Think you know how to get pregnant? Think again. Infertility is on the rise and many people have no idea what's involved—or what's at stake.

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of trying to get pregnant. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 7.3 million women access infertility treatments every year and almost 12 percent of women have an impaired ability to get pregnant. Some of that is due to anatomical, hormonal, or other biological issues. But some of it is also due to a misunderstanding of basic fertility facts. Desiree Bley, MD, OB-GYN in Portland, OR, clarifies five misconceptions about infertility:

1. If after a few tries you're not pregnant, you could be infertile. "Many patients aren't really infertile," Bley says. "They just don't know how to get pregnant. Sometimes, their 'infertility' is just bad timing or lack of understanding about their menstrual cycle and conception. We educate them about when they're fertile and when to have sex and voila—it works."

2. It's never too late to have children. Sure, some women can get pregnant after 40, but not most. In fact, fertility rates drop dramatically after age 35. Bley says, "Waiting until 40 is wildly late. It's hard to overcome the infertility challenges and there's no time for mistakes. For example, if you do become pregnant, but miscarry, there's not much time for a do-over. Infertility treatments bump up the pregnancy odds, but often, it's with donor eggs, not your own. And since insurance only covers infertility treatment in five states, waiting too long might not be affordable."

3. Women shoulder more of the responsibility for infertility. Women are usually responsible for infertility about one-third of the time. Men are responsible another third of the time and both partners have infertility challenges in the remaining third. But "Guys are often unwilling to take ownership of their part in a couple's infertility," Bley says. "Women will go through all kinds of invasive procedures before many men will even give a simple, inexpensive sperm sample. I tell my patients, 'He's responsible for 50 percent of the business of getting pregnant.' I mean, he has to get sperm there."

4. It should only take one try to get pregnant. While technically that's true, many patients don't get pregnant because they aren't having sex often enough or at the right time." There's really only one or two days per month that are optimal for getting pregnant," Bley explains. "You also have to have sex often enough during that time period to hit the target."

Doctors recommend patients do the following:

  1. keep track of their cycles
  2. narrow down when they're ovulating
  3. have sex every 24 to 48 hours during that time 

Women who have irregular cycles might need more "opportunities" for sex or expert help identifying when they're most fertile.

5. Once you're deemed infertile, there's no turning back. It's hard to measure the connection between stress and infertility with hard data and double-blind studies, but there are numerous stories from parents and doctors to support a direct connection. "There are countless examples of infertile couples who dramatically reduce their stress load and get pregnant," Bley says. "They give up trying and start adoption proceedings, or go on vacation and get pregnant. Some studies support combining acupuncture with infertility treatments because it works for many couples. In fact, some endocrinologists/infertility specialists employ acupuncturists on staff because they improve success rates for infertility treatments."

"Sometimes, all it takes is a little fine tuning and information to help couples get pregnant," Bley adds. "It takes a year of trying before you're diagnosed with infertility, but if you're nearing 40, you don't have a year to wait. In fact, if you're over 35, see your doctor sooner rather than later."



Women' "Infertility Fact Sheet." Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health. Web. Page last updated 1 July 2009. Page accessed 27 April 2013.

Centers for Disease Control. "Fast Stats: Infertility." Web. Page last updated 18 July 2012. Page last accessed 27 April 2013.