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.
In the United States, women seeking to be an embryo recipient undergo infectious disease screening required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and reproductive tests to determine the best placement location and cycle timing before the actual Embryo Transfer occurs. The amount of screening the embryo has already undergone is largely dependent on the genetic parents' own IVF clinic and process. The embryo recipient may elect to have her own embryologist conduct further testing.
Unfortunately, a couple cannot look at the TMC from a semen analysis and know precisely where they fit into this rubrik. That is because the TMCs recorded above were measured after the man already had his sperm washed for IUI. A sperm wash can lower TMCs by roughly 30% and a credible rule of thumb for a general estimate would be to take the “pre-wash” TMC from a semen analysis, subtract a third, then presume that will be the “post-wash” TMC and apply it to the above charts.
Deciding whether to undergo in vitro fertilization, and how to try if the first attempt is unsuccessful, is an incredibly complicated decision. The financial, physical, and emotional toll of this process can be difficult. Speak with your doctor extensively to determine what your best options are and if in vitro fertilization is the right path for you and your family. Seek a support group or counselor to help you and your partner through this process.
The main durations of embryo culture are until cleavage stage (day two to four after co-incubation) or the blastocyst stage (day five or six after co-incubation). Embryo culture until the blastocyst stage confers a significant increase in live birth rate per embryo transfer, but also confers a decreased number of embryos available for transfer and embryo cryopreservation, so the cumulative clinical pregnancy rates are increased with cleavage stage transfer. Transfer day two instead of day three after fertilisation has no differences in live birth rate. There are significantly higher odds of preterm birth (odds ratio 1.3) and congenital anomalies (odds ratio 1.3) among births having from embryos cultured until the blastocyst stage compared with cleavage stage.
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.
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.
Women who switch from IUI to IVF sooner or begin with IVF get pregnant quicker than those who stick or start with IUI. One study found that undergoing immediate IVF resulted in superior pregnancy rates with fewer treatment cycles compared to those who did two rounds of IUI before switching to IVF. While the immediate IVF group got pregnant quicker, the overall success after up to 6 IVF cycles was similar.
^ 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.
The severity or complexity of infertility for you and your partner as a whole is also critical. Generally, patients are characterized as “subfertile” if there is only one infertility factor such as mild endometriosis, which can be improved through surgeries like laparoscopy. However, if both partners contribute infertility factors or one partner has multiple infertility factors, the chance of IVF success is significantly decreased.
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. Co-treatment with GnRH agonists appears to improve outcomes, by a live birth rate RD of +16% (95% confidence interval +10 to +22%). On the other hand, growth hormone or aspirin as adjunctive medication in IVF have no evidence of overall benefit.
If you fit one of these profiles, your fertility team may agree that it makes sense to attempt IUI before considering IVF. Before you begin IUI, it’s good to have a conversation with your partner and doctor about how many cycles you want to attempt. Many people place a limit of three failed IUI cycles, but others may try up to six before moving on.
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.
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.
ART techniques generally start with stimulating the ovaries to increase egg production. After stimulation, the physician surgically extracts one or more eggs from the ovary, and unites them with sperm in a laboratory setting, with the intent of producing one or more embryos. Fertilization takes place outside the body, and the fertilized egg is reinserted into the woman's reproductive tract, in a procedure called embryo transfer.
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.