Five misconceptions about fertility treatment

Randal Robinson, M.D.
Randal Robinson, M.D.

You’re educated, comfortable and successful. You’ve reached most, if not all, of the goals you committed to achieve before having a baby–and you’re not the only one. The average age of new moms is 26 years old; that’s nearly three years older than first time moms in the 1980s. As a nation, we are starting our families later in life, and most reproductive specialists agree that a woman’s fertility begins to decline by age 30. It is no surprise that our reliance on reproductive health specialists has increased.

Whether for personal, career or health reasons, couples and individuals are relying on local fertility specialists to help them grow their families. Whether you are planning on starting your family this year or in 10 years, it’s important to understand some of the common myths surrounding fertility treatments.

Myth 1: You must be diagnosed as ‘infertile’ to see a fertility specialist.

Anybody can make an appointment with a fertility specialist, and many do for a number of reasons. Professionals and even long-term students may seek out a local fertility center for egg or embryo freezing. The procedure preserves a woman’s healthy eggs or a couple’s fertilized embryos for future use. Also, those having a family history of a severe genetic disorder may automatically opt to undergo in-vitro fertilization to prevent passing on that gene. Additionally, many people visit fertility centers for health reasons, including preserving their fertility prior to undergoing cancer treatment.

Myth 2:  A couple must try to conceive naturally for one year before seeking treatment.

While most physicians recommend this approach for individuals younger than 35 years old, women over 35 shouldn’t try longer than six months before making an appointment with a fertility specialist. Both partners can swiftly undergo testing to rule out or confirm a reproductive health problem. Also, there is no need to delay fertility treatment if either partner has a known reproductive disorder such as irregular periods, anatomical disorders or diagnosed sperm disorders.

Myth 3: Reproductive therapy is not common.

Whether it’s by choice or because of an infertility diagnosis, many people are using fertility treatments to become parents. According to the CDC, 11 percent of women and 9 percent of men experience difficulty growing their families. In 2014, more than 70,000 babies were born to mothers who used fertility treatments, and that number is rising.

Myth 4: All fertility centers are created equal.

In the United States there are more than 450 recognized fertility centers. Each one provides different services, has different success rates and charges different fees. While no fertility practice can guarantee their treatment plan will result in a baby, it’s important to do your research before choosing a fertility specialist. Some criteria you may consider includes: physician experience and training, variety of procedures offered, the total costs, insurance and payment options, on-site lab and storage services and their guidelines for accepting new patients.

Myth 5: Fertility treatment is always a costly, out-of-pocket expense.

Fertility treatment requires a variety of investments, including time, emotion and money. But, not all fertility treatments cost thousands of dollars. Often, reproductive health specialists will recommend the least-invasive, most cost-effective fertility treatment as a first approach.

As the type of reproductive procedures become more involved, so does pricing. Costs for procedures differ at each fertility center. Some centers may offer package pricing, payment plans, financing and credit plans. Often, academic-affiliated practices are able to offer more affordable pricing due to grants and other sources of funding. Additionally, some companies and insurance plans may cover portions of the costs associated with advanced reproductive technologies, such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF).

According to board certified reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, Randal Robinson, M.D., with UT Medicine San Antonio, every patient has a unique set of circumstances that leads them to fertility treatment. Some may be interested in only preserving their fertility; some may require only fertility medications and monitoring, while others will undergo donor embryo in-vitro fertilization. A reproductive health specialist can help determine the best treatment plan for every patient’s unique circumstances.

If you’re ready to start your family, or are planning to wait a few more years, the more you know about the reality of fertility treatment, the better prepared you’ll be.

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