Myths & Realities: Infertility has been a Hush Affair

There are several myths about infertility, none of them are supported and could prove to be detrimental in treatment.
Myths & Realities: Infertility has been a Hush Affair
Image Credit: Kokilaben Hospital

For years, infertility has been a hush-hush affair in our society. Couples who are not able to conceive naturally seek advice from older family members or learn from the experiences of others and the information that they receive may not always be correct.

As a result, there are several myths surrounding infertility, none of which are supported by medical research and could prove to be detrimental in treatment. Couples must seek timely medical help as age is an important criterion for the success of treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), which can help them have biological babies of their own. Today, we have attempted to clear the air around some of the common myths surrounding infertility.

Myth: Infertility only affects women

Reality: If we go by data, the female is responsible for infertility in about 50 percent of the cases and the male in 50 percent. In 20-30 percent of cases, there is a problem on both sides. So, infertility is as prevalent in men as in women. On the contrary, male factor infertility is on the rise owing to factors such as pollution, and lifestyle issues like smoking and alcoholism.

When patients come to us, one of the first investigations is a semen analysis without which we don't proceed. But, there is a change in mindset in recent years and male partners have started accompanying their wives to doctors. Unlike earlier when patients were brought in by mothers or mothers-in-law.

Myth: Birth control pills cause infertility

Reality: The new generation birth control pills – third-gen and fourth-gen – which we prescribe today have very low levels of hormones that cannot cause infertility. They are safe to have for women wanting to avoid a pregnancy.

Image Credit: MSR blog
Image Credit: MSR blog

But, even if these pills are consumed for a long time, there is no correlation with becoming infertile in the future. It is advised that couples planning to have a baby should wait for 2-3 months after stopping the pill before trying to conceive so that the effect of the medication completely wears off from the system.

Myth: Infertility is not an Indian problem and impacts only a very small section of our population

Reality: Late marriages, an increased orientation towards education and career for girls without a parallel thought towards family planning, and lifestyle issues such as smoking, alcohol, and obesity have led to an increase in infertility in Indian men and women in recent years. As women grow older, their biological clock starts ticking.

This has an impact on both the quality and quantity of eggs produced in the body. For men too, stressful and sedentary lifestyles are resulting in a decrease in both sperm count and motility. Due to all of these factors, infertility has become a common problem in India.

Myth: A woman can't get pregnant after 40

Reality: Medical science today has made it possible for women to have healthy pregnancies even at the age of 50. Conception depends on the number of eggs remaining for a woman and their quality, not her age. But, the chances of success of procedures like IVF go down with advancing age.

Studies have indicated a 28 percent drop in live birth rate when the age of the woman shifts from 'under 35' to '35-40'. A 46 percent drop when the age is 'over 42'. While pregnancy is possible with medical intervention. For options like frozen eggs or even embryos, doctors need to judge the effect. Ageing on ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, and sperms.

Myth: After having one biological child, you cannot be infertile

Reality: This is not true. There can be a variety of factors that can cause infertility after a couple had a biological child. We see cases where there is a 10-year gap between the first and second child. In which time the age of the mother has advanced making it tougher to conceive.

The higher the age, the tougher it gets to conceive naturally. Sometimes, changes can occur in the uterus during delivery. Or there could be weight issues, which also cause a problem in conception. Another factor could be an infection that causes a blockage in the fallopian tubes. Couples must consult a doctor before planning a pregnancy, even if it is not the first.

Myth: Couples conceiving through medical assistance must be on complete bed rest

Reality: When pregnancy is natural or through some medical intervention, the pregnant lady can continue with her normal routine of work and day-to-day activities. We sometimes hear that infertility patients are asked by their families to go for 24-hour bedrest. This is not needed and can cause a hindrance to a healthy pregnancy and delivery. My advice is that pregnancy is a natural phenomenon, and one must keep it simple.

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