Research shows that up to 20 percent of South African couples may suffer from infertility – ranked by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as the fifth highest serious global disability.
The Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa advises that couples see a fertility specialist if they are under 35 and have been trying to fall pregnant for over a year, or are over 35 and been trying for six months.
The WHO has classified infertility as a “disease of the reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular, unprotected intercourse”.
Dr Frances Paterson, urogynaecologist at The Urology Hospital Pretoria, explains that not all couples who experience fertility problems are infertile, adding that treatment may help.
She says in about 80 percent of couples, the cause of infertility is either an ovulation problem, blockage of the fallopian tubes, or a sperm problem.
“Couples struggling to fall pregnant should consult an obstetrician, gynaecologist, urologist, urogynaecologist or they should contact The Urology Hospital.”
“A consultation may involve discussing your general health, medication, sexual history and a physical exam. For men, we may conduct a sperm analysis and for women, testing may include a physical examination, blood tests, an ultrasound and x-rays,” she added.
Possible treatment for men includes surgery to help sperm motility, antibiotics to treat infections in the reproductive organs, medication and counselling to treat erection or ejaculation problems or hormone treatment.
In women, fertility drugs or surgery to remove blockages or to open fallopian tubes may be considered.
Additionally, infertility may be treated with assisted reproductive technology (ART) which may include intrauterine insemination of sperm (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or other laboratory procedures.