What is Infertility?While conceiving a pregnancy is an easy and taken for granted matter for the majority of couples, approximately 1 in 6 couples require some form of medical help to get pregnant. This may range from simple medical advice to sophisticated IVF procedure.
Conventional definition of infertility is failure to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected regular sexual intercourse. The word barren or sterile has been used when the person is incapable of producing an offspring. But today, through the process of gamete or embryo donation and/or the use of a surrogate mother, ART and IVF offers such couples the opportunity to have a family they would not otherwise have.
When Should a Couple Seek Fertility Treatment?At anytime, as a general rule, any person worried about any medical problem should seek medical advice. This applies particular to fertility problems because ovulation can be adversely affected by emotional and psychological instability.
From a medical perspective, full scale investigation and evaluation of infertility is recommended as follows:
- Women under 35 years of age investigations should begin after one year
- Women between 35- 39 years of age investigation should begin after 6 months
- Women over 40 years of age investigations should begin after 3 months.
This recommendation is based on the research evidence that demonstrated fertility declines with age because both the number of eggs in the ovaries as well as the egg quality decrease with age. Similarly, the incidence of miscarriage and birth defects increases with the woman’s age.
What Help is There?A range of services are available to help approximately 16% (or 1: 6) of couples requiring medical help to conceive a pregnancy. Some couples would require only advice and guidance, while others would require drug therapy or surgery or IVF. Irrespective of the ultimate recommended fertility treatment, all couples require some form of psychosocial counselling.
What causes infertility?The common causes of infertility are:
- Disorder of sperm
- Disorder of ovulation
- Unexplained infertility where no cause is found
Most importantly fertility is exclusively a female problem in approximately 40% of cases and exclusively in the male in 30%. In the majority of cases there are combined problems in both partners. For this reason it is important that both partners should seek medical help together as a couple.