Fertility treatment refers to medications that stimulate the production of sperm or egg to achieve pregnancy. Infertility treatment can also include lifestyle changes, treatment of an underlying condition, weight loss, or surgical interventions.
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Your infertility treatment plan will depend on the cause behind your infertility. The cause may be from the woman, man, or both sides. In rare cases, the cause of infertility for both man and woman remain unexplained.
Fertility Drug Options
Fertility drugs can be used to stimulate ovulation and sperm production. Ovulation disorders causes about 25 percent of female infertility. Fertility drugs may also be used during an IUI cycle and are almost always used during IVF treatment, even if ovulation isn’t responsible for the infertility. Common fertility drugs include Clomid, gonadotropins, and Femara.
Clomid (clomiphene citrate): Clomid is often the first drug used in female fertility treatment. It is also used in treating male infertility. According to statistics about 40 to 45 percent of couples using clomid to induce ovulation will achieve pregnancy within six cycles of use.
Femara (letrozole) and Arimidex (anastrozole): These drugs may also be used to induce ovulation in women with ovulation disorders though they aren’t really fertility drugs.
Gonadotropins: Gonadotropins include FSH, LH, or a combination of the two.
Gonal-F and Follistim both contain FSH. They are likely the most well-known gonadotropins.
These hormonal medications are used when clomid fails, or if the pituitary gland cannot create LH and FSH on its own.
Other Medications That May Be Used During Fertility Treatment
Ovulation stimulation may not be the only goal of infertility treatment. Your doctor may want to suppress your body’s natural reproductive system or to support the luteal phase of your cycle.
Other medications used to treat infertility may include:
- Birth control pills
- Baby aspirin (for blood clotting disorders)
- Dopamine agonists like bromocriptine
- GnRH agonists to suppress the reproductive system during IVF
Insemination or IUI Treatment
Artificial insemination, now called intrauterine insemination is a procedure that involves placing specially washed sperm directly into the uterus. This treatment is mostly used in some cases of male infertility, or if the cervical mucus of a woman is faulty. In some cases, it may be used in unexplained infertility. The success rate of IUI is not very high. The only advantage IUI has over IVF is the low cost of the procedure.
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Surgical Fertility Treatments
One major test used to diagnose blocked fallopian tubes is HSG or hysterosalpingogram. If HSG test indicates blockage in the tubes, a laparoscopic surgery will be performed to evaluate the situation, and possibly repair the problem. Antibiotics and surgery will be administered if infection is present.
In some cases where blockage or scarring is not repairable, IVF would be recommended because it bypasses the fallopian tubes.
Also, surgical hysteroscopy is another possible surgical treatment option that is used in the case of adhesions inside the uterine cavity itself.
Laparoscopy may be used to remove endometrial deposits for women with endometriosis. This is more likely to be recommended in women having severe menstrual pains or pelvic pain, and less likely to be used for infertility treatment alone. Laparoscopy may also be optional if uterine fibroids are meddling with a woman’s ability to conceive.
Some cases of male infertility like varicoceles, may need surgery. In some cases, sperm count may be low or even zero, it may be possible to remove young sperm cells directly from the testes. These sperm are then matured in the lab and used for IVF with ICSI.
Other infertility surgery options includes vasectomy reversal and tubal ligation reversal.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)
ART refers to fertility treatments that involve the handling of eggs or embryos. This includes IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT.
IVF is the most common form of ART in use today. Less than 2 percent of ART procedures are GIFT. ZIFT is used less than 1.5 percent of the time.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilization): In this procedure, fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Those eggs are then retrieved from the woman’s ovaries in an out-patient procedure. Afterwards, the eggs are placed together with sperm and left to be fertilized. After fertilization, about three embryos are placed inside the uterus of the woman.
GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer): This procedure involves the egg and sperm placed together in one of the woman’s fallopian tubes and are not fertilized outside the body.
ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer): This involves a zygote being placed in one of the fallopian tubes using a procedure called laparoscopic surgery.
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Possible Fertility Treatment Risks and Side Effects
Clomid: Risks and side effects of fertility treatments depend on what fertility treatment is being used. Surgical fertility treatments will have different risks than using Clomid. The most common side effects of using fertility drugs include:
- mood swings
In rare cases, side effects can be deadly.
IUI: This comes with an increased risk of infection and ectopic pregnancy.
IVF: Fertility drug use and IVF treatment increase your risk of conceiving and giving birth to multiple babies. Your highest risk for multiples comes from gonadotropins.
IVF treatment risks include ectopic pregnancy, infection, puncture to the bladder, bleeding, bowel, or other surrounding organs; and premature delivery. IVF treatment may increase the risk of some birth defects. It’s uncertain if the risk is increased because of treatment or due to infertility itself.
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