Information is critical to making the right decisions throughout your family building journey, but with so many misconceptions about fertility — and so much unsolicited advice — it can be difficult to know the best way forward. To help set the record straight, we’ve debunked several common myths about infertility.
Myth: Infertility is purely a female health issue
Infertility is often considered a women’s health issue, but in reality, only a third of all infertility cases are exclusively caused by female reproductive factors. Of the remaining two-thirds, half stem from only a male reproductive factor and half stem from a combination of male and female factors or unknown causes.
Male infertility is most often the result of issues with sperm production, including problems with sperm quality and quantity. Fertility treatment can help address both male and female fertility issues. In fact, one reason for the perception of infertility as purely a female health condition is that it is sometimes women who undergo assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) even for a male infertility factor. (Men can be treated for infertility with oral medications or injectable hormone therapy, but these treatments can take six months to a year or more whereas a typical IVF cycle is just two weeks.)
If you and your partner are experiencing challenges conceiving, you both may wish to consult with a doctor about a fertility evaluation to determine the best next steps. Experts recommend seeking an evaluation after six months of trying to conceive if the female partner is over 35 and after a year if the female partner is 35 or younger.
Myth: Age doesn’t affect male fertility
Many people are aware that women become less fertile as they age, with a significant decline in the quantity and quality of their eggs from the mid 30s until they eventually reach menopause. Male fertility also declines with age, typically beginning around 35-40. And though the changes men experience are less significant — men never stop producing sperm and may be able to conceive well into their 50s, 60s, or later — a male partner’s age can influence pregnancy rates and how long it takes to conceive.
The age-related decrease in male fertility often stems from changes in sperm quantity and quality. Sperm quantity refers to the amount of sperm produced, while quality refers to its movement, size, and shape. These characteristics are important factors in male fertility, as they affect sperm’s ability to reach and fertilize an egg.
Myth: You’re too young to experience fertility challenges
Given that age is a factor in both male and female infertility cases, it’s understandable to assume that you won’t have difficulty conceiving in your 20s or early 30s. However, infertility affects people of different ages. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 7% of women between the ages of 20-24 face infertility, as do 9% of women between the ages of 25-29.
Age-related changes in fertility can vary by individual. While fertility typically begins to decline around the ages of 30-35 for most women, it’s possible to enter premature menopause and experience these changes even earlier.
Beyond the variation in age-related fertility issues, there are some causes of infertility entirely unrelated to age, including:
Being underweight or overweight
A history of pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia, or gonorrhea — conditions that can lead to blocked fallopian tubes
Other health issues including a history of chronic illnesses or cancer of a reproductive organ
Lifestyle factors including smoking and substance use issues
Remember that no one is ever too young to pursue fertility testing, and you are your own best advocate.
Myth: Getting a regular monthly period means you won’t struggle with fertility
Yes, the majority of female infertility cases are caused by problems with ovulation — the release of a mature egg from the ovaries — and a regular period typically indicates that you are ovulating normally. However, there are other drivers of female infertility, and it is possible to struggle to conceive even with a regular menstrual cycle.
Here are some reasons why you might have difficulty conceiving despite getting a regular monthly period:
Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
Structural issues with the uterus or cervix
Endometriosis, a condition in which tissue that should only grow in the uterus implants and grows elsewhere
Silent anovulation*, a condition in which a person does not ovulate despite getting a regular period
Fortunately, there is treatment for a wide range of fertility issues. A fertility evaluation is an important first step toward addressing your specific challenge.
*The majority of anovulation cases are characterized by an irregular period and therefore more easily recognizable, hence why those that include a regular period are referred to as silent cases.
Myth: Couples who naturally conceived previously won’t struggle with fertility in the future
Having an easy time getting pregnant once doesn’t necessarily indicate that you will have the same experience in the future. Infertility may develop at different stages of life, particularly when age is a contributing factor.
Secondary infertility occurs when individuals or couples who already have one or more children have difficulty conceiving again. It affects approximately 11% of U.S. couples and is caused by many of the same factors as primary infertility, or difficulty conceiving for the first time.
Regardless of whether you’ve been pregnant previously, don’t delay on seeking a fertility evaluation if you are struggling to conceive.
Myth: If you’re trying to conceive, just relax
It’s commonly assumed that stress makes it more difficult to get pregnant. While chronic stress may affect a person’s ability to conceive, it’s important to remember that infertility is a medical condition, and stress alone is unlikely to drive fertility struggles. In other words, try not to let your stress become a new source of stress.
That said, while healthy stress management isn’t a substitute for fertility treatment, staying mindful of your emotional and mental well-being can only make it easier to navigate the challenges of infertility.
A pharmacy partner for your fertility journey
Fertility treatment can be a challenging journey, but Alto is with you every step of the way. We offer free same-day delivery of your medications and fertility resources like personalized injection guide videos and access to fertility-trained pharmacists.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.