The definition of infertility: A couple who has been trying to conceive unsuccessfully for at least one year.
Infertility affects 1 in 6 Americans.
Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition. My husband and I were very open with our problems conceiving, using this experience as a means to educate others. However, many couples choose to keep their situation more private. This was our way of coping our struggle to conceive. We learned a lot about infertility, the medical care system, doctors and hospitals in our area, misconceptions by the public and the overall inability for people to understand how infertility affects couples and individuals.
Infertility is a life crisis. Having children is a normal next step for couples after they get married. And, often times loved ones and friends begin asking questions about having a baby soon after the couple return from their honeymoon. When a couple cannot conceive a child and are constantly being bombarded with questions about having a baby, it makes the situation all the more unbearable. When friends and family members start their own families, there is a huge void and one often feels extremely alone and out of the loop. The inability to plan your life is overwhelming and having to consider not having a child is in itself extremely painful. Infertility is not something we plan for. For most people it is a complete surprise.Someone onced described infertility as a "bruise on the soul." I agree with that statement. Years of unsuccessful, invasive and expensive treatments exhausts couples and creates a huge sense of loss. The grief is unbearable at times- the thought of never conceiving a child of your own.If people understood more about what it feels like to go through infertility, it could impact the couple's ability to cope. Maybe there would be less insensitive remarks , less "advice" on how to conceive.
There are many myths about infertility that I would like to combat.
Myth 1: It's easy for most women to get pregnant.While it's true that many woman conceive without difficulty, more than five million people of childbearing age in the United States -- or one in every 10 couples -- have problems with infertility. Certain health conditions and factors, such as age, can affect a woman's ability to conceive. For instance, a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month; while by age 40, her chances drop to about 5 percent a month. But infertility can affect women of any age, and from any background.
Myth 2: Men don't have infertility problems.About 35 percent of all infertility cases treated in the United States are due to a female problem. But 35 percent (an equal number!) can be traced to a male problem, 20 percent to a problem in both partners, and 10 percent to unknown causes. Also, 1% of the male population is sterile.
Myth 3: Infertility is a psychological -- not physical -- problem.Well-meaning friends and relatives may suggest "infertility is all in your head" or "if you'd stop worrying so much, you'd get pregnant." But in reality, infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system and not a psychological disorder. In fact, one or more physical causes are identified in the vast number of infertile couples. So while relaxing, going on vacation, or finding positive ways to de-stress can improve your overall well-being, these lifestyle changes won't solve your infertility problems.
Myth 4: Couples who "work" hard enough at having a baby will eventually get pregnant.New methods of diagnosing and treating infertility have improved many couples' chances of having a baby. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), more than half of all couples who pursue treatment will achieve a successful pregnancy (what about the other half?). It's important to remember that infertility is a medical disease and that problems sometimes remain untreatable no matter how hard a couple "works" at solving them.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes simpler, less invasive procedures and those that are much more complex and costly. The statistics for these procedures are getting better but for a woman under 35 years of age, there is still less than a 50% chance of conception with ART. Every woman and man's situation is different, but simply going to an infertility specialist will not necessarily solve the problem.
Myth 5: Once a couple adopts a child, the woman will become pregnant.This particular myth is not only painful for infertile couples to hear, but it's also untrue. First of all, it suggests that adoption is simply a means to an end (a pregnancy), and not, in and of itself, a valid and wonderful way to form a family.
Secondly, only about 5 percent of couples who do adopt later become pregnant. This success rate is the same for couples who don't adopt and become pregnant without further treatment.
It is easy for us to remember the stories we hear about the couples are could not conceive for years, adopt and then get pregnant. But, what is not mentioned are the millions of couples who never have a biological child, after adopting or otherwise.
Myth 6: Husbands often leave their wives if they're infertile.As stated earlier, infertility is a medical condition that affects both men and women equally. In fact, about 40 percent of the time, the male partner is either the sole or contributing cause of infertility, according to ASRM. While many couples do find the process of infertility testing and treatment rigorous, stressful, and intrusive (not to mention costly), they do get through it -- together. Many partners also find new and deeper ways of relating to each other and discover that their marriage has become even stronger.
Myth 7: Infertile couples will never be happy or fulfilled.Being unable to conceive a much-wanted child (or carry a pregnancy to term) can fill a couple with sadness, grief, anger, despair, and even a sense of personal failure. While it's normal for infertile couples to experience a range of powerful emotions, most people do move through this life crisis successfully and gradually put it into better perspective. For some couples, "moving on" means letting go of their initial dreams of having a baby. Other couples decide to adopt. But in either case, couples do learn that there is life after infertility and find myriad ways to fulfill themselves -- with or without children.
Open your minds and your hearts to this life altering condition. Once someone has experienced infertility, they are changed forever.