^ Jump up to: a b Broer SL, van Disseldorp J, Broeze KA, Dolleman M, Opmeer BC, Bossuyt P, Eijkemans MJ, Mol BW, Broekmans FJ (2012). "Added value of ovarian reserve testing on patient characteristics in the prediction of ovarian response and ongoing pregnancy: an individual patient data approach". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (1): 26–36. doi:10.1093/humupd/dms041. PMID 23188168.

A review in 2013 came to the result that infants resulting from IVF (with or without ICSI) have a relative risk of birth defects of 1.32 (95% confidence interval 1.24–1.42) compared to naturally conceived infants.[48] In 2008, an analysis of the data of the National Birth Defects Study in the US found that certain birth defects were significantly more common in infants conceived through IVF, notably septal heart defects, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, esophageal atresia, and anorectal atresia; the mechanism of causality is unclear.[49] However, in a population-wide cohort study of 308,974 births (with 6,163 using assisted reproductive technology and following children from birth to age five) researchers found: "The increased risk of birth defects associated with IVF was no longer significant after adjustment for parental factors." [50] Parental factors included known independent risks for birth defects such as maternal age, smoking status, etc. Multivariate correction did not remove the significance of the association of birth defects and ICSI (corrected odds ratio 1.57), although the authors speculate that underlying male infertility factors (which would be associated with the use of ICSI) may contribute to this observation and were not able to correct for these confounders. The authors also found that a history of infertility elevated risk itself in the absence of any treatment (odds ratio 1.29), consistent with a Danish national registry study [51] and "implicates patient factors in this increased risk." The authors of the Danish national registry study speculate: "our results suggest that the reported increased prevalence of congenital malformations seen in singletons born after assisted reproductive technology is partly due to the underlying infertility or its determinants."
Luteal phase abnormalities: The luteal phase is the part of the cycle that follows the release of the egg from the ovary. It may be inadequate in one way and this is called a luteal phase defect. The corpus luteum produces the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is essential for preparing the endometrium to receive the fertilized egg. Several things can go wrong with progesterone production: the rise in output can be too slow, the level can be too low, or the length of time over which it is produced can be too short. Another possibility is a defective endometrium that does not respond properly to the progesterone. Luteal phase defects can be investigated either by a properly timed endometrial biopsy or by monitoring the progesterone output by taking a number of blood samples on different days after ovulation and measuring the progesterone level. 
Secondary infertility is a secret club and one, I've discovered, with permanent membership. I was in a supermarket the other day and ahead of me in the cereal aisle was a woman with a boy of about nine and twin babies in the trolley. As I passed, she turned and looked at us. I saw her clocking my children and their age-gap and she saw I was doing the same with hers. We looked at each other for a moment; she smiled and I smiled back and then we walked on.
The take home message of these studies is that when gonadotropins are given to this patient population at a dose that doesn’t put the patient at significant risk of twins (like the 75 units in the Huang study), they are no better than oral medications (clomid and letrozole) at producing successful pregnancies. This is important because clomid and letrozole are also cheaper to purchase (hundreds vs. thousands of dollars) and easier to administer (oral rather than injectable). For this reason, many clinics have moved away from using gonadotropins in IUI cycles.
Problems with your periods or menstrual cycle is a sign of ovulation problems – and if you aren’t ovulating, you won’t get pregnant. Menstrual problems are the most obvious sign of infertility in women – but they don’t necessarily mean you’re infertile. Most women have some type of problem with their period: light flow, heavy flow, clotting, irregularity caused by stress or weight fluctuations, hormonal changes, etc.

When you know your menstrual cycle, you improve your chances of getting pregnant. The first phase starts with the first day of bleeding during your period. Your body releases hormones, like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), that make the eggs inside your ovaries grow. Between days 2 and 14, those hormones also help thicken the lining of your uterus to get ready for a fertilized egg. This is called the follicular stage.


Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) occurs in 10% of women going through IVF treatment. For most women, symptoms will be mild, and they will recover easily. For a small percentage, OHSS can be more serious and may require hospitalization. Less than 1% of women going through egg retrieval will experience blood clots or kidney failure due to OHSS.

High costs keep IVF out of reach for many developing countries, but research by the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology, in Belgium, claim to have found a much lower cost methodology (about 90% reduction) with similar efficacy, which may be suitable for some fertility treatment.[144] Moreover, the laws of many countries permit IVF for only single women, lesbian couples, and persons participating in surrogacy arrangements.[145] Using PGD gives members of these select demographic groups disproportionate access to a means of creating a child possessing characteristics that they consider "ideal," raising issues of equal opportunity for both the parents'/parent's and the child's generation. Many fertile couples[citation needed] now demand equal access to embryonic screening so that their child can be just as healthy as one created through IVF. Mass use of PGD, especially as a means of population control or in the presence of legal measures related to population or demographic control, can lead to intentional or unintentional demographic effects such as the skewed live-birth sex ratios seen in communist China following implementation of its one-child policy.
That’s about the time frame women between the ages of 35 and 40 should give themselves, before discussing fertility concerns with their doctor. For women under 35, experts recommend trying for about a year—really trying, as in unprotected, well-timed intercourse—before having any testing or treatment; women over 40 may want to consult an obstetrician/gynecologist right away. See your doctor sooner than later if you’ve suffered multiple miscarriages, have a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (a serious complication of some STDs), or experience any other symptoms of infertility. Meanwhile, learn these infertility myths you don’t have to worry about.
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.
Ovarian reserve testing. To determine the quantity and quality of your eggs, your doctor might test the concentration of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol (estrogen) and anti-mullerian hormone in your blood during the first few days of your menstrual cycle. Test results, often used together with an ultrasound of your ovaries, can help predict how your ovaries will respond to fertility medication.

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]


When transferring more than one embryo, the risk of pregnancy and newborn complications also increases.1 Among IVF babies, twins are 12 times more likely than singletons to be delivered prematurely, 16 times more likely to be underweight and 5 times more likely to suffer from respiratory complications. Among IVF mothers, mothers of twins are 2.5 times more likely to have pre-eclampsia, over 8 times more likely to have premature preterm rupture of membranes and 4 times more likely to require a Caesarean section.

The educational health content on What To Expect is reviewed by our medical review board and team of experts to be up-to-date and in line with the latest evidence-based medical information and accepted health guidelines, including the medically reviewed What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff. This educational content is not medical or diagnostic advice. Use of this site is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy. © 2020 Everyday Health, Inc


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. 

Treatment depends on the cause of infertility, but may include counselling, fertility treatments, which include in vitro fertilization. According to ESHRE recommendations, couples with an estimated live birth rate of 40% or higher per year are encouraged to continue aiming for a spontaneous pregnancy.[63] Treatment methods for infertility may be grouped as medical or complementary and alternative treatments. Some methods may be used in concert with other methods. Drugs used for both women and men[64] include clomiphene citrate, human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) analogues, aromatase inhibitors, and metformin.
^ Lasa, JS; Zubiaurre, I; Soifer, LO (2014). "Risk of infertility in patients with celiac disease: a meta-analysis of observational studies". Arq Gastroenterol. 51 (2): 144–50. doi:10.1590/S0004-28032014000200014. PMID 25003268. Undiagnosed celiac disease is a risk factor for infertility. Women seeking medical advice for this particular condition should be screened for celiac disease. Adoption of a gluten-free diet could have a positive impact on fertility in this group of patients.(...)According to our results, non-diagnosed untreated CD constitutes a risk factor significantly associated with infertility in women. When comparing studies that enrolled patients previously diagnosed with CD, this association is not as evident as in the former context. This could be related to the effect that adoption of a gluten-free diet (GFD) may have on this particular health issue.
Endometriosis implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines, and on the surface lining of the pelvic cavity. They also can be found in the vagina, cervix, and bladder. Endometriosis may not produce any symptoms, but when it does the most common symptom is pelvic pain that worsens just prior to menstruation and improves at the end of the menstrual period. Other symptoms of endometriosis include pain during sex, pain with pelvic examinations, cramping or pain during bowel movements or urination, and infertility. Treatment of endometriosis can be with medication or surgery.
As with any medical procedure, there are some risks to keep in mind. When choosing between IUI and IVF, the risk is certainly something to consider. The chances of experiencing either a miscarriage or multiples are concerns many have when deciding to undergo fertility treatments. So let’s take a look at the odds of either of these things occurring, plus a few other risks to be aware of.
Once the semen sample is ready, it'll be put through a special washing process, which separates the sperm from the other stuff that is found in semen. The embryologist will choose the “best-looking sperm," placing about 10,000 sperm in each culture dish with an oocyte. The culture dishes are kept in a special incubator, and after 12 to 24 hours, they are inspected for signs of fertilization.
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.
The average cost of an IVF cycle in the U.S. is $12,400, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. This price will vary depending on where you live, the amount of medications you're required to take, the number of IVF cycles you undergo, and the amount your insurance company will pay toward the procedure. You should thoroughly investigate your insurance company's coverage of IVF and ask for a written statement of your benefits. Although some states have enacted laws requiring insurance companies to cover at least some of the costs of infertility treatment, many states haven't.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is where a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. Its main usage as an expansion of IVF is to overcome male infertility problems, although it may also be used where eggs cannot easily be penetrated by sperm, and occasionally in conjunction with sperm donation. It can be used in teratozoospermia, since once the egg is fertilised abnormal sperm morphology does not appear to influence blastocyst development or blastocyst morphology.[86]
With egg donation and IVF, women who are past their reproductive years, have infertile male partners, have idiopathic female-fertility issues, or have reached menopause can still become pregnant. Adriana Iliescu held the record as the oldest woman to give birth using IVF and a donor egg, when she gave birth in 2004 at the age of 66, a record passed in 2006. After the IVF treatment some couples are able to get pregnant without any fertility treatments.[3] In 2018 it was estimated that eight million children had been born worldwide using IVF and other assisted reproduction techniques.[4]
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.  
Antisperm antibodies (ASA) have been considered as infertility cause in around 10–30% of infertile couples.[23] In both men and women, ASA production are directed against surface antigens on sperm, which can interfere with sperm motility and transport through the female reproductive tract, inhibiting capacitation and acrosome reaction, impaired fertilization, influence on the implantation process, and impaired growth and development of the embryo. The antibodies are classified into different groups: There are IgA, IgG and IgM antibodies. They also differ in the location of the spermatozoon they bind on (head, mid piece, tail). Factors contributing to the formation of antisperm antibodies in women are disturbance of normal immunoregulatory mechanisms, infection, violation of the integrity of the mucous membranes, rape and unprotected oral or anal sex. Risk factors for the formation of antisperm antibodies in men include the breakdown of the blood‑testis barrier, trauma and surgery, orchitis, varicocele, infections, prostatitis, testicular cancer, failure of immunosuppression and unprotected receptive anal or oral sex with men.[23][24]
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.
Previous tests should be carefully reviewed to ensure that the diagnosis is, in fact, "unexplained," and that no test has been omitted or missed. It may sometimes be necessary to repeat certain investigations. For example, if a previous laparoscopy has been done by a single puncture and reported as normal, it may be necessary to repeat the laparoscopy with a double puncture, to look for early endometriosis. 

In the UK, previous NICE guidelines defined infertility as failure to conceive after regular unprotected sexual intercourse for two years in the absence of known reproductive pathology.[11] Updated NICE guidelines do not include a specific definition, but recommend that "A woman of reproductive age who has not conceived after 1 year of unprotected vaginal sexual intercourse, in the absence of any known cause of infertility, should be offered further clinical assessment and investigation along with her partner, with earlier referral to a specialist if the woman is over 36 years of age."[12]
At the same time, in older women, the IVF success rates can vary dramatically, and that’s why it’s so important to focus only on live births. For example, a clinic may have a very high pregnancy rate among older women, but a low live birth rate. Or, the rates may be quite high – 40% or even 50% – but only after four or five rounds. That makes a very big difference, especially in the overall cost of treatment!
Oral drugs used to stimulate ovulation include clomiphene citrate and aromatase inhibitors. While taking these drugs, you will be monitored to see if and when ovulation occurs. This can be done by tracking your menstrual cycle or with an ovulation-predictor kit (an at-home urine test). You may be asked to visit your doctor for a blood test or ultrasound exam.
The cost of IVF rather reflects the costliness of the underlying healthcare system than the regulatory or funding environment,[168] and ranges, on average for a standard IVF cycle and in 2006 United States dollars, between $12,500 in the United States to $4,000 in Japan.[168] In Ireland, IVF costs around €4,000, with fertility drugs, if required, costing up to €3,000.[169] The cost per live birth is highest in the United States ($41,000[168]) and United Kingdom ($40,000[168]) and lowest in Scandinavia and Japan (both around $24,500[168]).
One of the worst parts of infertility – or the fear of being infertile – is friends and family members getting pregnant accidentally! “Today, my child-hating friend who vowed never to have kids no matter what, announced that she’s pregnant,” says Charity. “I’ve had three IVF (in vitro fertilization) cycles, spent $90,000 in fertility treatments, and still can’t conceive a baby. WTF?”
Sunni Muslim nations generally allow IVF between married couples when conducted with their own respective sperm and eggs, but not with donor eggs from other couples. But Iran, which is Shi'a Muslim, has a more complex scheme. Iran bans sperm donation but allows donation of both fertilised and unfertilised eggs. Fertilised eggs are donated from married couples to other married couples, while unfertilised eggs are donated in the context of mut'ah or temporary marriage to the father.[176]
Dr. Gorka Barrenetxea provides us with a practical case of secondary infertility that occurs more commonly than one may think. A couple, throughout their lifetime, can have children with 20, 25, 30 and 35 years, but when they decide to have a second or third child, they may encounter trouble conceiving due to the passage of time itself, Dr. Barrenetxea states.
Luteal support is the administration of medication, generally progesterone, progestins, hCG, or GnRH agonists, and often accompanied by estradiol, to increase the success rate of implantation and early embryogenesis, thereby complementing and/or supporting the function of the corpus luteum. A Cochrane review found that hCG or progesterone given during the luteal phase may be associated with higher rates of live birth or ongoing pregnancy, but that the evidence is not conclusive.[79] Co-treatment with GnRH agonists appears to improve outcomes,[79] by a live birth rate RD of +16% (95% confidence interval +10 to +22%).[80] On the other hand, growth hormone or aspirin as adjunctive medication in IVF have no evidence of overall benefit.[30]

In 2006, Canadian clinics reported an average pregnancy rate of 35%.[11] A French study estimated that 66% of patients starting IVF treatment finally succeed in having a child (40% during the IVF treatment at the centre and 26% after IVF discontinuation). Achievement of having a child after IVF discontinuation was mainly due to adoption (46%) or spontaneous pregnancy (42%).[14]
Statistically, the biggest decline in live births happens between the ages of 40 and 42+. In other words, a woman who has just turned 40 has a much higher chance of conceiving and delivering a baby than a woman who has just turned 42. Of course, these numbers and trends concern women using their own eggs. With donor eggs, consider the age of the woman at the time the eggs were harvested and use that age.
Fertility was found to be a significant factor in a man's perception of his masculinity, driving many to keep the treatment a secret.[139] In cases where the men did share that he and his partner were undergoing IVF, they reported to have been teased, mainly by other men, although some viewed this as an affirmation of support and friendship. For others, this led to feeling socially isolated.[140] In comparison with women, men showed less deterioration in mental health in the years following a failed treatment.[141] However many men did feel guilt, disappointment and inadequacy, stating that they were simply trying to provide an 'emotional rock' for their partners.[140]

Women are born with about 1 million to 2 million eggs but release only 300 to 400 through ovulation during their lifetimes. Usually, you release just one each month. The egg travels along one of the two fallopian tubes that connect your ovaries to your uterus. If the timing is right, sperm may fertilize it on its way to the uterus. If fertilization doesn't happen within 24 hours of the egg leaving the ovary, the egg dissolves. Sperm can live for about 3 to 5 days, so knowing when you are ovulating can help you and your partner plan sex for when you're most likely to conceive.


Intercourse must take place frequently, particularly before and around the time of ovulation, and the couple must have been trying to conceive for at least one year (6 months if the woman is over 35 years old). Using these criteria, about 10-20% of all infertile couples have unexplained infertility. However, the percentage of couples classified as having unexplained infertility will depend upon the thoroughness of testing and the sophistication of medical technology. 
Intercourse must take place frequently, particularly before and around the time of ovulation, and the couple must have been trying to conceive for at least one year (6 months if the woman is over 35 years old). Using these criteria, about 10-20% of all infertile couples have unexplained infertility. However, the percentage of couples classified as having unexplained infertility will depend upon the thoroughness of testing and the sophistication of medical technology. 
^ Baker VL, Luke B, Brown MB, Alvero R, Frattarelli JL, Usadi R, et al. (September 2010). "Multivariate analysis of factors affecting probability of pregnancy and live birth with in vitro fertilization: an analysis of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcomes Reporting System". Fertility and Sterility. 94 (4): 1410–6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.07.986. PMID 19740463.
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