Fertility Facts Revealed

Six things every woman should know about her fertility health



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As a doctor, the moms, sisters, neighbors and friends in my life ask me questions about their health. They ask me earnestly and half-heartedly, privately and in group discussions. And I am glad that they ask. There are a lot of misconceptions about women’s health, and even as doctors we are learning more everyday. I’m happy to answer questions as an OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinologist, but mostly I answer as their friend. Here are areas that I want all women to know about.

1. Fertility is Finite.

When a baby girl is born, she has all of the eggs that she will ovulate for her entire life. Age diminishes the quantity and quality of eggs. This may seem harsh, but thankfully it is not bleak. There have been incredible strides in understanding and treating fertility challenges, especially in the past five years.

Women who are not ready to get pregnant but want to check out their fertility can take a simple blood test that assesses their ovarian reserve. The anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) can be taken any time of the month, can be performed even while a woman is on birth control pills and does not require a sonogram, unlike some other fertility tests.

Also, there have been advances in the technique used to freeze eggs. In 2012, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), the primary society for the infertility field, determined that the freezing and thawing of egg cells is now a proven method for preserving a younger woman's ability to have children, removing the technique's "experimental" label which has been in place since 2008. While this is not a license to throw out the biological clock, it is a way for women to preserve their fertility. This can be extremely helpful for women in their 20s who are about to undergo chemotherapy or who plan on having a family, just not right now.

2. Seeing a Fertility Specialist Doesn’t Always Lead to IVF.

Sometimes couples put off seeing a reproductive endocrinologist because they fear going through in vitro fertilization (IVF), but this is only one treatment option. According to ASRM, IVF and similar treatments account for less than 3% of infertility services in the U.S. Granted, for those who need it, it can be a blessing! But it is not the right treatment path for all patients.

When I see a patient, I first assess the physical and hormonal health of both the man and woman. Sometimes simple solutions such as improving diet and learning to manage stress can be the boost that a couple needs to get pregnant.

Infertility is challenging for us as women, but it gets easier when you are working with a team of experts. My practice includes board-certified reproductive endocrinologists, nurses, embryologists, acupuncturists, a nutritionist, and a yoga instructor. It can be very powerful to know that each of us is contributing to our patients’ success. There is nothing we want more than to help patients bring children into this world.

Whether or not you are ready to start a family, I wish you good luck for when you want to have children!

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3. Secondary Infertility Accounts for More Than Half of All Infertility Cases.

Some women assume that they will not experience infertility because they already have a child. This simply isn’t true. Secondary infertility, which is the inability to get pregnant naturally or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully having one or more children, accounts for more than half of all infertility cases. As we age, our reproductive health diminishes – this is true for men and women. Although there are some cases where men in their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s are able to father a child, the quality and quantity of viable sperm decreases as men age. There is a significant drop in a man’s reproductive health in their 50’s. For women, secondary infertility can be caused by damaged or broken fallopian tubes, ovulation problems and endometriosis.   Women under 35 years old should see a fertility specialist if they have been having unprotected sex for more than a year. For women over 35 years old, this timeframe is six months.  

4. PCOS affects 8 – 10% of All Women of Reproductive Age.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is not widely known by the general public and it can be hard to diagnose, even for some physicians. Yet it is the leading known cause of infertility and can lead to other serious medical conditions over time, including heart disease and some cancers. Common physical symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, acne, hair growth in unwanted areas (such as facial hair). Girls as young as 11 years old can have PCOS. The good news is that after diagnosis, women can start to manage PCOS through diet, exercise and medication. At my practice, our PCOS Team includes a nutritionist, nurses, reproductive endocrinologist (to monitor and regulate hormones) and therapist who holds individual sessions and support groups (symptoms can be psychologically hurtful).

5. Women Over 35 Years Old Have Options, Even If a Family Isn’t in Their Near Future.

Most women know that their chances of getting pregnant during any given month drop dramatically after 35 years old. Those who want to have kids, but don’t think that it is in their near future, can take control. First, talk to a fertility specialist, who will want to know about your family and medical history, as well as take simple blood tests to assess your reproductive health. A fertility specialist should also have insights about how you can improve your health to maintain fertility, including quit smoking, manage stress, improve nutrition and get regular exercise. Women who are ready to start a family can work with a third-party reproduction program to find a sperm donor. Women who are not ready may want to consider freezing eggs. The bottom line is that the more a fertility specialist knows about your reproductive health, the more he/she can help you start a family when you are ready.

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6. When in Doubt, Talk to a Specialist.

Women who are concerned about their fertility should talk to a fertility specialist to determine whether or not they need help starting their family. A conversation does not necessarily lead to treatment, but it can help lay some anxieties to rest and clear up any misconceptions.

Here are some tips for finding a doctor:

  • Find a board certified reproductive endocrinologist. Reproductive endocrinology is a sub-specialty of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/GYN) that focuses on the study of reproductive hormones and the female reproductive system. Many patients ask their OB/GYN or friends for a recommendation.
  • Find a doctor who is a good personality fit for you. Every doctor has his or her own style, and this should be a match for you. You are the patient; you need to feel comfortable. Don’t be embarrassed to change doctors within a practice or go to a new practice all together.
  • Check the pregnancy rates of doctors and fertility practices in your area. All fertility practices are required to submit this information to the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology, which posts the results on www.sart.org.  

Infertility is challenging for us as women, but it gets easier when you are working with a team of experts. My practice includes board-certified reproductive endocrinologists, nurses, embryologists, acupuncturists, a nutritionist, and a yoga instructor. It can be very powerful to know that each of us is contributing to our patients’ success. There is nothing we want more than to help patients bring children into this world.

Whether or not you are ready to start a family, I wish you good luck for when you want to have children!


Dr. Cynthia Murdock, who is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, is a fertility specialist with Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT). She sees patients in Stamford, Norwalk, Danbury and Trumbull. Her patients have declared her a “Patients’ Choice,” earning her awards in 2011 and 2012. She lives in Westport, along with her daughter and husband.


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Fertility Centers of Excellence:  RMACT is one of just 11 leading In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) centers nationwide chosen by In Vitro Sciences to participate in its Centers of Excellence program. RMACT’s board-certified fertility specialists are extensively trained in reproductive medicine and are eager to help you start or expand your family.

RMA has offices located in:

  • Norwalk, CT 06850
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  • Stamford, CT 06905
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  • Danbury, CT 06810
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  • Trumbull, CT 06611
    Phone: 203-880-5340
  • or call Patient Services directly at 800-865-5431