Whether infertility is female or male-factor, fertility specialists have a wide range of tools at their disposal for treating infertility with various causes.
Types of fertility treatments
Specific types of fertility treatments include medical and surgical options and Assisted Reproductive Technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Medication for infertility
- Clomid (female): Clomid is an ovulation-inducing medication that causes the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release GnRH (gonadotrophin-releasing hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), and LH (luteinizing hormone), which help promote follicle maturation and the release of an egg. Doctors may prescribe Clomid to women who suffer from Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), or those who otherwise experience irregular or absent periods or ovulations. You’ll take Clomid as an oral pill on a few days of your menstrual cycle. About 60 to 80% of women who take Clomid will ovulate. If you suffer from abnormal or absent ovulations, your fertility specialist will likely talk to you about Clomid.
- Injectable hormones (female): Hormones like hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), FSH, and GnRH may be injected to stimulate ovulation in women, either in addition to taking a Clomid regimen or when Clomid is ineffective. The chances of conceiving multiples are fairly high with hormone treatments: about 30% of women who conceive with the help of hormones have more than one baby.
- Hormone Treatments (male): If a hormonal imbalance is the culprit in male-factor infertility, a fertility specialist may prescribe Clomid or hCG-boosters. The same hormones control reproductive function in both men and women, and addressing these imbalances to help men re-regulate their hormones often leads to success in overcoming fertility problems.
Surgeries for infertility
- Ovarian drilling (women): If Clomid does not work, a fertility specialist might recommend ovarian drilling (also called ovarian diathermy). This procedure can trigger ovulation by piercing small holes in the ovaries, which can curb hormonal imbalances. A doctor first makes a very small incision in the belly button, then uses a laparascope to view the ovaries and make tiny holes using a laser. Recovery is quick, often taking only a few days, and about 50% of women are able to become pregnant after the surgery, even if they don’t respond to medications like Clomid previously.
- Laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis (women): Because women with endometriosis may experience difficulty conceiving due to blockage of the egg’s path to the fallopian tube, a fertility specialist might recommend laparoscopic surgery to clear the obstruction and allow eggs to pass down the fallopian tube to be fertilized. During the surgery, a doctor will use a laparoscope to view the pelvic organs, searching for blockages, cysts, scarring, and other damage, and removing any foreign bodies or tissues. As with ovarian drilling, recovery is usually quick.
- Varicocele repair (men): Varicoceles are varicose veins found in the scrotum. They can increase the temperature of the testes, making them less effective at producing sperm. During a varicocele repair procedure, doctors make a small incision through the abdomen and cut the veins that produce the varicocele to reduce blood flow to it. Most men fully recover from this procedure within one week.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) and other procedures
- In vitro fertilization: In vitro fertilization (IVF) is probably the most well known form of Assisted Reproductive Technology. A fertility specialist might recommend IVF when other infertility treatments are unsuccessful. IVF involves removing an egg from an ovary and fertilizing it in a laboratory with either your partner’s or a donor’s sperm. Doctors then surgically implant the fertilized egg into the uterus, and if successful, it will develop like any other embryo. IVF carries about a 40% success rate per cycle, and is most commonly used when a woman has an ovulatory disorder.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): Intrauterine insemination involves extracting sperm cells from the male and introducing them directly to the uterus for the highest chances of conceiving possible. IUI is less expensive than IVF and is often used with male-factor infertility when there is a low sperm count or the sperm cannot move as they should.
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): In this procedure, sperm and an egg are extracted and mixed together before immediately being placed into a fallopian tube where they will may come together in conception. Gamete intrafallopian transfer differs from in vitro fertilization because the egg is fertilized inside the fallopian tube in GIFT, whereas the egg is fertilized in a laboratory in IVF treatments.
Regardless of the condition of infertility affecting you or your partner, fertility specialists have many different medical and surgical techniques available to promote fertility and conception. One option might be right for you. If you’re having trouble, you may want to speak with a fertility specialist in your area who can make your dreams of conceiving a reality.
- Everything you need to know about intrauterine insemination
- IVF and assisted reproductive technologies
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Male infertility: Treatments and drugs.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 8/11/2015. Web.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Female infertility: Treatments and drugs.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, 7/16/2013. Web.