Thursday, September 15, 2011

Miscarriage and Infertility

I recently realized with horror, that after almost 2 years of writing this blog - documenting my career change from health researcher to miscarriage/infertility counsellor - and sharing health and fitness information, that I have yet to do a post devoted to miscarriage and infertility! So here it is.

Some facts:

*Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of regular, unprotected sex.

*1-in-6 couples face infertility issues.

*Even young, completely fertile couples only have a 25% chance of conceiving on any one given cycle.

*After the age of 35, the chance of miscarriage and infertility starts to increase rapidly.

*About 30% of infertility is due to female factors, 30% is due to male factors, and the rest is unexplained.

*Stress does not cause infertility, but infertility DOES cause stress.

*It is estimated that 20-30% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

*More miscarriages are being detected now because early pregnancy tests are able to detect pregnancy so soon after conception that miscarriages occurring early on that would have been assumed as a heavy period are now recognized as a pregnancy loss.

*A woman generally has to have 3 consecutive miscarriages before doctors consider it to be "medically significant" (i.e. due to a medical problem rather than just chance).

*Because miscarriages are such common events, the medical community has been slow to recognize the emotional repercussions they can have.

*Studies have shown that women find having a miscarriage to be one of the most difficult experiences they have ever faced (even more so than divorce, job loss, etc.).

*IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies cannot guarantee that a couple can have a baby. Past a certain age, there is a very low chance of success. Women in their 40s and older often have to use donated eggs because their own eggs are too poor in quality.

There you have some of the basics! Feel free to ask me any questions you may have.


  1. The stat I've seen is that 20% of pg end in miscarriage, and that has been borne out on the HA board, where the rate is currently around 18%. Obviously that's a small sample, but I don't know why the rate would be 12% lower than average, if that's what it really is. Where did you get that number from?

  2. The 30% is based on estimates of how many early stage miscarriages go undetected.

  3. It could be closer to 20% but we don't know for sure.

  4. Thanks for this awesome, informative post. Question: Is it possible for 'stress to cause infertility' if stress is causing other negative physical effects that is known to do: i.e. poor sleeping habits, high cortisol, malnutrition, oxidative stress?

    Just curious what your input might be on that!

  5. Doc, yes there CAN be an indirect effect if physical/emotional stress is interfering with ovulation/menstrual cycles. Anovulation can be caused by severe emotional stress or physical stress caused by dieting, intense exercise, etc. No link with cortisol has been found, but one study found a link between alpha-amylase levels and the amount of time it took to get pregnant.

    Experts often refer to stats that look at pregnancy rates during major catastrophies (natural disasters, war, genocide, etc.) and have found no evidence of a connection with fertility.

  6. What is important to remember is that merely "worrying about infertility" does not cause infertility AND telling people who are facing infertility just to "relax" is very hurtful because (1) most times there is an actual medical reason that cannot be fixed by relaxing, and (2) this is a blame-the-victim type statement.