HONG KONG - Women in Asia are largely ignorant about fertility problems and tend to blame their failure to conceive on "God's will" and bad luck, a survey has found.
The survey, which covered 1,000 women in 10 countries who had been trying to conceive for at least six months, found that 62 per cent of them did not suspect they may have a fertility problem.
They were even less likely to point the finger at their husbands, with 80 per cent of them not suspecting that their partners may have a problem with fertility.
In Singapore, a majority of women also blamed their infertility on non-physiological reasons.
According to the study, two in five women here are unaware that a man can be infertile even if he does not have any problems having sex, or that a man can be infertile even when he produces sperm.
Infertility is defined by the World Health Organisation as the inability to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected sex.
But only 43 per cent of the Asian women surveyed knew that.
Only 30 per cent of the women, all aged 25-40, recognised that obesity could reduce fertility and only 36 per cent knew that chances of getting pregnant declined with age.
Forty-three per cent did not know a man may be infertile even if he could achieve an erection and 73 per cent were unaware that men who had mumps after puberty could be infertile later on.
Instead of getting treatment, 46 per cent of respondents blamed their inability to conceive on "God's will" and 45 per cent put it down to bad luck.
Lead researcher P C Wong at the National University Hospital Women's Centre in Singapore said such a lack of understanding could result in couples waiting too long - only to realise when they finally decided to seek help that it may be too late.
"That's a lost opportunity because even if they come for treatment, our success of treatment is higher with younger women," said Wong, who heads the reproductive endocrinology and infertility division at the hospital.
Chances of success with in-vitro fertilisation - the best known fertility treatment - is 40-50 per cent when a woman is under 30 years old but that drops to 10 per cent once the woman is over 40. By 44-45, the chance of success is one per cent.
"The reason is because eggs in the ovaries decline in quality and quantity ... as we go along and age, the chances of conceiving is much lower," Wong said by telephone.
The survey, commissioned by Merck KGaA unit Merck Serono, covered China, India, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia.
Wong said his team hoped to work on a similar survey targeting men in Asia.