After a year of trying to conceive, couples should consider infertility as a possible reason and seek professional help. Women actively trying to get pregnant may wish to consult a doctor earlier if they are over the age of 40, have irregular or painful periods, have a history of miscarriages, have been diagnosed with pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, or have been treated for cancer.
Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
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By 2017, many centers have adopted embryo cryopreservation as their primary IVF therapy, and perform few or no fresh embryo transfers. The two main reasons for this have been better endometrial receptivity when embryos are transferred in cycles without exposure to ovarian stimulation and also the ability to store the embryos while awaiting the results of pre-implantation genetic testing.
Uterine exam. Your doctor will examine the inside lining of the uterus before you start IVF. This might involve a sonohysterography — in which fluid is injected through the cervix into your uterus — and an ultrasound to create images of your uterine cavity. Or it might include a hysteroscopy — in which a thin, flexible, lighted telescope (hysteroscope) is inserted through your vagina and cervix into your uterus.
Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene) is a medication commonly used for the treatment of women with ovulation disorders as reflected by infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles. Clomid is a pill taken orally for 5 to 7 days, typically on day 3 of a woman’s menstrual cycle to induce ovulation. Clomid works at the level of the brain and pituitary gland and facilitates the release of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). FSH and LH, in turn, stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs and the ovarian hormones estradiol (E2) and progesterone (P4). The initial prescribed dosage of clomid is 50 to 100 mg (one or two tablets) daily at bedtime, or as prescribed by your physician.
Availability of IVF in England is determined by Clinical commissioning groups. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends up to 3 cycles of treatment for women under 40 years old with minimal success conceiving after 2 years of unprotected sex. Cycles will not be continued for women who are older than 40 years old. CCGs in Essex, Bedfordshire and Somerset have reduced funding to one cycle, or none, and it is expected that reductions will become more widespread. Funding may be available in "exceptional circumstances" – for example if a male partner has a transmittable infection or one partner is affected by cancer treatment. According to the campaign group Fertility Fairness at the end of 2014 every CCG in England was funding at least one cycle of IVF". Prices paid by the NHS in England varied between under £3,000 to more than £6,000 in 2014/5. In February 2013, the cost of implementing the NICE guidelines for IVF along with other treatments for infertility was projected to be £236,000 per year per 100,000 members of the population.
The Fallopian tubes are the site for fertilization before the embryo makes its way to the uterine cavity for implantation. If the Fallopian tubes are damaged, fertilization may not occur. If one Fallopian tube is blocked, it may be due to inherent disease involving both Fallopian tubes; even if the other Fallopian tube is open, it may not be able to provide the appropriate nurturing environment for fertilization and early embryo growth to take place.
IVF may be used to overcome female infertility when it is due to problems with the fallopian tubes, making in vivo fertilisation difficult. It can also assist in male infertility, in those cases where there is a defect in sperm quality; in such situations intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used, where a sperm cell is injected directly into the egg cell. This is used when sperm has difficulty penetrating the egg. In these cases the partner's or a donor's sperm may be used. ICSI is also used when sperm numbers are very low. When indicated, the use of ICSI has been found to increase the success rates of IVF.
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.
In IVF, a woman is given more medications to develop lots of eggs. Ideally, they develop around 15 mature eggs. The eggs are removed from the ovaries, fertilized and developed in a lab for a number of days, and subsequently put back into the uterus as an early-stage embryo. While this may sound like a relatively minor difference, it leads to leads to a large number of noteworthy differences.
More doctors are suggesting having just one embryo transferred and then freezing the rest. This is known as elective single embryo transfer (eSET), and it can reduce your risk of a multiple pregnancy. When you get pregnant with just one healthy baby, you reduce your risks for pregnancy complications. Speak to your doctor to find out if elective single embryo transfer is best for you.
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.
Consider your health status. Have you started any medications that might be interfering with conception? What about a change in your health status (a new chronic condition that’s cropped up since your first baby was born, for instance)? Any changes to your health could be putting a dent in your conception plans. Perhaps some simple health modifications — like switching to a more fertility-friendly medication, for instance, or getting your chronic condition under control — could bring you closer to the second baby of your dreams.
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.
Treatment with Clomid tablets plus IUI improves fertility rates. For unexplained infertility, studies have shown that for women under 35, monthly success rates for Clomid plus insemination are about 10% per cycle. This pregnancy rate holds up for about 3 tries and the success rate is considerably lower after that. More about success rates with IUIs is on the insemination page and on the Clomid for unexplained infertility page. The insemination component boosts fertility more than the Clomid does - but success rates are higher when both are used together.
^ 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.