When it comes to fertility, there is a lot of misinformation out there.
Meaning, there are many fertility myths that you shouldn’t believe and that may even be delaying your baby journey.
From the dangers of being a ‘geriatric’ mother to the limitations of IVF, we demystify the issues surrounding fertility and see if we cannot get you started on your baby-making journey.
Here are 5 myths that we’ve busted!
Myth 1 – Women over 35 cannot get pregnant
Many women today find themselves trying to conceive after the age of 35. This opportunity can be full of joy and and many questions with women being told that they simply cannot conceive after a certain age.
It is an absolute myth that you cannot have a baby after the age of 35, especially with all the help you can get, such as IVF, if necessary . However, of course, the risk factors of conceiving at and after the age of 35 are real, and it’s also harder for many women to get pregnant then.
The most common cause of age-related decline in fertility is less frequent ovulation. As women age, they begin to have occasional cycles where an egg is never released. Egg quality and quantity also declines in a woman’s 30s and 40s. While the total number of eggs cannot be increased, research has shown that egg quality can be improved using supplements.
Myth 2 – Getting pregnant when you’re older is harmful
Doctors sometimes worry about high rates of complications with pregnancy in older women. Older mothers do have higher rates of a number of medical problems during pregnancy, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and premature labour. But most won’t. One study found that around 80% of women aged over 45 had no major medical problems during pregnancy and more than 80% gave birth at full term.
There are good reasons for women to be aware of those risks of complications, and to take them into account when making decisions about whether or not to become pregnant.
But for women without pre-existing major health problems, the risks of pregnancy are not so high that they cannot start their fertility journey.
Myth 3 – IVF does not work with older women
The National fertility treatment guidelines in the UK justify not providing NHS IVF treatment to women aged over 42 because of low success rates. For example, the live birth rate following IVF in women over the age of 44 is only 2%.
Yet these “success” rates are based on IVF treatment with the woman’s own eggs. Women under 35 using their own eggs for IVF have about a 40% chance of having a baby, but for women over 42 that chance drops to 4.5%. However, using donor eggs changes the picture entirely: the chances of having a baby through IVF increases to 49.6% when fresh donor eggs are used, for women of any childbearing age.
This is because, for women who receive donor eggs or embryos, the chances of a live birth are based on the donor’s age, not on that of the recipient. Where the egg donor is young, older women have the same sort of chances of “success” with IVF as younger women. The recipient is simply providing the oven, with which to cook the younger eggs.
Myth 4 – You are less fertile after being on the pill for a long period of time
You may have friends or family members warn you about not taking the pill too long, because it may delay you getting pregnant once you’re off of it, but, luckily, that’s a myth.
Women are afraid that when they come off the pill they’ll have trouble getting pregnant, but that’s not the case. However, age may be the actual reason conceiving is harder, not the pill.
In fact, taking oral contraceptives can result in a short-term delay in achieving pregnancy of 2 to 6 months when a woman stops taking the pill, compared to other contraceptive use, according to a 2013 Danish study published in the journal Human Reproduction.
The study included 3,727 women, aged 18 to 40 years. The participants were asked to complete a questionnaire on a monthly basis for 12 months to determine if pregnancy occurred.
The researchers also found that women who had used birth control pills for longer rather than shorter time periods were more likely to get pregnant.
Similarly, long-term use had no negative effect on the probability of getting pregnant.
Myth 5 – Only women are responsible for problems with conceiving
When couples experience infertility, there’s often a misconception that the problem is the woman’s. But according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility issues are split evenly between males and females. Each group is responsible for 30 percent of infertility, and the rest is attributable to a combination of both male and female factors or unexplained reasons.
Conception issues are not just in women’s hands or due to their reproductive systems alone, as the case may be. Although men do not have the same “advanced maternal age” situation that women do at 35 years old+, men can still have reproductive issues.
For example, the older men get, the higher the chances that they have a lower sperm count and/or lower testosterone levels.
As you can see, there are several fertility myths out there that you should stop believing. If you’re unsure or need clarification, we encourage you to speak to your doctor or a fertility specialist about your personal journey.