One in six Australian couples struggle with fertility and the journey to parenthood can be tougher and more physically and emotionally taxing than ever imagined.
Most women spend their early reproductive years doing everything they can to avoid pregnancy and give little thought to reproductive health but leading Queensland Fertility Specialist Dr Kee Ong says this is the time we need to act.
For Dr Ong, one of the most heart-breaking parts of IVF medicine is treating women who had no idea their fertility was declining and watching them face devastating challenges and hurdles that could have been avoided.
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We sat down with Dr Ong, and here’s a few things the good doc wants us all to know, whether we’re ready for babies or not!
What is the single biggest cause of infertility?
“Age! Females are born with approximately 1-2 million eggs. This number declines with age through natural attrition and ovulation. The rate at which women ‘lose’ eggs varies greatly and around 10 percent will experience accelerated loss. It’s so important for women in their late 20’s and early 30’s to ‘check-in’ on their eggs and get pro-active about their fertility future now. If we teach young people about fertility, empower them to ask questions and make sure they feel confident in seeking what’s right for them, their body and their future, we’re giving them a remarkable gift.”
Not ready to start a family?
“Fertility checks are not about scaring women into having a baby before they are ready. What they are about is avoiding frustration and disappointment when they are. Every woman should have a very simple blood test by the time they turn 30 to give them options and enable them to make important decisions for the future. The AMH or ‘egg timer’ test is by far, the best indicator of a woman’s ovarian reserve and empower women to further investigate a potential fertility issue; re-evaluate their situation or consider a number of options to preserve fertility moving forward. This test should become part of normal routine health checks.”
Should I freeze my eggs?
“The number of women in Australia freezing their eggs is increasing, however, the message is missing the right age demographic. Patients who freeze their eggs before the age of 35 have a much greater chance to conceive. We need to reach more women in their early thirties before egg quality starts to decline. It’s a viable option for single woman who don’t feel like they’re in a position to have a baby or for couples looking to delay starting a family past 35 years of age, but it’s not the only option!”
How much can Endometriosis play a role in my chances of falling pregnant?
“Endometriosis is one of infertility’s most potent weapons and is massively undiagnosed. The chronic condition occurs when the uterus lining grows outside the womb such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, bladder and bowel. Some patients suffer with very severe symptoms while other experience no symptoms at all. Early diagnosis is essential and surgery significantly improves the chances of conceiving. Ultrasound results can come back normal and don’t give us a clear picture of what’s going on so key-hole surgery is the gold standard test for diagnosis. Too many women are slipping through the cracks here with devastating consequences.”
If I’m ready now, how long should I wait to seek help?
“See a Fertility Specialist if you are under 35 and failed to fall pregnant after 12 months of trying. If you are 35 or older, try for six months only before making an appointment. If you’re concerned about your fertility at any time, please don’t wait. Our ultimate goal is to break the cycle of infertility and help patients conceive as quickly as possible. Treatment does not always have to end up with IVF and the right investigations can lead to patients falling pregnant naturally or through less invasive measures. Getting to the bottom of the underlying cause of infertility as quickly as possible is the cornerstone of good fertility management.”
Any last thoughts you’d like to share?
“If you’re struggling with infertility, you are not alone! The most important thing to remember is never let anyone treat you like a number, never let anyone tell you nothing can be done, and never ever give up hope.”
Dr Kee Ong is based in Southport at Level 2, 2 Short Street, and also conducts appointments from Homeworld Helensvale Medical Centre every Tuesday. For appointments and general enquiries, please call 07 5519 1602 or visit www.goldcoastfertilityspecialist.com.au