If you are trying to conceive in your 30s or beyond, you have likely come across several myths related to fertility. Myths about fertility range from the idea that stress causes infertility to the psychologically damaging belief that infertility is a women’s issue. Unfortunately, these myths can cause you to feel undue shame, guilt and anxiety if you are a woman struggling to conceive. It is important to identify the truths and mistruths behind these myths to ensure you follow the advice supported by fertility research rather than outdated information. By ignoring harmful or misinformed advice and opting for beneficial actions like taking science-backed fertility supplements, you put yourself in the best health for reproduction when getting pregnant after 35. Explore five common fertility myths and the truths behind them.
1. Fertility Is A Women’s Issue
The belief that fertility is a women’s issue comes from ancient origins. Many ancient civilizations associated creation and reproduction with a female goddess figure. This belief closely aligned women with fertility and promoted the idea that problems with fertility lay with the woman. Despite advances in modern science, this association has remained in some circles.
The truth behind this myth is that fertility is a human issue. According to a National Health Statistics Report provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), ⅓ of fertility issues in infertile couples lie with the male, ⅓ with the female and ⅓ were due to both the male and female or were unidentified.
Both men and women are equally affected by fertility problems, and this unfounded belief can delay pregnancies if fertility testing is only performed on the woman or only female-focused interventions are offered. If you and your partner are struggling to conceive, consider promoting sperm health with CoQ10/ubiquinol fertility supplements for women, along with DHEA supplements for your egg health.
2. Certain Foods Make You Infertile
While certain foods can negatively impact fertility over time, a more accurate representation of current research is that poor lifestyle and diet choices adversely affect your overall health and lead to poor reproductive and cellular health. In general, the best diet for overall and reproductive health is high in vegetables, whole grains, fish and unsaturated fats. A healthy diet provides your body with a wide range of nutrients, vitamins and minerals it needs for optimal reproductive health. Diets high in saturated fats and sugar lead to the poorest fertility outcomes. An unhealthy diet typically leads to other factors that raise the risk of infertility, such as a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 in both men and women.
Research on the effects of caffeine and dairy on fertility is mixed. Under 200 milligrams of caffeine per day seems to show little impact on fertility in women. This is approximately one to two 8-ounce cups of coffee per day. Regarding dairy, one study showed an increase in the risk of infertility among women who consume low-fat dairy foods while also showing that women who eat high-fat dairy foods do not experience the same results.
3. Stress Causes Infertility
The myth that stress causes infertility is based on a complex association between infertility and stress. It is unlikely that stress is the initial cause of infertility, but it is not disputed that struggling with infertility causes an immense amount of stress on those trying to conceive.
In one study, 76% of women and 61% of men who used assisted reproductive technology, like IVF, to aid conception reported anxiety in relation to the struggle. Many medications that treat infertility, such as leuprolide and clomiphene, can cause depression and anxiety-like symptoms. What may be true is that women and men who struggle with infertility experience stressful emotions like anxiety, fear, depression and distress, impacting their ability to conceive. This does not mean that stress itself causes infertility – and that “just relaxing” will help you get pregnant, but only that it plays a part for couples already experiencing fertility-related struggles.
4. HPV Vaccines Affect Fertility
For years, the myth that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine negatively impacts women’s ability to conceive has been perpetuated. This myth is particularly damaging because not only is it untrue, it may dissuade women from getting a vaccine that can help prevent cervical cancer.
HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that can cause oral, vaginal or rectal cancer and unpleasant symptoms like genital warts. There were over 43 million cases of HPV in the U.S. in 2018, highlighting the need for individuals to become vaccinated to protect against the virus and reduce its spread. Unfortunately, many women choose not to get the vaccine due to the fear that it will cause infertility.
The truth is that there is no evidence that women who receive the HPV vaccine experienced increased infertility rates. The HPV vaccine is 96% effective at preventing HPV infections, which decreases your likelihood of contracting HPV or subsequent cancers or conditions caused by the virus. Getting the HPV vaccine can improve your chances of fertility by improving the health of your reproductive organs.
5. Age-Related Infertility Only Affects Women
It is true that a woman’s chances of conceiving after 35 drop significantly. Thirty-year-old women have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant during a menstrual cycle — a number that drops to 5% per cycle by age 40. Age-related fertility issues move at a faster pace and in a smaller window for women; however, these issues do happen to men; it is just at a much more gradual pace. On average, men’s age-related fertility problems do not occur before age 60. Around this time, men’s sperm cells begin to deteriorate, and sexual function may decline.
Although the average age of men’s age-related fertility issues begins at 60, many men experience problems much earlier. Lifestyle and diet factors can impact reproductive health in men as they age, as can injuries to the testicles or penis. To remain in top shape for reproduction, men can adhere to a healthy diet and exercise plan and begin looking into men’s reproductive health vitamins and supplements that can help you to conceive over 35.
Ignore Outdated Fertility Myths
Many outdated myths that still circulate add to the anxiety, stress, shame and guilt experienced by many with fertility struggles. Separating fact from fiction can help you let go of false or unhelpful beliefs and advice and move toward science-based actions that you can take to make a real difference in your chances of conception. Always visit a fertility specialist who can address any questions you have about fertility and guide you on the right path.