Did you know that one in six women will have trouble getting pregnant and that number increases to more than 50 per cent for women over 40?
The good news is that according to Dr. Ginevra Mills of Olive Fertility Victoria, advances in fertility treatment have made it possible for most couples and individuals who are having difficulty conceiving to have a baby.
In addition, your consultation with a fertility specialist, as well as most fertility tests, are covered by your BC Medical Service Plan (MSP) with a referral from a family doctor or a walk-in clinic, or Telus Health MyCare.
Trying to conceive? Here are five common myths about fertility:
Myth #1 – Infertility is only a woman’s problem
Male causes of infertility are found between 30 and 40 per cent of couples being treated for infertility.
“Common male issues include poor sperm or difficulties with ejaculation,” Mills says.
“Female causes of infertility include problems with releasing an egg every month and problems with the fallopian tubes or other pelvic issues, like endometriosis.”
In about 10 per cent of couples, no causes of infertility are discovered, which is called unexplained infertility.
Myth #2 – A healthy lifestyle prevents age-related infertility
“Although following a healthy lifestyle can improve overall health and wellbeing, it cannot prevent the cells in the ovaries and testicles from accumulating mutations and decreasing in quality as people age,” Mills says.
Not only does that female fertility decline with age, recent studies have shown that pregnancy rates for males over the age of 50 are about 25 per cent lower than males under the age of 30.
Age-related fertility decline occurs because eggs in the ovaries and the cells that make sperm in the testicles age in a similar way to all other cells in the body.
Myth #3 – Egg freezing and IVF will lead to early menopause
Even though a person only ovulates one mature egg every month, there are many other eggs (called a cohort) that help support that one egg to mature. Depending on the age and ovarian reserve of a person, a monthly egg cohort can vary in size, but no matter its size, only one egg is released, and the others die away.
In egg freezing and IVF cycles, medications allow all the eggs in a single cohort to develop and mature and are then collected to freeze for future use or to make embryos. In one cycle of egg stimulation, the eggs from a cohort that would have otherwise died are collected.
“This means that all the eggs for future cycles are still ready and waiting within the ovaries,” Mills says.
Myth #4 – Sexual positions matter
“During penetrative intercourse, semen is deposited at the top of the vagina, regardless of sexual position,” Mills says.
Studies looking at sperm movement through the female reproductive tract have shown that sperm are present inside the cervix within 90 seconds of ejaculation and in the fallopian tubes in as little as five minutes after ejaculation. The cervix can act as a reservoir for sperm for up to 72 hours after intercourse, allowing all those sperm plenty of time to swim up into the fallopian tubes where the eggs are released.
Myth #5 – You should try for a year before seeing a fertility specialist
Approximately 70 per cent of couples who have regular unprotected sex will become pregnant within six months, and this number increases to 85 per cent after one year of unprotected sex. A year of infertility, however, is not necessary for evaluation by a fertility specialist.
“Earlier evaluation is recommended for people with irregular or infrequent periods, a history of pelvic infection, surgery or endometriosis, or male partners with known or suspected low semen quality,” Mills says.
Even without any of these risk factors, people over the age of 35 should seek advice from a fertility specialist after six months of unprotected sex that hasn’t resulted in a pregnancy.
Let’s Talk About Fertility
Empower yourself in your fertility journey by joining Ginevra Mills, MD, FRCSC, for an informative Zoom talk on March 14. The webinar will include topics such as common causes of infertility and the most effective treatments, questions you need to ask your doctor and when to see a specialist, the latest advances in fertility technology, and proven lifestyle changes that can optimize your fertility.
To learn more about your fertility options, visit olivefertility.com/Victoria.