1. Infertility is much more common than you think. According to the CDC, 11% of women between the ages of 15-44 are infertile. And that's just the women. And that's just between the typical fertility window (for women). So you can crank that number even higher. About one in seven couples has problems with fertility.
2. Infertility isn't always the woman's fault. Nor is it always the man's. About a third of infertility cases can be traced to issues related to the woman's reproductive system. About a third of infertility cases are male factors. About 20% of infertility problems are a combination of factors from both partners. And about 10% of infertility diagnoses are unexplained (Mayo Clinic).
3. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is much less common than you think. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (the professional medical association to which 95% of reproductive endocrinologists and infertility clinics belong) says that only about 5% of couples who experience infertility end up doing IVF in order to get pregnant. That's an incredibly low number given the high incidence of infertility (see #1, above) and the anecdotal evidence around us. Who doesn't know someone who is going through IVF? These days it seems practically like a rite of passage for women over 35.
4. High order multiples (quadruplets, quintuplets, sextuplets, septuplets, octuplets ...) are almost never a result of IVF. With the exception of a few high profile cases such as Nadya Suleman (aka, the Octomom), high order multiple births are usually a result of a treatment called intrauterine insemination (IUI). Unlike IVF, in which the number of embryos transferred to the uterus is controlled and known, there is much less certainty with IUI. In fact, if too many mature eggs are produced, IUI cycles are typically canceled. Unfortunately, if a couple in this situation chooses to have intercourse against the advice of their doctor, they can still get pregnant with the multiples their doctor was hoping to avoid by canceling the cycle.
5. Identical twins are more likely to happen as a result of an IVF cycle than with a spontaneous pregnancy. No, your eyes aren't deceiving you -- the previous sentence is referring to identical twins. Sure, everyone knows that fraternal twins (babies who develop from two separate eggs) are more likely to occur with infertility treatment. But it's a quiet fact that identical twins (babies who originate as a single embryo that splits during development) are also more likely to occur with infertility treatment. The reasons that identicals are more likely with IVF are still being researched. It is likely that several factors are involved, such as during ICSI (the egg is pierced and injected with a single sperm), PGD (a single cell is removed for analysis) and extended exposure to culture media.
6. IVF drugs have been made from such bizarre sources as the first morning pee of a group of Italian nuns and the urine of pregnant horses. As David Letterman has been known to state in his Top Ten lists: 'nuff said.
7. Men preparing for their partners' IVF cycles have some serious work to do: regular masturbation is a must. Until recently, conventional wisdom held that a man should refrain from masturbating or having intercourse for at least 5-7 days in order to procure the best sample for an IVF procedure. What we know now -- much to the delight of male IVF partners everywhere -- is that the healthiest sperm samples (a high sperm count, good morphology and motility) are created by masturbating regularly, every 2 - 3 days, prior to delivering the final sample for IVF.
8. Celebrities are regular folk when it comes to infertility. Some of the most famous infertility patients include: Penn Gillette, Marcia Cross, Celine Dion, Matthew Broderick and SJP, Ricky Martin, Mariah Carey, Courtney Cox, Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts, Angela Bassett, Hugh Jackman, Jamie Leigh Curtis and Christopher Guest, Sharon Stone, Kirstey Alley, Jane Seymore, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, Kelsey Grammer and Sherri Shepherd.
9. IVF is freaking expensive. The average cost of an IVF cycle is $15K. Seriously. 'Nuff said.
10. IVF patients inject themselves with medicine about as frequently as an average heroin addict. IVF patients need to be able to inject themselves with medicine daily; some medicines are needed for as little as two weeks, while others may need to be injected for several months. There are two types of injections: subcutaneous (usually given in a pinch of belly fat) and intramuscular (typically given in the hip or thigh). While some IVF patients get away with one or two injections a day, others may need up to four (or even more). An informal survey of IVFConnections members found that most women prefer to give themselves their own abdominal injections, but avoid giving themselves an injection into deep muscle tissue - leaving that job to a spouse or a friend. A handful of women (also known as bad-ass, hardcore IVFers) proudly give themselves their IM shots in the hip, once a day - for up to 14 weeks.