Dr Venkat: Asian couples are largely ignorant of their fertility ‘time-bomb’
MANY Asians sitting on a ‘Fertility Time-Bomb’ warns Harley Street Fertility Expert
The Harley Street Fertility Clinic is using National Infertility Awareness Week (28th October to November 3rd) to raise awareness of the issue of infertility amongst the UK’s Asian population.
Dr Venkat, Director of Harley Street Fertility Clinic believes that many Asian couples are largely ignorant of their ‘fertility time-bomb’ and cultural issues and concerns are, in some instances, preventing them for seeking medical help and advice.
It is a little known fact that the fertility of an Asian women declines earlier than in Caucasian women – at 32 years compared to 35 years. And, like their Caucasian counterparts, many Asian women are delaying starting a family for educational and career reasons.
In addition, Asian women are statistically more likely to suffer from a number of medical conditions which can affect their ability to conceive a child including;
Polycystic ovary syndrome: the condition of polycystic ovary syndrome is a particularly common gynaecological problem amongst Asian women. The medical condition, which affects 40% of Asian women worldwide (compared to 22% of Caucasian women), in turn results in a high prevalence of diabetes to men and women in families with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.
The condition produces a number of unpleasant side effects such as irregular periods, facial hair, obesity and anovulation’s; where the egg is not released from the ovaries. It causes women to experience an extended cycle – as much as 40 days long. Sometimes women suffer so severely that they are restricted to two or three periods a year. This means that it becomes incredibly difficult for women to assess when they might be ovulating, and in turn planning, timing and frequency of intercourse can be problematic.
Obesity and lifestyle: in line with the global trend, fertility problems as a result of lifestyle issues are on the increase. It is widely accepted that a number of factors may be at the root of the problem including a high fat diet, overeating and the fact that often exercise is often not a defining part of Asian culture. This is leading to an obesity problem and an increase in conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and infertility. Women who possess a Body Mass Index of over 30 will most certainly be affected in some way when trying to conceive. However, losing 10% of this weight will increase the likelihood of becoming pregnant naturally. This will also improve the chances of conceiving in people receiving fertility treatment as the medication and procedures will work more effectively.
Vaginismus: is a condition that affects a woman’s ability to engage in any form of vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, insertion of tampons and the penetration involved in gynaecological examination. This is a result of involuntary reflex contraction of the pubococcygeus muscle, which supports the vagina. This reflex causes the muscles and tissues in the vagina to tense up suddenly, which makes any kind of vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse, painful and not possible.
There is no structural abnormality or obstruction in the vagina. It arises from psychological fear of penetration of the vagina. The symptoms of vaginismus can vary in severity from one woman to the next. Vaginismus is a practical problem when someone is trying to conceive. The woman’s gynaecological examinations, and internal scans, cannot be performed, which makes fertility treatment more stressful.
Dr Venkat estimates that the prevalanece of vaginismus in Asian women is rather high: approximately 60%. Harley Street Fertility Clinic is experienced at treating women with this condition and staff have been trained to provide those patients with all the support they need.
Cultural issues: In certain highly traditional quarters of the Asian community, there is a tendency for women to blame their failure to conceive on “God’s will” and bad luck, a recent survey1 has found. The survey, which covered 1,000 women in 10 countries who had been trying to conceive for at least six months, found that 62% of them did not suspect they may have a fertility problem. In addition to the ‘fatalistic’ cultural issue, Dr Venkat believes that whilst attitudes are changing, many Asian men still struggle to accept that it might be them that have the problem with sperm count or quality.
Dr Venkat comments; “Many Asian men still find it embarrassing to talk about sperm problems, inhibiting them from seeking medical advice and help. They often feel ashamed and embarrassed and find it difficult to talk to a doctor. I want to use Infertility Awareness Week to help raise awareness of the issue of infertility amongst both Asian men and women – accepting that you might have a problem is the first step in helping to solve it. There are so many options now available to help couples who are struggling to conceive and fulfil their dream of having a family.”
Dr Venkat runs an Asian Infertility Support Group, for more information visit hsfc.org.uk