For some Filipino couples, dreams of having and raising a baby together are dashed by fertility issues, which, unknown to many, is actually a disease recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO). The organization 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 sexual intercourse.”Merck Philippines, the local arm of the world’s oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company, joined forces with St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City for a public information project that promotes awareness on infertility, as well as the different medical solutions that can give life to the dreams of Filipino couples. This project coincides with the fifth year of St. Luke’s flagship Center for Advanced Reproductive Medicine and Infertility (CARMI).
“As of a Synovate survey we conducted in 2011, one out of ten Filipinos are suffering from infertility,” said CARMI head Dr. Virgilio M. Novero, Jr. “This condition is related to our socio-cultural practices, including the marrying age, educational status, and professional goals.”
Aside from socio-cultural factors mentioned by Dr. Novero, a couple’s fertility can also be affected by issues in the female and male reproductive systems, as well as various medical conditions that can affect the quality of the egg and sperm cells.
“Instead of just giving up their dreams of having a child, there are modern and effective ways to address infertility,” explained Dr. Novero. “A couple can come in for a series of basic and ancillary tests to determine the root cause of their fertility issues, and we can help develop a treatment plan that will deliver their desired result: pregnancy.”
The science of ART
One of the medical solutions that childless Filipino couples can explore is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), which is an umbrella term that refers to in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and its variants. This special fertility treatment procedure stimulates multiple ovarian follicles and facilitates egg cell retrieval. During the course of treatment, embryos will be formed outside of the female patient’s body—and once the “cultures” have formed successfully, they will be transferred to the patient’s uterus.
ART is recommended for patients suffering from blocked fallopian tubes, severe sperm deficits, unexplained infertility, mild endometriosis, and ovulation disorders, among others.
Though not unheard of for Filipinos, IVF is often seen as risky, needlessly expensive, exclusive to those who can get the procedure done abroad, and worse, ineffective. Dr. Novero explained that ART has made significant improvement in efficiency over the years.
“In the past, doctors can only recommend IVF to a select few,” said D, r. Novero. “But in the recent years, technological advances, including new knowledge in hormonal treatment, improvement in video technology and other medical equipment, has boosted IVF’s efficiency.”
Dr. Novero mentioned that the success rate of the procedure has also recently seen a significant rise—today, over six million children are born all over the world after their parents have undergone an IVF procedure.
“Our success rates are now at 35 to 50 percent for pregnancy, and 20 to 25 percent for live births,” Dr. Novero said proudly. “The success rates depend on the patient’s profile, the competence of the medical staff, the quality and standards of the IVF lab, and of course the use of cutting-edge technology. At CARMI, our patients can be assured that we have a team of highly trained and experienced medical staff, a state-of-the-art IVF lab, and modern technology that can increase the success rate of pregnancy and live birth.”
“With the help of Filipino doctors and specialty groups, Merck has been able to propagate more information on infertility,” said Dess Cartaño, Senior Product Manager for Fertility, Merck Philippines. “At this point, we want to provide fertility-challenged couples with actual, effective, and efficient solutions that will give life to their dreams of a family once more.”