The NHS recommends that, after trying and failing to get pregnant for a year, you should see your doctor; if you are over 35, you should go after six months. Help is out there, if you want it, and takes many forms. West stresses the importance of investigating both the women and the men, "even if they have previously had a healthy sperm analysis because situations and lifestyles can change". There is also the alternative therapy route: acupuncture, hypnotherapy, reflexology, meditation. Or, if all else fails, you could, like me, go for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
For five to six days following fertilization, the developing embryos are cultured in the laboratory until the blastocyst stage of development has been reached. This represents growth of about 200 cells. We at RMA culture embryos exclusively to the blastocyst stage, because published data demonstrates that extended embryo culture results in improved implantation rates and pregnancy outcomes. This means we will never do an embryo biopsy – or an embryo transfer – at three days, or anything less than the blastocyst stage.
Your doctor will also monitor whether or not the treatment led to a multiple pregnancy. IVF has a higher risk of conceiving multiples, and a multiple pregnancy carries risks for both the mother and the babies. Risks of a multiple pregnancy include premature labor and delivery, maternal hemorrhage, C-section delivery, pregnancy induced high blood pressure, and gestational diabetes.
In some cases, laboratory mix-ups (misidentified gametes, transfer of wrong embryos) have occurred, leading to legal action against the IVF provider and complex paternity suits. An example is the case of a woman in California who received the embryo of another couple and was notified of this mistake after the birth of her son. This has led to many authorities and individual clinics implementing procedures to minimise the risk of such mix-ups. The HFEA, for example, requires clinics to use a double witnessing system, the identity of specimens is checked by two people at each point at which specimens are transferred. Alternatively, technological solutions are gaining favour, to reduce the manpower cost of manual double witnessing, and to further reduce risks with uniquely numbered RFID tags which can be identified by readers connected to a computer. The computer tracks specimens throughout the process and alerts the embryologist if non-matching specimens are identified. Although the use of RFID tracking has expanded in the US, it is still not widely adopted.
Assess your preconception prep. Have you been on top of the preconception game or are you just too busy for baby-planning activities like charting and timing baby-making sex (or any sex for that matter)? Given that you have a little one underfoot, it's understandable if you're more exhausted than ever. It’s not easy for wannabe second-time parents to devote as much time and energy to TTC as they likely did on the first go-around, but it would be helpful to take a step back (and a hard look) at what's going on. Are your cycles still regular, or have there been any changes that might be hurting your chances for conception success? Have you been able to pinpoint ovulation with accuracy, or are you just having sex whenever (which would make conception less likely)? Getting back on track with tracking your fertility signs may be enough to put you back in the game.
Other health related problems could also cause poor egg health, low ovarian reserve, or abnormal immunological responses, which can affect conception. Stress could also play a role. We all know that menstrual cycles can be altered during times of extreme duress- and this can be emotional, physical, or environmental stressors. In these instances, the first steps should be to avoid life stressors, maintain a healthy weight, routinely exercise, avoid smoking, and reduce alcohol intake, all of which may be contributing to unexplained infertility issues.
Repeated failed rounds of IVF can help identify causes of infertility. For example, if sperm and egg quality are normal, then the conception issue may be rooted at the embryonic or implantation level. In other words, if IVF fails to result in pregnancy despite successful fertilization, embryonic development or implantation may be to blame. Still this is a very expensive way to start getting answers.