WORDS LIM TECK CHOON
Dr Agilan Arjunan
Consultant Gynaecologist & Fertility Specialist
Infertility is an ugly word for many people, especially for those who are hoping to start a family. Yet, it is an undeniable fact that many of us are settling down later than before, at a time when our fertility is usually on a downturn. Thus an increasing number among us are having problems conceiving a child despite our best efforts.
It may be due to some issues with the woman’s reproductive ability, but it may also be due to the man’s. Sometimes, it could be due to both partners. Nonotheless, nobody is at fault here; often, it may just be because our biology has not caught up with the changes in our lifestyles, and we aren’t as fertile as we used to be by the time we are ready to start a family.
Research and technology have evolved over time to allow those of us having problems conceiving on our own to still have a baby with the help of modern, science-based miracles. Therefore, we can still hold our hopes afloat. However, like with most things in life, having the right attitude and knowledge can make a significant difference between success and disappointment.
This month, consultant gynaecologist and fertility specialist Dr Agilan Arjunan shares some useful advice for those of us who are ready to embark on a journey with a fertility specialist to make our dreams come true.
FIRST, LET’S RECAP WHAT IVF IS.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is a series of procedures that help overcome a couple’s problems in conceiving.
Actual details of the procedure may vary as the technology improves over time, but the basic principles are as follow:
- The woman is induced to produce a number of mature eggs, and these eggs are collected by the fertility specialist.
- The fertility specialist extracts the man’s sperm.
- The best sperm and eggs are chosen, and the eggs are then fertilized by the sperm in a laboratory.
- The resulting fertilized egg or eggs will be transferred into the female partner’s womb.
- If all goes well, the female partner will eventually deliver a healthy baby.
While this sounds simple on paper, in real life not every IVF attempt will be successful. It is not unheard of for a couple to have to go through a few cycles of IVF before they finally have a baby of their own.
4 THINGS WE SHOULD KNOW ABOUT IVF
IVF is not necessarily the “final solution” or “last resort”. It can also be the first option to successful conception.
Many couples consider IVF only after they have exhausted all other means or have been trying to conceive naturally for so long. This does not have to be the way. In fact, adopting this attitude can lead to stress and heartaches that can threaten the fragility of a relationship.
Therefore, don’t wait. Dr Agilan advises couples wishing to have a child to undergo a fertility check first. The results will give the couple a clearer picture of their chances of success in conceiving naturally, or whether IVF is a better option to maximize the chances of a successful conception.
IVF is NOT the “magic cure” that will solve all our fertility problems.
Dr Agilan points out that fertility problems can be caused by many factors, age being one of them. “Therefore, if a 40-year-old woman comes in for IVF, her chances of success will still be lower than that of a woman in her twenties,” he offers as an example.
Other possible causes for infertility include health conditions that affect the functions of the reproductive organs (blocked fallopian tubes), issues with the man’s sperm quality and more. Sometimes, we may not know why we have problems conceiving a child or carrying a child to full term despite having gone through all possible methods of diagnosis.
“IVF is a technique to help us conceive a child, but it does not affect the quality of our eggs or sperm,” Dr Agilan points out. Therefore, the fertility specialist may typically run tests to identify the possible causes of our infertility first and address these causes before initiating IVF.
DON’T TREAT IVF AS THE LAST RESORT. IF YOU HAVE PROBLEMS CONCEIVING, EXPLORE YOUR BEST OPTIONS WITH A FERTILITY SPECIALIST.
IVF is not a long procedure that will disrupt the couple’s normal routine. In fact, it’s quite flexible these days!
Dr Agilan shares that many couples commonly ask him whether they need to take a long leave from their jobs before going for IVF. “There’s no need,” he clarifies.
While the exact duration for the entire journey varies from couple to couple, IVF has come a long way with recent innovations. “These days, with the current level of technology, IVF is very ‘couples-friendly’,” Dr Agilan goes on to elaborate. “We can transfer a fertilized egg or embryo into the woman’s womb at a time most suitable or convenient for her and her partner.”
IVF is NOT only a “woman’s issue”. It’s a journey to be made together by both partners.
Our fertility in general is affected by many things, including age (this is especially true for women) and as well as the presence of conditions that may affect the function of the reproductive organs. This applies to both men and women, and male infertility exists.
Dr Agilan explains that it takes two to make a baby – a sperm cell must fertilize a mature egg to form a fertilized egg that will eventually develop into a baby. Therefore, when a couple have difficulties conceiving, it may be due to the quality of the egg, the sperm, both … or possibly something else altogether.
Therefore, the fertility specialist will examine both the partners to identify possible reasons for the difficulties in conceiving a child. Even then, this is not to pin the blame on anyone – rather, this is a step necessary to rectify the causes, if possible, and improve the chances of success in IVF. Just like everything else in a relationship, IVF is a journey shared by both partners rather than a burden carried by a single person.
“The male partner should play a supportive role, as his partner will be the one who will undergo the bulk of the procedures in IVF (such as the stimulation of mature eggs and the implantation of the fertilized egg into her womb),” says Dr Agilan. HT
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