A recent United Nations report found fertility rates in SA for 2020 are projected at an average 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,” the report said.

Infertility may often be successfully treated and couples struggling to fall pregnant should consult an obstetrician, gynaecologist, urologist, or urogynaecologist. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

Urogynaecologist, Dr Frances Paterson from The Urology Hospital, Pretoria, said research shows that up to 20% of South African couples struggle with infertility affecting both males and females almost equally.

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”.

Dr Paterson advised couples to 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.

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 varicocoele (enlargement of veins in the scrotal sack).

“Infertility may often be successfully treated and couples struggling to fall pregnant should consult an obstetrician, gynaecologist, urologist, or urogynaecologist,” said Dr Paterson.