From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect Before You’re Expecting. Health information on this site is based on peer-reviewed medical journals and highly respected health organizations and institutions including ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists), CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), as well as the What to Expect books by Heidi Murkoff.
^ 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.
Gene mutations in men and obscure viruses in women can cause infertility. Here’s a basic list of the most commonly known reasons men and women can’t get pregnant, plus four research studies that describe lesser known causes of male and female fertility problems. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year,… Read More »Causes of Infertility for Men and Women Who Can’t Get Pregnant
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.
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.
Anger, sadness, and anxiety are common among parents struggling to expand their family. "Having a child already doesn't make going through infertility any easier," says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, in Waltham, Massachusetts, and author of Conquering Infertility. Meeting with a mental-health professional or seeking out blogs and online groups for secondary infertility can help. The website of the National Infertility Association, resolve.org, is a good place to start.
One of the biggest challenges is balancing enjoying the child you have with wondering if you'll ever get the larger family you want. "I watched my daughter take her first steps and thought, 'Maybe I'll never have this again,'"‰'' Bozinovich says. (Her problem was never pinpointed, but, happily, she went on to have two more children.) That is tough, the experts agree. "Worrying about what's happening next robs you of the pleasure of the moment," says Dr. Davidson. "It's not easy, but counseling and talking yourself through the rough moments can help you say, 'I'm doing the best I can, and meanwhile I'm living my life.'"‰"
Fertility preservation for cancer or other health conditions. If you're about to start cancer treatment — such as radiation or chemotherapy — that could harm your fertility, IVF for fertility preservation may be an option. Women can have eggs harvested from their ovaries and frozen in an unfertilized state for later use. Or the eggs can be fertilized and frozen as embryos for future use.
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.
4. IVF or In-Vitro Fertilization - IVF means eggs are collected and fertilized outside the body, in a laboratory. This is followed by transferring the embryos into the uterus. This advanced technology has resulted in many successful pregnancies in women who had lost hope. During IVF - In-Vitro Fertilization, women can choose to freeze their healthy eggs for future use.
Impaired sperm production or function. Below-average sperm concentration, weak movement of sperm (poor mobility), or abnormalities in sperm size and shape can make it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg. If semen abnormalities are found, your partner might need to see a specialist to determine if there are correctable problems or underlying health concerns.
Step on the scale. Have you put on some extra pounds since your last baby was on board? Or maybe you’ve lost a lot of weight (because after all, who has time to eat when you’re running after a little one)? Your weight can impact your fertility, so getting as close as possible to a healthy BMI can also help get you closer to that second pregnancy you’re hoping for.
While I’m not on the list to receive a Nobel Prize for mathematics any time soon, I do have enough understanding of how probabilities work to know that roulette isn’t a very viable long term career choice. Figuring that if I could make this costly error in analysis, there must be at least a few others out there that have, or will, make the same mistake as me…
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.
Those fearful of conceiving with multiples should strongly consider IVF and only transferring one embryo at a time. In these circumstances, just 1% of pregnancies lead to twins, and triplets are even more rare. Alternatively, 8 - 30% of medicated IUI pregnancies lead to twins. Finally, the least preferable circumstance is do to IVF with multiple embryo transfer, where in women under 38 years of age, 30% of pregnancies culminate in a multiple birth.
A genetic disorder. If you or your partner is at risk of passing on a genetic disorder to your child, you may be candidates for preimplantation genetic testing — a procedure that involves IVF. After the eggs are harvested and fertilized, they're screened for certain genetic problems, although not all genetic problems can be found. Embryos that don't contain identified problems can be transferred to the uterus.
This information is designed as an educational aid to patients and sets forth current information and opinions related to women’s health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care, nor does it comprise all proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for a treating clinician’s independent professional judgment. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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.
In 2006, Canadian clinics reported an average pregnancy rate of 35%. 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%).
For many years, intrauterine insemination (IUI) was felt to be the best first choice of treatment in patients who have unexplained infertility or mild problems with the fallopian tubes or sperm. Arizona Reproductive Medicine (ARMS) has made significant advances in the cost effectiveness of in vitro fertilization (IVF) through higher IVF success rates and innovations in treatment medications and efficiency. IVF now far exceeds IUI as the best first choice of treatment for all age groups.
In order for pregnancy to happen, sperm has to meet the egg. This normally takes place at the end of the fallopian tube, and this is called fertilization. There are a number of obstacles that can prevent this from happening, and the process itself even in healthy young fertile women is very complex- hence the low pregnancy rate each month. Obstacles such as cycle timing, low sperm count, poor sperm motility, blocked fallopian tubes, or endometriosis must be overcome to achieve a pregnancy. Timing is often the most common obstacle to conception. What does it mean for you when common causes of infertility are ruled out and you’re told you have unexplained infertility? It should mean a time of hope.
4. Significant Hair Growth (or Hair Loss): Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes small cysts to form on the outside of the ovaries, and it also causes the body to produce an excess of male hormones. If you notice hair growing in unusual places like your face, arms, chest or back, this could be a warning sign. On the flip side, hair loss or thinning could be a sign of other infertility related conditions like thyroid issues, anemia or autoimmune disorders.
For healthy couples in their 20s or early 30s, the chance that a woman will get pregnant is about 25 to 30 percent in any single menstrual cycle. This percentage starts to decline in a woman’s early 30s. By age 40, a woman’s chance of getting pregnant drops to less than 10 percent per menstrual cycle. A man’s fertility also declines with age, but not as predictably.
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.
Many people have never heard the term "secondary infertility"; fewer understand it. I discovered it a year into my struggle to conceive a second child and fell on it, amazed. What I was undergoing had a name! I wrote it down and immediately felt better, as if the phrase exuded a talismanic power that might protect me from the likes of my neighbour.
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.
PCOS: Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is an ovarian issue that can cause irregular menstrual cycles and make it difficult for women to ovulate — a crucial part of the conception and pregnancy process. Women with PCOS do not release eggs regularly, and their ovaries often have many small cysts within. IVF is a strong option for women with PCOS, since it can help their bodies ovulate to achieve pregnancy.
If a man and woman 35 or younger have had unprotected sex for at least 12 months (or six months if older than 35) without getting pregnant, they should suspect secondary infertility. This especially applies to women older than 30 who have experienced pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods, irregular menstrual cycles or miscarriages, and to men with low sperm counts.
Post transfer – You’ll likely take progesterone and estrogen to improve implantation and pregnancy rates. If the transfer is successful, a blood pregnancy test will be positive in 10-14 days. From there, ultrasounds are used to ensure the implantation site as well as check for a heartbeat. The good news is that once a heartbeat is detected, the pregnancy has a 90-95% probability of the pregnancy resulting in a live birth.