World Fertility Day:
Fertility issues flagged by experts for improved awareness
Given how common fertility problems are worldwide, it is concerning that there is so little general awareness about fertility issues. World Fertility Day is an opportunity to join global efforts to raise awareness of fertility issues that affect millions of couples worldwide. Our team at Medfem Fertility Clinic goes to great lengths to contribute to raising awareness about fertility and we are enthusiastic supporters of World Fertility Day.
In support of this year’s World Fertility Day, we would like to share some of the issues flagged by the European Fertility Society (EFS) in its recently published Fertility Patients Care Guidance. It was produced by a global team including 15 fertility experts, among which are our own Dr Mandy Rodrigues. It provides insightful guidance about the fertility issues that require more focus when it comes to raising awareness.
Millions of couples worldwide struggle with infertility, with estimates as high as 1 in every 6 couples. A lack of awareness about fertility issues hampers many couples from seeking treatment.
The Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa (IFAASA) notes that worldwide and here in South Africa, the general public, numerous medical practitioners and even many couples who are infertile, are ignorant of the causes of infertility and the treatments available to help infertile couples to achieve their families.
This is also confirmed on a global level in the Fertility Patients Care Guidance recently published by the European Fertility Society (EFS) which dedicates an entire chapter to fertility awareness, and says: “It should not be assumed that fertility patients have adequate fertility knowledge. This is because studies reveal a common misconception that most women will conceive immediately after they begin to try. Years of education focus on how to prevent pregnancy rather than how to attain it, has promoted the perception that pregnancy is inevitable if contraception is not used.”
Introduced at the recent Fertility Show Africa by Dr Mandy Rodrigues – resident clinical psychologist at Medfem Fertility Clinic – the Fertility Patients Care Guidance is now being used worldwide to improve patient care in fertility clinics. It flags a number of issues that need to be prioritised in raising awareness of fertility issues.
The Guide says that in a general context, fertility awareness incorporates information on fertility and human reproduction, such as:
* the menstrual cycle,
* timing and occurrence of pregnancy,
* likelihood of getting pregnant at various times during the menstrual cycle, and
* the role of male fertility and sperm survival.
Fertility awareness can include how specific methods of family planning work, how to use them and how they affect fertility. Fertility awareness also includes the ability to effectively apply reproductive health information to one’s life to achieve personal, desired outcomes.
This requires individual knowledge and skills, personal experience, and a family and wider community environment that empowers people to take action and make their own fertility-related decisions.
Better and more widespread awareness of fertility issues can empower and enable men and women to make strategic life choices relating to their fertility and reproductive health.
Here are three pertinent examples:
* ensuring cancer patients facing cancer treatment or other medical treatments know there are ways to protect their future fertility
* ensuring more patients realise the negative impact on reproductive health of obesity and being overweight, both of which are preventable
* ensuring the inclusion of the male partners in a couple seeking fertility treatment.
These are also issues highlighted in the Guide for focus in terms of raising awareness, and we briefly share below the information from the Guide in respect of these issues.
Alternatives for those facing cancer treatments
Cancer treatment or other medical treatments often result in premature infertility. Improved fertility awareness will ensure all cancer patients know that there are alternatives available to help them preserve their fertility.
These include freezing (cryopreservation) of sperm, eggs or embryos, which will give them the option to try and have children in the future using assisted reproductive therapies (ART).
Good health and fertility
Various lifestyle-related factors such as obesity, smoking, substance abuse and heavy alcohol consumption are known to have a negative impact on both male and female fertility and the success of ART. Furthermore, various chronic health conditions can also affect fertility.
Other lifestyle habits may also adversely affect reproductive health, and couples should make positive lifestyle changes to improve their chances of a healthy pregnancy. With timelines in mind, any length of time is beneficial, but 3-6 months is an ideal timeframe to focus on nutrition and lifestyle changes to enhance fertile health.
Diet and lifestyle should be addressed by starting from a couple’s current position and moving to the goal step by step. The best results are achieved when patients agree to the steps to be taken and ideally both partners in a couple should be involved in the process.
This approach applies to all health improvements: to reduce alcohol consumption, to stop smoking, to lose weight sustainably or to get more exercise. Healthy eating habits, getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night, strategies to reduce toxic exposure, and gentle exercise for 30-60 minutes daily are some of the recommendations provided in the Guide.
The role of the male partner
The Guide notes that fertility discussions still disproportionately focus on women and infertility is often perceived as a female issue. However, research shows that men and women are equally affected by infertility.
The Guide recommends increasing support for men to engage with fertility awareness, family building, preconception care and reproductive health services.
The recommendation to couples is to attend healthcare consultations together, where possible, as both partners are affected by the decisions and outcomes of the fertility treatment.
Help spread awareness of World Fertility Day!
You can download the pocket version of the Fertility Patients Care Guidance from www.europeanfertilitysociety.com and you are welcome to share it.
Medfem Fertility Clinic is also a proud to be a supporter of IFAASA, which advocates awareness of infertility in Southern Africa, and we are pleased that our own Dr Antonio Rodrigues, a Reproductive Medicine Specialist and Director at Medfem Fertility Clinic, serves as a Non Executive Board Member of IFAASA.
Established in 2013, IFAASA is a non-profit organisation with the aim of supporting Southern Africans living with reproductive health issues through education, research and advocacy, and to educate the public about reproductive disease. IFAASA aims to drive public and industry awareness and understanding of infertility, and to lobby for fair support and change and equal access to public and private sector treatment. IFAASA shares resources that will offer hope, insight, support and encouragement. You can find out more about IFAASA at https://ifaasa.co.za.
If you are concerned about your fertility, or if you are struggling to conceive, we would like to invite you to contact us at Medfem Fertility Clinic. You can simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.
Our Fertility Specialists can also meet with you during a Virtual Consultation Via Zoom or Skype. Click here to book a virtual consultation now.
At Medfem, we believe in helping you reach your family dream through:
* World-Class Fertility for Everyone
* A Positive Fertility Journey
* Delivered With Empathy & Caring
We look forward to meeting you!