Common fertility myths to be aware of

Not everyone’s path to parenthood goes smoothly. And despite fertility challenges being fairly common – approximately 1 in 6 of all couples are affected¹ – it’s still a subject that isn’t widely discussed. There’s also a lot of mis-information about fertility which can make things difficult to fully understand.

Whether you’re currently trying for children, have started your fertility journey, or are thinking about trying in the future, this article should help you to sort the fact from the fiction. These are the most common fertility myths for you to be aware of when trying to get pregnant.

‘Relax – if you stop stressing you’ll get pregnant’

Often the advice administered by well-meaning friends! The simple fact is that stress doesn’t cause infertility. Infertility is an illness, as defined by the World Health Organisation and the recommended medical treatment for this recognised disease is fertility treatment. That said, the NHS does acknowledge that, in severe cases, stress may affect ovulation and sperm production.

While on your fertility journey, there is definitely merit in paying extra attention to your mental and physical wellbeing to keep your body and mind in optimal condition. Whether that’s exercise, more sleep, meditation, you-time or breathing techniques, anything that leads to an improvement in your overall sense of wellbeing is ultimately a good thing.

‘I won’t need support’

It can be easy to underestimate the emotional rollercoaster that goes hand in hand with a fertility journey. Going through a cycle of treatment only to find out you’re not pregnant, or have lost a baby can understandably be overwhelming. Even with the support of friends and family, it can be hard to process feelings of pain, frustration and anger as well as potentially having to carry on working.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that counselling should be offered before, during and after IVF treatment regardless of the outcome. This is a sentiment we’d echo given that 90% of fertility patients report feelings of depression and 42% have felt suicidal.

Take a look at British Infertility Counselling Association and Fertility Network UK for more information and support on this. 

‘I already have a child, so I’ll easily get pregnant again’

Sadly, this isn’t always the case. There are two types of infertility: primary infertility which can happen the first time you try to conceive, and secondary infertility which, as the name suggests, can happen after you’ve had your first child. Secondary infertility affects approximately 5% of the population.² 

The reasons for secondary infertility can be the same as those for primary infertility, for example, PCOS, fibroids, endometriosis, thyroid problems or scarring from surgery. In addition, another well-known cause can be from carrying a little extra weight from a previous pregnancy, or lifestyle changes that have taken place since having a child – including healthy eating and exercise. 

The treatments offered are the same as those offered to those going through primary infertility. In addition, it’s important to take into account that the male factor is responsible for 50% of infertility cases also.

‘If I need it, I’ll get IVF free from the NHS’

While the NHS does offer IVF, the conditions under which it offers it are complicated. For those living in England, funding is locally determined by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) which leads to considerable regional variation in funding. So in some parts of the country, you may be able to get three attempts at IVF whilst in another part of the country you would only be able to get one or even none.

And while The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines state that all women and couples are eligible for secondary care after trying to conceive for 12 months, if under 35, or 6 months, if over 35, secondary care includes investigations and is not IVF which is tertiary care. If you’re not eligible for NHS treatment, a cycle of IVF at a private clinic can cost up to £5,000 or more.

Talking to your GP is usually the best route to find out exactly what’s available in your local area and whether you’re eligible.

  1. Fertility Network UK: https://fertilitynetworkuk.org/trying-to-conceive/fertility-at-work/
  2. http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Secondary-Infertility-1.pdf