Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure involves direct injection of a single sperm of the male partner into the eggs of the female for fertilization. Just like IVF procedure, in ICSI, the sperm and egg are collected from both the partners. The only difference is the fertilization process as in IVF the sperms and egg are mixed naturally, and in ICSI the sperms are injected into the egg using a needle.
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.
A closer look at the data suggest that the benefit of letrozole over clomid depended on the BMI of the participants. For patients with a BMI of less than 30 kg/m2, the cumulative live birth rate was approximately 30% for each group. However, for patients with a BMI over 30 kg/m2, twice as many patients had a live birth in the letrozole group than the clomid group.
There can be medical causes of SI, says West. "The thyroid is always something we check. Birth can put the thyroid out of kilter." Anwen, a woman in her 40s, tried for five years to have a second child. "I had my daughter when I was 30," she says, "which, at the time, seemed very early. I was the first among all our friends to have a baby." She decided to try for a second when her daughter was three. "But a year went by and nothing happened. I went to the GP and he told me not to worry. 'If you've already given birth, there won't be a problem,' he said. But my daughter turned five and I still wasn't pregnant." Eventually, Anwen persuaded her GP to refer her to a fertility consultant who, after some simple investigations, informed her she had polycystic ovarian syndrome. "He said I'd probably had it all my life and that my daughter was an amazing one-off. I had no idea that anything was wrong." She was given a prescription for the fertility drug Clomid; two months later, she conceived her son.
Alana Stewart, who was conceived using donor sperm, began an online forum for donor children called AnonymousUS in 2010. The forum welcomes the viewpoints of anyone involved in the IVF process. Olivia Pratten, a donor-conceived Canadian, sued the province of British Columbia for access to records on her donor father's identity in 2008. "I'm not a treatment, I'm a person, and those records belong to me," Pratten said. In May 2012, a court ruled in Pratten's favour, agreeing that the laws at the time discriminated against donor children and making anonymous sperm and egg donation in British Columbia illegal.
Treatment with Clomid tablets plus IUI improves fertility rates. For unexplained infertility, studies have shown that for women under 35, monthly success rates for Clomid plus insemination are about 10% per cycle. This pregnancy rate holds up for about 3 tries and the success rate is considerably lower after that. More about success rates with IUIs is on the insemination page and on the Clomid for unexplained infertility page. The insemination component boosts fertility more than the Clomid does - but success rates are higher when both are used together.
Success rates vary with the number of embryos transferred. However, transferring more and more embryos at one time does not increase the chance of live birth significantly, but may only increase the risk of a multiple pregnancy, and its associated risks. The impact of the number of embryos that are transferred also varies with the age of the woman.
Upwards of 30% of couples seeking fertility care are labeled with unexplained infertility. Given that over 50% of couples’ infertility struggles are at least partially attributable to the male, understanding the source of male infertility could allow for improved care. The limited set of male tests can only detect the major causes of infertility (i.e., azoospermia) leaving the less obvious factors invisible.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) have been the therapeutic mainstays for those with unexplained infertility. The former involves inserting sperm directly into the uterus, while the latter works by uniting the sperm and the egg cells in a laboratory dish. IVF is expensive, but has a higher success rate. However, some patients continue to struggle and suffer the associated financial burden of repeated cycles.
Fertility tourism is the practice of traveling to another country for fertility treatments. It may be regarded as a form of medical tourism. The main reasons for fertility tourism are legal regulation of the sought procedure in the home country, or lower price. In-vitro fertilization and donor insemination are major procedures involved.
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.
Only 30 percent of patients who receive 100 mg of Clomiphene a day will produce more than three follicles. Patients that produce less than than three follicles have about half the chance of getting pregnant than those that produce greater than three follicles. Patients that receive fertility medications but do not do an insemination have only half the success rates compared to those who do.
Studies show that sperm count and sperm movement decrease as men age, as does sexual function. But there isn't a cutoff age that makes a man too old to father a child. One study found that it took men age 45 or older longer to get a woman pregnant once the couple started trying. If your partner is older, you may want to talk to your doctor about ways to boost your chances.
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.
DNA damage reduces fertility in male sperm, as caused by oxidative DNA damage, smoking, other xenobiotic DNA damaging agents (such as drugs or chemotherapy) or other DNA damaging agents including reactive oxygen species, fever or high testicular temperature. The damaged DNA related to infertility manifests itself by the increased susceptibility to denaturation inducible by heat or acid  or by the presence of double-strand breaks that can be detected by the TUNEL assay.
The treatment options for unexplained infertility are several and the treatment results are promising. Expectant management can be recommended if the woman is under 28-30 years of age and the infertility duration is less than 2-3 years. In vitro fertilization (IVF) has revolutionized the treatment of infertile couples, as well as profoundly increasing the basic understanding of human reproduction. IVF can be used as both a diagnostic and a therapeutic tool in couples with unexplained infertility. The pregnancy rates with IVF are good, at 40% per treatment cycle. In addition, the outcome of pregnancies among women with unexplained infertility is generally comparable to that of spontaneous and other pregnancies using assisted reproductive technologies.
Injectable medication cycle with IUI: If pregnancy doesn't result from ovulation induction with oral medications, the next step is to use injectable medications. These medications stimulate the ovaries to produce two to four eggs; when combined with IUI, you have an increased possibility of conception. Essentially, the sperm is given more targets to hit. You will come into the office for four to eight monitoring appointments to track egg development and cycle timing.
Risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS can happen when women respond too well to fertility drugs and produce too many eggs. About 10 to 20 percent of women who take gonadotropins develop a mild form of OHSS, a condition marked by weight gain and a full, bloated feeling. Some also have shortness of breath, dizziness, pelvic pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you have OHSS, your ovaries swell to several times the normal size and produce fluid that accumulates in your abdominal cavity. Normally this resolves itself with careful monitoring by a physician and bed rest. But in rare cases it's life threatening, and you may have to be hospitalized for more intensive monitoring or treatment.
SART, in conjunction with, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), has published guidelines for the recommended number of embryos to transfer (add to link). These guidelines are based on SART-sponsored research which continually evaluates success rates around the country. This helps to determine the optimal number of embryos to transfer, based on specific patient characteristics, like age and history of prior IVF. Patients may require several cycles of treatment to have a baby. Success rates remain fairly constant over several cycles, but may vary greatly between individuals.
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.
In a lab, your eggs are mixed with sperm cells from your partner or a donor — this is called insemination. The eggs and sperm are stored together in a special container, and fertilization happens. For sperm that have lower motility (don’t swim as well), they may be injected directly into the eggs to promote fertilization. As the cells in the fertilized eggs divide and become embryos, people who work at the lab monitor the progress.
This is less extensively studied. It is not yet known whether the ovarian stimulation and the insemination have independent beneficial effects or whether their beneficial effects are only seen when they are used in combination. Most likely they both independently increase fertility potential, with relatively more fertility benefit coming from the IUI component.
Fertility expert Zita West has noticed this increase at her London clinic. "The main reason," she explains, "is age. Women are having babies later." Exhaustion also plays a part. "The sleeplessness of life with a small child can't be underestimated," she says. "You might still be breastfeeding, you might be sharing a bed with a toddler, you might be holding down a job at the same time. Basically, there's not a lot of sex happening."
IVF: During IVF, medications are usually taken for around 10 days to grow a large number of eggs. Once many eggs have developed, a procedure takes place where the eggs are removed from the ovaries. The eggs are then fertilized outside of the body in a lab. After growing for a few days in the lab, an embryo is transferred back into the woman’s uterus.
If a couple has been actively trying for over a year, it may be time to consider seeing a specialist. One thing we hear time and time again from our Glow Fertility Program partner physicians is that they wish their patients would come in sooner. Seeing a specialist as soon as you suspect you may have a problem trying to conceive can save you both time and money.
Ovarian stem cells: it is thought that women have a finite number of follicles from the very beginning. Nevertheless, scientists have found these stem cells, which may generate new oocytes in postnatal conditions. Apparently there are only 0.014% of them (this could be an explanation of why they were not discovered until now). There is still some controversy about their existence, but if the discoveries are true, this could be a new treatment for 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.