Infertility Awareness Month: Safe, Successful Treatments Change Millions of Lives
June is World Infertility Awareness Month and the ideal time to create more awareness of the fact that infertility is a medical condition affecting a surprising large and growing number of couples around the world, who can be successfully treated with a range of advanced fertility treatments.
In this article, we look at why so many couples are affected by infertility, what exactly infertility is and why it is often caused by a medical condition, and some of the treatments available to help those struggling to conceive or carry a pregnancy to full term.
Infertility is not uncommon
Around one in every four couples in developing countries is affected by infertility, while one in six couples worldwide experience some form of infertility problem at least once during their reproductive lifetime. Infertility doesn’t discriminate either, and can be an issue regardless of gender, race, religion or economic status.
In fact, the prevalence of infertility lasting for at least 12 months is estimated to affect between eight to 12 per cent off women aged 20 to 44 worldwide.
In recent years, the number of couples seeking treatment for infertility has dramatically increased due to factors such as postponement of childbearing in women. It is a medical fact that a woman’s fertility begins to decline in her 20’s and significantly deteriorates after age 35. The chance of conception for a woman older than 43 is very low. As increasing numbers of women postpone starting families until after 35, many require reproductive assistance.
Other factors that have increased the incidence of infertility include lifestyle factors and treatment of diseases such as cancer.
However, in many cases, infertility is a medical condition that requires an accurate diagnosis and the right treatment.
Infertility is a medical condition
“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, according to the Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy.
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.
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.
There are a great number of possible medical causes of infertility.
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.
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.
Seeking help is important
Infertility can also have significant psychological ramifications. Not being able to achieve a pregnancy can cause stress, depression and anxiety. The long-term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss and devastation in both partners.
As such, infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can bring great emotional upheaval for most couples.
For this reason, it is important to spread awareness that there are options available for treatment.
Fortunately, newer and more successful techniques for infertility treatment are developed continuously, and more people are becoming aware of available treatments and the encouraging success rates.
A US study found that around 44% of women in the US with infertility have sought medical assistance. Of those who seek medical intervention, approximately 65% give birth. [Infertility As A Covered Benefit, William M. Mercer, 1997]
Further good news from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine is the statistic 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).
IVF is one of the better-known fertility treatments available, due to its success rate. During in vitro fertilization 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 per cent, 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.
Which treatment is right for you?
These are just a few examples of the many advanced treatments available to treat successfully the many possible causes of infertility in our modern world.
To determine which treatment is required, the exact cause of a couple’s fertility issues must be established. Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, the precise treatment can be selected among all the options.
There is only one way to know for certain what the exact cause of a couple’s fertility challenges are – and thus what treatment is not only available, but the best given the unique circumstances – and that is an initial consultation with a fertility specialist.
If you are facing fertility challenges, please know that you are not alone. Hundreds of thousands of couples around the world are facing similar issues and help is available at highly specialised fertility clinics that offer a range of safe, advanced treatments.
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 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.
Your first step in treating infertility is simply to contact us here.
We look forward to meeting you!