FOR 18 months, Gabrielle and Pat Witter tried for a baby.
And for 18 months, they assumed they just weren’t having any luck.
“Month after month, it started to become excruciating, and we did start asking questions,” Ms Witter, 36, said. “I went to see my GP, and he said that this happens, that it was quite normal for it to take a while.
“But I asked for a referral to go and see a fertility specialist about it, just to rule out any problems.”
They did some tests, which revealed Mr Witter had poor sperm motility.
“They were going around in circles, essentially,” Ms Witter said. “There was a bit of surprise when we found out there was something wrong, but also relief.
“I am just so glad we started asking questions. We could have kept going. It would have been so painful to keep trying. You grow up thinking it is so easy to fall pregnant, then when you get there, it is not always as easy as you think, even without any fertility issues.”
The couple went through IVF through Genea, and they are now parents to Rosie, who is almost two, and five-month-old Grace.
“IVF still seems to be a fairly taboo topic, for some reason,” Ms Witter said.
“We just tried to embrace the positives. You are completely aware of what is happening to your child from the very first stages. We are lucky, because we have had two successful experiences. But I think it’s important for people to know that it’s not such a scary process, and it’s not something they should be ashamed of because it hasn’t happened naturally.”
Fertility specialist Dr Erin Fuller said while the female’s age was the biggest factor in deciding when to seek help, male infertility was a common reason couples might find it difficult to conceive.
“One-in-six Australian couples have trouble conceiving, and about 40 per cent of the time, that will be due to a male factor problem,” she said.
But she said an IVF process called ICSI – Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection – meant men, even those with a very low sperm count, could still father children.
“We only need one sperm per egg to do that,” she said.
“A lot of the time the onus is on the woman to look after her health, but there are basic things men can do to maintain their fertility.”
She advised men to maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, and limit alcohol consumption. Regular ejaculation – or having sex two-to-three times a week – also helped to improve sperm quality.
“Women under 35 who have been trying for a pregnancy for a year should seek help, and anyone over 35 trying for six months should seek help,” she said.