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.
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.
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.
Progesterone elevation on the day of induction of final maturation is associated with lower pregnancy rates in IVF cycles in women undergoing ovarian stimulation using GnRH analogues and gonadotrophins. At this time, compared to a progesterone level below 0.8 ng/ml, a level between 0.8 and 1.1 ng/ml confers an odds ratio of pregnancy of approximately 0.8, and a level between 1.2 and 3.0 ng/ml confers an odds ratio of pregnancy of between 0.6 and 0.7. On the other hand, progesterone elevation does not seem to confer a decreased chance of pregnancy in frozen–thawed cycles and cycles with egg donation.
Advanced technologies add to your IVF bill but may also make a huge difference to your success rate. Pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) can improve implantation rate by selectively transferring genetically normal embryos. For couples with male factor infertility, Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can help deliver a sperm directly into the egg. Nevertheless, ICSI only improves success rate in couples with severe male infertility.
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.
Egg retrieval and sperm collection – Egg retrieval happens 35 hours after the trigger shot. It is done under light anesthesia and takes just 5-10 minutes. During retrieval, a tiny hollow needle is pierced through the vaginal wall towards an ovary. At this point, the fluid that contains the developed eggs is drained from the follicles and immediately taken to the IVF laboratory, where they will be fertilized and developed. Sperm is collected the same day as the procedure by ejaculation into a sterile specimen container, frozen ahead of time, via a donor, or through more advanced sperm retrieval procedures. Next, the sperm is washed, placed in a solution similar to the fallopian tubes, and used for fertilization.
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.
The eggs are retrieved in a simple process which takes about 15-20 minutes and is carried out in the doctor’s office under light sedation. The ovaries are accessed through the vaginal cavity and each of the follicles containing an egg is punctured. The fluid containing the eggs is aspirated through a very fine needle. The patient rests for a brief time and can then go home with an escort. Usually, the patient feels back to normal the day after.
^ 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.
From the patient experience perspective, IVF is a more time-consuming process overall, although the length of time before pregnancy is achieved varies greatly according to how many cycles are necessary. However, because IVF is a more direct and effective route to pregnancy than IUI, it is often a less time-consuming process. For example, a patient could spend many months trying to succeed at IUI, only to succeed during the first cycle of IVF. While many patients opt for IUI at the start of their fertility journey because it is less invasive and more affordable, success rates for IVF are considerably higher.
A recent large population-based study collected data from almost 5000 European patients. According to preliminary results presented at the 2019 European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, there is no benefit from ICSI in non-male factor cases. Importantly, the study reported no benefit of using ICSI regardless of how many eggs are retrieved after ovarian stimulation. Therefore, having a low oocyte yield should not be a reason for choosing ICSI over IVF.
In the US, up to 20% of infertile couples have unexplained infertility. In these cases abnormalities are likely to be present but not detected by current methods. Possible problems could be that the egg is not released at the optimum time for fertilization, that it may not enter the fallopian tube, sperm may not be able to reach the egg, fertilization may fail to occur, transport of the zygote may be disturbed, or implantation fails. It is increasingly recognized that egg quality is of critical importance and women of advanced maternal age have eggs of reduced capacity for normal and successful fertilization. Also, polymorphisms in folate pathway genes could be one reason for fertility complications in some women with unexplained infertility. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic modifications in sperm may be partially responsible.
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.
Mild IVF is a method where a small dose of ovarian stimulating drugs are used for a short duration during a woman's natural cycle aimed at producing 2–7 eggs and creating healthy embryos. This method appears to be an advance in the field to reduce complications and side-effects for women and it is aimed at quality, and not quantity of eggs and embryos. One study comparing a mild treatment (mild ovarian stimulation with GnRH antagonist co-treatment combined with single embryo transfer) to a standard treatment (stimulation with a GnRH agonist long-protocol and transfer of two embryos) came to the result that the proportions of cumulative pregnancies that resulted in term live birth after 1 year were 43.4% with mild treatment and 44.7% with standard treatment. Mild IVF can be cheaper than conventional IVF and with a significantly reduced risk of multiple gestation and OHSS.
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.
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.