From IVF to ICSI, Clomifene to hysterosalpingograms the world of infertility can seem like a bit of a minefield when you take your journey to parenthood out of the home and into a clinical environment. Depending on your own personal circumstances, the type of treatment that you will need could be as simple as a drug to give your fertility a boost, a surgical procedure to correct something that’s not working properly or a form of assisted conception to encourage that all important meeting of your egg with his sperm. We’re going to take a look at these three types of fertility treatments and the specific options within them…
Fertility Drugs and Medicine
If a woman’s cycle is not producing the right levels of hormones, if she’s not ovulating properly or if she’s suffering from polycystic ovaries, the introduction of a simple drug can be all it takes to set her on the road to motherhood. There are several main types of drug that are used, each for specific conditions:
- Clomifene & Tamoxifen – these drugs can be used to help women ovulate more regularly and to start ovulation if it’s not happening at all by blocking the effect of oestrogen, tricking the body into increasing its levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinising Hormone) which ripen the eggs and trigger the release of eggs respectively.
- Metformin – used for for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). By making the body more sensitive to insulin, lowering insulin levels, which in turn reduce testosterone levels to encourage normal ovulation.
- Gonadotrophins – help stimulate ovulation in women, and may also improve fertility in men as well as being useful for women with PCOS. The fertility hormones FSH, LH and hCG – responsible for the ripening and release of the egg are administered over 12 days or so, effectively giving your own hormones a helping hand to get the get matured and released into the fallopian tubes.
Whilst the success rate of these drugs is relatively high at around 20-29% depending on your situation, they can result in side effects such as mood swings, tender breasts, hot flushes, bloating and headaches.
The most common type of fertility surgery is to unblock fallopian tubes or to remove scarring caused by endometriosis, fibroids or ovarian cysts – all of which can have a negative impact on your ability to conceive.
Surgery is usually laparoscopic (keyhole) for minimal discomfort, but you should expect some pain afterwards, predominantly from the CO2 that is used to help the surgeon see what he’s doing. The gas inflates your belly slightly, but can cause a lot of pain in your shoulders and chest post-surgery. You may also have some discomfort from your tummy too.
As the name suggests, this type of treatment involves giving mother nature a helping hand in getting the sperm to meet the egg. There are three main forms of assisted conception:
IUI ( Intrauterine Insemination) – the least invasive form of assisted conception, IUI involves obtaining a sample of sperm, washing it and taking out the best ‘swimmers’. The sperm are then introduced to the womb directly through the cervix using a fine plastic tube at the time of ovulation. This technique can also be coupled with an ovulation stimulating hormone to increase the chances of success.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) – the woman’s eggs are removed from her ovaries, fertilised with sperm in a laboratory and transplanted back into the woman’s uterus as an embryo.
ICSI (Intracytomplasmic Sperm Injection) – a technique used in IVF whereby a single sperm in injected into a single egg, then transplanted into the womb as an embryo.
Donor Insemination – depending on the woman’s fertility, this is the same as IUI or IVF, but instead of using the partner’s sperm, donor sperm is used.
Egg or Embryo Donation – as above, an donor egg may be used or some couples who have embryos that have been unused in their own IVF cycle will donate them to other childless couples.