Unexplained infertility is a frustrating diagnosis, but there are ways to manage the problem.
Trying to make a baby doesn’t come easy for everyone. In fact, up to one in six Singaporean couples face problems conceiving and among them, a good portion are dealt the diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”. This translates to: you may be doing all the right things but the doctors simply don’t know what’s wrong.
But take heart that it’s not the end of the world. Dr Liow Swee Lian, scientific director of Virtus Fertility Centre Singapore shares with us some advice that couples can take when faced with unexplained infertility.
Unexplained infertility doesn’t mean you are infertile
Diagnostic methods are not fail-proof, says Dr Liow, unless they are invasive. There is a limited amount of information you can get from a physical examination. If you decide to go through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), this is where the doctors can figure out the nitty-gritty details.
“When we collect the eggs for IVF, we can then look at the overall egg quality and at defects within the egg. Even women with excellent ovarian reserve can have poor egg quality seen under the microscope,” Dr Liow explains. Sometimes, a thick egg shell can prevent sperm from penetration as well.
And for semen tests, doctors can look at sperm count and shape, how the little “tadpoles” move and their DNA quality among other things.
The bottomline: you should keep optimistic and explore your options.
(Also read: 6 Top Causes of Infertility – and How to Fix Them)
Relook your lifestyle
If you wish to continue trying to conceive naturally, there are a few things you need to do. The first is to know your fertile window – grab an ovulation kit at any regular pharmacy if you must. Have sex one or two days before ovulation, and then continue to have regular sex two to three times a week to improve your chances, says Dr Liow. Also, it helps to improve your diet and maintain a healthy weight. Plus, you should start taking 500ug of folic acid every day, along with multivitamins to boost your health. It also helps to keep active, stop smoking and cut down on alcohol.
The quickest solution is usually in vitro fertilisation
When it comes to treating unexplained infertility, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) usually has the best odds for pregnancy success. In general, your fertility starts to go downhill from your mid 30s; it gets worse when you hit 40 as your chances of conceiving may just be four per cent. Your doctor may then recommend IVF – this is also when you may discover the real reason behind your inability to conceive.
However, if you are younger, intrauterine insemination (IUI) will usually be your first option. It is less invasive and expensive, and is physically less stressful than IVF, says Dr Liow. Typically a couple will attempt a maximum of three rounds of IUI before proceeding to IVF.
Emotional support is crucial
Grappling with infertility is can be an emotional rollercoaster, especially for women. Counselling is a great way to relieve stress and get into the right mental state before starting any procedure. Ask your fertility clinic for referrals if it doesn’t offer coaching or counselling services in-house.