Toh Kay Lee, age 39, had been trying for a baby for almost a year and when she couldn’t conceive, began blaming herself for being infertile. However, after a medical examination of both her and her husband, it was found to be that Kay Lee’s husband was the infertile one.
What is infertility?
Infertility is the inability of a man or a woman to contribute to conception. It also refers to the state of a woman who miscarries while being pregnant. The common misconception of infertility is that only women can be infertile. In another one third of cases, infertility is due to the man (male factors).
How common is it?
Generally, worldwide, it is estimated that one in seven couples have problems conceiving, with the incidence similar in most countries independent of the level of the country’s development. In Singapore, infertility affects about 15 per cent of the population.
What are the risk factors that bring on infertility?
There are many factors that contribute to infertility, however, they differ accordingly to women and men.
- The risk factors for men are – alcohol, drugs, smoking, age, radiation or chemotherapy, health problems.
- The risk factors for women are – alcohol, drugs, smoking, age, stress, poor diet, weight problems, sexually transmitted diseases, health problems that interfere with hormonal changes and even athletic training.
Infertility in Singapore
There are three main problems causing infertility in Singapore, noted Dr Sheila Loh, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at Raffles Hospital. “Endometriosis, ovulation problems (this could be polycystic ovaries or hormonal imbalance) and male factors.
In endometriosis, cells that normally grow inside the uterus (womb) instead grow outside the uterus. The cause is unknown. In polycystic ovary syndrome, women have either irregular or no menstrual periods. It affects 5-10 per cent of women of reproductive age.
Causes and treatments for infertile men
Read about the causes of infertility on the next page…