My partner and I have a fertility problem. What are our treatment options?
The first thing you both should do is take a health inventory. Smoking, drinking and over-eating must all be stopped and regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle should be your first recourse.
Your impulse may be to immediately begin with the most advanced and expensive treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), thinking you’ll get pregnant faster. But less expensive therapies, such as fertility drugs or surgery, are very effective. About 90 percent of couples are treated with drugs or surgery only.
You have a number of choices, so work with your doctor to come up with a treatment plan, starting with the least invasive options first. Here’s a rundown of your treatment options, from the least to the most invasive.
If your hormones are out of balance or in short supply, these drugs – for women and men – can get your reproductive system back on track. They might even help if the cause of your fertility problem is unknown. And you can take them in conjunction with another treatment, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
If your partner’s sperm just need help getting to your egg, placing a concentrated sample of sperm directly in your uterus at the proper time can improve your odds of getting pregnant. IUI can be done with or without fertility drugs.
If you have blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis fibroids, anatomic problems with reproductive organs, or ovarian cysts, a type of minor surgery done with a thin tube (a laparoscope) can help diagnose the problem or clear the way for you to conceive. Surgery also can be more extensive and require an incision in your abdomen. But in many cases surgery is unnecessary, and your chances of pregnancy may be greater with other treatment options.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
If the problem is a low sperm count, blocked fallopian tubes, or if other factors are preventing the egg and sperm from uniting and other treatments have failed, your doctor may recommend a high-tech procedure in which eggs or embryos and sperm are handled outside the body. In vitro fertilization (IVF is the ART technique used for almost everyone with fertility problems. Some IVF procedures use a special fertilization technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
What are my chances of getting pregnant with fertility treatment?
Many women who have trouble getting pregnant are prescribed clomiphene citrate, an oral fertility drug that induces ovulation. About 35 percent of women who take clomiphene citrate become pregnant over the course of treatment (usually three to six cycles).
When fertility drugs to cause ovulation or increase egg production are combined with IUI, the pregnancy rate is between 10 and 20 percent per treatment cycle.
For women age 34 and under, about 46 percent of IVF cycles result in pregnancy. That number drops to:
• 38 percent for women age 35 to 37
• 29 percent for women age 38 to 40
• 19 percent for women age 41 to 42
• 9 percent for women age 43 and over
About 22 percent of all ART treatments result in a baby, and the rates go up to about 46 percent for couples who use donor eggs.
There is no doubt that as we age our chances of becoming pregnant lower. A women over 40 has far less chance than a women in her 20’s and this is just nature’s way of looking after our babies and giving them the best chance of a good healthy start to life and making sure that parents are healthy enough to look after their babies into early adulthood.
Careers and longer life expectancies have had a major impact on the age where women are having children and medicine is doing its’ best to keep up with these changes and enable us to enjoy our own lives and provide the best homes and choices for our children.