infertility, “reducing [stress] provides a better quality of life during times of intense personal challenge, including when a couple is trying to conceive.”
He adds that it’s important to develop coping strategies while going through infertility diagnosis and treatment, for your overall health and well-being.
“Knowledge is certainly power,” Dr. Grifo says in the same article. “The more you understand, the more empowered you will be to make decisions that will help you achieve your fertility goals.”