Starting your journey to parenthood can be exciting but also challenging if you find that it doesn’t happen as quickly as you’d hoped. ‘1 in 10 couples in Asia suffers from infertility.’ Watch the Fertility Awareness Asia’s Help Break The Silence video that highlights some of the issue surrounding infertility as well as the emotional burden couples shoulder when facing such issues. Asian attitudes towards fertility have caused stress, fear and denial and many couples suffer in silence. Let’s break the silence on infertility!
Photo Credit: Fertility Awareness Asia – Help Break The Silence
#1 “THE DAY OF OVULATION IS THE ONLY DAY WE SHOULD HAVE INTERCOURSE TO CONCIEVE.”
Fact: The most fertile days in your cycle are actually the days leading up to ovulation, before the egg is released from the ovary; this is called your fertile window.
#2 “FERTILITY IS A FEMALE ISSUE.”
Fact: Causes of fertility issues are generally identified as 35% female, 35% male and 20% a combinations of both. Unexplained fertility occurs in 10% of cases.
#3 “I JUST NEED TO EAT WELL AND INCREASE THE APHRODISIAC FOR THE NIGHT WE HAVE INTERCOURSE.”
Fact: A sperm’s lifecycle is 72 days, hence, a change in lifestyle for the night or a few days will not increase the quality of sperm. Illness, stress, fever or strenuous exercise can affect it as well.
#4 “WE ARE BOTH HEALTHY AND FIT, CONCEPTION IS NO A PROBLEM FOR US.”
Fact: This is a common misconception that fitness and health equates to fertility. In fact, a woman’s age is the single most important factor impacting fertility. Health and lifestyle are also important factors to consider and there might be improvements you could make to boost egg or sperm health and your overall fertility.
#5 “WE ARE ALREADY PARENTS, IT IS EASY FOR US TO CONCIEVE ANOTHER ONE.”
Fact: You maybe fertile years ago but it does not ring true ten years later as the number of healthy eggs a woman produce rapidly declines with age, particularly after the age of 36.
Common female fertility issues
- Endometriosis – a condition, affecting about 1 in 10 women, where the cells that line the uterus grow in places outside the uterus often distorting the fallopian tubes and ovaries and causing the body to resist foreign material such as sperm, or block the release of eggs. Symptoms include painful menses, pain during intercourse and premenstrual spotting. Endometriosis can sometimes be treated with Laparoscopic surgery.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) – affects up to 1 in 5 women of reproductive age, and is one of the leading causes of infertility in women. Symptoms include irregular or no menses, heavy painful menses, increased hair growth, acne and obesity. PCOS can be treated by managing the symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes, ovulation induction drugs or in difficult situations IVF treatment may be necessary.
- Ovulation issues or irregular periods – Women who don’t ovulate often have irregular or no menses. Common causes include PCOS, obesity or low body weight, thyroid dysfunction, premature ovarian failure or low ovarian reserves. Treatment will often depend on the cause but may include diet and lifestyle changes or fertility drugs to trigger ovulation.
- Uterine fibroids – are benign lumps of tissue that can grow around and inside the uterus. Their size and location will determine if they affect your fertility and if they will need to be removed surgically. They don’t usually cause symptoms but depending on where the fibroid is you may experience heavy or prolonged periods, pain or swelling in your pelvic area, passing urine more often than normal or constipation.
Common male fertility issues
- Abnormal sperm production – Common causes include Azoospermia (no sperm cells), Oligospermia (few sperm cells) or Teratospermia (high percentage abnormally shaped).
- Around one in three cases of infertility is caused by blocked or absent vas deferens often caused by injury or vasectomy.
- Other causes include sperm antibodies which can interfere with motility and fertilisation or sperm DNA fragmentation where a high percentage of sperm have DNA damage. In these cases where there is an issue with the number or quality of sperm, an advanced form of IVF is usually recommended
Are there other factors affecting fertility?
Are we putting off babies till too late in life to pursue our career or it is just too expensive? Check out the two videos below.
SG+ Fertility Levels: Why so low, Singapore?
Lee Kuan Yew: Stop at 2 has nothing to do with low fertility rate?
Share with us your views and stories on why do you think fertility rates are low in Singapore. Is it because it (starting a family) is too expensive or due to career-first mentality, lack of pro-family measures and increase in education level of women?
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Singapore’s Child March Issue 172 with the headline ‘Fertility and (both of) you’ with expert advice from Dr Roland Chieng, Medical Director, Virtus Fertility Centre.