I’m an Auntie Mame to several but Mum to none, which means I’ve been the sympathetic ear to countless of my girlfriends wondering if they are pregnant, can get pregnant, when they are going into labor, etc., etc. I recently had the chance to speak with one of LA’s top fertility doctors, Dr. Bradford Kolb, about some of the facts and myths surrounding the subject. Here’s what he had to say:
Myth #1: If my period is regular, I’m fertile.
Fact: Just because you have a regular cycle doesn’t guarantee that all’s fine with your fertility. A number of underlying issues may hamper conception: blocked fallopian tubes, structural problems, endometriosis and even STDs.
Myth #2: If I take good care of my general health, my fertility will be in check too.
Fact: Yes, a good diet, nutritional supplements, exercise and healthy lifestyle are all recommended to get your body baby ready. However, just because you’re in seemingly tip-top shape doesn’t mean you’ll be able to conceive easily. An underlying condition, such as a structural issue or blocked fallopian tubes, fibroids, polyps and even blood clotting disorders can all compromise your fertility.
Myth #3: If I’ve already had a baby, I won’t have problems conceiving again.
Fact: Secondary Infertility — the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after having one or more children — is on the rise. It accounts for more than half of all infertility cases.
Myth #4: Infertility is primarily a woman’s issue.
Fact: Infertility affects men and women equally. In fact approximately 40% is male factor, 40% is female factor, and in 20% of cases it’s a combination of factors or unexplained. If a couple is having trouble conceiving, it’s important that both undergo a fertility workup.
Myth #5: 40 is the new 30; and that pertains to fertility too.
Fact: Age matters. A woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30s and then rapidly in her late 30s. Just because the media is rife with stories of celebrities having babies into their 40s doesn’t mean they conceived naturally.
Myth #6 – Try for a year before you seek help.
Fact: If you are over 30, trying for six months is sufficient time to warrant basic fertility testing. If you are over 35, you should wait 3-6 months.
Infertility is too expensive to treat so I should wait until it “happens naturally”
There are many infertility conditions that will prevent couples from ever conceiving naturally including damaged fallopian tubes, sperm issues, etc., Not knowing the issue or not having basic fertility testing prevents a couple from understanding what they are dealing with. Seek out expert opinions and costs and check out clinics for “gift cycles.” Many clinics have programs for Free IVF cycles or testing. Do your research on clinics with Giving Back programs.
Myth #8 If I do Infertility treatments, I will end up with twins, triplets or eight babies!
Fact: This is simply not true – a responsible and qualified clinic ensures couples are monitored and treated well so they don’t have multiples. Unfortunately, sensationalistic stories like the “Octomom” give Infertility a bad name.
I also asked him these questions:
1. Is there a such thing as a biological clock or is that a myth?
Yes, there is a biological clock. This refers to the fact that women have a limited time to conceive. The issue at hand is that women are born with all the eggs that they will ever have. We also suspect that the more “viable” eggs are ovulated earlier in life. Unfortunately, short of a woman freezing her eggs earlier in life, there is no way to stop the decline. Things like birth control pills which stop ovulation do not help.
2. Bear with me, but I hear of all kinds of crazy things to bring on pregnancy and delivery, including a special salad some friends of mine eat (!) that haven’t gone into labor. What do you tell patients when they tell you what they have been doing?
Short of eating a healthy diet and staying health, there are no miracle foods to improve pregnancy rates. No pineapples will not improve one’s fertility rates. Certainly, poor diets and poor health can impair fertility. In regards to the issue of bringing on labor, anything that will have a laxative effort may stimulate uterine contractions and subsequently bring on labor.
3. Are there exercise programs or health regimens of any sort that are actually counter-protective to fertility or pregnancy that one wouldn’t think of?
We encourage our patients to stay fit, but it is clear that excessive levels of exercise or intense exercise can be counterproductive when one is attempting to conceive. I encourage my patients to bring their level of exercise down to staying comfortable and limber. The excess exercise can bring down the body’s fat stores and impair ovulation in thin women and the excess build-up of lactic acid and endorphins may also impair fertility
4. A good friend of mine recently became pregnant after her doctor told her there was “no chance” of her getting pregnant on a certain medication. Is this relatively rare, or do you see this often?
Well…doctors aren’t perfect, are we. I almost never deal in absolutes. On our occasions, people will beat the odds.
Thank you, Dr. Kolb!
photo by Mijola Photography