Campaign nudges couples to go for fertility checks early

These can reveal underlying problems so couples can seek treatment earlier

A fertility check last year revealed Mrs Joanna Lim, seen here with husband Jeffrey, had endometriosis, which made it difficult for her to conceive. The pair are now preparing for intra-uterine insemination.
A fertility check last year revealed Mrs Joanna Lim, seen here with husband Jeffrey, had endometriosis, which made it difficult for her to conceive. The pair are now preparing for intra-uterine insemination.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

After trying for a baby for two years without success, Mr Jeffrey Lim and his wife, Joanna, decided to go for a fertility health check last year.

That was how the couple, both 34-year-old civil servants, found out that Mrs Lim had endometriosis, a condition where the cells of the uterine lining are deposited outside the uterus, which decreases the chance of pregnancy.

Getting young couples to go for fertility health checks early is the aim of a campaign launched yesterday by voluntary welfare organisation I Love Children, which advocates pro-family causes.

One in six couples worldwide has difficulty conceiving, a trend mirrored closely in Singapore, said experts. But couples can raise their chances by going for fertility health checks early to scan for any underlying problems and seek further help.

"We were disappointed (by the diagnosis), but it dawned on us why we had problems for two years," said Mrs Lim.

"If I'd gone for the check earlier, I could have started on treatment and greatly improved my chances of conceiving."

The pair are in the midst of preparing for intra-uterine insemination, which involves the introduction of specially selected good-quality sperm into the womb around the time of ovulation.

As part of the I Love Children campaign, colourful advertisements will be placed in MRT stations, and on trains and buses. These show cartoon images of sperm and eggs with slogans like "Can your egg and sperm wait?" and "Is your egg reserve low?".

Despite the campaign getting criticised last year by some people for being distasteful and insensitive, I Love Children president Joni Ong said the ads, once again, feature questions accompanied by "in-your-face" sperm and egg visuals.

"As in any publicity, whether it's positive or negative, it's still publicity. That's the whole premise of why we're doing what we're doing. We want people to start talking about fertility," she said.

"While we recognise that having babies is a personal choice... our target audience are people who have made the decision to have babies. Our message to them is: Start thinking about it earlier than later."

A survey of 44 people who went for the checks last year found that most, or 39 of them, went because they had been trying to conceive for some time.

I Love Children has partnered Thomson Fertility Centre and Mount Elizabeth Hospital to provide 450 fertility health check packages to married couples. Couples can sign up for the checks through the I Love Children website or at the roadshows at Chinatown Point on July 6 and 7, and Waterway Point from July 13 to 16.

The health check comprises two clinic trips. First, the couple will undergo a screening consultation with a fertility doctor. This will be followed by an ultrasound scan and hormone blood test for the wife and semen analysis for the husband.

On the second trip, the doctors will review the results during a consultation session with the couple.

Dr Suresh Nair, a fertility specialist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said the most important factor that determines fertility is a woman's age, as the quality and number of eggs deteriorate past the age of 30.

For women who do not have a partner and want to preserve their fertility, egg freezing is an option. But the procedure is not allowed here, except for those with a medical reason to do so.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2017, with the headline 'Campaign nudges couples to go for fertility checks early'. Print Edition | Subscribe