10 anxiety-producing things I overheard about fertility
For many of us, it can feel like we spend years stressing over how to avoid pregnancy — only to wake up one day, and learn it can be a lot harder to get pregnant than our panicked teenage selves once thought.
To help minimize the mental, emotional, (and, why yes…) physical flip-flopping we deal with as females, we teamed up with the fertility gurus at Celmatix to demystify the not-as-mystical-as-you-might-think world of fertility.
… starting by setting the record straight on those fertility rumors that *anxious AF girl* next to you in yoga last Sunday wouldn’t stop blabbering about. Ya ready?!
#1: “I’m doomed if I don’t have a baby before I turn 35.”
False. The notion that everyone’s fertility will sharply decline at 35 is misguided. While reproductive potential does generally decrease as women get older with “fertility” ending typically 5 to 10 years before menopause, there’s no magic number that applies to all women.
Moreover, chronological female age alone does not give a complete picture into your reproductive potential. Consider age as one tool in your fertility toolkit alongside other things like ovarian reserve and genetic tests, which can paint a more complete picture of your fertility.
#2:“If I can’t get pregnant, it’s my fault.”
Fertility challenges are never anyone’s “fault,” and most certainly not only yours! While the world likes to tell us that pregnancy is a “woman’s job,” research indicates that male infertility is responsible for about a third of all fertility issues.
Testicular temperature, sperm duct blockages, and low sperm count are all factors that affect male fertility.
Net-net: if you have a male partner and you’re struggling to conceive, it’s just as likely the challenges could fall on his side as it could yours. #ItTakesTwo
#3: “IVF is the only thing I can do if I have trouble getting pregnant.”
Again, not true! A quick refresher: IVF is a process of extracting eggs, a sperm sample, and combining them in a lab — the petri dish baby-making tactic if you will. If you’re dealing with issues like fallopian tube blockage or sperm viability (think: a male partner has infertility issues), IVF may be a useful course of action.
Before jumping the (admittedly, pricy) gun, know you’ve got options! To name a few — oral meds like clomid or letrozole can help induce ovulation, while intrauterine insemination (IUI) is an effective tool used to increase the sperm count likely to reach your eggs.
Also keep in mind that conception is just half the battle. Anything that affects the endocrine system, including hormonal imbalances, thyroid issues and insulin resistance, can also impact fertility, which is why it’s v important to pay attention to things like stress, nutrition, and other lifestyle factors in your control.
#4: “I can go to a fertility specialist before I’m having fertility problems.”
TRUE! 😜 Despite common misconception, you don’t have to be trying (or failing) to get pregnant to see a fertility doctor.
In fact, discussing your fertility concerns and plans with a fertility specialist can preemptively help you understand your own fertility optionality and any risks ahead that you should plan for.
For example, these docs can order you a fertility workup to see where you’re at on issues like ovarian function, ovarian reserve, follicle count and egg quality, and suggest a personalized course of action in line with your own fertility goals.
This doesn’t mean you’ll begin treatment, but there’s great power in having information. The earlier you’re armed with information to make decisions, whatever they may be, the more empowered you are 💪🏿💪🏽💪
#5: “Taking birth control can make it harder to get pregnant in the future.”
For most BC methods, this fear is unfounded. While everyone’s body responds to hormones differently, the pill, IUD, implant, and ring are all 100% reversible with no proven lingering effects.
The one exception to the rule is the Depo-Provera shot, which can cause a temporary, but prolonged delay to your natural fertility state by suppressing ovulation. For the average BC shot user, fertility resumes within 10 months, or 22 months at longest — def something to keep in mind if time is of the essence!
#6: “I don’t need to freeze my eggs — I can always do IVF.”
Not exactly… While we tend to lump all “fertility stuff” in one basket, these two tools in your toolkit are quite different.
Egg freezing is essentially an insurance policy (though NOT a guarantee) intended to increase your chances of a future pregnancy — one that happens to be more effective under the age of 35.
IVF isn’t a replacement for fertility preservation; it can’t turn unhealthy eggs or sperm into healthy ones, and it can’t grow more eggs than you already have. Bottom line: The earlier you freeze your eggs, the more viable they’ll be if you want to fertilize them later — via IVF or otherwise.
#7: “Having an abortion can impact my fertility later in life.”
Chalk this lingering myth up to history. Access to safe and legal abortion, coupled with medical advances, means that modern abortions pose no significant risks to future fertility. A few tid-bits for ya:
Vacuum aspiration — the method most commonly used during first-trimester abortions since the 1970’s — poses virtually no long-term fertility problems (including ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, or birth defects).
Furthermore, research indicates that abortions using mifepristone (AKA the “abortion pill”) pose no greater risks than surgical first-term abortions. Meanwhile, updated techniques applied during mid-term abortions (like swapping metal dilating rods for laminaria sticks of dried seaweed!) have dramatically decreased the complications like cervical trauma, low birth weights or premature delivery previously associated with the procedure.
Here’s to safer days!
#8: “Egg freezing can cause early menopause.”
Good news here: you’re not short-changing your youth by freezing your 🍳 for the long haul. Though ovarian reserves decline with age, and eventually end during menopause, harvesting your eggs doesn’t mean you’ll get there any sooner. That’s because a fixed number of eggs come into play with each menstrual cycle. These are the eggs that get harvested during the egg freezing process.
While egg freezing is a relatively new procedure — the first live birth from a frozen egg only happened in 1999 — and more research is most certainly needed to increase our full understanding of the impact on our bodies, all signs thus far indicate that egg freezing is a safe way to ensure your fertility options.
#9: “If I’m diagnosed with PCOS or endometriosis, I can kiss getting pregnant goodbye.”
Most certainly, not true! While it’s true that PCOS and endo are often associated with infertility challenges, many people with these conditions go on to conceive and have children without complications — some without any difficult at all, and others who need to a little extra help.
For example, medications like letrozole and clomid can help stimulate ovulation for those with PCOS, boosting birth rates by nearly one-third. Changing up your diet can also be a proactive tool for many, too! And laparoscopy, a minimally invasive surgical procedure, can also be performed on the ovaries to balance hormones and encourage ovulation with similar rates of success.
For endo patients, using hormonal contraceptives prior to attempting pregnancy can help control the endometrial growth that can later complicate fertility. Similarly, laparoscopic surgery is also an option if this tissue must be removed.
Bottom line is, if you have either on of these conditions, know that you’re not alone (roughly 1 in 10 women are affected by each!) and that seeking guidance from a specialist sooner rather than later to discuss your fertility goals is a 🔑 way to get ahead of potential complications.
#10: “There’s nothing I can do to be proactive.”
If you’re anxious about your fertility, the last thing you should do is put off facing the facts until later. A proactive approach will help you measure your fears against reality — and decide what to do once you’re ready.
Regular check-ups with an OB/GYN are a great first step. So is tracking your period to understand patterns in your menstrual cycle, so both you and your doc have the clearest possible picture of your health.
Last but not least, talk to your family members to find out if fertility issues run the fam. If so, scheduling an appointment with a fertility expert is a great way to make sure you know what kind of challenges you may face — and the steps you can take to overcome them.
It all starts with a conversation… #SayTheFword!