“If I hear one more ‘my friend got pregnant after five years of trying,’ or get emailed another article about the next crazy herbal treatment that can increase fertility, I’ll lose my mind,” says Linda Rice, a Massachusetts-based certified nurse and midwife who experienced fertility issues for three years before having a son.
Infertility is pretty common, too. According to Resolve, the National Infertility Association, an estimated 1 in 8 couples in the United States has trouble getting pregnant. Yet the advice they may hear is often not only unhelpful, it’s sometimes just plain wrong.
To set the record straight, we’ve asked several experts in the field to bust these myths about infertility.
While it’s true relaxing could help with infertility caused by chronic stress, infertility isn’t purely a psychological issue. Infertility is a medical condition. Your physical, reproductive health can’t be fixed by positive thinking, a refreshing vacation, or a new mindset.
This myth generally only considers what happens between the sheets, but it demoralizes couples who try other treatment options, too.
“Around 50 percent of couples who undergo infertility treatment will experience a successful pregnancy, but some infertility problems respond with a lower success rate,” says Dr. Suheil Muasher, an infertility specialist at Duke Fertility Center in Durham, NC. “This myth can be especially disheartening for couples who feel like they’re giving up if they find themselves unable to handle the physical, financial, or psychological toll of continued fertility treatments.”
Effort doesn’t always directly translate to success. Couples shouldn’t have to feel like they’re not already doing their best.
Despite women being the general target of pregnancy topics, infertility affects men and women equally. In fact, each sex has their own set of symptoms that may suggest infertility, such as testicle pain or change in period flow.
Women experience a significant decline in fertility, sometimes as much as 50 percent, between the ages of 32 and 37, according to Dr. Mark Surrey, a reproductive surgeon and medical director of Southern California Reproductive Center. However, women aren’t the only ones affected by age.
“Like female infertility, male infertility rates increase with age,” says Dr. Thomas Price, an infertility specialist at Duke Fertility Center. “After the age of 40, a man is likely to start experiencing decreases in semen volume and motility.”
Data shows that approximately 30 percent of infertility happens after the first child. This means even if a couple already has a child or children, they can experience difficulty in getting pregnant later.
“My husband and I easily had our first child, with no problems at all,” says Medeiros, who had her first daughter at age 27. “We felt that whenever we wanted to start to try for a second child, it would be very easy.”
When Medeiros wanted to expand her family two years later, she found they had difficulty getting pregnant. After five years of trying, she eventually turned to in vitro fertilization and gave birth to their second daughter. A year later, an unplanned pregnancy followed, bringing a third child to the family.
In reality, one of the largest factors of fertility for men and women comes down to health.
“If we try to live a healthy lifestyle, it will really help address infertility issues,” Diana Ramos, OB-GYN, co-chair of the National Preconception Health and Health Care Initiative, tells Healthline. “You have to know your body, listen to your body, and try to live healthy before you even start thinking about having a baby.”
- maintain a healthy weight
- take multivitamins
- refrain from drugs and high alcohol use
- cut back on smoking
Family planning around infertility comes down to personal choices that vary among couples. Every path looks different, and each individual choice is valid.
“Given I was thinking I was never going to have a baby, I was trying to find a new purpose in life,” says JF Garrard, who eventually had a surprise baby after five years of extensive fertility treatments. “I didn’t want to be defined by the fact that I couldn’t have babies.”
“I’m open to the fact that my family may be created in a way I wasn’t expecting,” added Andrea Syrtash, who has been navigating infertility since 2012. “Let’s face it, I’m already in a different place with this than I ever dreamed I would be.”
For more information on fertility and what it’s like when you’re trying to conceive, check out our fertility topic center.
Renée Fabian is a Los Angeles-based journalist who covers mental health, music and the arts, and more. Her work has been published on VICE, The Fix, Wear Your Voice, The Establishment, Ravishly, The Daily Dot, and The Week, among others. You can check out the rest of her work via her website and follow her on Twitter @ryfabian.