By Rae Mok
You’ve decided that it is time to add a new member to your family. You are ready mentally and financially. However, after trying for a baby for a few months, nothing is happening, and you start to panic, wondering a thousand reasons why. You start to think that you are not fated to be parents (be it for the first time or again), and you may never get to experience cuddling your newborn in your hands, hear him/her call you papa/mama, smell like poop or puke (sometimes both at the same time)… STOP. Before you get all flustered and worried (which is not helping your hormones), let’s take a step back and take a good look around and AT yourselves.
There are many factors that can hinder conception, and it is often a combination of environmental, emotional and physical factors.
Examples of these factors include:
• Pollution (air, heat),
• exposure to radiation,
• trauma to sexual organs,
• stress & anxiety causing an imbalance of hormones which may disrupt your ovulation,
• lower sperm count or produce unhealthy sperms,
• medical problems,
• ovulation regularity,
• problems with sexual organs,
• unhealthy lifestyle habits such as smoking, taking drugs…etc.
The list goes on, but what’s most important is to find out what are the factors that are hindering your efforts.
We spoke to Dr Ann Tan, Specialist Obstetrician & Gynaecologist of Woman & Fetal Centre, to get a better understanding.
1. Can you tell us how environmental, emotional and physical factors may hinder conception?
Dr Ann Tan: Environmental pollution appears to have affected both male and female fertility negatively. The quality of semen appears to be getting increasingly poorer, and this is one of the main reasons for the need for IVF. Emotional issues can also be so powerful that hormone changes are induced. Physical factors, for example fibroids and cysts, are more common as one ages and will impact couples who choose to conceive later in life. In addition, infections leading to tubal damage can also complicate things and affect fertility.
2. Which of these three factors had affected your patients most?
Dr Ann Tan: I believe it is a combination of all 3 as it is hard to pinpoint any one factor in isolation and of course age is a MAJOR factor amongst women!
3. Which one of these three factors is hardest to address?
Dr Ann Tan: I cannot control the environment but I try to advise them to eat well and take more supplements to enhance their physical health and hopefully improve the condition of their eggs and sperms. Addressing obesity is one of the hardest challenges for a couple. Getting them to change their diet pattern and lose weight is not an easy task as it requires strong determination on their part.
4. Can you describe some successful cases of enhancing fertility?
Dr Ann Tan: I have many couples who experience fertility problems affecting both parties. In one notable case, where the man used to engage in competitive long-distance cycling, his sperm count improved tremendously when he stopped the activity. Some women, on the other hand, had their hormones return to more respectable levels when they reduce their stress at work by, for example, working
shorter hours, or embarking on fewer overseas trips.
5. How soon do you think couples should seek help if they are unable to conceive?
Dr Ann Tan: How SOON is really dependant on how old the couple is and what they perceive to be their problem. For a matured couple where the woman is more than 40 years old, the interval between trying to conceive, and seeking treatment should be inversely proportionate to the age of the woman. Both husband and wife should support each other in discovering and addressing their fertility problems, to realise their dream of having a baby.
A couple is usually defined as “infertile” after trying to have a baby without success for a year. However, if you feel the urgency (due to age especially) or if you are worried, you should always consult your gynaecologist for a thorough review. Who knows, the advice given might help you hit the jackpot the next month! Baby dust to all parents-to-be!
With many thanks to Dr Ann Tan for her invaluable input.
Dr Ann Tan Sian Ann
MBBS (S’pore), FRCOG (London), M Med (O&G) FAM (S’pore)
Specialist Obstetrician & Gynaecologist
Woman & Fetal Centre