The consequences of infertility are manifold and can include societal repercussions and personal suffering. Advances in assisted reproductive technologies, such as IVF, can offer hope to many couples where treatment is available, although barriers exist in terms of medical coverage and affordability. The medicalization of infertility has unwittingly led to a disregard for the emotional responses that couples experience, which include distress, loss of control, stigmatization, and a disruption in the developmental trajectory of adulthood. One of the main challenges in assessing the distress levels in women with infertility is the accuracy of self-report measures. It is possible that women “fake good” in order to appear mentally healthier than they are. It is also possible that women feel a sense of hopefulness/increased optimism prior to initiating infertility treatment, which is when most assessments of distress are collected. Some early studies concluded that infertile women did not report any significant differences in symptoms of anxiety and depression than fertile women. The further into treatment a patient goes, the more often they display symptoms of depression and anxiety. Patients with one treatment failure had significantly higher levels of anxiety, and patients with two failures experienced more depression when compared with those without a history of treatment. However, it has also been shown that the more depressed the infertile woman, the less likely she is to start infertility treatment and the more likely she is to drop out after only one cycle. Researchers have also shown that despite a good prognosis and having the finances available to pay for treatment, discontinuation is most often due to psychological reasons.
Cytoplasmic transfer is where the cytoplasm from a donor egg is injected into an egg with compromised mitochondria. The resulting egg is then fertilised with sperm and implanted in a womb, usually that of the woman who provided the recipient egg and nuclear DNA. Cytoplasmic transfer was created to aid women who experience infertility due to deficient or damaged mitochondria, contained within an egg's cytoplasm.
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.
The number to be transferred depends on the number available, the age of the woman and other health and diagnostic factors. In countries such as Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, a maximum of two embryos are transferred except in unusual circumstances. In the UK and according to HFEA regulations, a woman over 40 may have up to three embryos transferred, whereas in the US, there is no legal limit on the number of embryos which may be transferred, although medical associations have provided practice guidelines. Most clinics and country regulatory bodies seek to minimise the risk of multiple pregnancy, as it is not uncommon for multiple embryos to implant if multiple embryos are transferred. Embryos are transferred to the patient's uterus through a thin, plastic catheter, which goes through her vagina and cervix. Several embryos may be passed into the uterus to improve chances of implantation and pregnancy.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process of fertilisation where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro ("in glass"). The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman's ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a liquid in a laboratory. After the fertilised egg (zygote) undergoes embryo culture for 2–6 days, it is implanted in the same or another woman's uterus, with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.
Epigenetic testing may allow patients to forgo the cost of multiple rounds of IVF by predicting whether embryos will fail. Equipped with this information, couples can have their IVF cycles optimized to account for embryonic versus fertilization issues. This represents a significant leap for the medical community given that 36% of couples struggling with unexplained infertility are currently over-treated.
Treating secondary infertility, like primary infertility, will depend largely on any underlying medical conditions. Through the Couples Clinic at UW Health's Generations Fertility Care, both members of the couple undergo a routine evaluation. Since infertility is not simply a woman's problem, evaluating both members ensures the most effective treatments can be recommended.
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.
Additionally, couples may turn to assisted reproductive technology, the most common of which is in vitro fertilization (IVF). Other techniques may include special injections or using a donor's eggs or sperm. Complications can sometimes occur, the most common being bleeding or infection; ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries become swollen and painful; and multiple pregnancies.
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.
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.
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.
The cost of an IUI is almost certainly less on a per cycle basis, but because IVF has much higher success rates and IUI is a poor option for some, the higher per cycle cost of IVF can actually be more affordable in the long run – in terms of the cost to bring home a baby. Because most successful IUIs happen in the first three or four-cycle, it eventually becomes very expensive to bring home a baby with an IUI.
Gathering the eggs. Your doctor gives you an anesthetic and inserts an ultrasound probe through your vagina to look at your ovaries and identify the follicles. A thin needle is then inserted through the vaginal wall to remove the eggs from the follicles. Eight to 15 eggs are usually retrieved. You may have some cramping and spotting for a few days afterward, but most women feel better in a day or two.
Fertilization. An embryologist (a scientist who specializes in eggs, sperm, and embryos) will examine your eggs before combining them with your partner's sperm and incubating them overnight. Fertilization usually happens during this time, but eggs that aren't normal may not be fertilized. (If sperm quality is poor, or if fertilization was unsuccessful during previous IVF cycles, your doctor may recommend using a technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). With ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into each mature egg.)
For five to six days following fertilization, the developing embryos are cultured in the laboratory until the blastocyst stage of development has been reached. This represents growth of about 200 cells. We at RMA culture embryos exclusively to the blastocyst stage, because published data demonstrates that extended embryo culture results in improved implantation rates and pregnancy outcomes. This means we will never do an embryo biopsy – or an embryo transfer – at three days, or anything less than the blastocyst stage.
Spend quality time with your child. In the midst of your infertility problems, you may feel especially upset about shifting your focus from the child you already have to the child you’re longing to have in the future. You may even feel guilty about your inability to give your little one a sibling or about the sadness you are sure is spilling over into her life. The best thing you can do for your child in this situation is to keep life as normal as possible, and ideally, find some quality time to be together. Whether it’s a chat about her day before you tuck her into bed or an afternoon romp in the park, those rituals will go a long way toward keeping your tot’s world stable and happy — even if you sometimes feel your world is spinning out of control. (You might find that focusing on your child lets you live in the moment — at least for a little while — which can help you cope with secondary infertility.) If you’re in a particularly bad place and fear that you may have a hard time handling your true emotions in front of your child (say, your pregnancy test just came up negative for the zillionth time in a row), see if you can arrange to send her to a friend’s house, or enlist your partner or mother-in-law to take over for a bit. Allowing yourself the time to compose yourself can make it much easier to face your little pride and joy with a smile.
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Risk of ectopic pregnancy. Women who have difficulty getting pregnant have an increased risk for ectopic pregnancy, regardless of how they conceive. And all assisted reproductive technology treatments, including IVF, also make an ectopic pregnancy more likely. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants in a fallopian tube or the abdominal cavity rather than in the uterus. It's treated with the medication methotrexate or by surgically removing the embryo to prevent it from severely injuring the mother by continuing to grow.
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.