“Everyone falls pregnant at the drop of a hat except me…. Don’t they?”
Well, no. Normally fertile couples having intercourse at the time of ovulation every month will only become pregnant once every 4.5 months. This translates into a pregnancy rate of 22% per month.
After six months around 20% of couples will have failed to achieve a pregnancy and will need investigation and treatment for infertility.
The good news is that many of these will be helped by relatively simple means. The remainder may be helped by modern assisted reproductive technologies with QFG Sunshine Coast.
Find out more about fertility options on the Sunshine Coast and surrounding areas below.
What Causes Infertility?
Infertility affects some 15% of couples and can result from a range of genetic, medical, surgical or trauma related causes. Infertility is caused by both male and female factors. Male-related problems account for about 40% of infertility and female-related problems account for another 40%. A combination of male and female factors represents 10% and unexplained causes account for the remaining 10%.
There are many factors that have been identified as increasing the risk factor of infertility – these include:
- Irregular or non-existent periods, usually as a result of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
- Two or more miscarriages
- A history of sexually transmitted disease
- A history of pelvic/ genital infection
- Surgical (Tubal) sterilisation, or unsuccessful reversal
- Older women – in their late 30’s, or 40’s
- Genetic, chromosome, or other medical disorders
- Prostate infections
- Previous vasectomy
- A history of sexually transmitted diseases
- A history of pelvic / genital infection
- Previous abdominal surgery
- Unsuccessful reversal of surgical sterilisation
- Chromosome or genetic problems
Who Do I Talk To?
If you are trying to fall pregnant and have experienced any of the factors that may contribute to infertility, make an appointment to see Dr Moir, with a referral from your GP, or call QFG Sunshine Coast on 07 5314 3500 for an obligation-free initial interview.
The process used to identify fertility problems involves a number of tests to ascertain where the problem lies so the appropriate treatment can be commenced.
Dr James Moir will look at five key areas:
- Sperm quality
- Ensure the female Fallopian tubes are patent
- Confirm that there are no problems with the uterus, such as fibroids or polyps in the uterus cavity, and that the ovaries are normal
- Implantation and maintenance of the pregnancy – causes for recurring miscarriages www.australiandoctor.com.au
Both partners should be evaluated simultaneously, as infertility can be due to male or female factors, or both. Limiting the evaluation to one member of a couple can delay appropriate treatment by Dr Moir.
Protect your future fertility – Freezing your eggs
Compared to our grandparents’ generation, many women these days are delaying marriage and/or parenthood so that they can concentrate on their careers and develop financial security. The result of this delay in having a family is an increase in difficulties with fertility.
The likelihood of a woman conceiving in her late 30’s or early 40’s is dramatically lower than in her late 20’s and early 30’s. The incidence of both subtle and obvious chromosomal abnormalities also rises very significantly for women in their late 30’s and 40’s.
For this reason, some women are choosing to ‘freeze’ their eggs while they are young and healthy, so that the eggs can be used at a later age when they are ready to start a family.
Similarly, women who are facing cancer treatment sometimes choose to freeze their eggs for future use.
As Clinical Director for an IVF clinic, I thought it might be worthwhile to give readers an overview of this increasingly popular process.
At QFG Sunshine Coast, we offer egg freezing by the vitrification method. This is a form of ultra-rapid cooling – so quickly that no ice crystals are formed during the process. Ice crystals that formed during the “old” freezing technique had the potential to damage the eggs during the freezing and subsequent thawing technique. Clinics using vitrification are reporting pregnancy rates that are far superior compared to the “old” freezing technique.
A woman who wanted her eggs frozen would need to go through a conventional cycle of IVF with ovarian stimulation. This stimulates egg production so that we can collect 8 – 12 eggs at once. These eggs are assessed by the IVF scientists to ensure they are viable. You may need to have two collections over two cycles if only a few eggs are collected with each cycle.
The egg collection is a day surgery procedure, generally carried out under general anaesthetic, or under sedation. Once frozen, the straws containing the eggs are stored in liquid nitrogen at -196 C.
When the woman decides she wants a baby and has a limited chance of success due to advancing age, her eggs are then thawed. Using the currently available freezing and thawing procedures, between 70 and 80% of frozen eggs are expected to survive the process. The eggs are then injected with sperm – either her partner’s or a donor’s. Then one embryo would be implanted in the uterus, and the remaining embryos frozen again for future use.
This process, while not inexpensive, means that an older woman can have a successful pregnancy using her own eggs.
On a related topic, more and more men are having their sperm frozen and stored for future use. This is another procedure which QFG Sunshine Coast handles. Sperm freezing is a very successful process, with pregnancy rates very similar to those obtained with fresh sperm. Some men do this because they are facing cancer treatment which may affect their fertility, because they are having a vasectomy, or because they work in a high-risk occupation, such as the military.
If you are considering freezing eggs or sperm, see your GP first for a referral to one of our fertility specialists. Alternatively, call QFG Sunshine Coast (5314 3500) to speak to one of the nurses and get some background information first. Check the website at www.ivfq.com.au