Assisted reproductions techniques (ART) emerged in the 1970s. Since then, they have evolved to a wide range of treatments which nowadays allow many couples to increase their chances of achieving a pregnancy. However, many fertility myths about getting pregnant still surround the different techniques available, and they can discourage some of the potential patients. Here are some of these misconceptions:
Although people tend to think that women are more likely to have fertility problems, the reality is that infertility affects both the female and the male partner equally. In about 30% of the cases, the problem lies in the male factor, commonly due to deficiencies in sperm production. Another third of infertility cases are due to female factors, while the remaining one third can be related to a combination of factors associated with both partners or have unexplained causes.
Following a fertility treatment implies a higher chance of having a multiple pregnancy. Notwithstanding, work is ongoing to avoid them, as they carry significant risks of obstetric problems.
In the past, fertility treatments were more likely to lead to multiple pregnancies. Since success rates were relatively low, multiple embryos were transferred in an effort to ensure embryo implantation and success rates.
Today, strategies are changing, and the transfer of more than two embryos at a time is a very exceptional event. In fact, elective single embryo transfer (eSET) procedures are on the rise. eSET involves the transfer to the uterus of a single top quality embryo with a high chance of implantation. Thus, the risk of multiple pregnancies minimizes while maintaining high success rates, ideally leading to healthier singleton pregnancies.
One of the most frequent concerns shown by patients undergoing fertility treatment is the risk of cancer arising due to ovarian stimulation. This is certainly a myth we must dispel.
It is true that some studies initially associated certain medications used in ovulation induction (i.e. gonadotropins and clomiphene citrate) with an increased incidence of borderline ovarian tumors. Nonetheless, further studies and meta-analyses have rejected the existence of such an association. Even though there seems to be a slight association of the appearance of these tumors with refractory infertility, the latter is independent of the use of the drugs used to perform ovarian stimulation. Several studies have also tried to analyze the incidence of different types of tumors in children born from ART. They found no significant increase in the incidence of cancer in these children.
To date, there is no scientific evidence that the use of medications for inducing ovulation increases the risk of developing ovarian, breast, cervical or uterine cancer. No association has been found either between these treatments and the development of colon cancer, thyroid cancer or melanoma. It may, therefore, be concluded that the risk of cancer in patients undergoing fertility treatment is not greater than that of the general population. With no doubt, this is one of the most important fertility myths.
Couples can experience difficulties when trying to conceive even if they already have children. The inability to conceive following a prior successful pregnancy is called secondary infertility, and is a quite common problem. From 2006 to 2010, 5.16 million women in the USA, aged 15 to 44, experienced secondary infertility or impaired fecundity (data from the National Survey of Family Growth; statistics collected by the Center for Disease Control).
Among the possible causes leading to secondary infertility are impaired sperm production, advanced reproductive age, damaged fallopian tubes, uterine abnormalities, ovulation disorders, complications related to medical interventions or even genital infections.
A common misconception is that even though fertility declines with age, in vitro fertilization (along with other assisted reproduction techniques) is always an option. Unfortunately, success rates in these treatments depend on many factors.
The age of the female partner is the most important one. With age, success rates per embryo transfer leading to a live birth decline drastically. In addition, advanced reproductive age entails a higher chance of obstetric and perinatal complications. Some techniques such as the use of donor eggs can help reduce this problem, but achieving a successful pregnancy is not guaranteed in every case.
Nevertheless, every day more progress is made in the study of infertility and in the development of assisted reproduction techniques that allow us to maximize the chances of success. These are the main fertility myths about getting pregnant. Don't let people lie to you!