National Infertility Awareness Week helps to open up a dialogue about infertility and how it affects people nationwide. And, as part of evolving discussion about baby-making, there are misconceptions about infertility that need to be cleared up even if infertility doesn't affect you per se. Why? Well, it's widely accepted that women can take a pill to decide not to get pregnant, but when you introduce the idea of treatments to help a woman get pregnant, there's a dearth of reliable information out there. That's not just sexist, it's illogical.
To clear up misconceptions, I spoke to a leading physician in the field of reproductive endocrinology, Dr. Jane Frederick, the Medical Director of HRC Fertility in Orange County, where she developed a diverse clinical practice in reproductive surgery, IVF, and the genetic screening of embryos. In practice for 26 years, Frederick has seen the field of reproductive health evolve exponentially in recent years, though there's still a lot of work to be done. "We need to empower women on what our reproductive choices are," she says. "We need to empower women to have babies and the family they want and not give up hope." I couldn't agree more. So, on the road to hope, here are a few common misconceptions about infertility, along with some facts.
Myth 1: The Deal With "Good Eggs"
"The biological clock is real," Frederick says. "For women, the best eggs are in our 20s, and the drop in good eggs occurs after age 35." Remember, however, like with any medical statistic, these figures are based on averages. So, of course there are women who are outliers to each group. You only know how good your eggs are by getting tested, and you can read up on what you can do to boost ovarian egg health.
Myth 2: Infertility Is A Woman's Problem
Nope! In fact, according to Frederick, 40 percent of her patients have a male factor problem. "Sperm analysis is pretty important [and is] the first part of the discussion and it's treatable," she says. "Infertility is not always the woman's problem. The man [if there's a man involved] should be a part of the process." And remember, men might be sensitive about the quality of their sperm, so handle this topic with care.
Myth 3: All Infertility Treatments Produce Multiples
The Octomom stereotype of what happens when a woman undergoes IVF is not only outdated, it's silly. Why let one woman's medical experience dictate an entire field of medical technology? "There are lots of low tech options available that result in single-embryo pregnancies," Frederick says. Insurance companies might try to use the "multiples" argument because they're trying to pinch pennies. Not cool.
Myth 4: Insurance Doesn't Cover Infertility Treatments
Lots of treatments to help women trying to conceive can be done through her OB-GYN. For example, sometimes fallopian tubes need to be opened up, a quick procedure, according to Frederick, who tries to get as many of her patients' treatments covered by OB-GYN care. On the other hand, infertility insurance coverage can sometimes be deceptive. "Sometimes the coverage is just diagnostic testing," Frederick says. "We need to offer complete coverage." In other words, after a consultation and testing, the actual procedures need to be covered, like they are in Massachusetts, where the state mandates full IVF coverage. What are you doing to make this a national mandate?
Myth 5: Obamacare Covers Infertility Treatment
"Obamacare doesn’t cover infertility treatment," Frederick says. "But, employers can offer it to their employees." If you work for a company with 100,000 employees, you might be entitled to more healthcare options. "Only 30 percent of employers offer infertility coverage, but it's easy to get a rider in that healthcare deal," she adds. Reach out to your community and advocate for coverage. You can do it!
Myth 6: All Infertility Treatments Are Expensive
I know couples who've taken out loans to pay for infertility treatments. But, there are a lot of lower tech (i.e. less expensive) treatments available for both men and women. And sometimes all you need to get pregnant is a drug. Unfortunately, according to Frederick, the pharmaceutical companies have patents on all the infertility drugs, so you can't buy generic versions of them. But, large drugstore chains offer pretty good deals (as opposed to your local private pharmacy) when you pay for drugs out-of-pocket.
Myth 7: You Shouldn't Discuss Your Fertility With Your Employer
As a woman, you have the choice when to decide you want to start planning for a family. This does not make you a lesser employee. But, there are some awesome employers out there, especially in Silicon Valley, famous for innovation in myriad industries. According to Frederick, companies like Google and Facebook offer options for "women employees to freeze their eggs as part of the employee agreement and put all the technology in there to mitigate the ticking clock." Now that's what I'm talking about.
Myth 8: You Can Get Safe Infertility Drugs Overseas
Although it might be tempting to buy fertility drugs overseas (or online) at a fraction of their cost in the United States, Frederick warns people from doing this. "I caution patients against buying drugs overseas because there's no FDA guarantee and [the drugs] might be watered down," she says. "Don't order drugs online. Get FDA approved drugs that have been inspected." On the real. It's worth it; this is your body, your family.
Myth 9: The Chances Of Infertility Treatment Working Are Slim
When you factor in all the different causes of infertility — both male and female — and all the different types of treatments, from pills to surgeries, it's illogical to make a sweeping assumption that all infertility treatments don't work.
Uninformed thinking is exactly what's preventing women from seeking fertility treatment. So have an open mind and educate yourself. And also remember that infertility is a health concern that affects everyone.