Have you been (unsuccessfully) trying to get pregnant? Don't fret, help is here: Dr Andrew Kan, fertility specialist at the Virtus Fertility Centre, addresses the questions couples should ask when starting their fertility journey.
Planning a family is one of the most exciting things a couple can look forward to. However, for some couples, starting a family may not be as easy and can take longer than expected. No matter a person’s gender, race or ethnicity, infertility can impact anyone. Additionally, the Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated some couples’ fertility journeys.
Regardless of your situation, it helps to understand who you can turn to and what questions to ask. Couples can adopt the ‘five Ws and one H’ approach when embarking on their fertility journey, where they discuss with their healthcare professional and get answers to the who, what, when, why, where, and how of fertility. Here’s a guide on what you should discuss with your doctor if you’re planning to have a child.
What are the important things to know about getting pregnant?
A fertility health check is a great place to start. Health checks aren’t new: most people know to go to their GP once a year or to get their eyesight tested. But, not many people are aware of a fertility check. A fertility check-up can unravel the many factors that affect your fertility. It’s a chance to ask questions and learn how to increase your chances of conceiving naturally.
It takes two to make a baby. The same applies to infertility – challenges to conceive can lie with both the male and female partners. Most infertility cases are caused by either male or female fertility issues, while the remaining cases are caused by both genders or unknown causes.
Beyond challenges with the reproductive systems, infertility can occur due to a variety of other factors. Lifestyle-related factors include excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, insufficient sleep and poor diet are all risk factors of infertility. For men, certain types of exercises such as long-distance cycling may also lead to infertility. Medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and thyroid problems are also risk factors of infertility for women. These issues affect ovulation and may lead to irregular menstruation.
Another thing to note: make sure both partners are in optimal health. This means focusing on your diet and keeping your weight in a healthy range.
When is the best time to try for a baby?
The window of opportunity to conceive typically lasts for five to six days and will begin two to three days before ovulation. Hence, if ovulation occurs on day 12 of your cycle, you should start having regular intercourse on day nine.
Why aren’t couples able to get pregnant?
It’s important to seek medical advice if you’ve been trying for more than six months – especially if you’re in your mid-thirties or older. Age impacts women’s fertility and the success of fertility treatments. By the age of 36, the chance of conceiving naturally is half of what it was when you were 20. The chance further decreases to five percent when women turn 41. Other conditions that can affect women’s fertility include endometriosis and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
Men’s issues can centre around sperm count, motility, and morphology issues. Additionally, it’s usually hard for men to tell if they have fertility issues until couples try to start their fertility journey. It is thus advised to see a fertility specialist and get checked out sooner rather than later if you’ve been trying to conceive and have been unable to do so.
Who’s responsible for fertility planning?
The responsibility for fertility planning should lie equally on the couple. Not being able to conceive can be incredibly isolating and bring about emotions such as depression, anxiety and frustration. Recognising that your fertility journey can and should be shared may alleviate some of the worries or guilt your partner is carrying.
How can couples continue their fertility journey despite the pandemic?
Covid-19 restrictions have posed an additional challenge for couples who were planning to seek fertility services or donor programmes abroad. However, many couples are unaware almost all of the fertility services they are seeking overseas can be accessed in Singapore. For example, Virtus Fertility Centre in Singapore has access to the largest range of donor options for both egg and sperm including World Egg Bank, Egg Bank Asia and Ovegene Egg Donor Bank. These options ensure patients of all heritages have access to egg and sperm donors. It’s important to select a clinic that offers a wide range of fertility services and is equipped with technology that can help increase the chances of conception.
Finally, couples should start discussions on family planning with each other and their doctor early. The earlier you start your journey, the earlier you can identify the underlying issues and address them.
Words by Dr Andrew Kan, fertility specialist at the Virtus Fertility Centre
Dr Andrew Kan is one of the founding doctors of IVFAustralia and has trained to the highest qualifications in reproductive medicine. He has been involved in infertility care for more than 25 years and has managed more than 10,000 infertility couples to date. Dr Kan has particular expertise in treating patients with polycystic ovarian syndrome and male infertility, and those who require donor sperm or eggs. In addition to his role at Virtus Fertility Centre, Dr Kan also maintains an appointment as a Conjoint Senior Lecturer at The University of New South Wales and lectures at the Masters of Reproductive Medicine program. He is also an examiner at all levels at the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.