Problems in the quantity or quality of eggs: Women are born with a limited supply of eggs and are unable to create new eggs after birth. As women approach their 40s and beyond, the numbers of eggs left in their ovaries decrease, and the remaining eggs have a higher chance of having chromosomal problems. For women where age isn’t a concern, there are other reasons that they might have a low number of good quality eggs, including autoimmune or genetic conditions and prior surgery or radiation.
IVF may be used to overcome female infertility when it is due to problems with the fallopian tubes, making in vivo fertilisation difficult. It can also assist in male infertility, in those cases where there is a defect in sperm quality; in such situations intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used, where a sperm cell is injected directly into the egg cell. This is used when sperm has difficulty penetrating the egg. In these cases the partner's or a donor's sperm may be used. ICSI is also used when sperm numbers are very low. When indicated, the use of ICSI has been found to increase the success rates of IVF.
Our team here at the Center for Human Reproduction has recently developed an infographic explaining one of the most common causes of female infertility: unexplained infertility. This diagnosis is given to 30% of infertility cases and yet, we believe it really is a non-diagnosis. In our clinical experience, with proper testing, up to 90% of unexplained infertility diagnoses can be attributed to treatable causes.
By 2012 Costa Rica was the only country in the world with a complete ban on IVF technology, it having been ruled unconstitutional by the nation's Supreme Court because it "violated life." Costa Rica had been the only country in the western hemisphere that forbade IVF. A law project sent reluctantly by the government of President Laura Chinchilla was rejected by parliament. President Chinchilla has not publicly stated her position on the question of IVF. However, given the massive influence of the Catholic Church in her government any change in the status quo seems very unlikely. In spite of Costa Rican government and strong religious opposition, the IVF ban has been struck down by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in a decision of 20 December 2012. The court said that a long-standing Costa Rican guarantee of protection for every human embryo violated the reproductive freedom of infertile couples because it prohibited them from using IVF, which often involves the disposal of embryos not implanted in a patient's uterus. On 10 September 2015, President Luis Guillermo Solís signed a decree legalising in-vitro fertilisation. The decree was added to the country's official gazette on 11 September. Opponents of the practice have since filed a lawsuit before the country's Constitutional Court.
Ovulation induction (in the sense of medical treatment aiming for the development of one or two ovulatory follicles) is an alternative for women with anovulation or oligoovulation, since it is less expensive and more easy to control. It generally involves antiestrogens such as clomifene citrate or letrozole, and is followed by natural or artificial insemination.
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
There is a risk of multiples, which includes twins, triplets, or more. Multiple pregnancies can be risky for both the babies and the mother. It's important to discuss with your doctor how many embryos to transfer, as transferring more than necessary will increase your risk of conceiving twins or more. When embryos have been tested with PGT, typically only a single embryo is transferred.
Fertility has long been considered a “woman’s problem.” This is simply not true, and men are in fact, equally as infertile as women. Traditionally the metrics for male fertility have been mostly limited to sperm count, morphology, motility, and, occasionally, DNA fragmentation. For females, on the other hand, a vast array of tests are available. These include ultrasound, cervical position, basal body temperature, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, cycle tracking and a diversity of hormonal tests.
Heavy, as in a pad and a tampon still doesn’t feel like enough. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or kidney disease, can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulants) may as well; or the reason may be a condition linked to infertility. In a normal menstrual cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus—that’s the stuff that sheds during your period. But if, for example, your ovaries don’t release an egg, the dominoes are tipped: your body produces less progesterone, hormones become imbalanced, the lining in your uterus over-develops, and you end up bleeding extra heavily. Fibroids in your uterus can also cause heavier or longer-than-normal periods; some types of these benign tumors can block fallopian tubes or interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Up to 10 percent of infertile women have fibroids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you soak through at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours, see your doctor. This is the worst health advice gynecologists have ever heard.
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.
A study presented at the British Fertility Society Annual Conference and covered by The Guardian reported that transferring two embryos where one is of poor quality would reduce the chance of pregnancy by 27%. It is thought that a bad embryo is rejected by the endometrium, compromising the implantation of both embryos. Cumulative research has supported the notion that egg quality outweighs quantity.
Costs of IVF can be broken down into direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include the medical treatments themselves, including doctor consultations, medications, ultrasound scanning, laboratory tests, the actual IVF procedure, and any associated hospital charges and administrative costs. Indirect costs includes the cost of addressing any complications with treatments, patients' travel costs and lost hours of productivity. These costs can be exaggerated by the increasing age of the woman undergoing IVF treatment (particularly those over the age of 40), and the increase costs associated with multiple births. For instance, a pregnancy with twins can cost up to three times that of a singleton pregnancy.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in accordance with the Catholic understanding of natural law, teaches that reproduction has an "inseparable connection" to the sexual union of married couples. In addition, the church opposes IVF because it might result in the disposal of embryos; in Catholicism, an embryo is viewed as an individual with a soul that must be treated as a person. The Catholic Church maintains that it is not objectively evil to be infertile, and advocates adoption as an option for such couples who still wish to have children.
Connect with your partner. Remember that he is also coping with secondary infertility along with you, and while your partner may be dealing with it differently, it can be extremely helpful to check in with each other emotionally. Set aside some time to talk about how your infertility problems are affecting each of you — that can help you both work through your emotions. Tired of talking about infertility or channeling all your collective energy into that second pregnancy? Plan a date night — totally unrelated to any baby-making duties. Since secondary infertility problems can take a toll on any relationship, date nights are needed now more than ever to keep the love and fun flowing. An added bonus: Since less stress often improves fertility, enjoying just being a couple could even increase your odds of achieving that second pregnancy.
Stay positive. Search for success stories — there are so many out there. Look within your personal network or support groups to find other women who have similar experiences with infertility. Connect with them and share your stories. Learn what they have done, what doctors they have worked with, and what contributed to their successful pregnancies.
Talk it out. Once you realize you’re entitled to your emotions, find an outlet for them. Talking about your feelings and your struggles can be a huge release and allow you to receive the support you need. If your family or friends don’t understand your sadness (or you find it hard to contain your baby envy around friends with more than one child), seek out people in your same situation. Find a support group for people with secondary infertility — online or in your area. And consider joining WTE's Trying to Conceive group to find moms who are also coping with secondary infertility.
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.