The full effects of the coronavirus are yet to be felt across the world. However, this global pandemic, which affected everyone to some degree, has changed our perception of many things, not least our health. Depending on where you are, you may feel that it is impossible to predict what is going to happen next week, never mind next year. Unfortunately, many people have put to one side pressing health concerns that they may have had, fearing that a visit to a hospital or clinic may expose them to COVID-19.
As the leading fertility clinic in Bangkok, we have noticed that the number of couples who are seeking the necessary help for fertility issues has decreased. Unfortunately, ignoring these problems doesn’t mean that they will go away, and like many health-related issues, lack of treatment tends to make the matter worse. While we fully appreciate people’s concerns, we must stress that we work in a sanitised environment and the risk you are exposed to are minimal.
Naturally, it is not just people’s attitude towards fertility treatment that has started to be affected by the long-term impact of COVID-19. Behavioural scientists are reporting that we can all expect our lives to be altered. Some changes that have been noted have been beneficial, such as the increased number of times, and the length of time that people wash their hands along with more awareness of personal space.
However, although less prevalent in Thailand, more people are stockpiling foods as well as water, and this is a behavioural action which is brought on by fear. Fear-driven activities are what concern psychologists and the medical profession the most as the steps tend to be irrational as well as being inappropriate. Indeed, it is irrational fears that are the ones that stop people from getting medical attention for anything other than COVID-19, and this is leading to more severe problems in other areas of public health – fertility being one of those areas.
While the changes in people’s behaviour is a reflection of the changing views on their health, many of the alterations that are being made are unhealthy. Greater education is definitely required as well reassurance that visiting clinics and hospitals is safe and should be encouraged if you have concerns about your underlying health. At this stage, it is impossible to predict if the behavioural changes that people have made regarding their health will be long-term.
Avoiding the “prospect theory”
The prospect theory is popular amongst economists and behavioural scientists and relates to people giving more weight to potential losses as opposed to gains when making decisions. It would be relevant to people’s fears of catching COVID-19 so focus on avoidance of this disease rather than dealing with more “real” issues. It is more common in people with obsessive personalities and is proven to lead to other health issues. Once again, educating people and offering the necessary reassurance is the best way to overcome this.
Excessive drinking and eating
Most countries have reported problems with the consumption of alcohol increasing, with more alcohol now purchased at supermarkets and local stores. The stockpiling of food as also resulted in people buying foods high in preservatives, salts and sugars which are required for a longer shelf life. The mere fact that they now have more food in the cupboards has led to an increase in consumption. Inevitably, an increase in eating unhealthy food along with alcohol consumption will lead to other health issues, including obesity.
The excessive consumption of alcohol, obesity and lack of the required vitamins and minerals has been closely linked with infertility in both men and women. The concerns are that with people’s focus being more on short-term happiness and satisfaction, they are putting other areas of their health at risk – including lower sperm production, lack of libido and hormonal problems.
Have we learnt lessons from the past?
Of course, this is certainly not the first pandemic that the world has faced. The notorious influenza pandemic in 1918 killed around 675,000 people in the US alone. It led to a ban on spitting and other habits which, in the West at least, would now be viewed as a common courtesy but this didn’t happen prior to the pandemic. In countries such as China, spitting in public is still common and socially acceptable. Still, there is an increasing expectation that sanctions will be imposed by the government to quell this.
Lessons for the future
In addition to a global move away from spitting in public being acceptable, we can perhaps expect some other positive changes with regards to our overall health. It is expected that people will remain vigilant when it comes to cleaning surfaces within their home as well as an increased interest in personal hygiene. Although these actions won’t directly impact on fertility, the fact that they will improve overall health will.
Depression and loneliness is a problem which is discussed more and with greater openness, even before the pandemic. However, people are now more inclined to join in video calls and check on the wellbeing of neighbours, friends and family. Depression, stress and anxiety have often been linked with fertility issues, most notably loss of libido. Hopefully, with more openness and awareness, problems can be prevented or at least lead to people seeking help and treatment quicker.
Has there been a change in priorities regarding our health?
There is a growing expectation that people’s attitudes towards health will change around the world. Individuals are likely to take more responsibility for making sure that they and their loved ones are protected as much as possible. However, there will be increased expectations for governments to help stop such a pandemic occurring in the future.
Do you have concerns about fertility?
If you or your partner is concerned about any fertility issue that you may be experiencing, we recommend that you seek advice at the earliest opportunity. Our friendly team are on hand to help ease any fears and help you overcome any fertility issues. Contact us for more information.