Know Your Treatment Options
Treatment will depend on many factors, including the age of the person who wishes to conceive, how long the infertility has lasted, personal preferences, and their general state of health.
- Frequency of intercourse
- The couple may be advised to have sexual intercourse more often around the time of ovulation. Sperm can survive inside the female for up to 5 days, while an egg can be fertilized for up to 1 day after ovulation. In theory, it is possible to conceive on any of these 6 days that occur before and during ovulation.
- However, a survey has suggested that the 3 days most likely to offer a fertile window are the 2 days before ovulation plus the 1 day of ovulation.
- Some suggest that the number of times a couple has intercourse should be reduced to increase sperm supply, but this is unlikely to make a difference.
- Fertility treatments for men
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the infertility.
- Erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation: Medication, behavioral approaches, or both may help improve fertility.
- Varicocele: Surgically removing a varicose vein in the scrotum may help.
- Blockage of the ejaculatory duct: Sperm can be extracted directly from the testicles and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
- Retrograde ejaculation: Sperm can be taken directly from the bladder and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
- Surgery for epididymal blockage: A blocked epididymis can be surgically repaired. The epididymis is a coil-like structure in the testicles which helps store and transport sperm. If the epididymis is blocked, sperm may not be ejaculated properly.
- Fertility treatments for women
- Fertility drugs might be prescribed to regulate or induce ovulation.
- Clomifene (Clomid, Serophene): This encourages ovulation in those who ovulate either irregularly or not at all, because of PCOS or another disorder. It makes the pituitary gland release more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
- Metformin (Glucophage): If Clomifene is not effective, metformin may help women with PCOS, especially when linked to insulin resistance.
- Human menopausal gonadotropin, or hMG (Repronex): This contains both FSH and LH. Patients who do not ovulate because of a fault in the pituitary gland may receive this drug as an injection.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (Gonal-F, Bravelle): This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland that controls estrogen production by the ovaries. It stimulates the ovaries to mature egg follicles.
- HCG – Human chorionic gonadotropin: Used together with clomiphene, hMG, and FSH, this can stimulate the follicle to ovulate. If a woman needs an HCG injection to activate ovulation and ultrasound scans show that too many follicles have developed, it is possible to withhold the HCG injection. Couples may decide to go ahead regardless if the desire to become pregnant is very strong. Injectible fertility drugs can sometimes result in multiple births, for example, twins or triplets. The chance of a multiple birth is lower with an oral fertility drug. Careful monitoring during treatment and pregnancy can help reduce the risk of complications. The more fetuses there are, the higher the risk of premature labor. If too many embryos develop, one or more can be removed. Couples will have to consider the ethical and emotional aspects of this procedure.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analogs: These can help women who ovulate too early (before the lead follicle is mature) during hmG treatment. It delivers a constant supply of Gn-RH to the pituitary gland, which alters the production of hormone, allowing the doctor to induce follicle growth with FSH.
- Bromocriptine : This drug inhibits prolactin production. Prolactin stimulates milk production during breastfeeding. Outside pregnancy and lactation, women with high levels of prolactin may have irregular ovulation cycles and fertility problems.
- Surgical procedures for women
If the fallopian tubes are blocked or scarred, surgical repair may make it easier for eggs to pass through.
- Endometriosis may be treated through laparoscopic surgery. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and a thin, flexible microscope with a light at the end, called a laparoscope, is inserted through it. The surgeon can remove implants and scar tissue, and this may reduce pain and aid fertility.
- Assisted conception: The following methods are currently available for assisted conception.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): At the time of ovulation, a fine catheter is inserted through the cervix into the uterus to place a sperm sample directly into the uterus. The sperm is washed in a fluid and the best specimens are selected. The woman may be given a low dose of ovary stimulating hormones. IUI is more commonly done when the man has a low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, or when infertility does not have an identifiable cause. It can also help if a man has severe erectile dysfunction.
- In-vitro fertilization (IVF): Sperm are placed with unfertilized eggs in a petri dish, where fertilization can take place. The embryo is then placed in the uterus to begin a pregnancy. Sometimes the embryo is frozen for future use.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): A single sperm is injected into an egg to achieve fertilization during an IVF procedure. The likelihood of fertilization improves significantly for men with low sperm concentrations.
- Sperm or egg donation: If necessary, sperm or eggs can be received from a donor. Fertility treatment with donor eggs is usually done using IVF.
- Assisted hatching: The embryologist opens a small hole in the outer membrane of the embryo, known as the zona pellucid. The opening improves the ability of the embryo to implant into the uterine lining. This improves the chances that the embryo will implant at, or attach to, the wall of the uterus. This may be used if IVF has not been effective, if there has been poor embryo growth rate, and if the woman is older. In some women, and especially with age, the membrane becomes harder. This can make it difficult for the embryo to implant.
- Electric or vibratory stimulation to achieve ejaculation: Ejaculation is achieved with electric or vibratory stimulation. This can help a man who cannot ejaculate normally, for example, because of a spinal cord injury.
- Surgical sperm aspiration: The sperm is removed from part of the male reproductive tract, such as the vas deferens, testicle, or epididymis.