Dispelling Fertility Myths Among Educated Patients

As IVF doctors, we often believe that highly educated patients (MBAs or IT engineers), know a lot about their reproductive system. But sometimes this turns out to be a dangerous assumption because many of them are completely clueless about human reproductive biology. It's not like they were sleeping during their high school biology class, but it's just that a lot of the information they have is unreliable or outdated - partly because it comes from old wives’ tales, girlfriends, or unreliable websites.

Many of them don't seem to have a very clear conception about ovulation or fertility or the menstrual cycle or where the menstrual flow comes from – basic biological knowledge which doctors take for granted. We often assume that these highly educated professionals know the facts of life, which is why we often don't start from first principles. But it's only when you dig in a little deeper, you realize that because they haven't been well informed, they've not been timing baby-making sex properly; or they've been using the fertility app on their smartphone incorrectly; or they've been using BBT temperature charting – which actually reduces their fertility!

This is why we try to be very open and frank with our patients and start from the basics. And some get irritated because they think, hey, that's obvious - I know all that. Can we please focus on my specific medical problem and its solution? But you'd be surprised by how many myths and misconceptions there are even amongst highly educated women today about fertility. For example, women who have ovarian cysts, for example, chocolate cysts, believe that the flow they get during the menstrual period is the cyst being discharged in the menstrual period. They don't seem to realize that the menstrual period only consists of the uterine lining being shed, along with its blood supply, and the cyst has nothing to do with the menstrual period. Part of the problem is that all they can see is the menstrual period, which is why they worry when it's light or when it's heavy or when it's early, or when it's late. But there is very little correlation between the characteristics of the menstrual period and fertility. But this is not something that most women know, which is why they get unduly anxious when their periods deviate from the normal. This is why it's always a good idea to invest in educating your patients and helping them to review the basic facts of life!

Authored by : Dr Aniruddha Malpani, MD and reviewed by Dr Anjali Malpani.