Fertility Awareness Month: FAQs for Parents-To-Be

Every year in June, our team at Cape Fertility join others across the world in observing Fertility Awareness Month.

We are passionate about helping parents-to-be struggling with infertility to understand this very important message: infertility affects many couples around the world, with men and women affected equally and – because infertility is a medical condition – there are a number of very effective treatments available at world-class, accredited fertility clinics.

Cape Fertility is proud to be among the country’s top fertility clinics to be accredited by the Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG). The society represents specialists – ranging from gynaecologists, embryologists and scientists to fertility and theatre nursing sisters, allied practitioners, psychologists and social workers in the field of Gynaecological Endoscopy and reproductive medicine – and serves to protect the interests of patients undergoing fertility treatment. We are also very proud that one of our fertility specialists, Dr Sulaiman Heylen is currently the President of SASREG.

Along with other leading fertility clinics and SASREG, Cape Fertility is also a sponsor of IFAASA, the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa, which was established in 2013 as a non-profit organisation with the aim of supporting Southern Africans living with reproductive health issues through education, research and advocacy, and to educate the public about reproductive disease. You can read more about IFAASA here.

Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. For this reason, it is important to spread awareness that there are options available for treatment.

For this Fertility Awareness Month, our team would like to share the answers to some of the frequently asked questions from parents-to-be who are struggling with infertility.

Are many people affected by infertility?

Normally, three out of five couples conceive within six months of trying; one in four take between six months and a year. For the rest, conception takes more than a year, which means that there may be a problem.

When a couple has not conceived after 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, they may be regarded as infertile. According to SASREG, “infertility” is the term used when a couple cannot get or stay pregnant after trying for at least a year, and the female partner is younger than 35.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised infertility as a public health issue worldwide, with many couples needing to seek medical treatment to help resolve underlying fertility problems.

Worldwide about 1 in 6 couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem, while in developing countries the number is as high as one in every four couples. Infertility doesn’t discriminate either, and can be an issue regardless of gender, race, religion or economic status.

Are men affected by infertility?

Yes. Men are affected by infertility. It is not just a female problem.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners, or is unexplained.

Is infertility a medical condition?

Yes, infertility is most often caused by a medical condition.

The conditions that could result in infertility in the female partner include for example advanced age, endometriosis or ovulation problems. It may also be that a woman’s ovaries have been removed surgically or that she has undergone chemotherapy and her ovaries are not functioning. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is another medical condition that is a known cause of infertility.

In men, infertility is most commonly linked to sperm disorders, but can also be the result of injury, hormonal problems, lifestyle factors and the treatment of diseases such as cancer.

As such, infertility does not mean you can’t fall pregnant or have a baby, but rather that you require medical assistance to do so, as infertility is a medical condition that can be treated.

Are there treatments available for infertility?

Infertility is a medical condition that requires an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment.

Fortunately, medical treatments for infertility are as many and varied as the possible causes of it.

IVF is one of the better-known fertility treatments available, due to its success rate. During IVF the female partner’s eggs are collected and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, before the resulting embryo is implanted into the uterus. This fertility treatment has been safely and effectively provided for three decades and an estimated 8 million babies has been born thanks to IVF. At Cape Fertility, our average pregnancy rate with three IVF cycles is 79%, among the highest in the world.

Another well-known treatment is Artificial Insemination (AI), which can be done with the partner’s sperm or with a donor’s sperm. For women with infertility challenges resulting from problems with ovulation poor ovarian reserve or menopause, there are treatments such as ovulation induction and alternatives such as egg donation.

Assisted Hatching (AH) is an advanced procedure performed prior to transfer of an embryo into the uterus in selected cases, while GIFT (Gamete Intra Fallopian Tube transfer) and ZIFT (Zygote Intra Fallopian Tube transfer) treatments place the egg and sperm, or embryo, directly into the fallopian tubes. Laparoscopy and hysteroscopy are used for both diagnostic (looking only) and operative (treating) purposes.

There are also a range of treatments available for male infertility. Among the most exciting is Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – a breakthrough treatment that ensures that almost every man has the possibility to have his own biological child, even those who were previously considered sterile.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that approximately 85-90% of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy or surgical procedures, and fewer than 3% need advanced reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF).

When should I see a fertility specialist?

IFAASA recommends that if you answer yes to any of these questions you need to see a fertility specialist:

* If you are under 35, have you been having regular unprotected intercourse for 12 months without a pregnancy?
* If you are over 35, have you been having regular unprotected intercourse for 6 months without a pregnancy?
* Have you had more than one miscarriage?
* Do you have painful periods?
* Do you have irregular cycles?
* Do you or your partner have a history of STDs?

Where should I see a fertility specialist?

If you are concerned about your fertility, see a fertility specialist as soon as possible. As infertility treatments are medical procedures, it is also very important that you select a fertility specialist and a fertility clinic that is accredited.

Visit the Southern African Society for Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG) website sasreg.co.za to check if the fertility clinic you are considering is registered.

Cape Fertility is not only accredited, we are also a leading fertility clinic achieving world-class results. Our exceptionally well-qualified and experienced fertility specialists are backed up by a team of experts in the many aspects of fertility treatment. We are guided by the highest ethical standards, to provide our patients with the best quality, individualised, compassionate fertility care.

We also achieve some of the best success rates in the world. Yet, we are always striving for higher success rates to ensure even more of our patients can experience the joy of have their own baby.

We invite you to contact us by simply clicking herecapefertility.co.za/contact.

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with our signature individualised and personalised care.