Myths and Facts about Infertility

Infertility means inability to become pregnant after trying in a proper manner for one year. It is often considered to be a personal and stressful life experience. Many myths surround this area and much of it is misunderstood. Some of the common myths and facts related to infertility are:

Myth: Infertility is not common in India.

Fact: According to WHO, the prevalence of primary infertility (refers to couples who have not become pregnant after at least 1 year of regular sexual intercourse without using any birth control methods) is 3% and that of secondary infertility (refers to couples who have been able to get pregnant at least once, but now are unable to) is 8%.

Myth: Infertility is always a woman’s problem.

Fact: NO, infertility is not always a woman's problem. In about one-third of cases, infertility is due to factors related to the female. In another third of cases, infertility is due to the male factors. The remaining cases are caused by a combination of male and female factors or by unknown factors (unexplained infertility).

Myth: Chances of pregnancy increase with having intercourse every day.

Fact: This is not true. Chances of pregnancy increase during ovulation (when the egg is released around mid-cycle from the ovary) and not the number of times the couple has sexual intercourse. Ideally, the best time to conceive is from 11th to 20th day of a woman’s menstrual cycle, counting from day 1 ina 28 day cycle.

Myth: Stress affects fertilityonly in women.

Fact: Stress can affect both men and women. It can contribute to loss of sex drive (libido), which, in turn, can reduce the frequency of sexual intercourse. In women, it can have an effect on ovulation and fertilization (fusion of egg and sperm), while, in men, it can affect the quality and quantity of sperms. Failure to conceive in turn increases stress.

Myth: Those who have delivered once cannot be infertile.

Fact: Many women suffer from secondary infertility–woman has previously conceived but is subsequently unable to do so. There are many factors that can affect this situation – age, lifestyle after the first birth, etc.

Myth: Fertility and age are not connected.

Fact: Not true. As age increases, fertility rate decreasesand miscarriage rates increase. That does not say that achieving a successful pregnancy at higher age is not possible, but it is more difficult and can require different forms of treatment. Also, lifestyle factors such as smoking, alcohol, weight, illegal drug use, diet, medical conditions and genetic disorders can affect fertility, whatever be the age. In men, the effects of age is not that significant.

Myth: Sperm function is better after a long period of abstinence (not having sexual intercourse).

Fact: Abstinence time of 3 - 4 days is generally considered the appropriate time for good quality sperms. Lengthy sexual abstinence may affect sperm characteristics such as motility.

Myth: Being on the hormonal oral contraceptive pill (OCP) for too long will lead to infertility.

Fact: NO. Long-term use of the pill does not have an effect on fertility. Once a woman has stopped taking the pill, it may take a while for her body’s natural hormones to take over. Most women who have been taking the OCPs conceive within a year of stopping the pill.

Myth: Infertility is hereditary.

Fact: Infertility is not hereditary but there are certain medical conditions that are hereditary & may interfere with a woman’s ability to get pregnant.

Myth: Weight has no effect on fertility.

Fact: Being overweight or being underweight can lead to a lot of difficulty in becoming pregnant. Overweight men may have poor sperm quality while women may have hormonal imbalance and increased chances of miscarriage and diabetes.

Myth: It is OK for the man or woman to smoke.

Fact: Not true. Smoking can reduce sperm count & motility in men, whereas, in woman it can speed up the reduction in the number of eggs and prolong conception time.

Myth: It is OK to take self-medicate for minor problems.

Fact: Not true. If a woman is planning to start a family, she should avoid self-medication as it can affect her chances to conceive by interfering with ovulation and her menses. Consult your Gynaecologist before taking any drug.

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