Learn everything about your treatment
Learn everything about your treatment
Fertility treatment overview
What is fertility treatment?
Fertility treatment, or assisted conception, are the medical terms for several different procedures which can help a woman to become pregnant. If you are struggling to conceive naturally then having a fertility treatment can increase your chance of becoming pregnant. The exact type of treatment that is most suitable for you depends on several factors, including the reason that you are struggling to conceive. This fertility treatment overview page aims to inform you about both the causes of and treatments for infertility. Some of the most common causes of sub-fertility and infertility are listed below. Each procedure has different risks and success rates and so it is important that you fully understand your options before making a decision.
What causes infertility?
Infertility has a range of different causes, that can be split into a:
- Female cause
- Male cause
- Unknown cause
The root of the cause affects which treatment would be the most suitable for you.
Female causes include:
- Ovulation problems (e.g. polycystic ovary syndrome or premature ovarian failure).
- Internal scarring from previous pelvic surgery or pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Fibroids, which can prevent implantation or block the fallopian tubes.
- Problems with cervical mucus.
- Medical conditions such as endometriosis, thyroid problems or eating disorders.
- A previous sterilisation procedure – if you have had your “tubes tied”.
- Certain medications.
Male causes include:
- A low sperm count
- Unusually shaped or slow moving sperm
- Infections of the testicles
- Previous testicular surgery
- Congenital problems with the testicles
- Undescended testicles
- A previous sterilisation procedure (vasectomy)
- Low testosterone levels
- Ejaculation problems
- Certain medications
If an identifiable cause is present, then steps to cure or improve are the initial steps taken for fertility treatment. In some people struggling to conceive, there is no clear cause. If this is the case for you, your doctor may write that you have infertility of an unknown cause. For these people, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) is generally the best type of fertility treatment.
What types of fertility treatment are available?
Medications to improve fertility are usually a suitable option for women who have problems ovulating, including those with conditions such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). The common medications are listed below –
- Gonadotrophin-releasing hormone agonists
Usually, it is the woman who takes these medications. Sometimes, men also take medication to help to make them more fertile.
If you have scarred or blocked fallopian tubes, it may be possible to perform surgery to restore their normal function. It is possible to have surgery to remove fibroids which can help with fertility issues. In people with PCOS, a procedure called ovarian drilling can increase the likelihood of pregnancy. Finally, women with endometriosis may be suitable for surgery to remove some of the abnormal tissue or any cysts that have developed. Surgeons frequently perform this treatment with keyhole surgery. If you have other medical problems or suffer from severe endometriosis then the keyhole approach may not be possible.
Some men are born with a blockage in a part of the testicle which affects the passage of sperm. This blockage stops the release of sperm. If this is the case for you, surgery to correct this may be a suitable option. If you have had this surgery in the past and it did not work, or if the problem is instead how the testicle produces sperm, then a procedure such as surgical sperm extraction may be suitable. This involves the direct collection of sperm via the testicle under an anaesthetic.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is probably the most famous type of fertility treatment. It requires the woman to take fertility medication to stimulate ovulation, followed by a procedure to collect her eggs. Sperm is collected from the man, and then in the laboratory the eggs are manually fertilised. After successful fertilisation, you must wait 2 to 6 days before the fertilised egg (known as the embryo) is back into the womb. After this, the pregnancy should continue in the same way as in a woman who conceived naturally.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a specific part of IVF in cases of male infertility. It involves surgical sperm extraction from the testes directly (as mentioned above). The sperm then undergoes analysis to identify the best quality sperm for insertion. Then, a single sperm is injected directly into a single egg which was collected from the woman. The resulting embryo is then replaced into the woman’s womb.
Generally, the IVF process results in the production of several embryos. Usually, you should only replace one embryo at a time. Therefore, your doctor may suggest freezing the other embryos so you can use them if you go on to have a second round of IVF, or if you wish to have another baby later on.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Another name for this type of fertility treatment is artificial insemination. It is most often, but not always, suitable for people who are using donated sperm. The IUI process also requires sperm collection or a sample of donated sperm. The sperm is then introduced into the womb with the help of a small injection type tube. The fertilisation process then occurs in the same way as it would naturally. IUI is a cheaper but less effective treatment in comparison to IVF.
This fertility treatment overview gives a brief introduction to infertility and the possible treatment options. To find out more about the right treatment for you, please speak to a specialist fertility team to arrange a consultation.