Saturday, August 16, 2008

Journey to parenthood

"Journey to parenthood"
Sun.Star Davao, Aug. 16, 2008

In an ideal world, this is what we wish to happen: Boy meets girl. They fall in love, get married and soon after, have adorable kids of their own.

If only life was that simple and uncomplicated....

Reality check. For some couples, the journey to parenthood involves years of anxious waiting and sometimes, does not take place at all.

According to Asia Wide Actions for Reproductive Education (AWARE), “Infertility can alter nearly every aspect of a person's life. Self-esteem, dreams for the future, and relationships with others may all be affected. Yet, the emotional aspects of infertility often go ignored and untreated”.

“Because it is such a private issue, many couples do not share their experiences openly with friends and family. As a result, they feel isolated. But, they are not alone. In fact, one couple in six around the world does not conceive within the first twelve months of trying, and may need medical help to achieve pregnancy. They experience infertility with all the feelings and frustrations that may go with it”, states AWARE.

Factors affecting fertility
Infertility is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “the inability of a couple to achieve conception or bring a pregnancy to term after a year or more of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.”

Failure to conceive is a problem that affects both partners equally.

According to Dr. Maria Lourdes Zosas-Cabling, Obstetrician-Gynecologist, there are several factors which can affect fertility.

“It can be that the couple is so occupied that they only have sex during the weekends. Hence, they are not able to time it during the ovulation of the woman”, cites Dr. Cabling who is married to Davao City councilor Arnulfo Cabling.

Another cause she cited is age. “Women nowadays are so career-oriented that they usually delay marriage or postpone conceiving a child. Remember, the women’s fertility is at its peak between the ages of 20 and 24. At birth, women have around 2 million eggs but it will drop to 300,000 by their first menstruation. So, by the time they reach 30 years old, the eggs will only be 150,000 which would last until menopause, as we are withdrawing 15-30 eggs per menstrual cycle”, Dr. Cabling says.

“One’s occupation can also be another factor. There are numerous cases now of couples experiencing secondary infertility, meaning they already have one or more children but are having a hard time conceiving again. This may be caused by certain professions, for example such as seafarers where their job exposes them to extreme heat in tankers. This affects the sperm production”, points out Dr. Cabling.

Other causes that may affect fertility include “infection or blockages in the fallopian tube; organic problems in uterus such as pelvic endometriosis; ovulatory problems; a change in lifestyle (in particular stress); being overweight; excessive consumption of alcohol and coffee; as well as smoking”.

First fertility center in Davao

“During my sub-specialty training in Manila for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, I went over the profiles of the patients and discovered that 30% of the cases come from Mindanao. In Davao alone, it is estimated that 15% of the 1.5 million population have problems in fertility”, reveals Dr. Cabling who is only one of three fertility specialists in Mindanao.

Hence, it was indeed timely when the Fertility Care Center Davao Inc. (FCCDI) was established over a year ago under the direction of Dr. Darlene Estuart, chairperson of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries Inc. (BIHMI).

At present, the FCCDI is the only center of its kind in Mindanao. Dr. Cabling is the center's laboratory director while Dr. Veronica Mallare-Deniega serves as center director.

FCCDI’s objective is to “make fertility care services available to hopeful couples by providing them with a comfortable and safe venue to learn about current therapies and options for the treatment of reproductive health problems from fertility specialists”.

The center enables couples to optimize possibilities by getting the best out of the latest technology of this one-stop shop which has an ultrasound machine, andrology laboratory and intrauterine insemination or more popularly known as artificial insemination facilities manned by highly trained medical technologists, midwives and other medical staff.

Moreover, BIHMI offers diagnostic and operative laparoscopy and hysteroscopy.
Laparoscopy has become an indispensable aid in the evaluation and treatment of an infertile woman. Through hysteroscopy, “visualization” of what is inside the uterus is possible. These technologies allow doctors to treat problems like ovarian cysts, myoma, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis and infertility.

With FCCDI, Mindanaoans no longer need to go to Manila or abroad to have fertility treatments, thereby saving time, effort and expenses.

Journey to parenthood

According to Dr. Cabling, a lot of couples are now aware of the existence of FCCDI. In fact, the center entertains an average of three clients a day which are oftentimes new cases coming from all over Mindanao.

“Most couples accept the fact that they have a problem and this is openly discussed. The first step really to fertility care is acceptance”, emphasizes Dr. Cabling.

“The highest chance of pregnancy to occur every month is 30%. As we identify the problems, there are more chances of conceiving”, Dr. Cabling discloses.

One's journey to parenthood begins and hopefully, ends with FCCDI.

There are inspiring stories like the case of Arnold and Mary Rose Alegre from Kapalong, Davao del Norte who have been married for two years. They were finally blessed with twin boys after two months of fertility work-up and artificial insemination.

Another 'happy ending' was the birth of a baby girl to Pastor Teody and wife Yolly Pagbilao after twelve years of marriage. This was made possible through three months of fertility work-up/medication.

The latest twins FCCDI are expecting belong to a lady anesthesiologist working in Cagayan de Oro City and her husband, a Davao-based government employee who have been married for two years. Theirs was a long distance relationship and after three months of fertility work-up and through artificial insemination, the doctor is now on her fourth month of pregnancy.

However, Dr. Cabling clarifies that there are also a number of unsuccessful cases. That is why she always ask patients first if they are ready to undergo the 'emotional and psychological roller coaster' which comes with the fertility treatment.

The expenses involved in these treatments are also a major consideration. The investigative stage could cost anywhere from P8,000-P10,000. Surgical procedures are priced between P60,000-P80,000.

“In vitro fertilization which can be done in Manila costs P300,000 to P450,000 depending on the age of the woman”, Dr. Cabling shares.

The fertility specialist often reminds her patients that “All of us are blessed differently. Think of the other areas in your lives which make you happy and successful. Don’t think less of yourself if you don’t have children. Life can still be fulfilling even if you don’t have a child”.

Dr. Cabling's message to couples wanting to conceive is this: “Don’t deny the problem. Your chance today may not be the same next year. Career can wait. If you really want to have a child, then, focus on the goal. Approach infertility with your partner as you would a new project. Map out a strategy and a timetable. At least, if you look back next time, you won't have any regrets. You know that you tried your best”.

Fertility Care Center Davao Inc. is located at the lower ground level of the Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries Inc. in Madapo Hills, Davao City. Tel. nos. 3053170-73 local 4505.

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