This week is national infertility awareness week, a week dedicated to raising awareness, challenging stigmas, and providing support to the millions of families impacted by infertility. Current estimates suggest around 1 in 8 and families in the United States have trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy. This means that chances are you know several people who are experiencing infertility, or that you have experienced it yourself.
And yet, like many difficult topics, the experience of infertility is often shrouded in shame and silence. Because we don’t talk about infertility openly, there is significant misinformation that goes unchallenged and uncorrected. This, in turn, contributes to stigma, isolation, and a sense of shame around infertility. In my private practice, I find that correcting this misinformation goes a long way in combating this.
In recognition of national infertility awareness week, I wanted to bring attention to 5 of the most common myths about infertility.
1. Myth: Infertility is a women’s problem
Fact: Infertility affects men and women equally. Around 35% of infertility cases are due to male factors, 35% are due to female factors, 20% are combined male and female factors, and 10% are unexplained.
2. Younger people don’t experience infertility
Fact: While age is often a significant contributing factor to infertility, it is not the only reason a couple may have trouble conceiving. Certain medical conditions, structural issues with the reproductive organs, genetic conditions, exposure to environmental toxins, and previous cancer treatment, can impact infertility. Additionally, some younger women are diagnosed with primary ovarian failure (early menopause).
3. Infertility only impacts certain types of people
Fact: Infertility does not discriminate. While there is a common image of infertility presented in popular media- typically an older, white, straight couple- infertility can impact anyone. This includes people of all races, single parents by choice, queer couples, and people from all ends of the economic spectrum.
4. If you’ve had a baby before you can’t experience infertility
Fact: Secondary infertility, the inability to conceive or carry a child to term following a prior successful pregnancy that did not involve impaired fertility, is much more common than you’d think. There are many reasons for this including the impact of age, the development of medical conditions that impact fertility or trying to conceive with a new partner.
5. Stress causes infertility
Fact: Infertility can cause stress- stress does not cause infertility. No matter what your helpful friend, acupuncturist, family member, or misinformed physician told you, stress does not make you infertile. This is the myth I hear repeated most from patients and may be the most pernicious. The implication of this misinformation is that treatment success is placed incorrectly on the shoulders of the patient and how calmly or not she is managing her diagnosis.
So, whether you are trying to support a friend through infertility, are experiencing it yourself, or not, it matters to be correctly informed about infertility. For some ideas on how to participate in national infertility awareness week, you can click here.