Fertility issues can be a sensitive topic even in this day and age. When it comes to infertility, the psychological implications can be profound. First, infertility is often associated with personal failing, which can affect both the men and women. Secondly, it can further aggravate the situation either due to self-denial of the situation that delays getting help. Then, the emotional stress of facing the fertility could result in the couple feeling lost or resigned to fate, coupled with an amplified sense of guilt, remorse and helplessness contributing to indirect fertility issues. So, it’s important NOT to get into the whole self-deprecating or self-fulfilling prophecy scenario.
Understanding fertility wellness such as having a fertility check is a step to good reproductive health. Married couples should take a more proactive approach to know their fertility health especially due to the complications that come with age due to delayed child-bearing plans and the reasons are more scientific than you think – a woman is born with 2 million eggs at birth and by the time she hits puberty, the number drops to 400,000 and as age progresses, there is a continuous decline in both the quantity and quality of them. And research has shown that once a man reaches 41 years of age, his chances of getting his partner pregnant drops 7% every year. Thus, combined factors can result in great time needed to achieve a pregnancy.
Aggravating the situation is traditional mind-set and attitude towards fertility, even in this day and age, “To some couples, the idea of going for a fertility health check may be daunting – some may see it as an unnecessary step, and some may even feel that going for such a process is ego-bruising. Because of such concerns, this may result in couples delaying the process of seeking help, thus lowering their chances of conceiving,” shares Mrs Joni Ong, president of I Love Children (ILC), a voluntary welfare organisation that strives to nurture, encourage and facilitate causes which are pro-children and pro-family.
So it comes as no surprise that on top of the difficulty in achieving a pregnancy as one ages, there are also increased risks in pregnancy (gestational diabetes, hypertension and obesity) and birth complications, as well as birth defects. No doubt you may be financially or emotionally more ready to welcome baby when you are older or when when your career is stable, but delaying your pregnancy may have more implications than you think. Here are some common questions on fertility checks and experts from Thomson Fertility Centre share their insights:
- What is a fertility health check? A fertility health check is a comprehensive assessment of a couple’s reproductive ability – to identify areas that may affect their chances of a natural pregnancy.
- What does it involve? The basic fertility health check encompasses a detailed interview with the couple, including their medical, emotional and social history, physical examination, pelvic scan, blood test and semen analysis. In some couples, specialised scans or even endoscopy may be required.
- When should couples go for this test? The fertility health check may be considered for all couples, even newly-weds and those intending to conceive. Couples who have been trying should also go for the check.
- Where should couples go for this check? Couples can visit a gynaecologist in a clinic or hospital.
- How long will a fertility health check ‘last’? There is no official “validity period” as the proper functioning of the reproductive system is easily affected by many factors, such as age, infection, etc., which may occur any time. From a practical perspective, if there are no significant changes to the health profile of the couple, and where the fertility assessment is done with normal findings, then a young couple (under 35 years) may try for baby naturally for the next one to two years.
- Do couples need to go again for a check when trying for another baby? A repeat fertility check may be considered for couples who have had a previous delivery:
(a) Long interval (two years or more) from last delivery
(b) Surgery performed since last fertility assessment (including caesarean section)
(c) New illness or change in health profile since last fertility assessment (including new medications or treatment
(d) Older couples (age 35 years and above)
This article is an extension of an article found in the print edition of Singapore’s Child July Issue 176 with the headline ‘Rethink Fertility’.
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