WORDS HANNAH MAY-LEE WONG
Although having a baby is a straightforward and natural process for many couples, according to fertility specialist Dr Farah Leong Rahman, infertility affects 1 in 7 couples.
Factors that can affect fertility
Dr Farah shares that some of the causes of infertility can include:
- Irregular ovulation (often seen in women with polycystic ovaries)
- Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
- Poor semen quality (in men)
Certain medical treatments or procedures, such as cancer treatment and surgeries on the female reproductive organs, can also affect fertility rate.
In a quarter of infertility cases, the cause remains unknown. These cases are labelled as ‘unexplained infertility’.
When to visit a fertility doctor
Couples trying to conceive but have been unsuccessful for a year, should visit a fertility doctor for advice on their next steps.
“Do see the fertility doctor if the woman is 35 years and above, as the fertility rate declines with age. The ovaries will have fewer eggs to offer and may be of poorer quality,” Dr Farah adds.
Men with a history of undescended testes, problems with pubertal development, erectile dysfunction, or men who have had previous genital surgery or infection are also advised to see the fertility doctor.
During the visit
Several tests would likely be offered at the fertility clinic. They include:
- The Anti-Mullerian hormone test. This test estimates how many potential eggs a woman has in reserve.
- Tubal patency test. This checks if the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked
- Ultrasound to check on the womb and ovaries
For men, a sperm test would be carried out to check for sperm count, motility, and form.
“The treatment options may be different for each couple depending on the underlying problem and discussions made,” Dr Farah says.
Turning to each other for emotional support
Treatment for infertility can be time consuming, and an emotional and mentally draining process. That’s why couples going through it must lean on each other for support.
“It is important to be honest about your feelings and able to express it in the right way. There are also support groups out there and counsellors if one needs help. Always remember that you are not alone in this journey,” Dr Farah advises.
Dr Farah Leong Rahman is a consultant fertility specialist and Obstetrics & Gynaecologist specialist at Sunway Medical Centre Velocity.