Couples who wait until their thirties and forties to conceive are not finding it as easy as they originally thought. One of the keys to not being surprised or disappointed is to become educated about all the factors that affect fertility treatment and to look at the big picture. However, with all the information that can be found on the Internet and in books, combined with “expert” opinions from friends and family it can be hard to know what to believe. With regards to the myths about fertility, Dr. Anthony Cheung, founder and medical director at the Grace Fertility Centre, has heard it all and clears the air on what is myth and what is fact.
Myth: “Not necessarily. A woman’s fertility decreases faster after age 35, markedly so after age 40, with less eggs remaining and more with an abnormal chromosome number. In the six to seven years leading to menopause a woman has low fertility and high miscarriage risk even though she may be still ovulating.”
Myth: “With embryo freezing, eggs are fertilized with sperm to develop into viable embryos first before freezing. With the new method of freezing, both eggs and embryos survive thawing very well. Egg freezing is good insurance but there are no guarantees that the frozen eggs will fertilize and develop into viable embryos.” While more than one cycle of egg freezing will provide “more insurance” this is restricted by costs and other factors.
Myth: “Despite all the advances, IVF is not 100 per cent guaranteed, and you may require more than one cycle to conceive. Women under age 36 can have a pregnancy rate of 50 to 60 per cent per cycle, with additional viable embryos for freezing for future use. For older women, pregnancy success relates to individual variations in egg number and quality with age. Male factors can have additional effects.”
Fact: “PGS involves taking some cells from an embryo (embryo biopsy) for genetic testing before embryo transfer. Although PGS reduces miscarriage risk per embryo transfer, it does not increase pregnancy success per IVF cycle. There can be a clinical misdiagnosis of 5% per embryo and cost involved.”
Myth: “Fertility issues are just as often linked to men, such as some known genetic causes, recreational drug use (e.g., testosterone use for body building), excessive weight or sexually transmitted diseases affecting sperm production, quality or transport.
Myth: “Fertility decline with age is less distinct in men than in women. Sperm quality does decrease with age. Some studies also link conditions such as autism in children fathered by older men.”
Myth: “Proper nutrition and physical activities to optimize fertility are no different to improving general and pre-pregnancy health but are not a direct link to fertility. Extreme thinness resulting from excessive exercise, stress or eating disorders, and being overweight do lead to no menstrual periods and infertility in women.”