Women's Health

Infertility

What is infertility?

Although conceiving a child may seem to be simple and natural, the physiological process is quite complicated. Infertility is defined as not having become pregnant after one year of having regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control and depends on the proper function of many factors, including the production of healthy sperm and eggs, unblocked fallopian tubes and adequate embryo quality, among others.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of infertility is the inability to become pregnant after a year of trying. Changes in the menstrual cycle and ovulation may be a symptom of a disease related to infertility.

What treatment options are available?

Treatment options depend on the cause of your infertility. Lifestyle changes, medication, surgery, or assisted reproductive technology (ART) may be recommended. Several different treatments may be combined to improve results. Infertility often can be successfully treated even if no cause is found.

Ovulation Medications

These medications help regulate the timing of ovulation and stimulate the development and release of mature eggs. They can also help correct hormonal problems that can affect the lining of the uterus as it prepares to receive a fertilized egg. Ovulation medications can stimulate more than one egg to be released which increases the possibility of having twins and other multiples.

Intrauterine Insemination

For some conditions, including low sperm count and cervical mucus problems, a procedure that places specially washed and prepared sperm directly into the uterus through a small catheter (flexible tube) helps increase the chances for conception. Intrauterine insemination, a type of artificial insemination, is often used in combination with ovulation medications.

Surgery

Surgery may be used to treat or repair a condition that is causing infertility such as fallopian tube blockage or endometriosis. A common surgical procedure often used as part of the diagnostic workup of infertility is laparoscopy. In a laparoscopy, a small telescope inserted into the abdominal or pelvic cavity allows internal organs to be visualized. Some procedures to treat infertility can be performed using instruments inserted through the laparoscope.

In Vitro Fertilization

In vitro fertilization (IVF) involves extracting a woman's eggs, fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory with sperm and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) into the woman's uterus through the cervix (embryo transfer) where it can develop. Most couples transfer two embryos; however, more may be transferred in certain cases. IVF is the most common form of assisted reproductive technology and it is often the treatment of choice for a woman with blocked, severely damaged, or absent fallopian tubes. IVF is also used for infertility caused by endometriosis or male factor infertility. It is sometimes used to treat couples with long-term unexplained infertility who have not been able to conceive with other infertility treatments.

Embryo Cryopreservation

A procedure in which embryos are preserved through freezing (cryopreservation) for transfer at a later date. This procedure is often used when an in vitro fertilization cycle produces more embryos than can be transferred at one time. The remaining embryos can be transferred in a future cycle if the woman does not become pregnant.