By: Tiffany Vance-Huffman
It’s kind of strange, but I have noticed that there is not a lot of open discussion about infertility. Maybe I don’t run in the right circles. Or maybe people get too upset to discuss it. That’s not what makes it strange though. It’s because the use of infertility treatment options has gone out the roof over the last decade or two. You’d think it would be a regular topic of conversation. And if you start digging, you’ll find that everyone has a different theory as to the reason. These range from women waiting until an older age to have children to pesticides we ingest from our food. Whatever the causes, a record number of people are dealing with infertility and subsequently using in vitro fertilization (IVF) as an option.
This is not just a female issue, of course. It turns out that male sperm count seems to be declining. In fact, one report noted that more men aged 18 to 45 have infertility than diabetes. That’s pretty crazy when you consider the numbers on diabetes in the U.S.
While I can’t find any information on whether fibromyalgia affects male infertility, there is definitely something noteworthy about women. You should know up front that there is nothing definitive linking fibro to infertility. In fact, there is very little to be found about this issue, but here’s what I’ve discovered so far.
The Fibromyalgia and Endometriosis Connection
The Fibromyalgia Treatment Group specializes exclusively in researching natural ways to reduce fibromyalgia symptoms. They point to the following: “Life complications are simultaneous with fibromyalgia and one particular life complication that some women might endure as a result of fibromyalgia is infertility.” They follow this with an explanation of endometriosis, which is known to cause infertility. Interestingly, there’s a definite connection between endometriosis and fibromyalgia. Specifically, women with endometriosis are much more prone to get fibro. Researchers don’t know why that is the case, but are nevertheless “now encouraging doctors to consider endometriosis when evaluating their patients for either CFS or fibromyalgia,” says one fibro organization.
In case you’re unaware, endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. For some it is very painful and includes many symptoms, while others have no idea that endometriosis is growing inside them at all. It’s non-cancerous, so no worries there. Nevertheless, it can definitely lead to infertility.
Stress and Infertility
Dr. Victor Marchione discusses a study that compared women both with and without fibromyalgia. He explains, “Deliveries of 112 pregnancies in fibromyalgia patients were compared to 487 deliveries in women without fibromyalgia…Women with fibromyalgia had higher rates of intrauterine growth restriction, recurrent [spontaneous] abortions, gestational diabetes, and polyhydramnios [excess amniotic fluid]…The researchers concluded that fibromyalgia is an independent risk factor for intrauterine growth restriction.” That means the baby doesn’t grow the way it should and can lead to problems during pregnancy, delivery, and after birth.
Dr. Marchione emphasizes the strong correlation between fibromyaliga and stress. Remember that intensely stressful situations, such as those associated with trauma, can actually bring on fibromyalgia. And it’s no secret that stress can influence fertility, although it effects all women differently.
One study compared pregnancy rates in couples with reported stress against those who were not stressed. They found that “pregnancy was much more likely to occur during months when couples reported feeling “good” — happy and relaxed. It was less likely to occur during the months they reported feeling tense or anxious…In research published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005, experts at the University of California at San Diego reported that stress may play a role in the success of infertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). After administering a series of questionnaires designed to measure patients’ stress levels, the researchers found that women who scored highest — indicating the highest levels of stress — had ovulated 20% fewer eggs compared with women who were less stressed.”
Fibromyalgia and Fertility: Conclusions?
The bottom line is that having fibromyalgia can cause a wealth of problems. It is certainly possible that it can lead to infertility, most likely inadvertently. And if you’re considering getting pregnant while simultaneously dealing with fibromyalgia, you’re probably concerned about whether it will exacerbate your symptoms. You may also be concerned with the quality of your parenting due to your condition and low energy levels. These are normal concerns, but the National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association has the best advice: “If bringing a child into the world is important to you, take care of yourself, surround yourself with understanding and help, and enjoy the journey!”
Have you had fertility issues with fibromyalgia? Are you willing to share your fibromyalgia and fertility story with us?