Thinking of growing your family and adding a new member? Congratulations on taking the next step! While it could look easy and natural for many couples, the road to starting a family may not always be an easy one.
Before you start worrying and stressing yourself out, here are some common myths you should know.
Myth 1: Getting pregnant is easy with regular sex
Don’t be surprised or overly worried if it takes you a while to conceive. One study found that amongst couples having regular (every 2-3 days throughout a month) sexual intimacy:
• Aged 19-26: 92% will conceive after 1 year and 98% after 2 years
• Aged 35 to 39: 82% will conceive after 1 year and 90% after 2 years
Another UK survey amongst 1,194 parents found that couples conceived after an average of 78 times sexual activity. The one hit wonder is a happy lucky coincidence.
Myth 2: IVF is expensive and only for the rich
In-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment involves a number of procedures and stages with the entire treatment costing an average of $12,000 and up in Singapore. However, depending on the citizenship of the couple, eligible couples can use up to $6,000 from Medisave to pay for IVF costs. Eligible couples seeking treatment at public hospitals could also receive up to 75% in co-funding from the government. To find out more about the schemes, visit MOH page here.
Myth 3: Women with history of irregular periods can’t conceive
When a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular, it is usually due to hormonal issues which make ovulation irregular or non-occurring. Common causes would be polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid problems or nutritional deficiency, which causes the menstrual cycles to become erratic. Excessive physical exercise and reduced nutrition can also lead to irregular periods.
Depending on the underlying cause of irregular periods, this may not affect your chances of conceiving. In fact, the number one factor affecting infertility in Singapore is actually biological age, as more couples are putting off having children until later in life.
We also spoke to Dr Ann Tan, a Member of the Families for Life Council and an obstetrician and gynaecologist on her insights on planning for a baby. Formerly the Chief of Fetal Maternal Medicine at the Singapore General Hospital and President of the Perinatal Society of Singapore, Dr Tan is currently practising with the Women Fertility & Fetal Centre at Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre.
Q1: For couples planning to start a family, when should they consider seeing a fertility specialist?
Dr Ann Tan: This really depends on the age of the couple. If the age of the mother is more than 35 years, they should see the specialist as soon as possible and especially if she has irregular menses, or excessive pain during her menses.
If the woman is younger than 30 years, the couple should approach a fertility specialist, if they are unable to conceive after a year of active trying.
Q2: What options are available if the wife/husband is ‘infertile’?
Dr Ann Tan: This really depends on why the "infertile" diagnosis was made and a detailed discussion with a fertility expert should shed light on the possible solutions the couple could choose to use.
Q3: I just got married but I’m not ready to start a family. Can I freeze my eggs/sperm in Singapore?
Dr Ann Tan: Unfortunately semen and eggs can only be stored in cases where there is a cancer patient involved. Thus far, social freezing is not allowed in Singapore but is available in other countries. If one has no intention or has no ability to start a family by 35 years, the best time to store eggs would be in the late 20s to early 30s. There is little benefit of doing egg storage after 40 years.
Q4: What is your advice for couples above 40 years wishing to start a family?
Dr Ann Tan: Couples 40 years and above should definitely seek a review with a fertility specialist to ensure that the couple have good fertility potential and nothing needs to be corrected or improved upon. The most important for the female is to assess her ovarian reserve or egg reserve with a test of her anti mullerian hormone levels, and to assess the normality of her uterus and patency of her fallopian tubes.