Stress Affects Your Fertility! This IVF Clinician Explains How You Can Overcome Or Reduce Its Effects

Conceiving is an art. When you're trying for a baby, many factors can derail your efforts. Your age, diet, weight, hormones, sperm count, uterus problems, and the list goes on. 

In Singapore, fertility problems are actually more common than you think. 1 in 6 Singaporean couples face fertility problems. 

Before you get all emotional, hear what Dr Fong Yang has to say. DxD has invited him to host a DxD Session on fertility (IVF and IUI).

Dr Fong is an accredited Ministry of Health IVF clinician, who has been practicing Obstetrics and Gynaecology for the past 18 years. He's one of the rare IVF clinicians who treats both male and female infertility.

Here are some pointers to help put things in perspective. May the odds be with you!

It takes time to get pregnant 

Before your paranoia gets the better of you, please bear in mind that it takes time! The average time it takes to conceive is about six months. If you're under 35, you should wait until you've tried for a year before seeing a fertility specialist. 

One more thing to note, these statistics are only averages. Different couples have different monthly fertility. Some women simply get pregnant more easily than others. 

Yes, stress affects fertility 

Stress is inevitable in modern society, and especially so in a place like Singapore. 

We know from research that prolonged or chronic stress has a negative impact on your overall health, including your fertility! 

Stress affects ovulation and your menstrual cycle

When you are stressed it throws your menstrual cycle off and causes ovulation irregularities. Occasionally, your egg quality might be affected too. 

Ladies with polycystic ovaries or anovulation (difficulty in producing eggs regularly) is most susceptible to stress. Certain periods of stress may lead to delayed menses or altered menstrual flow and volume.

Examples of these include delayed menses during stressful exams, trying to meet month-end sales targets or after a tiring and hectic overseas trip.

There are ways to reduce or overcome stress

The effects stress have on fertlity is real but have hope! They can be reduced or overcome through life-style changes and techniques to cope with stress. 

Get a fertility assesment before panicking 

If it's still not working out, a fertility assesment can help you identify the reasons. 

A fertility assessment starts with a detailed medical history of your spouse and yourself. This helps to shed light on your general health and existing medical problems (if any). 

Afterwhich, both of you would need to get a physical examination. The doctor will perform an ultrasound scan of the lady's pelvic organs (i.e. womb and ovaries), and a semen analysis for the men.

These initial checks would help the doctor understand the issues specific to your chances of conception and recommend a treatment plan.  

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is not the only fertility treatment available

According to Dr Fong, IVF is only used when all other methods have not worked.

There are simpler means of conceiving. Some of these methods include: 

  • Ultrasound scans 
  • Tracking of your egg development and timing of ovulation
  • Pills to enhance the chances of egg growth
  • Techniques like intra-uterine insemination (IUI) to improve the odds of sperm-egg fertilisation

IVF may improve your chances of conceiving naturally the next time

A reader conceived her first child through IVF and asked Dr Fong if this will increase her chances of having her next baby naturally. He explained that this depends on why IVF was done the first place.

If IVF was done because it was fastest way to have a baby, or if she failed to conceive naturally even though no obvious cause was found, then the next pregnancy may be easier naturally.

Some basic medical help might also be required, (e.g. Ultrasound scan to assist with tracking of egg growth and timing of ovulation).

However, IVF was done because her fallopian tubes were blocked, or there was a significant problem with sperm count/quality, then she may have to consider IVF again the 2nd time round.

What about Intrauterine insemination (IUI)?

IUI is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman's uterus to facilitate fertilization. 

Compared to IVF, IUI is relatively simple, less invasive, less costly and less time-consuming. The caveat? The success rates are lower. 

However, certain existing conditions can make IUI less favourable. For instance, if your husband’s sperm count and quality are low, or if you have 1 or both fallopian tubes blocked.

IVF still gives you the best chance of getting pregnant

While IVF gives you a better chance at conceiving, it demands more of your time and effort, is more invasive and costly, and most ladies find it more stressful.

You and your spouse should discuss this issue with your fertility doctor in order to understand and select the type of treatment that best suits you.

Decided on an IVF treatment? You've to get started now

If you have decided on doing IVF, Dr Fong's advice for you is to not delay or procrastinate any further.

Contact your fertility doctor as soon as you can. Remember to bring your available medical records and/or medication with you for your first consultation. If you have existing medical problems, e.g. thyroid, diabetes, etc, please consult your respective specialists at the same time to have these conditions controlled. 

It's useful to get both your doctors (fertility doctor and other specialists you see) together to discuss your medical issues.

Good luck! To find out more, you can read his full QnA session on Fertility, IVF, and IUI here


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