How fertility treatments work

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Your reproductive system works by releasing hormones that prepare the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg and stimulate the release of eggs into the fallopian tubes during ovulation.1 There are several fertility treatments available, that all work in different ways to help with that process. A Fertility Specialist, also known as a Reproductive Endocrinologist, is an OB/GYN with three years of extra training in the field of fertility and reproductive endocrinology. They can guide you through the details of the fertility treatments available, but the basic idea of treatment is to make conception easier through hormone treatment or Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).

Hormone treatment

There are two main fertility hormones in our bodies: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH triggers the production of eggs in women and the production of sperm in men. LH regulates egg production and release in women and stimulates testosterone in men.2

Some medications will include these hormones to improve the fertility in women whose bodies aren’t making enough hormones on their own.

If the reason you’re having trouble conceiving is because you have an irregular cycle, your body isn’t releasing eggs, or your partner has a low sperm count, discover what option suits you best by making an appointment with a Reproductive Endocrinologist.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization, or IVF, is a procedure that combines sperm and a mature egg to make an embryo in a laboratory. That embryo is then implanted into the uterus through the vagina after a woman has taken hormones to thicken her uterine lining.3 IVF is one of the most expensive forms of fertility treatment, but it’s also one of the most effective relative to other options. In IVF the egg is fertilized outside of the body, but you still need the embryo to implant into the uterus and continue to grow. It’s not a guarantee – chances of success with IVF are about 30% and vary by clinic4, but it can be worth discussing with your reproductive endocrinologist.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), Intracervical Insemination (ICI), and Intravaginal Insemination (IVI)

There are three types of artificial insemination that can also be used to treat infertility: intrauterine insemination (IUI), intracervical insemination (ICI), and intravaginal insemination (IVI). Often used in conjunction with hormone treatment, IUI, ICI, and IVI inject sperm into the vagina, cervix, or uterus. IUI is usually the most effective of the three5 because sperm doesn’t have to travel through the vagina and cervix, so there’s a greater chance of sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg. Artificial insemination carries a greater chance of having multiples which may increase the health risk to the mother and babies. Artificial insemination is cheaper than IVF and is sometimes the next step after hormone treatment.

There are more fertility treatments than the ones outlined here, talk to a Fertility Specialist about what treatment options will be best for you. It’s important to note that there are risks associated with fertility treatment, such as mild cramping and abdominal pain, increased vaginal discharge, ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome, and others.

It is important to talk to a Fertility Specialist about what treatment options will be best for you. Our partners at Fertility Lifelines created a website to help those trying to conceive to have access to useful information they need to begin their journeys to parenthood. Learn more about treatment options, browse informational videos, and use their Find a Specialist tool to locate fertility clinics in your area.

Tap the button below to visit Fertility Lifelines, a resource for education and information.

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  1. Jones R. Human Reproductive Biology. 2014.
  2. The Costs of Infertility Treatment. RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association website. Accessed February 15, 2017.
  3. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). American Society For Reproductive Medicine website. Accessed February 15, 2017
  4. Frequently Asked Questions: Does In Vitro Fertilization Work? Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) website. Accessed February 15, 2017.
  5. Intrauterine insemination (IUI). Why it’s done. Mayo Clinic website. June 21, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2017.
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