When most people hear, “treatment” for infertility, they automatically assume that they need surgery when surgery is often not required. Some treatments for infertility are as easy as taking some medicine, whereas others require a bit more time, effort, and money. Below we will list the three most common types of treatments for infertility: Medicine, Surgery, and Aided Conception. While there are three distinct categories of infertility treatments, many procedures involve more than just one of the categories. For example, when undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI), a doctor will also prescribe you fertility drugs to help aid in the procedure and increase the likelihood of success.
Aided conception, otherwise known as assisted conception, is a collection of procedures that are known and proven to help effectively increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
The procedure involved in carrying out IUI is fairly simple and pain free. IUI involves a doctor taking male sperm and simply placing it into the woman’s uterus. The sperm is placed in a small tube that is initially inserted into the cervix and subsequently the uterus. Once the tube is in place the sperm are released into the uterus. The most effective time to perform this procedure is in conjunction with a woman’s ovulation. In preparation for IUI your fertility doctor will likely prescribe fertility drugs in order to stimulate ovulation.
The sperm from IUI can originate from a number of different sources. If the female who is undergoing IUI has a willing male partner, his sperm is used. If there is no male partner or the male partner is the reason for infertility, the sperm can be taken from a sperm donor or local sperm bank. Other reasons that donor sperm may be used is because it is known that the male partner has a high likelihood of passing on a disease or other defect.
In Vitro Fertilization
In Vitro Fertilization, also known as IVF, is the process by which fertilization happens outside the body. The reason IVF may be used is because a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, or because there is no explicable reason for infertility.
In IVF a woman is given fertility medication that makes her produce a larger than normal amount of eggs in her ovaries. Once the woman has ovulated and produced eggs, a minor surgery is used to extract them from the body. Once the eggs are out of the body, they are then fertilized with sperm. Sperm is either provided by a male partner, or by some of the other options which we mentioned briefly above such as sperm donors or simply visiting a sperm bank.
If and when embryos develop, it/they are placed into the woman’s uterus in much the same way as in IUI. If there are extra embryos they may be frozen in order to be used in future IVF procedures, if they are deemed necessary.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
Gametes are another word for female eggs or male sperm; the two are extracted in the same way as they are in IVF and IUI. Once the eggs and sperm are collected, they are then mixed. This mixture is placed directly into the fallopian tubes of the female partner. This process is unique from IVF because the fertilization happens inside the female as opposed to in a laboratory. The overall success rates are comparable to those of IVF.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
ICSI does not need a mass quantity of sperm, instead it only needs one sole sperm. The individual sperm is injected into the cytoplasm of the egg. ICSI may be used if a male’s sperm cannot fertilize a female’s egg on its own, or if the egg is simply not receptive to male sperm. Since only one sperm is needed, ICSI may be most helpful in the case of a male partner who has a particularly low sperm count.
If sperm is not being produced upon ejaculation due to a blockage, there are surgeries that can extract the necessary amounts of sperm to perform ICSI. After the sperm is injected it is placed in the uterus exactly like IVF.
The woman who is going to be the donor of the eggs is first given fertility medicines to help produce enough healthy eggs at the expense of the recipient. The male partner of the recipient of the eggs must produce a sperm sample that is then used to fertilize the donor egg. Once the egg is fertilized and becomes an embryo, it is then placed into the woman’s uterus much like the process of IVF.
A woman may need a donor egg if her ovaries are unable to produce eggs normally, or if her ovaries have been removed. Egg donation may also be used if a woman is prone to passing a genetic disease to her child.
Embryo donation takes place once a couple has either successfully achieved pregnancy through IVF, or has given up IVF to try other options. The extra embryos are given to the recipients and subsequently unfrozen and placed into the woman’s uterus.
Medicines for Infertility
Most of the medicines that are used to treat infertility are focused on helping improve a woman’s ability to ovulate, and ovulate normally. Ovulation is supposed to happen one time every month in healthy women who have yet to experience menopause. In women who are suffering from infertility, ovulation may happen at irregular intervals, or maybe not at all.
The control center for ovulation are what’s called gonadotropins, a hormone found in the pituitary gland. The gonadotropins that are produced in the body are named Follicle Stimulating Hormones (FSH) and Luteinizing Hormone (LH).