Fertility Myths – The Common Misconceptions About Conception-image

Fertility Myths – The Common Misconceptions About Conception

There are lots of fertility myths out there and it can be difficult to find the truth hiding in the middle of all those old wives tales. We’ve decided to do the hard work for you and here we debunk 17 fertility myths. 

1. Infertility doesn’t affect people under 35

It is true that fertility declines with age and you’re more likely to experience trouble getting pregnant past your mid-to-late thirties. However, there are non-age related causes of infertility that can affect people of all ages. PCOS, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, and previous chemotherapy or radiotherapy exposure are just some of the factors that can influence female fertility.

2. It’s impossible to get pregnant after 40

Again, increasing age is the most common factor affecting infertility but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get pregnant after 35 or even after 40. However, be aware that it is more difficult. The older you are, the more likely you might need the help of IVF and maybe even oocyte donation.

Although your fertility won’t be what it was when you were 25, turning 40 doesn’t mean your chances of having a baby are over.

3. Only the female age matters

It is true that some men in the past have fathered children well into their 60s and 70s but that doesn’t mean their fertility is untouchable. In reality, sperm quality declines with age too. There’s an increased risk of infertility, miscarriage, birth defects and autism with sperm from men over the age of 39.

4. Infertility won’t be an issue if you already have a child

If you’ve been lucky enough to start your family already, unfortunately, it doesn’t mean you’re protected against infertility in the future. This is known as secondary infertility. Primary infertility is when a couple or individual has failed to ever get pregnant. Secondary infertility can affect people with male or female reproductive systems and is more common than you might think. In fact, more than 10% of women who have already given birth present with secondary infertility.

5. Infertility is only a woman’s problem

Infertility isn’t a ‘menstruating members-only’ club. Remember, it takes two to make a baby. Men and women are equally affected by infertility and each sex has its own list of symptoms which may indicate infertility. Estimates suggest that one-third of infertility cases are related to male causes and another third are a combination of both male and female factor infertility or have an unknown cause. Only one-third of infertility cases in couples are related exclusively to females.

6. Irregular periods mean you’re infertile.

This is false. Irregular periods are actually very common. Lots of factors influence the hormonal balance that regulate your menstrual cycle. Sleep disruptions, stress or changes to your exercise routine can affect the timing of your period but that doesn’t mean your fertility is affected.

Irregular cycles can make it more difficult to know when your fertile window is and when to properly time sex. Also if you experience irregular cycles along with painful, heavy bleeding, very frequent periods occurring less than every 21 days or infrequent periods occurring greater than 35 days apart, there might be something else going on. If you’re concerned, speak to your GP or try one of our at-home test kits.

7. Long-term contraception will harm your future fertility.

This is a common misconception but thankfully it’s not true. Whether your preferred form of contraception is the pill, an implant, an IUD, or the injection, the evidence says there will be no permanent effect on your fertility.

If you decide to come off a long-term contraceptive to start trying for a family, you might experience a delay to conception. Depending on the type of contraceptive you were on, this can take as many as 8 menstrual cycles on the hormonal injection or as little as 2-3 cycles after coming off the oral contraceptive pill. Don’t worry, this is only a temporary reduction in fertility and it won’t affect your chances of getting pregnant. This is true even if you spend years on long-term contraception and there are plenty of good quality studies to back this one up.

8. Long-term contraception protects your future fertility

Sadly, this one is also not true. Many believe that by taking long-term contraception they are storing up their eggs for later use by preventing ovulation. In reality, whether you’re taking contraception or not, your egg reserve declines with age. If you have been taking long-term contraception, your fertility when you come off it won’t be affected for better or for worse.

9. Lifestyle doesn’t matter because it’s all about sex.

In order for conception to occur, sperm must meet the egg and for most of us, this means getting busy in the bedroom. But it’s not all about sex. Lifestyle is also an important factor and living a healthy lifestyle can shorten the time to pregnancy. This includes eating a balanced healthy diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking when you’re trying to get conceive, not just when you are pregnant.  

10. More sex is better

The narrow fertile window exists only around ovulation and so you can’t get pregnant every day of the month. Your egg is only capable of being fertilised 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. This may seem like a dauntingly short time for egg and sperm to meet but there’s no need to worry. Sperm can survive in the female genital tract for up to 5 days, so it is still possible to get pregnant if you have sex in the days leading up to ovulation.

Getting the timing right is important and having lots of sex to try and get pregnant isn’t always the solution. For some couples, this can make the act start to feel clinical. To know when to better time having sex for pregnancy, check out Hertility’s guide on how to detect ovulation, and remember to have fun!

11. Ovulation occurs on day 14 of your cycle.

If your cycle is like clockwork and lasts 28 days, chances are you’ll ovulate halfway through your cycle on day 14. However, only 13% of people have the textbook cycle making it more difficult for the rest of us to detect ovulation. In truth, ovulation can occur 12-16 days before the beginning of your next period. Your ovulation day can also vary from month to month, even if you have a regular cycle. If this all seems very confusing, check out Hertility’s guide on how to detect ovulation to help you on your journey.

12. Your infertility is stress-related. Just relax!

This one is definitely a myth. We know it doesn’t help to hear ‘just relax’ when you’re stressed or worried. The truth is that infertility is a medical condition and like other medical conditions it can’t be healed with a positive attitude and a spa day. We don’t tell people ‘take a chill-pill and your diabetes will go away’ and the same should be true for infertility.

If you are trying to get pregnant and experiencing fertility issues, stress often comes as part of the package. Taking actions to reduce stress will help you to cope better through your fertility journey. Chronic stress or significant stress can disrupt a lot of your body’s usual functions, including your reproductive system. You can learn more about how stress and fertility are related here.

13. Miscarriages run in families.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that miscarriages run in families. Miscarriage is actually more common than you think. Many miscarriages occur before people even realise they’re pregnant. In people who know they’re pregnant, an estimated 1 in 8 pregnancies ending in miscarriage. Many couples who experience a miscarriage will go on to conceive again and deliver a healthy baby.

14. IVF can fix it

IVF has been a game-changer for fertility. It’s helped millions worldwide to start and to grow their family. It’s important to know however that IVF can’t guarantee you a baby. IVF success is also dependent on many factors including patient age, egg quality, lifestyle, and the underlying cause of your infertility. Many will require more than one IVF cycle to get pregnant. This comes with both an emotional and financial price tag so it’s important to be informed and prepared. Only 31% of IVF cycles are successful in women under 35. This reduces with age to a little as 5% in women over the age of 42.

15. IVF add-on therapies will improve IVF outcomes

If you go down the IVF route your clinic might offer you additional treatments to routine IVF called treatment add-ons. Many treatment add-ons lack evidence to show they are as safe and as effective as routine IVF. This means there’s not enough evidence to say that buying add-ons will improve your chances of getting pregnant. You can learn more about different IVF add-ons and their safety from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA).

16. Egg freezing isn’t as good as embryo freezing

If you’re thinking of freezing your eggs and you don’t have a partner or you’re not ready for that commitment just yet, this myth might make you worried. Thankfully, it’s no longer true. Once upon a time egg freezing technology wasn’t as sturdy as embryo freezing and there was a risk that unfertilised eggs wouldn’t survive the freezing and thawing process. Thanks to a rapid-freezing technique called vitrification this is no longer a concern.

If you’re intrigued and want to know more about freezing your eggs, you can read Hertility’s pocket guide to egg freezing here for more information.

17. You can’t do anything about your reproductive health

Yes, you absolutely can take control of your reproductive health! You can be #ReProductive about your health, and Hertilty is here to help you through every step of your fertility journey. We provide you with access to information about your reproductive health whilst guiding you through your fertility journey, from couch to clinic. Start your Hertility journey today by completing our care questionnaire.


Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd Ní Dhonnabháin

Bríd is a Senior Scientific Researcher at Hertility, with a BSc (Hons) in Physiology from UCC and a Masters in Reproductive Science and Women’s Health from University College London. Her research interests focus on fertility preservation, tissue cryopreservation, foetal and maternal medicine and sexual health education

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