Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant despite having sexual intercourse without the use of birth control for over one year.
The inability to become pregnant can cause extreme emotional pain for many women hoping to conceive. Between ten and fifteen percent of couples in the United States have struggled with infertility, so you are not suffering alone.
Infertility can be caused by a number of factors, and both men and women can contribute to infertility. As a woman ages, particularly after the age of 35, her chances of pregnancy go down. If you are over the age of 35, your doctor may recommend bypassing some of the steps younger couples take to increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
Dr. Michael Litrel discusses causes and treatment options for infertility.
Treatment Options for Infertility
There are many safe and effective treatment options available for infertility, depending on the severity of the issue. These include:
– Lifestyle changes
– Intrauterine Insemination
– Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
If lifestyle changes are identified to help with infertility, sometimes small changes like making healthy eating choices, an increase in exercise, quitting smoking and lowing or removing the use of alcohol can help boost fertility for both men and women.
If you have irregular cycles or do not ovulate at all, your OB/GYN may recommend medication to stimulate ovulation and increase your chances of getting pregnant. Your doctor may use the hormone progesterone to treat some ovulation problems, including Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, as well as bleeding irregularities.
Another option is ovulation induction, which induces a woman’s ovaries to release an egg. The drug most commonly used for this procedure is clomiphene citrate (commonly referred to as Clomid). Approximately 40% of women are able to conceive with the use of clomiphene citrate within six menstrual cycles. Side effects are mild, and include hot flashes, breast tenderness, nausea and mood swings. Additionally, the possibility of twins increases to 10% in women who use clomiphene citrate.
Another medication used for increasing ovulation is called gonadotrophins. Gonadotrophins are prescribed if your body doesn’t produce enough FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone)– the hormones needed for ovulation. This medication is given in a series of injections early in a woman’s menstrual cycle, using blood tests and an ultrasound are used to track the follicles. Once the follicles reach a certain size, an additional medication called HCG may be given to increase ovulation.
For some women, an issue with fertility can be treated with surgery, which can increase the chances of conceiving naturally.
Procedures that can assist with natural conception include fallopian tube procedures such as sterilization reversal, laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, or myomectomy for uterine fibroids. For men, varicocele repair, a procedure to bypass an enlarged vein in the scrotum, and vasectomy reversal are also options for surgical treatment.
Intrauterine insemination occurs when a large amount of healthy sperm are inserted in the uterus at the time of ovulation. It is often used in conjunction with ovulation induction. IUI is commonly used for unexplained infertility. It is also used for couples affected by mild endometriosis, problems with ovulation, mild male factor infertility and infertility related to cervical factors.
Assisted Reproductive Surgery
Assisted reproductive surgery includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled. In certain cases, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) will be used if a woman has any of the following:
– Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes that are unable to be fixed with surgery
– Male infertility factors
– Severe endometriosis
– Premature ovarian failure
– Unexplained infertility
In Vitro Fertilization occurs when the sperm and egg are combined in a lab, then the embryo is transferred into the uterus. The process is performed in cycles, and it can take more than one cycle to succeed.
Schedule a Fertility Treatment Consultation
The ability to bear children is a significant experience for many women and coping with infertility can be extremely difficult. If you are concerned about your inability to become pregnant, we invite you to call us at 770.720.7733 to schedule an appointment for a fertility treatment consultation with one of our board-certified OB/GYNs. Or, simply request an appointment online.