Treating Infertility with Medical Intervention
Treating fertility problems can be a long, difficult, costly, yet worthwhile process for those who are unsuccessful in conceiving a child naturally. Most women become pregnant within a year or two after beginning serious efforts to do so, but if this does not happen for you, your doctor can take several approaches after completing some basic testing.
The treatment your health professional will suggest depends on the source of your infertility.
If you fail to ovulate, the doctor may suggest medication to affect gonadotrophins, the hormones largely responsible for ovulation. The ovaries can be stimulated in four main ways, using either follicle stimulating hormones (FSH), or luteinizing hormones (LH):
- Clomiphene, taken in tablet form, promotes more hormone production. It can stimulate ovulation.
- Medications containing gonadotrophins can be injected into both men and women to stimulate ovulation or improve sperm.
- Medications containing gonadotrophin-releasing hormones stimulate the pituitary to produce more hormones to stimulate ovulation.
- Metformin, used for diabetic treatment, is given to some women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) to improve fertility.
Any of these drugs can have side effects, but may be less invasive than surgical fertility treatment options.
Surgical Options for Infertility
The following surgical treatments may be performed in order to treat specific conditions that impact fertility:
- Fallopian tube blockages, or even past sterilization, can be removed or reversed surgically
- Laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis.
- Laparoscopic ovarian drilling to treat polycystic ovarian syndrome. If medication and weight loss haven’t worked.
- Myomectomy for fibroids that may impact fertility.
- Male infertility in cases of varicoceles (varicose veins within the testes) or abnormalities of the scrotum.
Surgical intervention can be an effective aid to fertility, but for some couples, the physician might suggest skipping the surgery and going directly to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
When the avenues for promoting natural conception are exhausted, several techniques may allow a woman to give birth.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves placing sperm from the partner or donor into the world via a plastic tool at the time of ovulation.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF), used when blocked fallopian tubes prevent pregnancy, involves harvesting eggs and mixing them with sperm outside the body so that they form embryos, which are then implanted into the female.
- Gamete interfallopian transfer (GIFT) involves gathering and mixing egg and sperm and placing the mixture in the fallopian tubes to allow natural fertilization. This procedure has fallen out of favor in comparison to IVF.
- Intracytoplasmic injection directly involves injecting sperm into an egg within the body. The sperm can even be harvested from the male if he’s had a vasectomy or has a blocked vas deferens. The fertilized egg is then placed in the womb.
- Egg or embryo donation involves using donated eggs or embryos as the basis of conception.
What is the Best Option for Treating Infertility?
If you and your doctor decide that some type of conception assistance is essential to your becoming pregnant, he or she will discuss the options of each method with you. While many healthy babies are born each year using these methods, the process can be stressful and costly. There can also be unplanned side effects such as tubal pregnancy or overstimulation of the ovaries that results in developing ovarian cysts. Sometimes the procedure fails or results in other side effects such as liver and kidney problems, or nausea, bloating, or weight gain not connected with pregnancy. The most common side effect is multiple pregnancy. About a third of successful IVF patients have twins, while having triplets or more is not uncommon.
For couples who want to become pregnant, medical science offers many fertility treatment options; speak with your doctor at Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center today.
This article reviewed by Dyanne Marcellina Tappin, MD.