There are several reasons for the myths and misconceptions surrounding the topic of infertility. False perceptions often originate from old family beliefs passed from generation to generation. An inadequate understanding of what causes and helps treat fertility problems contributes to the spread of misinformation.
The week of April 23rd through the 29th marks National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW), a time to debunk many of the myths surrounding infertility and discover how to “flip the script” regarding faulty assumptions about the condition. In honor of NIAW, Reproductive Possibilities offers suggestions on how to change the conversation to support a friend or family member with infertility and those needing assisted reproductive treatment (ART).
The Emotional Impact of Infertility
Although infertility impacts each person differently, there are often feelings of emotional distress, guilt or shame, loss of control, stigmatization, and isolation linked with unsuccessful attempts at trying to conceive. It’s also common for many individuals and couples to experience strained relationships when trying to have a baby, which often contributes to a couple’s stress during their fertility journey.
Flipping the Script on Common Myths About Infertility
Here are some common misconceptions and myths that contribute to these negative responses and unhelpful advice given to people with infertility and how to flip the script by responding effectively.
Infertility Myth #1: Infertility is caused by something a couple is doing wrong.
The Facts: Just like many other disorders, infertility has a variety of causes, such as blocked fallopian tubes, diminished ovarian reserve (i.e., low quality and quantity of eggs), low sperm count, and certain underlying physical disorders.
Flipping the Script: A positive response to a person informing a friend or family member of their infertility struggle: “‘I’m sorry you are going through this, please let me know if there is anything I can do,”’ instead of “You should try to stop dwelling on it, just let it happen naturally.”
Infertility Myth #2: Only women experience infertility.
The Facts: In one-third of the cases, the cause of infertility is male reproductive issues, female-originating factors occur in one-third of the cases, and unknown or a combination of male and female causes applies to the final one-third of the cases, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Flipping the Script: “I’m so sorry you are going through this, and I hope whatever is causing you or your partner’s infertility can be resolved soon,” instead of: “So, what’s wrong with you,” addressing the female.
Infertility Myth #3: People with infertility have never had a baby.
The Facts: It’s common for a couple to have a baby, then experience infertility issues when they try to have a second child, also known as secondary infertility. In fact, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), secondary infertility occurs as commonly as primary infertility (i.e., having trouble conceiving the first baby).
Flipping the Script: “I’m sorry you’re going through this; it must be frustrating. I’ve heard of other people going through the same thing. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you feel supported.” instead of: “Don’t worry. If you keep trying, you’ll succeed; after all, you already have a baby, so you must be able to have another one. And if you don’t, at least you already have one kid!”
Infertility Myth #4: People over 35 cannot get pregnant.
The Facts: While the peak reproductive years are between the ages of late teens to late 20s, it’s common for healthy babies to be born to parents later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately one in six women over age 35 in the U.S. have infertility problems, so most women in their mid-thirties will have no problem getting pregnant.
Flipping the Script: “There are plenty of people over 35 who have healthy babies. Have you talked to a doctor about your concerns? Maybe they can provide you with some answers and solutions. Whatever you decide, I’m here for you.”
A Word From Reproductive Possibilities
Offering a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to, and a show of empathy are effective ways to support your friend or family member undergoing infertility treatment. Reproductive Possibilities also suggests seeking education on fertility issues, surrogacy, and other assisted reproductive measures to effectively support people with infertility. Share this blog and keep the conversation going. If you have any questions about surrogacy, or to make a consultation appointment, contact us today.