A marriage followed by a beautiful home with two kids – ultimately, this would be every couple’s dream of an ideal life. However, things don’t always go as planned. For some couples, conceiving a child is not as straightforward as expected.
“Infertility treatments have come a long way from what they used to be. There are many ways a couple can get that much-needed help. All they have to do is take that step to seek it,” said Dr Navdeep when asked on his views about couples having trouble conceiving.
Infertility: An invisible disease
Often times, couples do not realise that they have a problem with infertility at all until they really start trying to conceive.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
Fertility declines with age, more for women than men. Acknowledging the fact that getting the right help for infertility can be a somewhat time-sensitive matter, Dr Navdeep suggests that a couple seeks professional help from a Fertility Specialist within 6-12 months after trying to conceive without a positive outcome.
However, one should seek immediate help if one feels there could be some underlying medical condition. For a woman, if she has irregular menstrual cycles or heavy, long and painful periods, it is reason enough to send alarm bells ringing to have it checked by a specialist immediately. There could be a possibility that she may have Endometriosis or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) that needs to be addressed as early as possible to enable conception.
A common misconception is that infertility is mostly a woman’s issue. It is truly a myth. Almost half of the time, it proves to be a male-related issue. If a man has problems with ejaculation or erectile dysfunction (ED), he should not wait to have it checked as it could be a major contributing factor to infertility.
Sense of awareness
Why does a couple not seek professional help with infertility? According to Dr Navdeep, since infertility is not a matter of life and death, some don’t feel the urgency for it. They put it off as something that would happen eventually, but many a time, it doesn’t happen due to underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed.
This is why Dr Navdeep feels that it is important for couples to educate themselves on infertility so that no time is wasted on achieving pregnancy. The time and age factor cannot be overstressed here.
A taboo subject
Sometimes, religious sentiments and cultural taboos are also reasons why a couple does not take that step forward to get an IVF (in vitro fertilisation) done. “Some of them see IVF as an unnatural way of conception. While I see IVF as a God-sent method to help many childless couples conceive and hold that little precious one in their arms, I respect their point of view and religious beliefs,” said Dr Navdeep.
These couples, however, come in to seek help to boost their fertility through medications and supplements. They are also in acceptance of achieving a pregnancy through Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI) which is a procedure that involves the placing of sperms inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilisation.
A burden on the pocket
Ranging from about RM15,000 to RM20,000, IVF can be quite a heavy burden on the pocket. Unlike other medical procedures, IVF is not covered by insurance and the monetary burden can hurt couples who are just starting their married lives.
Empathising on this situation, Dr Navdeep was pleased to advise couples that the government has recently allowed for the withdrawal of the EPF Account II for the purpose of fertility treatments. In this new development, legally married couples below the age of 55 can make withdrawals for the IVF, IUI and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injections) procedures. Apart from that, the government also allows for tax relief of up to RM6,000 on expenses incurred for medical treatments of serious illnesses, which include expenses incurred on fertility treatments.
At the crossroads: Career or pregnancy?
Many career women have stood at this crossroads in their lives: get pregnant now or focus on their career and delay pregnancy. It is a tough choice and totally unfair to women to have to choose between the two.
To this, Dr Navdeep suggests egg freezing for women when they are at a younger age (around 25-30 years old) so they can plan to get pregnant later without compromising the quality of the eggs and reducing the chances of pregnancy. While preserving eggs does not necessarily guarantee conception, one thing certain will be access to better quality embryo when the woman is ready to get pregnant.
The right support
Trying to conceive can be an absolutely trying time in a relationship. Couples who have been trying to conceive for a long time can start to grow impatient. Helplessness may play out in the form of arguments, dissatisfaction or resentment.
To these couples, Dr Navdeep advises that they keep calm and seek the right support. With the support offered by Fertility Counsellors at his center, a couple’s fertility journey need not be such a lonely one. Couples can seek the assistance of a counsellor when they feel ‘stuck’ or overwhelmed by the options and decisions they need to make, or if they feel like they just want to have someone to whom they can express their feelings.
A decade of change
Infertility treatment has advanced so much from what it used to be a decade ago. Many childless couples have had the opportunity to hold that little precious one of their own, something they probably thought they’d never be able to do.
The journey to achieving that little blessing could not have been an easy one. Each couple going through infertility has their own different story to tell. One thing for sure, most of them have gone through many ups and downs. To this, Dr Navdeep emphasises that the journey to achieving pregnancy does not have to be an isolated one. There is much more support these days as compared to how it used to be. All they have to do is take that step to seek the help they need. A journey of a thousand miles begins with that one step.
You are sure to have many questions. In addressing infertility, the sooner you have them answered, the better. Do list them down and call +6-03-80699333 (TMC Fertility & Women’s Specialist Centre, Puchong) or email firstname.lastname@example.org to make an appointment to consult with Dr Navdeep.