Fertility expert Dr Sandeep Karunakaran debunks some of the most popular myths about infertility and reproductive health.
With an increasing number of couples experiencing challenges with regard to conception and pregnancy, there is a wide-ranging debate in the society about the various aspects concerning the same.
Changing lifestyles, work patterns, stress, and various other factors have added to increasing rate of infertility across the board -- and with it have sprung several myths, some perpetrated for a while, and others that are of a more recent origin.
As much as there is abundance of information available today, it is equally true that there is an avalanche of misinformation as well.
Thus, it must be an ongoing endeavour for us to dispel these myths of infertility and share authentic information as several dreams and hopes of parenthood are very well made or broken by such information.
Here are some facts you must be aware of:
Myth 1. Fertility is a female problem
This is a myth that has been a recurring theme from forever.
Mostly because of the paternal bent of the society, this couldn't be further from the truth. That it takes both male and female partners to make a baby is proof enough that the malfunction, abnormality, or difficulty could occur in either one of them; and it is not the exclusive challenge just with the female partners.
There are enough symptoms and challenges of the male infertility. Reluctance to accept them only accentuates the problem.
Instead of deflecting blame on to the other, it is advisable to be open and willing to accept the problem so you can arrive at a viable solution.
Myth 2. If only you try harder, and more frequently
If a couple has been trying to conceive naturally and hasn't been successful over a 12-month period, then surely there is a challenge in there.
Just trying harder and increasing the frequency of intercourse isn't going to do a thing to change the situation.
This would amount to merely pulling wool over one's own eyes and willfully living in denial.
Myth 3. Age is just a number, doesn't have anything to do with fertility
Actually, it absolutely does. Not just fertility but it also has a lot to do with pregnancy, safe delivery, and prenatal health as well.
Admittedly, this might be a lesser of a concern for the men compared to women but the fact that biological clock is ticking is a reality for everyone.
There are challenges of conception post 35 for women, there is a reduced availability of good eggs, hormonal imbalances, and others.
Similarly, men also will see a decline in libido, sperm count and morphology etc., with advancing age.
Myth 4. A successful conception proves it's not infertility
Again, this is a bit of a misnomer and in-part denial of the problem. Just as no two pregnancies are alike, it can be safely concluded that no two conceptions are alike either.
There is variance of age, lifestyle, possible ailments that have crept in, injuries, and various other factors. Just because one has successfully conceived once doesn't mean that two or three years later everything would remain the same.
Myth 5. It's just a lifestyle issue, not clinical
Well, in part, this may be true.
In the sense, that some of the infertility challenges are caused or accentuated by lifestyle factors. And fertility experts would be the first to advise lifestyle changes should they ascertain so, however, that alone cannot be the entirety of the cause and therefore treatment in all cases.
For some couples or individuals, fertility is genetic, or anatomical, or it could even be caused by another medical condition or treatment.
Thus, it is hazardous to come to a blanket conclusion in this manner.
Myth 6. Infertility is as big a problem as it made out to be
Statistics completely dispel this notion. Just for instance, about 12 to 14% of the Indian population has some form of a fertility challenge and this is further higher in urban areas with almost one in every six individuals complaining of challenges associated with natural conception.
This clearly indicates that this isn’t rare and certainly not an ignorable number.
Besides, the numbers clearly indicate at an increasing graph -- the numbers are only gaining and don't espouse any decline in fertility rates.
Myth 7. All journeys from infertility to fertility have the same path
It is unlikely. Highly so.
As unique as every child is born, and as unique are the two individuals who conceive it -- every fertility journey has its own unique features.
Yes, there are broad strokes of similarity and patterns that one can be established but every couple, their challenges, and the solutions that will help them become parents are unique to each one of them.
And instead of painting everyone with the same brush, everyone will be well-served to appreciate the uniqueness of the challenges and find solutions that work for the individuals in question.
Indeed, the procedures, science, and treatment may be similar, but the application and outcomes are specific to the individuals.
Apart from these common myths, there are various others as well. For example, you may hear someone say that individual health has no bearing on fertility.
Actually, it does.
Does age only affect women's fertility, not men? Not true. Just relax and give it time. It's unlikely in every case; and so on and so forth.
Let's not trivialise or live in denial about infertility. It is a reality, however much we be not wanting to accept it.
On the contrary, acceptance is the first step in the direction of overcoming it, and realising your dreams of parenthood.
Dr Sandeep Karunakaran, MBBS, MS, PGDHM, PGDMLE is clinical head and fertility specialist at Oasis Fertility.