According to the World Health Organization reports, infertility is a global health issue. An estimated 48 million couples worldwide struggle with the woes of infertility. One hundred eighty-six million people worldwide have difficulty conceiving their biological child.
With the growing taboo around the subject, several individuals and couples are often skeptical about seeking medical help. However, the growth and advancements in medicine have made infertility treatment more effective and accessible.
This article will guide you through the 101s of infertility, the associated treatments, and common questions that everyone has.
What is Fertility Treatment?
To better understand fertility treatment, we need to define infertility in medical terms.
WHO defines infertility as a reproductive disease in either male or female (or both) that causes failure of a successful pregnancy after 12 months of frequent and timed unprotected sex between a couple (or two people).
Furthermore, it has two sub-types – Primary Infertility and Secondary Infertility.
Primary infertility is when couples have a hard time conceiving their first baby. Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive after one (or more) successful pregnancies.
Fertility treatments help cater to those issues. When you seek help from a fertility expert, they assess your medical history, understand your current physical well-being through testing and imagine and find the causes behind infertility.
Once the cause/s are determined, the salient treatment begins to help the people achieve their joy of parenthood.
Infertility Treatment Options for Male and Female
Men and women have very different physical structures and internal body organs. So, when it comes to fertility treatments, the approach varies.
Before anything, the doctor has to ascertain whether you are infertile or not. The doctor carries out a series of tests before reaching a conclusion.
Men undergo a general physical examination and sperm analysis to check the vitality and the motility of their sperm. On the other hand, women undergo a thorough pelvic exam and a series of pathological testing.
Based on the findings from the reports, male and female patients get individual treatment options.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the same.
Treatment Options for Female Infertility
Female infertility can often stem from hormonal disbalance or anomalies in the structure of the reproductive organs. While the former cause is treated with medications, any kinds of structural issues are treated with surgeries.
Medications for Female Infertility
The treatment options for female infertility using oral or IV medications are fertility drugs. They are ideal for treating conditions related to improper ovulation or hormonal imbalance that affect the menstrual cycle. These drugs are mimic the functions of naturally-produced reproductive hormones in the female body, including follicle-stimulating and luteinizing hormones.
Some of the most popular fertility drugs include:
|Name of the Drug||Form of Administration||Purpose|
|Clomiphene citrate||Oral medications||Stimulates pituitary glands to increase the release of FSH and LH. Results in successful ovulation.|
|Gonadotropins||Injections||Stimulates ovarian functions. Promotes the release of multiple eggs for successful ovulation.|
|Metformin||Oral medications||Prescribed for women with PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Prevents risks of insulin resistance in the body to regulate cycle ovulation.|
|Letrozole||Oral medications||Tends to cure PCOS and hormonal imbalance in the body. Treats lack of ovulation and contributes to the regular menstrual cycle for successful ovulation.|
|Bromocriptine||Oral medications||Has inhibitory effects on prolactin. Reduces uncontrolled production of prolactin that leads to irregular ovulation.|
Surgical Treatments for Female Infertility
Surgeries are often the last resort for female infertility treatments. They correct any blockages in the birth canal, fallopian tubes, or any other part of the female reproductive system. Some of the common surgical treatments for infertility include:
|Type of Surgery||Purpose|
|Laparoscopic surgery||– Correct anomalies to the uterine structure and anatomy – Eliminate polyps and fibroid tissues– Remove uterine or pelvic adhesions|
|Tubal surgery||– Ideal for treating blockings in the fallopian tubes or other regions in the pelvis – Done to make the womb of the female more habitable for future In-vitro fertilization procedures.|
Treatment Options for Male Infertility
Following a thorough round of physical and medical examination, your fertility specialist should be able to point out the cause behind infertility. In the case of males, the issue often lies with sperm anatomy, motility, and vitality. Besides that, issues with the reproductive anatomy can also result in infertility.
Unlike women, the treatment options are quite varied in men. There are four primary categories of treatment available.
|Type of Treatment||Purpose||Outcome|
|Antibiotic Treatment||Treats any infections in the male patient’s reproductive tract. These infections often alter the fertility of the patient.||Restore fertility and ensure successful conception.|
|Treatments for Sexual Intimacy Problems||Treat problems during physical intimacy and intercourse with a partner, including erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.||Improve overall fertility Improve libidoBetter sexual experiences|
|Medications||Treat hormonal imbalance affecting sperm health.||Correct low or high hormonal issues that are causing infertility.|
|Surgery||Involves three major surgical procedures, including: – Varicocele– Reverse vasectomies– Sperm retrieval surgeries||Promote better sperm motility and healthier ejaculation for successful fertilization.|
When the staple and primary fertility treatments fail, the doctors suggest going to Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). Let’s talk more about that.
Assisted Reproductive Technology
CDC defines Assisted Reproductive Technology or ART as the “fertility treatments that involve handling eggs or the embryos.”
There are two types of fertility treatments under ART:
- In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Let us discuss them in detail.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF involves surgical removal of the eggs from the female patient’s ovaries and then fertilizing them with the male sperm in a lab, followed by implantation of the fertilized embryo into the woman’s uterus for eventual conception.
The entire cycle can take up to 2-3 weeks to assess the chances of conception in the couple. It is the most potent and viable form of ART. Not only does it help gestational carriers, but it also works well for infertile individuals struggling with genetic issues.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
IUI is a form of artificial insemination under ART. Instead of surgical interventions and egg retrieval, the male’s collected, washed, and concentrated sperm is directly put into the female patient’s uterus. This is done when the woman is ovulating, facilitating higher chances of successful fertilization and pregnancy.
Patients undergoing IUI start their journey with fertility drugs. This spikes up the ovulation and ensures better chances of conception with the procedure later. IUI is also comparatively less expensive than IVF.