This article, written by David Ogul, originally appeared on the Los Angeles Times website.
A Chapman University expert discusses fertility problems and treatments.
knows well the mental anguish that couples face when dealing with infertility. The associate professor of psychology is also the director of Chapman University’s Marriage and Family Therapy Program and he is renowned for his expertise on how couples can cope with infertility and the challenges they face.
How would you counsel a couple that is dealing with infertility?
Couples are often shocked at how difficult it is to receive an infertility diagnosis. My goal as a counselor is to help them normalize these unexpected emotional reactions and provide a place where they can openly discuss their pain, losses and differences. This is incredibly important, as this can often seem too big to tackle on their own.
What are some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to infertility?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that infertility impacts women more than men. This grows out of history where a lack of education regarding human reproduction caused people to assume that a woman’s failure to get pregnant was always her fault. The truth is that one-third of infertility cases are attributable to female factors (ovulation, tubal problems), one-third are attributable to male factors (sperm count, motility), and one-third to a combination of the two.
At what age are women most fertile, and what are some of the dangers involved with relatively older women becoming pregnant?
Women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24. Female fertility begins to decline slightly as early as age 28, and it steeply declines at age 37. Most women and men do not know this. This can be problematic if someone’s childbearing intentions and future decision are consistent with these inaccurate perceptions as they risk involuntary childlessness. Some of the dangers involved in older women becoming pregnant are increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirths, pre-term childbirth and genetic disorders in children.
How effective are infertility treatments and what should couples be aware of before going down that path?
The medical technologies we have today such as in vitro fertilization are amazing. They give people who otherwise would never have an opportunity to give birth a chance at becoming biological parents. However, these treatments are not as effective as many might think. The overall success rates for a live-term birth using IVF in the United States is 30% — or in other words, they fail 70% of the time. If you are older, your chances go down significantly each year, dropping to single digits in your 40s. These treatments are also very expensive, averaging $12,400 per cycle in the U.S., and they are physically taxing and emotionally draining. Couples pursuing treatments should know that the journey will likely be emotionally stressful. However, mental health professionals specializing in infertility counseling can provide them with the support and help they need to effectively manage this challenge.