New Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg Clinic Offers Cutting-Edge Fertility Treatment
Posted on 22 August 2018
Dr Kasturi Moodley’s team of specialists brings fertility treatment to Natal Midlands for the first time.
As many as 15% of South African couples experience fertility issues, according to 2011 data from Statistics SA, and that number is growing across all population groups. Now, patients in the Natal Midlands are experiencing the many benefits of a clinic featuring a dedicated team of specialists on their doorstep – the first of its kind to be established in Pietermaritzburg.
Dr Kasturi Moodley, an obstetrician at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg and the managing director of Pietermaritzburg Fertility Clinic, says her team now has the expertise and resources to take their patients through the spectrum of fertility treatment.
“My colleagues and I have been seeing patients with fertility issues for years,” she says, “and we were able to help them up to a point. But because we lacked the proper equipment and personnel, we would then refer a great many of them to practices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and elsewhere.”
Two years of planning bore fruit in the form of a world-class fertility clinic that services the greater Pietermaritzburg area – including Ladismith, Newcastle, Underberg and more.
“The area was in need of a specialised fertility centre,” says Dr Moodley. “Our patients were well-served in a gynaecological sense, but once we had identified fertility as a stumbling block, there was nothing more that can be done in those rooms without compromising patient care. To help our patients to take the next step, we required a sterile theatre set-up, for example, and to conduct any form of in-vitro fertilisation procedures, we needed a specialised laboratory. These treatments can’t happen just anywhere.”
Another key requirement is expertise. Obstetricians and embryologists play alternating roles in helping a couple become pregnant: whereas gynaecologists will investigate the patient for natural solutions, and if those are not possible, manage the treatment protocol, and embryologist is required to manage the laboratory and preparing the patients’ eggs and sperm for successful IVF treatment.
One of the embryologist’s most vital functions is semen washing: filtering out any sperm that are unviable, debris and other cells that are detrimental from the semen sample, utilising a process known as density gradient centrifugation. This process is designed to increase the number of viable sperm and activate the sperm – increasing a couple’s chance of a successful pregnancy.
Semen washing can also decontaminate a semen sample of HIV, significantly reducing the chances of transmission between positive and negative partners. This is particularly important in KwaZulu-Natal – a new study by the Human Sciences Research Council showed that over a quarter of the province’s population is living with the disease.
The new clinic offers the full spectrum of fertility care, with gynaecologists and embryologists on hand to manage each step of the process. Whereas couples would usually be required to travel between a range of doctors in order to undergo IVF treatment, this all-in-one unit allows patients to consolidate their fertility treatment in one place, with a unified team of specialists.
The clinic is also addressing an urgent need. Dr Moodley says 70-80% of her female patients are presenting between the ages of 38 and 42, having been trying to become pregnant without success for an average of 10 years. Almost all of them have been to at least five different doctors.
“These women have been transferred from one doctor to the next, and never received the care they needed,” she says. “The result is that almost half our patients have unidentifiable fertility issues, where we can’t explain why they cannot become pregnant. If these women had received the proper care more timeously or seen a specialist earlier in their lives, we could have come to a lot more accurate diagnosis, and done a lot more to help them.”
This is why so many of her patients arrive in a state of confusion, she says, and why her most crucial role involves “un-confusing” them.
“Something a lot of people underestimate about fertility treatment is the work required,” says Dr Moodley. “Couples who can’t fall pregnant naturally have to embark on a long, uncertain journey of fertility treatment. This can be an expensive course of treatment with no guarantee of success.”
Add to that the medications, the needles, the almost-daily doctor visits, the time off work … “fertility treatment can be a psychologically stressful and emotionally draining experience. This stress is the enemy of pregnancy.”
By positioning themselves within the heart of their community, the Pietermaritzburg Fertility Clinic is helping to alleviate a lot of that stress. “We’ve had some great feedback from our patients already, who have said they feel a lot more at ease, knowing that whatever it is that’s preventing them becoming pregnant, they have all the help they could ask for, right here.”