The No. 1 Fertility Fact to Know This World Infertility Awareness Month
June is World Infertility Month and our team at Medfem is proud to add our voices to the global call from organisations and individuals around the world who stand together to observe this important day and raise awareness of infertility and the huge challenges it presents to thousands of couples across the globe.
Medfem supports both local and global efforts to raise awareness about infertility, and in light of this, we add our expertise and passion to World Infertility Awareness Month messages #WorldInfertilityAwarenessMonth #breakthesilence. While there are many must-know facts we share about infertility, our team emphasises the number one crucially important fact this year: infertility can be treated.
In this article, to support our message that infertility can be treated, we look at why infertility has been dedicated an Awareness Month; what infertility is and what causes it; and what the various treatments and options are that ensure the majority of couples – who look for fertility treatment and other options – can build the families they dream of.
World Infertility Awareness Month
There is a World Day to raise awareness about infertility, because infertility affects so many people around the world and it affects them so much!
Infertility and subfertility affect a significant proportion of the people on earth. Estimates suggest that between 48 million couples and 186 million individuals live with infertility globally. In South Africa, as many as one in six couples face infertility and require assistance to achieve a pregnancy.
In addition, the numbers are most likely even higher than reported, and has not decreased over the last 20 years.
The impact of infertility on people is also substantial. As a disease of the reproductive system, infertility results in disability.
In fact, infertility often creates life crises, and it also has an impact on their families and communities. Infertility can lead to shame, stigma, anxiety, depression, low feelings of self-esteem and guilt. Furthermore, coping with the uncertainties and the multitude of decisions that infertility brings, can create great emotional upheaval for most couples.
Infertility can also negate essential human rights, such as to have the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the right to have a family and to decide the number, timing and spacing of their children.
What is infertility and what causes it?
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), among others, infertility is a disease that results in the abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive system.
Infertility is diagnosed if the couple has not achieved a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, or after 6 months or more if the female partner is older than 35.
So, it is important to understand that infertility doesn’t mean you can’t have children, it means you will need assistance to achieve a pregnancy. How much and what kind of assistance you will need depends on what the specific cause or combination of causes has resulted in the infertility you experience as a couple. And there are many, many possible causes and combinations of causes.
In the male reproductive system, infertility is most commonly caused by problems in the ejection of semen, absence or low levels of sperm, or abnormal shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of the sperm.
In the female reproductive system, infertility may be caused by a range of abnormalities of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes, and the endocrine system, among others.
Even autoimmune diseases and certain medications can cause a couple to face fertility challenges, and unhealthy lifestyle choices and poor health can cause infertility in a couple.
There is almost always a reason why you have not been able to conceive – in fact, in approximately one-third of infertility cases, the cause can be attributed to the female partner, and in another one-third the cause can be attributed to the male partner. In the last one-third of cases the cause is a combination of problems in both partners. Only in a small number of cases is infertility unexplained, but can still be treated.
Fertility treatments and other options
From the simplest fertility awareness methods to more advanced innovations that involve, for example, fertilising an egg with a single sperm cell outside the body, there are a wide range of treatments and options that have successfully addressed infertility and fertility problems over decades. In addition, the field of reproductive medicine and endocrinology is rapidly growing, allowing ever-higher pregnancy success rates.
The treatment could be as low-tech as the timing of ovulation or reducing body weight. Or, treatment could involve hormone treatment or a simple thyroid tablet.
Technologies such as laparoscopy allow fertility specialists to look into the abdomen with a camera and treat any problems with laser surgery at the same time. There are also a whole range of assisted reproduction techniques for men and women, from the well-known In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) treatment – with donor eggs as an option, to Artificial Insemination (AI) or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), with donor sperm as an option.
Surrogacy is also an alternative option, if all other possible treatments have been unsuccessful. Furthermore, there is still the alternative of adoption. These are also options for same-sex couples.
Fortunately, couples in South Africa have access to world-class clinics, such as Medfem Fertility Clinic, right here in Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, where all of these technologies and alternatives are available.
Please spread the word
At Medfem, we believe in making world-class fertility treatments available for everyone and we are proud to contribute to greater awareness of infertility – and the fact that it can be treated – working with leading organisations.
In South Africa, awareness of infertility is advocated by IFAASA, the Infertility Awareness Association of South Africa. It aims to support Southern Africans living with reproductive health issues through education, research and advocacy, and to educate the public about reproductive disease.
IFAASA says that the general public, numerous medical practitioners and many couples who are infertile are unaware of the treatments that infertile couples can receive to grow their families. 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. Find out more about IFAASA at https://ifaasa.co.za.
Medfem Fertility Clinic is a proud to be a supporter of IFAASA and 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. Our team goes to great lengths to contribute to raising awareness of many misconceptions that exist around fertility.
Your Infertility Can Be Treated
The No 1 fact we want to share this World Infertility Awareness Day is that infertility can be treated. What is required is professional expertise in finding out what treatment or assistance will address your specific needs.
You can find out exactly what treatment or options are right for you as a couple by meeting one of our fertility specialists at Medfem Fertility Clinic. Simply click here to book an initial consultation or contact us telephonically on +27 (11) 463 2244.