Infertility affects approximately 10% of the population and spans all socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, and religious groups, so chances are you know someone who has or is facing it. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive (or 6 months if over 35 years of age). You may find yourself coping with the difficult medical and emotional aspects of infertility, or you may struggle to understand how to be helpful to a close friend or family member on their journey. Below are five common myths about infertility and the truths you need to know.
Myth 1: Infertility is a woman’s problem and male infertility is extremely rare.
After several months of trying to conceive, most couples assume that there is something wrong with the woman in the relationship. Family and friends also tend to believe that the female cannot get pregnant and that there must be a problem. The truth is approximately 35% of infertility problems are attributed to the female partner, 35% attributed to the male partner, 20% is caused by a combination of problems in both partners, and 10% is unexplained. Regardless of the diagnosis or condition, neither partner is to blame. Infertility is an uncontrollable medical condition, much like poor eyesight or asthma.
Myth 2: It’s easy for everyone else to get pregnant.
When you are going through infertility, it seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant at the drop of a hat. But most people are not that open about trying to conceive, so it’s impossible to know how quickly your family, friends, and co-workers are getting pregnant. In fact, more than five million people of childbearing age in the US experience infertility. Many factors come into play, including age and health conditions, but on average a woman has about a 20% chance of conceiving each cycle even when she has sex on the correct days of the fertile window.
Myth 3: Infertility is a psychological problem and you’ll get pregnant if you just relax.
Infertility is a medical problem affecting the reproductive system and as such needs to be treated appropriately. The complicated range of stress and emotions experienced are a result of infertility, not the cause of it. About 50% of the couples that complete an infertility evaluation and receive treatment will have a successful pregnancy. Some people may suggest that you “stop worrying so much and you’ll get pregnant” or “it’s all in your head.” While your family and friends are often well-meaning and want to be helpful, infertility is not a psychological disorder. With that being said, going to infertility counseling can help you work through your emotions, reduce isolation, cope with stress in a more effective way, and learn how to communicate with your partner, family, and friends about your experience.
Myth 4: Due to the isolation and stress of infertility, you’ll never recover and have a “normal” life.
Infertility is viewed as a life crisis and can affect all areas of your life. Some of the common reactions are a sense of failure, social isolation, discomfort in discussing the issue with family and friends, avoidance of social situations for fear of seeing pregnant women or families, loss of self esteem, and letting go of initial dreams or expectations. Many people facing infertility believe that no one will understand what they are going through. Although it is one of the most challenging things you may face, recovering from infertility is a process. There are many paths to take in regards to your medical treatments and family building options. While it will take effort and time to work through the situation, you can effectively move past this crisis. Lean on others when you are ready, find a support group, confide in your spouse, or go to counseling.
Myth 5: Your partner will leave you.
Infertility can be a stressful time in your relationship. The emotions are difficult and deciding on medical options can feel overwhelming. You and your partner may not be on the same page or willing to discuss your feelings. The truth is the majority of infertile couples stay together, find new ways to relate to each other, and develop a deeper more intimate connection. Be careful not to shut your partner out, blame one another, or lose your passion for having fun and creating a strong relationship. To learn more about moving through infertility effectively as a couple, read my post How to Weather the Storm of Infertility Together.
Infertility is a multifaceted and often misunderstood condition. The emotions are powerful and stress levels high. Find a support join through resolve.org or seek counseling. Call Erika Labuzan-Lopez Therapy for a free 20 minute phone consultation or to schedule an appointment. There is help available, don’t go through this difficult time alone.
While therapy and support groups are helpful to deal with the emotional, psychological, and relational aspects of infertility, it is a medical condition that needs to be treated by a qualified professional. Please seek medical attention for appropriate diagnosis, consultation, and treatment options.