So you’ve decided to have a baby. When should you start fertility treatment and is it ever too late?
More than ever, people are postponing pregnancy in favour of developing their careers during their most fertile years, only to find that they may have difficulty conceiving further on down the line. But when is the best time to consider seeking help and when is it too late?
According to Dr Antonio Rodrigues, a fertility specialist at Medfem Clinic, the best starting point is to formulate a Fertility Plan, outlining the steps that you are prepared to take, and possible solutions depending on the success or failure of each step. If you have been unable to conceive within the first six months to a year, it may be best to consider seeing a specialist. Infertility affects approximately 20% of the population, or one in five South Africans.
‘One of the biggest problems is that many couples put off pregnancy for a long time, thinking that they will be fertile forever,’ he says. ‘Age is a very important factor to consider. Medical assistance should be considered in couples under the age of 35 who have been trying to conceive for over a year without success, or after six months in women over the age of 35.’
He explains that in most cases infertility may be diagnosed by a gynaecologist, but many patients go directly to a fertility clinic. ‘If you have a feeling that you need to be checked, then you should get checked,’ he says. ‘Symptoms like irregular cycles, abdominal pain or a poor lifestyle should prompt individuals and couples to seek help even sooner – there is little point in waiting a whole year.’
According to Mandy Rodrigues, a clinical psychologist, specialising in fertility treatment and stress management, there are many fallacies when it comes to a Fertility Plan. ‘People have this misconception that if you visit a fertility treatment centre, you have to go straight to invasive treatment immediately. But it's really just about getting those basics checked out,’ she says. ‘It's not going to do any harm to come in for an appointment and complete a cycle assessment,’ she adds.
‘By the time you reach menopause it is too late to begin fertility treatment using your own ovaries,’ she explains. ‘But by definition, premature menopause is before the age of 35, and after 35, menopause is defined as normal. A woman's fertility rate starts dropping off after 28, and the amount of normal eggs will begin to reduce. But generally as long as a woman is still having her period, she still may have good ovaries and therefore still has a chance of becoming pregnant.’
The most important factor to consider before undergoing the fertility treatment process is to have a strong support system. If a couple is trying to conceive they need to be very supportive of each other as well because this process can put a relationship under a lot of pressure.
‘A fertility counselor can also play a very important role in helping individuals and couples deal with the emotional and psychological impact of fertility treatment,’ concludes Mandy Rodrigues.
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