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Dealing with infertility


Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Dealing with infertility

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Anna Hosford sees many women in their 40s now struggling to conceive, and battling with their bodies that are not working with them in terms of conception.
Infertility affects one in six couples in Barbados and that number seems to be increasing. That revelation comes from Anna Hosford of the Barbados Fertility Centre (BFC).
While the BFC, which has been in operation for 10 years, treats over 80 per cent of its patients from overseas, it seems that couples here are dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of infertility.
“Infertility is the most stressful diagnosis you can have after HIV,” said Anna.
Anna admits that most of their clientele comes from overseas, but people locally aren’t fully accepting of using fertility treatments to have babies.
“If you have a medical condition called infertility you go to see a fertility doctor,” Anna said. “But yet the stigma is there, I think because sometimes it’s associated with low sperm count and men are very ticklish about that. The difference for women is that our fertility and virility are not intertwined, but for men it’s based around one organ. The fact that their sperm count is low or they can’t produce sperm they feel like less of a man.”
Anna says that many women growing up and heading into their twenties assume that they will have children, that it’s their right as a woman.
“You take all these precautions so that you don’t get pregnant and then when you can’t get pregnant you feel like your body is letting you down,” she said. “So it’s a very personal thing and that’s where the shame comes in.
Anna along with the BFC have been trying to raise awareness of infertility, especially locally.
“Women are more empowered today. They go to college, build a career, excel at their professions, get the house and the car and they all want it in place before they decide to have children,” she said. “What’s happening is because of the empowerment of women, their fertility is going to the side. Because they have everything in their life, they expect they are going to have a child so when they turn around at 42 they can’t. The education of women just isn’t there.”
Anna sees many women in their 40s now struggling to conceive, and battling with their bodies that are not working with them in terms of conception.
“As women we are born with our eggs, so as we get older so do our eggs,” she said. “But men produce new sperm every day. So when women come to us at 42, 43, 44 we tell them that the success rate is 5-10 per cent at best. What we say to women over 45 is that there are no statistics because there are no pregnancies.”
Some women try to refute Anna’s claims by telling her about celebrities getting pregnant at 45, but she says what they don’t realize is that they are using donor eggs.
“As women leave pregnancy longer, more things can go wrong,” Anna said. “That’s just the problem because the fertility rates are dropping.”
But it isn’t only women’s fertility that’s on the decline. Men’s fertility rates are on the decline worldwide.
“For men there are more environmental factors now, drugs, alcohol, smoking, drinking water out of plastic bottles, all the hormones they’re putting in chicken and tomatoes, and the female hormones they’re putting in food are making men more estrogenized so they have less testosterone which results in a drop in the sperm count,” she said. “Also the testes where the sperm are produced hang outside the body for a reason because it’s slightly cooler. Sperm don’t like to be at body temperature. That was fine when men were out working on farms, but now they sit in a car, with heat, then they sit at desk, more heat, then they have their cellphones adding more heat. It’s all leading to low sperm counts.”
Anna also mentioned that sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) also affect sperm count and fertility in men and women.
There has been so much information about not leaving childbirth too long, but Anna admits couples get caught up and feel they have time.
 “Then there is such a shock when the body doesn’t work with you,” she said. “When you’re hitting 43 or 44 you have a higher miscarriage rate because our eggs just don’t age well.” 

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