Reproductive Health Problems in the Spotlight…

In South Africa, Reproductive Health Month is observed in February, with the aim of raising awareness about reproductive health. At Cape Fertility, we are passionate about reproductive health and we are pleased to add our voices to the global effort of raising awareness of this crucial issue.

We are a team of highly qualified and experienced reproductive specialists and we specialise in assisting those with reproductive health problems to have the families they dream of. In this article, we explain what reproductive health is; highlight the possible causes of reproductive health challenges that are faced by increasing numbers of people around the world; and share the good news that there are many very effective medical treatments widely available to treat reproductive health problems.

According to the World Health Organisation, reproductive health is “in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes, a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Reproductive health implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

Sadly, for increasing numbers of couples, their “capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so” is increasingly compromised by a wide range of possible reproductive health problems that affect men and women alike in today’s modern world.

Reproductive Health Month is an opportunity to raise awareness of these reproductive health problems and the highly effective Assisted Reproduction Therapies (ART) and treatments available to help couples who want to start or expand their families to overcome these challenges.

Who is affected by reproductive health problems?

Reproductive health problems are much more common than most people realise, affecting thousands of people – men and women alike. It can be caused by a wide range of medical conditions, as well as other factors such as lifestyle choices.

These reproductive health problems can negatively impact a couple’s ability to have children, causing what is called “infertility”. It is important to note that “infertility” does not mean never being able to have a baby – instead, it means that you might require medical assistance to achieve a pregnancy.

An estimated one in six couples in South Africa are facing reproductive health problems that are preventing them from building the families they dream of.

While it is often believed that reproductive health problems are a “woman’s issue”, the reality is that reproductive health problems can affect either the female partner or the male partner in a couple, and in many cases, both partners.

In fact, in about a third of couples struggling with infertility, the cause can be found with the male partner, and it is most often a problem with the sperm. In a further third of couples struggling with infertility, it is due to reproductive health challenges in both partners. In the remaining third of infertile couples, the reproductive health problem lies with the female partner.

Causes of reproductive health problems

The most common reproductive health problems that cause infertility in women are ovulatory disorders, endometriosis, fibroids and fallopian tube problems. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is another medical condition that is a known cause of infertility. It may also be that a woman’s ovaries have been removed surgically or that she has undergone cancer therapy and her ovaries are not functioning.

In today’s modern world, a very common cause of reproductive health problems resulting in infertility among women is advanced maternal age. This refers to the fact that a woman’s fertility declines rapidly after age 35, while the chances of abnormalities and miscarriages increase exponentially.

There are also many possible causes of male reproductive health problems such as sterilisations or vasectomies, spinal cord injuries, erection or ejaculatory dysfunction, genetic disorders or a problem with hormone function, medical conditions, medications, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like chlamydia and gonorrhoea, and even specific childhood diseases, for example, mumps.

In both men and women, poor lifestyle choices, such as smoking, drinking and being overweight, can also negatively affect reproductive health. Lifestyle diseases such as diabetes can also significantly affect reproductive health.

Treatments for reproductive health problems

Fortunately, there are many treatments for reproductive health challenges that cause infertility, ranging from lifestyle changes and simple medical treatments such as artificial insemination to hormone therapy and highly advanced treatments such as IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation).

IVF treatment is one of best-known treatments because of its great success rate. During this treatment, the female partner’s eggs are extracted and mixed in the lab with the male partner’s prepared sperm to be fertilised. One or two of resulting embryos (fertilised eggs) are then placed back in the female partner’s uterus, where one will hopefully implant and become a baby.

For women with infertility challenges resulting from problems with ovulation or poor ovarian reserve, there are also treatments such as ovulation induction.

A very advanced treatment called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) has revolutionised male infertility treatment. It involves injecting one single sperm cell into an egg cell, achieving excellent fertilisation results, which means that even the most severe sperm problems can now be treated. For example, even in cases where there’s no sperm being ejaculated at all, sperm cells can be extracted from a tiny piece of tissue from a testicle.

In cases of severe reproductive health challenges, there are also options such as using donor sperm and/or donor eggs, as well as surrogacy or adoption, ensuring almost anyone with reproductive health challenges can have the family they dream of.

Encouragingly, 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).

Concerned about your reproductive health?

If you are concerned about your reproductive health, we would like to invite you to reach out to us. Our team includes reproductive specialists with impressive qualifications and extensive experience, and a team of associated experts, embryologists, IVF co-ordinators, theatre staff and an administration team.

You will find us at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town with an IVF procedure room, a modern sophisticated laboratory and an embryo transfer room, all adjacent to our Main Reception and Staff Offices. These facilities allow all the latest assisted reproduction techniques (ART) to be used with great success.

Simply contact us now by clicking here…

When you visit us at Cape Fertility, the first thing our team will do is a comprehensive assessment (also called a full fertility workup) to determine what are the cause/s of your specific reproductive health problems as a couple. This is important, because infertility can only be treated successfully if the real cause – and often several causes – have been identified. Once the cause/s of the fertility problem has been established, the right treatment can be provided.

At Cape Fertility, we value each individual patient and we look forward to providing you with individualised and personalised care, affordable quality fertility treatment, and higher success rates at our purpose-built premises in the beautiful city of Cape Town.