By Nico Strydom
Up to as many as 20% of South African couples struggle with infertility and it affects women and men almost equally.
According to Dr. Frances Paterson, a urogynecologist at the Urology hospital in Pretoria, couples who have tried for more than a year to get pregnant without success, should obtain the help of a specialist.
“Often there are no obvious symptoms for infertility, although some women could have irregular or absent menstrual periods. Men can show hormonal signs, such as changes in hair growth or sexual function.”
Certain causes of infertility in women are ovulation deviations, uterus and cervical deviations, fallopian tube damage or blockage, endometriosis, early menopause and certain cancers and the treatment thereof such as radiation and chemotherapy. Causes in men can include obesity, smoking, the use of addictive substances, radiation, diet, supplements and steroids, a high testicle temperature, infections and injuries to the genitals.
Dr. Qinisile Diale, a gynaecologist and fertility specialist at Family Matters fertility centre in the Netcare hospital in Pretoria, says infertility can also lead to conflict between couples and even divorce.
“It is wrongly thought that mainly women have fertility problems. In reality approximately 30% of infertility problems are connected to men. My message to couples is to not lose hope and to continue trying to find solutions to their problem.”
According to Diale, more than 80% of the total population can fall pregnant within a year of trying, and 90% within two years. “There are various reasons why a couple can struggle to fall pregnant, but nowadays there is there is a solution to almost all reasons for infertility.”
Dr. Diale says the risk factors that can contribute to a couple’s infertility, include:
- Age – a woman’s fertility decreases with age, especially as from her mid-thirties. Older men’s sperm count is often also lower and can lessen the chances of fertilisation.
- Weight – if an individual is overweight and rarely exercises it can heighten the risk of infertility. Women who are underweight, suffer from eating disorders or follow a very low calory or restricting diet, can also experience infertility problems.
- Smoking – if either of the parties is a smoker, the chances of the couple falling pregnant diminishes. Smoking can heighten the risk of erectile disfunction and decreases sperm count in men.
- Alcohol – the use of alcohol heightens the risk of birth defects in babies, and can also make it more difficult to fall pregnant. For men, alcohol abuse can cause a decrease in sperm count and mobility.
- Underlying health issues.
- Medication – the side-effects of some medication can influence fertility. It therefore is important to discuss use of medication with a doctor so that alternative treatment options can be considered.
Urology hospital: https://urology.co.za/