You may be thinking about fertility treatment, but aren’t sure if it’s the right step for you. To help you make a decision, here’s what you need to know about infertility, treatment options and what to expect before your first appointment.
What Is Infertility?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines infertility — which occurs in men and women — as not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying. If you’re experiencing infertility, know that you’re not alone. According to UCLA Health, 15 percent of couples trying to get pregnant are unable to do so.
When to Seek Treatment
If you can’t get pregnant after a year of trying, consider seeing a fertility specialist. A specialist will first conduct an evaluation to pinpoint what factors are causing conception issues. Once the evaluation is complete, treatments can be suggested.
For women, it may also be time to seek out a fertility evaluation if any of the following are true:
- You have irregular periods.
- You’ve had two or more spontaneous miscarriages.
- You’re over the age of 35 and haven’t conceived after six months of trying.
- You have a history of pelvic infections or STDs.
- You have endometrial polyps or uterine fibroids.
What to Expect at a Fertility Evaluation
First, your doctor will go over your medical history. Women undergo vaginal ultrasounds or X-rays of the uterus and Fallopian tubes. Your doctor may order blood tests to check hormone levels in your body.
Men may have to provide a semen sample. The doctor will likely want to examine your sperm’s morphology. If sperm cells are abnormally shaped, this can inhibit conception.
Once the evaluation is complete, the fertility specialist will suggest a treatment or treatments to aid conception.
5 Common Fertility Treatment Options
Fertility treatment is effective 85-95 percent of the time, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Finding out the cause of infertility helps determine which treatment options, if any, are a good match for you.
Certain lifestyle habits, like a poor diet, can inhibit conception. Your fertility specialist may share lifestyle changes that can boost fertility. You may also learn how to chart menstrual cycles, look for signs of ovulation and determine optimum times for conception.
Taking certain medications can help increase fertility. For example, clomiphene stimulates ovulation in women and boosts sperm production in men. After taking clomiphene, 23 percent of couples classified as infertile are able to successfully have a child.
Hormone injections are another medical option used to stimulate ovulation in women struggling with infertility. If you don’t respond well to oral medications, your doctor may suggest hormone injections.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
During IUI, which may be used in conjunction with fertility medication, sperm is inserted into a woman’s uterus. A doctor may recommend IUI for couples struggling with unexplained infertility, or for men diagnosed with mild infertility.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
IVF is when eggs are retrieved, fertilized by sperm in a laboratory and then implanted into a woman’s uterus. This procedure may be useful in cases of tubal disease, older maternal age, severe male infertility or endometriosis.
As with any type of medical treatment, fertility treatment can come with complications. According to the MayoClinic, common complications include having a multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets), swollen and painful ovaries, bleeding or infection. Always talk to your doctor to weigh the pros and cons of fertility treatment.