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.
Problems in the quantity or quality of eggs: Women are born with a limited supply of eggs and are unable to create new eggs after birth. As women approach their 40s and beyond, the numbers of eggs left in their ovaries decrease, and the remaining eggs have a higher chance of having chromosomal problems. For women where age isn’t a concern, there are other reasons that they might have a low number of good quality eggs, including autoimmune or genetic conditions and prior surgery or radiation.
Vibratory stimulation or electric ejaculation: Vibratory stimulation is a painless and non-sedative procedure adapted to collect the sperms of men with spinal cord injuries who cannot experience natural ejaculation. Electric ejaculation is used for men who do not respond to vibratory stimulation process. The collected sperm is then transferred to the woman’s uterus for fertilization.
Some research has found that IVF may raise the risk of some very rare birth defects, but the risk is still relatively low. Research has also found that the use of ICSI with IVF, in certain cases of male infertility, may increase the risk of infertility and some sexual birth defects for male children. This risk, however, is very low (less than 1%).
Secondary infertility can be traced to either partner or both partners. About one-third of cases originate in women and about one-third originate in men. In the remaining one-third, the cause is due to a combination of factors or isn’t known. Increased age, complications from a prior pregnancy or surgery, increased weight, medications, sexually transmitted diseases, impaired sperm production, alcohol abuse, and smoking are all examples of secondary infertility in women and men.
Upwards of 30% of couples seeking fertility care are labeled with unexplained infertility. Given that over 50% of couples’ infertility struggles are at least partially attributable to the male, understanding the source of male infertility could allow for improved care. The limited set of male tests can only detect the major causes of infertility (i.e., azoospermia) leaving the less obvious factors invisible.
In a lab, your eggs are mixed with sperm cells from your partner or a donor — this is called insemination. The eggs and sperm are stored together in a special container, and fertilization happens. For sperm that have lower motility (don’t swim as well), they may be injected directly into the eggs to promote fertilization. As the cells in the fertilized eggs divide and become embryos, people who work at the lab monitor the progress.
Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive a child or carry a pregnancy to full term after previously giving birth. To classify as secondary infertility, the previous birth must have occurred without help from fertility medications or treatments, like in vitro fertilization. Secondary infertility typically is diagnosed after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months to a year. A related condition is recurrent pregnancy loss where patients and couples are able to conceive but are unable to carry to term.
If you're using your partner's sperm, he'll provide a semen sample at your doctor's office or a clinic through masturbation the morning of egg retrieval. Other methods, such as testicular aspiration — the use of a needle or surgical procedure to extract sperm directly from the testicle — are sometimes required. Donor sperm also can be used. Sperm are separated from the semen fluid in the lab.
A surge in LH triggers your ovaries to release an egg. The surge usually happens 36 hours before the egg is released. Ovulation kits check LH levels in your urine to help you pinpoint the day of ovulation. These kits, which you can buy at the drugstore, are convenient and highly accurate. You may want to test 1-2 days before you expect the surge so you can note the rise in LH.
When the ovarian follicles have reached a certain degree of development, induction of final oocyte maturation is performed, generally by an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Commonly, this is known as the "trigger shot." hCG acts as an analogue of luteinising hormone, and ovulation would occur between 38 and 40 hours after a single HCG injection, but the egg retrieval is performed at a time usually between 34 and 36 hours after hCG injection, that is, just prior to when the follicles would rupture. This avails for scheduling the egg retrieval procedure at a time where the eggs are fully mature. HCG injection confers a risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Using a GnRH agonist instead of hCG eliminates most of the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, but with a reduced delivery rate if the embryos are transferred fresh. For this reason, many centers will freeze all oocytes or embryos following agonist trigger.
Infertility is, in all its forms, a most private, hidden anguish. Nobody wants to discuss the finer points of their reproductive system in public. And the desire to have a child can, if thwarted, be so overwhelming that just a glimpse from a car window of someone with a BabyBjorn can be enough to produce such a flood of tears that you have to pull over. How can you possibly articulate that level of pain to the casual inquirer?
Our team here at the Center for Human Reproduction has recently developed an infographic explaining one of the most common causes of female infertility: unexplained infertility. This diagnosis is given to 30% of infertility cases and yet, we believe it really is a non-diagnosis. In our clinical experience, with proper testing, up to 90% of unexplained infertility diagnoses can be attributed to treatable causes.
It is extremely difficult for those with unexplained infertility to know when to stop looking for a cause, to say “enough is enough.” You may feel you are entering a state of limbo. You may feel stuck unable to grieve and get on with other options because you hang on to those slender threads of hope that the cause of your infertility will be revealed in the next test or treatment. Your sadness may intensify as time passes and you find no medical or emotional resolution. Consider finding a Support Group or Mental Health Professional in your area.
Take a look at your lifestyle. Have any of your habits changed since you conceived baby number one? For instance, is your diet still on track, or is there room for improvement? Getting your eating plan up to baby-making speed may help you close in faster on conception. Has your caffeine consumption gone up now that you’re a mom? That’s understandable, but too much caffeine isn’t great for fertility. Has your smoking habit returned? If yes, it’s time to kick butt, since smoking ages your eggs and decreases fertility. Are you getting way too little sleep? That may be likely, especially if your first child is keeping you up at night, but skimping on sleep can mess with your hormones — and possibly your fertility. If any new unhealthy habit has slipped into your lifestyle, now’s a great time to put the brakes on it. And it’s not just about your habits. Is your partner kicking back one too many beers each night? That could be affecting his sperm quality. Ditto for smoking or an unhealthy diet. If your partner’s lifestyle needs a little fine-tuning, make efforts to get his back on track, too.
IVF has many steps, and it takes several months to complete the whole process. It sometimes works on the first try, but many people need more than 1 round of IVF to get pregnant. IVF definitely increases your chances of pregnancy if you’re having fertility problems, but there’s no guarantee — everyone’s body is different and IVF won’t work for everyone.
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.
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.
Embryo donation is the least expensive of the donor options. It's often cheaper than a regular IVF cycle. An embryo donor cycle costs anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000. This is assuming the embryo has already been created. (As opposed to choosing an egg donor and sperm donor and having the embryo created specifically for your cycle, which would be extremely expensive.)
While ICSI is a more invasive procedure, some have suggested it may help by reducing the risk of failed fertilisation. However, it's emerging that IVF is probably the preferred treatment, at least in the first cycle, in "unexplained" infertility. IVF allows for healthy competition between sperm, is less expensive, avoids trauma to the egg and may produce more embryos, with better pregnancy and live birth rates
Very slight elements of risk are associated with any medical intervention but for IVF the most notable risk in the past has been multiple births. The impact of multiple births on birth weight, premature delivery, and post-natal complications is well known. This is largely due to the practice over the past 30 years of transferring two or more embryos during IVF. Thanks to PGT-A testing and Single Embryo Transfer (SET), however, doctors can now feel confident about transferring just one normal embryo. At RMA, we have established SET as the standard of care going forward. With SET, the risk of multiple births is drastically reduced.