Infertility has long been stigmatized as a “personal issue” and a “women’s issue.” Yet one of the most significant challenges faced by economically developed countries is a falling birthrate; average sperm count in these countries has fallen by more than 50 per cent since the 1970s. But the stigma has held because it’s a topic few people have felt comfortable talking about.
Through social media and support groups, however, this is starting to change, says Dr. Ken Seethram, a fertility specialist with the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine. “We’re in an era of reproductive science advances that intersect with more openness about reproductive options.”
With his patients, he says, “a lot of our conversations centre around questions like, ‘Do I want to have my first at 40?’ and ‘What are my risks when I’m 42 and having a second?’”
We have to start educating young people about what their reproductive options are.— Dr. Ken Seethram, fertility specialist, the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine
While it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense that there is lots of time because of tabloid headlines about movie stars having babies at 50, the reality of human fertility is quite different. “Those births are almost always enabled by egg donors, surrogacy or some other method,” says Dr. Seethram. “Time is a huge enemy for human reproduction. We have to start educating young people about what their reproductive options are.”
Especially for couples who are carriers of genetic disorders, advances in genetic screening are life-changing, with the potential to eliminate potentially devastating genetic diseases such as Huntington’s and hemophilia in future generations. The new technology – Pre-implantation Genetic Testing (PGT) – also reduces the risk of chromosomal issues that might lead to implantation failure or miscarriage during fertility treatments.
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