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).
^ Sher, KS; Jayanthi, V; Probert, CS; Stewart, CR; Mayberry, JF (1994). "Infertility, obstetric and gynaecological problems in coeliac sprue". Dig Dis. 12 (3): 186–90. doi:10.1159/000171452. PMID 7988065. There is now substantial evidence that coeliac sprue is associated with infertility both in men and women. (...) In men it can cause hypogonadism, immature secondary sex characteristics and reduce semen quality. (...) Hyperprolactinaemia is seen in 25% of coeliac patients, which causes impotence and loss of libido. Gluten withdrawal and correction of deficient dietary elements can lead to a return of fertility both in men and women.
Although menopause is a natural barrier to further conception, IVF has allowed women to be pregnant in their fifties and sixties. Women whose uteruses have been appropriately prepared receive embryos that originated from an egg of an egg donor. Therefore, although these women do not have a genetic link with the child, they have a physical link through pregnancy and childbirth. In many cases the genetic father of the child is the woman's partner. Even after menopause the uterus is fully capable of carrying out a pregnancy.[109]
Fertilization of the oocytes must happen with 12 to 24 hours. Your partner will likely provide a semen sample the same morning you have the retrieval. The stress of the day can make it difficult for some, and so just in case, your partner may provide a semen sample for backup earlier in the cycle, which can be frozen until the day of the retrieval.

Infertility is “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse (and there is no other reason, such as breastfeeding or postpartum amenorrhoea). Primary infertility is infertility in a couple who have never had a child. Secondary infertility is failure to conceive following a previous pregnancy. Infertility may be caused by infection in the man or woman, but often there is no obvious underlying cause.
^ Tersigni C, Castellani R, de Waure C, Fattorossi A, De Spirito M, Gasbarrini A, Scambia G, Di Simone N (2014). "Celiac disease and reproductive disorders: meta-analysis of epidemiologic associations and potential pathogenic mechanisms". Hum. Reprod. Update. 20 (4): 582–93. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmu007. PMID 24619876. Physicians should investigate women with unexplained infertility, recurrent miscarriage or IUGR for undiagnosed CD. (...) CD can present with several non-gastrointestinal symptoms and it may escape timely recognition. Thus, given the heterogeneity of clinical presentation, many atypical cases of CD go undiagnosed, leading to a risk of long-term complications. Among atypical symptoms of CD, disorders of fertility, such as delayed menarche, early menopause, amenorrhea or infertility, and pregnancy complications, such as recurrent abortions, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), small for gestational age (SGA) babies, low birthweight (LBW) babies or preterm deliveries, must be factored. (...) However, the risk is significantly reduced by a gluten-free diet. These patients should therefore be made aware of the potential negative effects of active CD also in terms of reproductive performances, and of the importance of a strict diet to ameliorate their health condition and reproductive health.

Success rates for IVF also vary according to individual circumstances, with the most significant factor again being the age of the woman. At RMA, the likelihood of live birth after transfer of a single, genetically normal blastocyst is 60-65% on average. It is a legal requirement in the US for success rates of fertility clinics to be reported to the CDC. This includes live birth rates and other outcomes. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology also reports on these statistics. All of our RMA clinics report their results individually and you can check them in the published data. You should remember that results for different clinics are not always comparable with each other because of differences in the patient base.
As a result, most patients need to undergo multiple cycles, and as we pointed out in a another lesson, no cycle is as likely to succeed as the first one. Below is data out of the UK published in the Journal of The American Medical Association that illustrates that after a few cycles most younger patients succeed with IVF but that is not necessarily true for older patients.
^ Manheimer E, van der Windt D, Cheng K, Stafford K, Liu J, Tierney J, Lao L, Berman BM, Langenberg P, Bouter LM (2013). "The effects of acupuncture on rates of clinical pregnancy among women undergoing in vitro fertilization: a systematic review and meta-analysis". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (6): 696–713. doi:10.1093/humupd/dmt026. PMC 3796945. PMID 23814102.
The goal of this treatment is to increase the number of sperm that reach the Fallopian tube and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization. IUI provides the sperm an advantage by giving it a head start, but still requires the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg on its own. Depending on your fertility diagnosis, IUI can be coordinated with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
Very slight elements of risk are associated with any medical intervention but for IVF the most notable risk in the past has been multiple births. The impact of multiple births on birth weight, premature delivery, and post-natal complications is well known. This is largely due to the practice over the past 30 years of transferring two or more embryos during IVF. Thanks to PGT-A testing and Single Embryo Transfer (SET), however, doctors can now feel confident about transferring just one normal embryo. At RMA, we have established SET as the standard of care going forward. With SET, the risk of multiple births is drastically reduced.
The percentage of cycles cancelled between egg retrieval and embryo transfer is an indication of failed fertilization. This figure is halved with ICSI as compared to conventional IVF, indicating that it can indeed improve fertilization when the sperm is at fault. However, there are no differences in pregnancy, miscarriage or live birth rates between conventional IVF and ICSI, indicating overall similar success rates1.
We don't know what causes most cases of secondary infertility, says Jamie Grifo, M.D., Ph.D., program director of the New York University Fertility Center, in New York City. "The majority of the time, though, it reflects the fact that you're older now, so it's simply more difficult to get pregnant." The reality is that for women, fertility peaks at age 25 and drops by half between ages 30 and 40. As we age, egg quality declines and we're more likely to develop fibroids and endometriosis, which contribute to infertility. Other factors such as adding extra weight, taking new meds, or having surgery since your last pregnancy can be an issue. It may also be that your partner's sperm quality or production is now poor.
Assisted hatching. About five to six days after fertilization, an embryo "hatches" from its surrounding membrane (zona pellucida), allowing it to implant into the lining of the uterus. If you're an older woman, or if you have had multiple failed IVF attempts, your doctor might recommend assisted hatching — a technique in which a hole is made in the zona pellucida just before transfer to help the embryo hatch and implant. Assisted hatching is also useful for eggs or embryos that have been previously frozen as the process can harden the zona pellucida.
^ Tan K, An L, Miao K, Ren L, Hou Z, Tao L, Zhang Z, Wang X, Xia W, Liu J, Wang Z, Xi G, Gao S, Sui L, Zhu DS, Wang S, Wu Z, Bach I, Chen DB, Tian J (March 2016). "Impaired imprinted X chromosome inactivation is responsible for the skewed sex ratio following in vitro fertilization". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 113 (12): 3197–202. Bibcode:2016PNAS..113.3197T. doi:10.1073/pnas.1523538113. PMC 4812732. PMID 26951653.
Addressing lifestyle issues is not meant to be a quick fix, and typically does not lead to instant success. However, with unexplained infertility every little bit counts, so don’t fret or give up. Do not assume just because the cause of infertility is unexplained, it is untreatable or there is no pathway to parenthood. When a specific cause is not determined for women, and male infertility has also been ruled out, our fertility specialist may begin a course of treatment to improve the chances of conception and pregnancy. The speed with which interventions are offered depends on each individual’s own needs and desires as determined by age and other factors.
These time intervals would seem to be reversed; this is an area where public policy trumps science. The idea is that for women beyond age 35, every month counts and if made to wait another six months to prove the necessity of medical intervention, the problem could become worse. The corollary to this is that, by definition, failure to conceive in women under 35 isn't regarded with the same urgency as it is in those over 35.
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.
Intrauterine insemination is less successful if the cause of infertility involves decreased egg quality, diseased Fallopian tubes, or endometriosis. IUI treatment cannot improve the quality of the eggs within the ovaries or repair damaged anatomical structure. As with advanced age, it may be advisable to move to IVF earlier in the treatment timeline with these diagnoses.
There are many studies comparing success rates between clomid, letrozole, or gonadotropins for patients with unexplained infertility, but two stand out as the best and most informative. The first study was conducted at multiple sites across the country and was termed the AMIGOS trial. In this study, gonadotropins produced the highest pregnancy rate, followed by clomid, and then letrozole. However, almost one third of all pregnancies in the gonadotropin arm was either a twin or triplet gestation. This was significantly higher than the clomid or letrozole arms.
The grief and anxiety of SI is, of course, self-perpetuating. You find yourself in a double-bind: you're constantly told that the chances of conceiving are maximised if you can relax and eliminate stress, but it's hard to let go of something so all-consuming, so elemental, as infertility. People were always saying to me: "If you just forgot about it, you'd get pregnant straight away." For the record, this is the most unhelpful thing you can say to someone with fertility problems. West explains that "couples become more and more anxious about the gap [between children]".
Along with being physically demanding, fertility treatments can also spark a roller-coaster of emotions each month, including hope, anger, disappointment, sadness, and guilt. Just the sight of a pregnant woman can evoke strong negative and stressful feelings. During this time, those struggling with infertility may pull away from friends and family who remind them of their difficulty with reproduction; some of their closest relationships may suffer.
Bloating: Fertility medications can heavily impact how your body retains water, leading to the dreaded side effect of bloating. This is especially common in your midsection, where fluid can build up near the ovaries (creating abdominal tenderness, too). You can combat bloating by increasing your fluid intake and participating in light exercise such as walking.
For women, problems with fertilisation arise mainly from either structural problems in the Fallopian tube or uterus or problems releasing eggs. Infertility may be caused by blockage of the Fallopian tube due to malformations, infections such as chlamydia or scar tissue. For example, endometriosis can cause infertility with the growth of endometrial tissue in the Fallopian tubes or around the ovaries. Endometriosis is usually more common in women in their mid-twenties and older, especially when postponed childbirth has taken place.[55]
Endometriosis and infertility are often related, but treating this pelvic inflammatory disorder can improve your chances of pregnancy. Here’s a description of what causes endometriosis, the symptoms of endometriosis, and what to do if you suspect you have this pelvic disorder. According to Harvard Medical School, endometriosis is responsible for many cases of infertility, there… Read More »Endometriosis and Infertility – How a Pelvic Disorder Affects Pregnancy
Odds of multiples. Because more than one embryo may be placed in your uterus, your chance of having twins or more is about 20 percent. Though many couples consider this a blessing, multiple fetuses increase your risk of miscarriage and other complications, such as preterm labor. Some doctors will advise you to consider selective reduction if three or more embryos implant successfully. This is a serious decision with major emotional and psychological consequences. IVF researchers are working on techniques to prevent multiple fetuses.
One, two or three IVF treatments are government subsidised for women who are younger than 40 and have no children. The rules for how many treatments are subsidised, and the upper age limit for the women, vary between different county councils.[154] Single women are treated, and embryo adoption is allowed. There are also private clinics that offer the treatment for a fee.[155]
When weighing the options, the pros and cons of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) will, of course, be explored fully in discussion with your physician. In general terms, you can expect IUI to be a simpler process, less invasive, and lower cost. Some fertility specialists recommend attempting one or more cycles of artificial insemination before moving to IVF but this does not apply to everyone. For example, for an older woman, to try artificial insemination first may take up valuable time and the recommendation could well be to move straight to IVF. But before you can compare the two treatments, you need to know what exactly you could expect from IVF.
The live birth rate is the percentage of all IVF cycles that lead to a live birth. This rate does not include miscarriage or stillbirth; multiple-order births, such as twins and triplets, are counted as one pregnancy. A 2017 summary compiled by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) which reports the average IVF success rates in the United States per age group using non-donor eggs compiled the following data:[10]
Mild IVF[64] is a method where a small dose of ovarian stimulating drugs are used for a short duration during a woman's natural cycle aimed at producing 2–7 eggs and creating healthy embryos. This method appears to be an advance in the field to reduce complications and side-effects for women and it is aimed at quality, and not quantity of eggs and embryos. One study comparing a mild treatment (mild ovarian stimulation with GnRH antagonist co-treatment combined with single embryo transfer) to a standard treatment (stimulation with a GnRH agonist long-protocol and transfer of two embryos) came to the result that the proportions of cumulative pregnancies that resulted in term live birth after 1 year were 43.4% with mild treatment and 44.7% with standard treatment.[65] Mild IVF can be cheaper than conventional IVF and with a significantly reduced risk of multiple gestation and OHSS.[66]
For most couples having difficulty achieving a pregnancy their chance of achieving a pregnancy is not zero, it is just lower than the average rate of conception—unless both Fallopian tubes are completely blocked, there is no sperm, or the woman never ovulates. Ovulation induction (or superovulation) with IUI helps patients to achieve pregnancy rates closer to the natural per cycle chance of pregnancy for women in their age group who do not have infertility (see fig 1). 

In the laboratory, for ICSI treatments, the identified eggs are stripped of surrounding cells (also known as cumulus cells) and prepared for fertilisation. An oocyte selection may be performed prior to fertilisation to select eggs that can be fertilized, as it is required they are in metaphase II. There are cases in which if oocytes are in the metaphase I stage, they can be kept being cultured so as to undergo a posterior sperm injection. In the meantime, semen is prepared for fertilisation by removing inactive cells and seminal fluid in a process called sperm washing. If semen is being provided by a sperm donor, it will usually have been prepared for treatment before being frozen and quarantined, and it will be thawed ready for use.
If you're overweight or obese, losing weight can boost your chances of getting pregnant. A study found that women whose body mass index (BMI) was above normal took twice as long to get pregnant as those with a normal BMI. But a drop in weight of 5%-10% can dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates. Obesity can also cause infertility and low testosterone in men. Being significantly underweight can also lead to infertility.

The common thing that happens once learning about the unexplained infertility diagnosis is shifting blame or incurring guilt. You may feel a sense of individual responsibility for the news, and be concerned about the effects that this will have on your relationship and your current partner. Perhaps you feel like you waited too long to start a family or have anxiety finding the right parenting partner that you associate now with your infertility. Remember, it’s no one’s fault.

Women are not always the source of a couple's infertility—in approximately one-third of cases, men may have difficulty with conception. In another third of cases, men are a contributing factor, along with female infertility and other problems. Men should be evaluated by a physician if there is a family history of infertility, if they have undergone cancer treatment, if they have small testicles, a swollen scrotum, or a low sperm count, or if they have any other testicular, prostate, or sexual problems.
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.
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