The average fertility rate in South Africa is on the decline, in line with global trends, and couples unable to conceive after a year of trying should seek help from a specialist, says a leading urogynaecologist.
A United Nations report notes that fertility rates in South Africa for 2020 are projected at an average of 2.3 children per woman, slightly lower than the global average of about 2.5.
“Global fertility is projected to decline to 2.4 children per woman by 2030 and 2.2 children per woman by 2050,” notes the report.
Urogynaecologist, Dr. Frances Paterson from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, says research shows that up to 20% of South African couples struggle with infertility which affects both males and females almost equally.
Dr. Paterson says couples should consult a urogynaecologist if they’re unable to conceive after having regular unprotected sex for a year, or if a woman is unable to carry a baby to full term.
The World Health Organisation describes infertility as a “disease of the reproductive system, defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular, unprotected intercourse”.
There are often no obvious symptoms of infertility although some women may have irregular or absent menstrual periods. Men may display hormonal signs such as changes in hair growth or sexual function.
Some causes of infertility in women may include ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, fallopian tube damage or blockage, endometriosis, early menopause, pelvic adhesions, and certain cancers and their treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy.
Causes in men may include increasing age, obesity, smoking, using addictive substances, radiation, nutrition, taking supplements and steroids, a high testicular temperature, infections and STIs, genital injuries and varicocele (enlargement of veins in the scrotal sack).
“Infertility may often be successfully treated and couples struggling to fall pregnant should contact The Urology Hospital or consult an obstetrician, gynecologist, urologist or urogynaecologist,” added Dr. Paterson.
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