Couples should seek assistance for fertility problems together, says specialist
Infertility not only represents a major healthcare burden in South Africa but often causes conflict between couples and may even result in separation and divorce.
Most couples experiencing fertility problems can be assisted to conceive with the necessary medical support.
Gynaecologist, obstetrician and fertility specialist, Dr Qinisile Diale from Family Matters Fertility Centre based at Netcare Unitas says: “While it is often mistakenly believed that the female partner is the one who is infertile, and she may even be stigmatised, particularly here in South Africa, it is not commonly known that infertility very often stems from the male partner.
In fact, some 30 to 50 percent of infertility problems are related to men, with 30% identified as being solely a male problem and the other 20 percent a difficulty that is specific to the two partners,” explains Diale.
“This is not to cast blame for infertility on one or either of the sexes but simply to highlight the fact that when partners play a ‘blame game’, it does not provide solutions to a problem that could well be addressed with the assistance of specialists at a dedicated fertility centre'' says Diale.
Her message to couples is not giving up hope of conceiving and to seek solutions for their problem together. “More than 80 percent of the overall population can fall pregnant within a year of trying and 90 percent within two years. So couples who are trying to but don’t conceive within that time may well have a fertility challenge of one kind or another and would be well advised to address it with their doctor, who could refer them to a fertility specialist.
The recommendation is to seek medical consultation as soon as possible after 12 months of struggling to conceive after regular intercourse without usage of any form of contraception.
“There are a vast number of reasons why a couple may be struggling to conceive but nowadays we can find a solution for most causes of infertility,” she adds.
Diale says there is a range of fertility treatments offered for couples to address fertility challenges in both sexes. These include in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), which involves extracting eggs, obtaining a sperm sample, and then fertilising them in a laboratory dish before transferring them to the uterus; intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), intrauterine insemination (IUI) with a donor or partner's sample, comprehensive semen analysis, surrogacy, egg donation, semen analysis and others.
“While the use of IVF may increase the chances of multiple pregnancies, which may be associated with an increased risk of lower birth weights and premature delivery, it is an important option for many couples who are struggling to conceive, particularly as it can assist in addressing a range of fertility problems in both men and women,” says Diale.
“Couples who are struggling to start a family can take comfort in the knowledge that reproductive medicine has advanced rapidly in recent years and that dedicated specialist fertility centres such as this are able to significantly improve the chances of becoming pregnant and giving birth to a healthy baby,” she concludes.