Infertility is a disease. Often, folks don’t consider their fertility as a health issue until they need to deal with problems in getting pregnant. And when they realize they should have paid attention to this, they’re already past a healthy reproductive age.
One in six couples experiences infertility at some point in their lives. To counter this issue, World Infertility Awareness Month – which was observed in June – focuses on fertility treatment during the coronavirus pandemic.
“In addition to psychological issues, there are the physiological ones too,” says Dr. Sulaiman Helyen, president of the Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREC). “Delaying fertility treatment due to fear of COVID-19 can further reduce your chances of successful treatment outcomes. [With] studies showing a reduction in live birth rates in patients who have postponed treatment.”
Don’t delay treatment for infertility
According to Dr. Heylen, while treatment was suspended during the hard lockdown, clinics are now open again. Doctors encourage ‘high-risk’ patients – whose chances of falling pregnant could be reduced by delaying treatment – to seek help.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinics are safe
Clinics have taken precautions to ensure the health and safety of patients and staff. Visitors have a minimal risk of infection. They also don’t need to wait for a vaccine before opting for treatment.
Treatment options available for infertility
First, a doctor will perform different tests to determine the cause of a couple’s infertility. The problem will naturally lie with either the man or the woman. In some cases, the issue is a result of both reproductive systems not functioning properly.
A fertility specialist will then recommend one of the following for men:
- Sperm retrieval
- A change of lifestyle
or one of the following for women:
- Stimulation of ovulation using fertility drugs
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Surgery to restore fertility
Since the 1970s, 9 million babies have been born with IVF
The other option is assisted reproductive technology. In vitro fertilization – commonly known as IVF – is the most common form of this technology.
Why it’s important to seek treatment early
Dr. Heylen explains that it’s essential to be proactive when you’re considering having children. According to him, more than 50% of patients who visit a fertility center are 35 years or older. Especially if you have a family history of infertility, you need to consider your options, such as freezing your eggs or your sperm in your younger years.
When it comes to childbearing and fertility, you need to be thinking ahead. Even if you’re at a stage in your life where this is not your focus. It’s your responsibility to check your family history and consider your options early on. You’ll always be grateful that you were proactive, instead of struggling with a disease that affects too many people unnecessarily.
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Heylen, S. (2021). “Interview on fertility”. Interviewed by Johané du Toit, Longevity, 8 June