Fertility

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“Fertility is a gift with an expiry date” stirs up a mix of reactions. The tagline from this year’s I Love Children’s fertility awareness programme, alongside punchy facts about male and female fertility, was served up loud and clear at Cityhall MRT stations, on MRT panel screen doors, taxis, and on social media.
 
 

Some members of the public found it hard to swallow. I had a friend who made her disapproval of the images – which surprised me because I thought the graphics were cute, and refreshingly bold. Much of the media coverage reported on the negative effect it had on its audience – but were there other reactions by couples that were not covered?

 

My impression was that the good would go unnoticed – would a couple with fertility issues stand up and speak out about the usefulness of such awareness campaign message? Unlikely,because much of this topic hasn’t found itself into mainstream conversations.

 

A simple google search will bring up Singapore’s fertility rate: In 2015, Singapore's total fertility rate (the average number of children born to a woman during her child-bearing years) increased from 1.19 in the previous year to 1.25. This, however, is still way below the 2.1 replacement rate1. Understandably, in a developed country, common deterrent to having children include the desire to enjoy more ‘freedom’ first before being ‘tied down’, placing career as a priority, and the cost of raising a child here in Singapore. As a 33-year-old myself with no children currently, these “I’m not ready, I’m still young!” reasons are sensitive to question – everyone has a freedom of choice.


Unfortunately, this freedom greatly diminishes with age. The likelihood of conceiving falls from 15% in a woman’s late 20s, to 5% in the late 30s. Over the years, the awareness of fertility have been increased (thankfully!), but there still are common misconceptions: A local poll by NUH in 2012 showed that 6 out of 10 women thought that a woman in her 40s is just as likely to get pregnant as one in her 30s. One in every 2 women thought that they were still fertile and could get pregnant even if their period had stopped2.

 

These facts were hammered into me over the last two years when I was asked to cover an I Love Children’s event, where couples shared their fertility challenges, and experts revealed fertility facts and tips. As someone highly adamant about building my career and enjoying my life first before children, it took a consistent two to three years of these reminders to get me to start considering my fertility chances seriously. My husband and I finally had ‘the discussion’ late last year. The exposure to these conversations woke me up to the seriousness of the matter, but how many other couples are aware of this too?

 

I decided to interview three couples to find out what their reactions were to the bold fertility awareness campaign ran by I Love Children. How much did it impact them? Was this impact positive or negative? Did it benefit them and does it affect their planning and efforts? They remain anonymous due to the privacy of the matter.

 

Hi guys! Thanks for being open to sharing your thoughts and your journey.

 

Do you feel positively or negatively about the raising of awareness of fertility facts? Why?

ZG: I am positive about the interesting facts on how to increase the chances of pregnancy.

BL: I feel more positive than not, actually. I take the advertised information quite literally. They are putting out facts but of course, with a certain slant to encourage fertility. But if one just focuses on the facts that are being introduced, I think it remains quite educational. At the end of the day, fertility is a personal choice that resides in the bedroom. You make your own call.

ST: I feel positively about it as I embrace people to join me on this journey of parenthood!

 

Seeing these fertility facts, would you reflect and consider them? Does it affect your planning and efforts?

ZG: It doesn't affect my planning and efforts as we are already planning for a family.

BL: Yes, I would reflect on them. It doesn’t affect our planning as the both of us are still relatively young.

 

ST, congratulations on your pregnancy. If you had seen these ads before you got pregnant, would it have influenced your baby-making efforts?

ST: No. I used to believe that one needs to be fully prepared mentally, financially and emotionally before embarking on family planning, notwithstanding ads around you or advice given by someone else.

 

Did you and your spouse personally take efforts around fertility? (E.g. wearing boxes, going for tests etc.)?

ZG: Yes, we did seek out advice from a gynaecologist after our second year into marriage. Our efforts hadn’t resulted in any news. I found out that this was due to PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) that reduces the chance of pregnancy. I took pills to thicken the wall, and tried assisted reproduction methods but didn't follow through the procedure as it can be mentally stressful and my body was not in optimum condition to conceive. Hence, I have decided to seek alternative natural treatments to heal the body and make it stronger first.

ST: No, we let nature take its course. Or rather, we have not reached that stage of going for fertility tests as we are only married for less than a year. Perhaps if we were to try for another two years to no avail, and our biological clock is ticking, we will then put in more effort around conceiving.

BL: Nothing in particular, yet.

 

If you have been trying between six months to a year without success, go for a fertility check without delay. ~ Dr Peter Chew, aLife

 

Do you advice couples to check and plan early?

ZG: Yes, please do! So you have ample time to prepare your body and heal your body for next phase. I guess besides the body, you also have to be mentally more ready.

BL: I’m not in the position to advice as we have not reached that stage yet!

 

You should get an early assessment of the semen and your egg for fertility purposes to reduce the time to conception. ~ Dr Ann Tan, Women Fertility & Fetal Centre

 

ST, now that you're expecting, any word of advice, tips or suggestions to couples about planning and trying early?

ST: Don’t worry, be happy and just do it. Start early =) I think having too much reservation or too much planning around parenthood may cripple you or cause you to lose the window of opportunity. Our bodies are not evergreen!

 

Please seek out how best to improve both partners' health. Healthy eggs and sperms make the chances for a normal baby better. So lifestyle changes and nutrition changes are likely to change things for the better. ~ Dr Ann Tan, Women Fertility & Fetal Centre

 

Maybe the campaign might be a turn off for many; however I have faith that there are the same numbers of couples, or more, who quietly benefit from these facts being put in front of them. By the time a couple starts trying, and then start searching for help, it might require them several more years and much more money before they could eventually experience the joy of parenthood.

 

Z.G. (31) & husband S.T. (39) - married for 4 years
B.L. (29) & wife (29) - newlyweds
S.T. (34) & husband (34) - married for 2 years, currently expecting first child

 

Find out more about fertility-related questions & answers; do visit www.ilovechildren.sg.

 

I Love Children is organising a talk-cum-movie event on Sat, 2 April (2 sessions) – Planning Your Nest Egg. Speaker: Paul See, PIAS. Movie: BATMAN v SUPERMAN. Click here to stand a chance to get your free tickets!

 

ILC will also be running fertility-related roadshows during the Fertility Awareness Month in 2016. Like them on Facebook to keep updated on their events!

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Sources:

1 http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/more-marriages-and-babies-last-year-bring-cheer-to-singapore

Poll reveals lack of fertility awareness, Sept 2012, The Straits Times
 

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