Fertility experts share how advanced fertility treatments can support couples seeking help in conceiving.
The hopeful waiting, followed by crushing disappointment and heartbreak. These mixed emotions are common in couples who wish to start a family but are struggling to conceive naturally.
Worldwide, it is estimated that 15 per cent of couples may experience fertility issues, according to a study published in Reproductive Biological Endocrinology. For some people, having received treatment for cancer can also affect fertility.
Dr Leong Wai Yew, consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and fertility specialist at Alpha IVF and Women’s Specialists in Kuala Lumpur, said: “In an ideal situation, if the male and the female have perfect reproductive health, technically they should get it right in the first six months to a year of trying, so they don’t need any help at all.”
ACCREDITED HOSPITALS ACROSS THE BORDER
When natural conception does not pan out, fertility treatments can lend a helping hand to couples.
As a general rule of thumb, women under the age of 35 who are not able to conceive after one year of trying, and those over 35 who have been trying unsuccessfully for six months, should consider seeking professional help, Dr Leong said. Couples with a known medical condition that may affect their chances of pregnancy are usually advised to seek help as soon as they can.
In Malaysia, fertility specialists offer a spectrum of advanced treatments for couples struggling to conceive.
Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council’s (MHTC) chief commercial officer Ms Yazmin Azman said Malaysia’s fertility treatments place patient safety and care at its heart, and is closely monitored by the Ministry of Health Malaysia under the Private Healthcare and Facilities Service Act (1998).
MHTC – an initiative under the Ministry of Health Malaysia – coordinates industry collaborations and public-private partnerships within the country and abroad to facilitate and grow the healthcare travel industry in Malaysia.
Ms Yazmin shared that the majority of MHTC’s member hospitals have accreditation from at least one of the following bodies: The Joint Commission International, Malaysian Society for Quality in Health, the Australian Council on Healthcare Standards, the Reproductive Technology Accreditation Committee (RTAC) and other agencies under the International Society for Quality in Healthcare.
For instance, eight fertility centres in Malaysia – out of 30 fertility centres outside of Australia and New Zealand – have achieved accreditation for their compliance with the International Code of Practice set by the RTAC, which is reviewed and audited by an independent certification body that is approved by the Joint Accreditation System of Australia and New Zealand or the Fertility Society of Australia.
TREATMENT OPTIONS AVAILABLE
According to Ms Yazmin, fertility centres in Malaysia have a one in two success rate for in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatments, an average figure based on the success rate using traditional IVF methods and other advanced IVF technologies.
One of the common assisted reproductive technologies (ART) used in the treatment of infertility, IVF is the process of fertilisation where an egg is combined with a sperm outside the body.
The pregnancy success rate varies with maternal age and the type of procedure done.
For example, statistics by TMC Fertility in Malaysia show that the freeze-all IVF cycle success rates range from 26 per cent (for the above-40 group) to 63.3 per cent (for those under 35). In a freeze-all IVF cycle, embryos are frozen and thawed at a later date before being transferred into the patient.
Besides IVF, fertility specialists in Malaysia are equipped to carry out a range of ART procedures to address the issue of infertility and boost chances of conceiving successfully. The type of procedures recommended will depend on each patient’s fertility issue.
For example, a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is carried out when the sperm count or quality is poor, said Dr Surinder Singh, an obstetrics, gynaecology and fertility specialist at TMC Fertility at Thomson Hospital Kota Damansara. ICSI involves injecting a single sperm into a healthy egg using a microneedle as a means to fertilise the egg.
Other technologies available to aid couples in their fertility journey include next-generation sequencing, time lapse embryoscope, piezo-ICSI and 3D laparoscope procedures.
When in doubt, patients should always seek a second opinion vis-à-vis the suitability and viability of advanced ART procedures as there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to managing infertility.
FERTLITY TREATMENTS FOR CANCER PATIENTS
Fertility clinics in Malaysia also offer advanced onco-fertility treatments for cancer survivors who wish to start a family later on. Its first onco-fertility referral centre, the Advanced Reproductive Centre, was established at the Canselor Tuanku Muhriz UKM Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy are known to affect patients’ reproductive health.
Onco-fertility treatments allow for the preservation of eggs, sperm or reproductive tissues for future use for fertility treatments. The tissues extracted can be preserved between 10 and 20 years for family planning purposes when patients are better.