When a couple is unable to successfully conceive a baby after a year of regularly trying, or after six months if the female is over the age of 35, we call this infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, 10 to 15 percent of American couples are considered infertile.
There are several reasons why a man or woman might be infertile. Genes, hormones, uncontrolled diabetes, low sperm or egg count, reproductive-related infections, tobacco smoking, excess alcohol intake, delayed ejaculation, and polycystic ovarian syndrome are some of many things that can contribute to one’s inability to have a baby naturally.
The good news, however, is that there are a handful of infertility treatment options that can increase a couple’s chances of having a child of their own in the future depending on the specific problem at hand. Five of many ways a couple dealing with infertility might be able to increase their likelihood of getting pregnant include the following treatments.
1. In vitro fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization or IVF involves removing eggs from a woman’s ovary and manually fertilized with sperm in a laboratory and then replacing those fertilized eggs into the woman’s uterus. This treatment can only be done if the woman has a fully-functioning, healthy uterus capable of carrying and growing a fetus, just like with natural pregnancy.
IVF is suitable in cases where there is a genetic problem, fallopian tube damage or blockage, premature ovarian failure, uterine fibroids, ovulation disorder, endometriosis, or other condition or malfunction preventing a successful and natural conception.
Some of the risks at hand for IVF include ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, birth defects, multiple pregnancies, ovarian cancer, premature delivery, and low birth weight delivery.
2. Donor egg treatment
For women who cannot use their own eggs to conceive a baby, they may qualify for in vitro fertilization with donor eggs instead of her own. The procedure is ultimately the same as traditional IVF. However, the egg is removed from another woman, fertilized, and is placed either in another woman or the same woman it was taken from.
This treatment may be applicable for women who have a genetic problem, premature ovarian failure, or decreased ovarian function preventing them from getting pregnant naturally. Donor egg treatment, coupled with a surrogate, is also applicable for same-sex male couples wishing to have a child.
Like general IVF, donor egg treatment has the same risks plus additional risks if the manually-fertilized egg from the donor is placed into another woman (assuming her uterine function is healthy). In this case, the woman may experience a higher chance of dealing with high blood pressure while pregnant and other pregnancy complications.
By inserting thin, virtually-painless needles at certain points of the body called meridians via an alternative medicine practice called acupuncture, this may aid a man or woman with their inability to conceive a child, depending on the cause for their infertility. The insertion of these needles can change the way the body works, essentially healing itself.
According to American Pregnancy, acupuncture may help with infertility for different reasons. Acupuncture can help balance one’s hormones, stress levels, and increase blood flow to important reproductive parts, for instance. It may also aid with the success of other fertility treatments like IVF or donor egg treatment.
For acupuncture to work, it must be performed over the course of several sessions, sometimes taking months. Each session lasts an average of a half hour. Fortunately, the side effects are minimal. One may experience mild soreness where the needles were inserted, fatigue, or muscle twitching after a session.
4. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
For couples whose inability to conceive revolves around male infertility, intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI is one treatment option. This treatment is most suitable for men with low sperm counts, poor sperm motility or quality, obstructive or non-obstructive azoospermia, or whose sperm has difficulty penetrating a woman’s eggs.
ICSI is essentially the same as IVF considering both eggs and sperm are collected externally and are combined in a lab before being replaced in the woman. However, the focus in ICSI is to carefully select a viable sperm as it is usually the man in this treatment that is suffering from infertility rather than the woman.
The potential risks of ICSI include birth defects, embryo damage, or becoming pregnant with multiples. In the case the woman becomes pregnant with multiples, she may suffer from an increased risk of high blood pressure, low amniotic fluids, gestational diabetes, or premature labor. She may also require a cesarean section.
5. Pharmaceutical or herbal medication
In some cases, an individual dealing with infertility may require no invasive treatments but instead may be prescribed pharmaceutical or herbal medication. Both men and women struggling with infertility may benefit from medication prescribed by a doctor depending on why they are considered infertile.
There are infertility medications out there that can aid with low sperm count, hormonal imbalances, irregular ovulation, high prolactin levels, or insulin resistance, for instance. Taking these medications without an official diagnosis, however, is generally not advised as there are several reasons for infertility.
The side effects of different infertility medications will vary. These side effects might include increased risk for pregnancy loss, multiple births, nausea, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, weight gain, and changes in libido. Another thing important to note is that both pharmaceutical and herbals medications can trigger side effects.
Although there are many reasons for a man or woman’s infertility, there are numerous treatment options that can potentially aid them in conceiving a child with their partner. Some of these treatment options include in vitro fertilization, donor egg treatment, acupuncture, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, and infertility medication.
If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from infertility, it is important to get an official diagnosis. After the diagnosis is made, you or your loved one can then speak with a doctor regarding the potential treatment options. Do note that multiple treatment options might need to be sought out, and they may not work the first time around.