9 common fertility mistruths debunked by doctors

Struggling to get pregnant? These fertility misconceptions might be standing in the way of your baby-making success.

When it comes to baby-making, it’s reassuring to know that we live in a time where there’s widespread public awareness of infertility.

With greater understanding, fewer couples trying to conceive are being asked insensitive questions such as if there’s something is wrong with them or are mocked for “doing it wrongly”.

Far as we’ve come as a society, medicine has come even further, giving couples struggling to expand their families, alternative ways to do so, safely.

However, despite fertility advancements, some couples just don’t seem to know how to make a baby. Many are also complacent about their fertility, convinced that as long as they have intercourse, everything will work out swimmingly for them.

Indeed, fertility doctors wish couples would wise up to such misconceptions before coming in for a consultation, since it will definitely speed up their baby-making game.

SmartParents get fertility expert Dr Kelly Loi and ob-gyn Dr Christopher Chong to set the record straight on conception myths. By the way, don’t be embarrassed if you learn something new about your fertility (or lack thereof), after reading this ― you certainly aren’t alone!

MYTH #1 40 is the new 30. More women are having kids at a later age, so it’ll be easy for me to have babies when I’m older.

Dr Loi says… Where fertility is concerned, unfortunately, women are born with a fixed reserve of eggs. The numbers of eggs decreases with age, hence it becomes more difficult to have a baby as women get older. Furthermore, the quality of the eggs also decreases, As a result, the risk of having a miscarriage also rises due to chromosomal and genetic problems.

Dr Chong says… The quality of a woman’s eggs start decreasing from age 25. Average life expectancy has increased to more than 80, so 40 is relatively young compared to more than 50 years ago when life expectancy was 65. However, the quality of the eggs will still be better at age 35 than at 40. The older the mum, the higher the risk of maternal, foetal and chromosomal problems. Your risk of having a Down syndrome baby is 1 in 330 at age 35. However, it rises to 1 in 100 at age 40. Also, after 40, there is a very sharp drop in egg quality and sharp rise in maternal and foetal complications.

Up to 20 per cent of healthy couples do not conceive in the first year of trying. This is due to many factors…”

MYTH #2 As long as we have sex, we will get pregnant.

Dr Loi says… One in seven couples encounter subfertility ― an inability to conceive, despite actively trying and having sex regularly two to three times every week over a year.

Dr Chong says… Up to 20 per cent of healthy couples do not conceive in the first year of trying. This is due to many factors including the quality and quantity of eggs and sperm. It might also have something to do with the environment of the female genital organs, such as blocked fallopian tubes. Often, no reason is found for subfertility.

MYTH #3 Fertility problems are always the woman’s fault.

Dr Loi says… In one third of the cases, it may be due to problems in the woman. However, in another third, it may be due to male factors. In the remaining, it may be a mixture of both.

Dr Chong says… Sub-fertility is one third due to male factors, one third due to female factors and one third due to both.

MYTH #4 Fertility treatments will guarantee a baby.

Dr Loi says… The success rates of fertility treatment vary with age and underlying fertility issues. Although the success rates may be high with current techniques of embryo culture, freezing and thawing, there is no guarantee. The success rates are generally best in younger women with good quality eggs. Hence, it is best to seek fertility treatment earlier.

Dr Chong says… Even in the best fertility or IVF centres, the success rate is usually quoted as less than 50 per cent and often only up to 44 per cent after three cycles.

 

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MYTH #5 I’m scared of having multiples if I do fertility treatments.

Dr Loi says… Multiple pregnancies may be avoided by careful use of hormone stimulation protocols in patients undergoing intra-uterine insemination. In those undergoing IVF treatment, you can avoid multiples by choosing to transfer only one embryo at a time.

Dr Chong says… It’s true that the multiple pregnancy rate is higher for those conceiving from fertility treatments. Multiple pregnancies are considered high-risk pregnancies, so some worry and fear is understandable. However, the majority of them will not have multiple pregnancies as long as the accepted protocol and treatments are used. This includes adhering to the right dosage of medication and the number of embryos to be implanted.

MYTH #6 If I already have one child, it’ll be easy to conceive a second baby.

Dr Loi says… Fertility problems may arise after the first pregnancy and delivery. This can be due to being older when trying for the second child, a pelvic infection or other medical problems.

Dr Chong says… It’s depends on many factors, such as how long you take to start trying for the second child and whether you have any medical or sexual problems since the first child. It is not uncommon for a couple to have the first baby easily but not the second, and with no known reasons most of the time. They will usually need assisted reproduction, but majority will still fail.

“Obesity is linked to poorer and infrequent ovulation…[and] linked to poor health, high blood pressure and diabetes in pregnancy.”

MYTH #7 I am very fit because I exercise like a maniac, so I won’t have problems having a baby.

Dr Loi says… Unfortunately, fertility problems may occur despite one’s best efforts to keep fit. These may be due to underlying gynaecological conditions, or male sperm factor problems.

Dr Chong says… Actually, people who do strenuous exercises, such as in the case of regular marathon runners, often have a hormonal imbalance and do not ovulate regularly or monthly. Sometimes, they will ovulate only once every few months, so the timing of conception will be difficult. Their risk of miscarriage will also be higher, especially if the woman doesn’t know she’s pregnant and continues her usual strenuous exercises.

MYTH #8 I only have to stop smoking after I fall pregnant.

Dr Loi says… Smoking is harmful for health in general. It has also been found to be associated with an earlier age of menopause. To optimise fertility, smoking should be stopped as soon as possible.

Dr Chong says… No, it’s best to stop if you’re trying for a baby. Smoking can reduce ovulation, impact the egg quality and increase the risk of miscarriage and foetal abnormalities.

MYTH #9 I’m overweight, but there’s no point trying to lose weight now since I’m trying to have a baby.

Dr Loi says… Increased weight can affect a woman’s ovulation cycle and make it irregular. In women undergoing fertility treatment, a high body mass index (BMI) can also impair the effectiveness of hormone medications used during the treatment. Having a high BMI may also increase the risk of fertility procedures, such as egg retrieval which is done under sedation.

Dr Chong says… Obesity is linked to poorer and infrequent ovulation. In fact, losing weight gradually can help to bring back normal ovulation and menstruation. Obesity is also linked to poor health, high blood pressure and diabetes in pregnancy.

Photos: iStock

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