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Starting a family is often the big adventure that married couples embark on. In many instances they’ve been married for some years and decide that the time has come to start building their family. And of course, more often than not, everything is fine and it is not too long before they have the happy news that they are expecting and everything progresses from there. A healthy baby arrives in due course to brighten their lives – and give them sleepless nights!
But not all couples are that fortunate – in some instances the ugly spectre of infertility rears its distressing head. About 10% of women (this translates to 6.1 million women) in the United States, find that they are unable to fall pregnant, or are unable to remain pregnant and carry the baby full-term, but Fertility Plus could help.
And infertility is on the increase, mainly due to changes in lifestyle, pollution and people tending to having children later in life. The causes of infertility are many and varied. The origin of the problem can lie with either the man or the woman, and is about equally distributed between the sexes.
Medically, infertility is diagnosed when a woman under the age of 35 has not been able to conceive within a year of having unprotected sex. For women over the age of 35, this period drops to six months of having unprotected intercourse, and for women over 40 this period drops yet further to 3 months.
But whatever the causes of infertility, the effects of infertility can be devastating and pervasive. It has profound physical, mental and emotional impacts, with depression, stress and anxiety being high on the list. It not only affects the couple’s self-esteem, but also often impacts negatively on their relationship and sex life.
In previous centuries infertile couples had to live with not having their own children or they had to resort to adoption or fostering. Artificial insemination (often by donor) and surrogacy have also been employed by couples to have a family, though both strategies contain inherent risks.
However, with the advent of in vitro fertilization, commonly referred to as IVF, overcoming infertility has become a much more hopeful scenario. IVF is a procedure performed in a laboratory in which a woman’s egg, referred to as an oocyte, is removed from her body. It is fertilized with her husband’s sperm outside her body, usually in a petri dish – hence the name ‘in vitro’ which literally means ‘in glass’.
When conception has successfully taken place, the embryo is implanted into the woman’s womb. Once this procedure has been successfully achieved, a normal pregnancy will result, and a healthy baby will be born in due course.
It is now more than 40 years since the first ‘test-tube’ baby (though conception was technically done in a petri dish), was conceived by means of IVF. Baby Louise Brown was born on 25 July 1978 to Lesley Brown who was infertile due to blocked fallopian tubes. The doctors who pioneered this event in England were Sir Robert Edwards, (who subsequently received the Nobel Prize for this work) and Dr Patrick Steptoe.
Since then an estimated 6.5 million babies have been born worldwide using IVF, thus showing the tremendous impactthat this technique has had on overcoming infertility, and could still have.
And recently, the scenario for overcoming fertility has become brighter yet, with significant advances made at fertility clinics around the world. One of the problems with IVF has always been that it has been very expensive and consequently not available to everybody who needs it. The treatment covers many different stages and as the success rate is not very high (no more than 40%) it often means that it requires several repetitions before a successful pregnancy occurs.
However, Dr Thabo Matsaseng at a fertility clinic in South Africa has implemented innovations in the technique and managed to streamline the process. This has significantly reduced costs, and has made IVF treatments more affordable. By sharing human resources and dividing responsibilities among themselves, they are able to save on staff salaries. By booking appointments by text message rather than employing an IVF coordinator, they have been able to save on administrative costs.
Additionally, the introduction of the Embryoscope™ incubator with camera imaging at the Wijnland Fertility Clinic in South Africa has significantly improved the rate of embryo survival. This has resulted in a higher rate of embryo implantation success and consequently, a higher rate of successful pregnancies.
Being diagnosed with infertility is still not good news. But in view of these advances, overcoming infertility, successfully conceiving and having that much desired child, is a much more viable option for many couples.