Long journeys for couples overcoming infertility
Cape Town - One in five South African couples are experiencing infertility, according to research.
Dr Frances Paterson from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says research shows that up to 20% of South African couples struggle with infertility which affects both males and females almost equally.
Risk factors contributing to infertility include an existing diagnosis of depression or anxiety disorder, explained psychiatrist and member of the South African Society of Psychiatrists, Professor Renata Schoeman.
Infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as “failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular, unprotected intercourse” and affects 8 to 14% of couples, or 48 million couples worldwide.
Infertility is a reality for many South African women such as writer and journalist Nivashni Nair-Sukdhev, who overcame these hurdles.
She shed light on her personal story of overcoming Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) in her new book What's On My Mind? Making Babies now available for pre-order.
The 39-year-old started her fertility journey in 2009 and fell pregnant in 2016 after numerous surgeries. “It was five failed Intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedures and one failed IVF (in vitro fertilisation) transfer. My final IVF transfer was successful in June 2016,” she explained.
PCOS is a hormonal disorder that is one of the leading causes of infertility in women.
After years of infertility she gave birth to a baby boy, Riav Sukdhev, who is currently 3-years-old.
“It is true that there is a unique pain that comes with preparing your heart for a child that just doesn’t arrive. My husband and I had conceived a child in our hearts and at times we felt completely hopeless when we just couldn't have that child in our arms,” she said.
Sukdhev's told Weekend Argus that she and her husband, Rohan Sukdhev, 42, asked themselves over and over why the situation was happening to them.
“We had just two remaining embryos. They were frozen and transferred to me in June 2016. It was successful. The assisted reproductive therapies (IVF) were done at Natal Fertility Clinic in Umhlanga, Durban,” she explained.
Her book is aimed at letting readers know about PCOS and infertility so the stigma attached to it can be eradicated.
Another woman Tara Klein, 49, (not her real name) battled with secondary fertility.
Klein managed to fall pregnant at the age of 34 and gave birth to a healthy baby girl at age 35. Unfortunately, after that, she couldn’t fall pregnant again.
She and her husband tried for four years ,2006-2010, and after various tests were conducted on them, doctors couldn’t find any physical reasons as to why she couldn’t fall pregnant again.
“They used the term “unexplainable infertility”. Looking back, I suspect that my age played a role as a female’s fertility decreases drastically from age 35,” she explained.
She said that she went through all the stages of the mourning process.
“Comments from people telling me that friends of theirs just started to relax about having another baby, stopped treatment or adopted a child and then fell pregnant naturally. This did not happen to me and was not my reality,” concluded Klein.
Meanwhile, infertility as a reproductive disease affects men and women almost equally, but women are especially vulnerable to severe negative social consequences of being stigmatised, ostracised, even abused or having financial support withdrawn, added Schoeman.
"Strong mental health such as self-acceptance, independence, positive relationships and social skills, contributes to better outcomes of fertility treatment," she said.
Anti-depressant medication could influence fertility treatment, she explained.