The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recognised infertility as a public health issue worldwide with June being World Infertility Awareness Month.
Dr Sulaiman Heylen, president of the Southern African Society of Reproductive Medicine and Gynaecological Endoscopy (SASREG) said, “Infertility is when you cannot get or stay pregnant after trying for at least a year and you are under the age of 35.”
According to the statement, one in every four couples in developing countries is affected by infertility, while one in six couples worldwide experiences some form of infertility problem at least once during their reproductive lifetime.
Heylen said that up to 50 per cent of all patients who visit a fertility centre are 35 or older. “We cannot stress enough how important it is for people not to wait too long when they consider having children. Young women need to be aware that there is a slow decline in fertility from their 20s until the age of 35, after which it starts to decrease rapidly until the age of 45.”
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“It’s extremely important for couples to investigate fertility options and fertility preservation earlier in life, rather than leaving it too late. A woman who is not ready to have a child can choose to freeze her eggs to try to preserve her ability to have a child later.”
Heylen explains that infertility is also associated with lifestyle factors such as smoking, body weight and stress. A woman’s age is one of the most important factors affecting whether she is able to conceive and give birth to a healthy child.
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The decrease in a man’s fertility appears to occur later in life than in a woman’s fertility. “In their mid-to-late 40s, men experience changes in their sperm that can cause issues with fertility, and chromosomal or developmental problems with their children.”
Heylen added that infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long-term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss.
“Infertility is more common than you may think, but there is no reason to lose hope. Visit a fertility clinic near you to speak to a doctor about the options available to you and your partner,” concluded Heylen.
This article first appeared on Sandton Chronicle.