If you’re worried that you might be an infertile woman, don’t lose your hope. Be encouraged, and know that many women get pregnant even after being diagnosed with infertility. Know that there is a reason for what you’re going through. I trust God and I rely on His power, peace, and joy every day. I know there is a reason why we struggled with infertility – and perhaps the reason is so I could write about fertility and encourage couples like you to keep the faith.
Sometimes problems getting pregnant for a second or subsequent time are related to a complication that occurred in a prior pregnancy or prior to delivery (damage to the uterus, for instance). But most often, secondary infertility is caused by the same factors that would cause primary infertility — issues like advanced age, obesity, ovulation problems and so on.
One, two or three IVF treatments are government subsidised for women who are younger than 40 and have no children. The rules for how many treatments are subsidised, and the upper age limit for the women, vary between different county councils. Single women are treated, and embryo adoption is allowed. There are also private clinics that offer the treatment for a fee.
Certain kinds of IVF, in particular ICSI (first applied in 1991) and blastocyst transfer (first applied in 1984) have been shown to lead to distortions in the sex ratio at birth. ICSI leads to slightly more female births (51.3% female) while blastocyst transfer leads to significantly more boys (56.1% male) being born. Standard IVF done at the second or third day leads to a normal sex ratio.
The goal of this treatment is to increase the number of sperm that reach the Fallopian tube and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization. IUI provides the sperm an advantage by giving it a head start, but still requires the sperm to reach and fertilize the egg on its own. Depending on your fertility diagnosis, IUI can be coordinated with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
Success rates for IVF depend on a number of factors, including the reason for infertility, where you're having the procedure done, and your age. The CDC compiles national statistics for all assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures performed in the U.S., including IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT, although IVF is by far the most common; it accounts for 99% of the procedures. The most recent report from 2016 found:
Secondary infertility is similar to other types of infertility and shares many of the same signs. However, in secondary infertility you’re unable to conceive or carry a baby to full-term after having a previous successful pregnancy. Infertility can be caused by either the man or woman. Treatment options can include medications to induce ovulation, in vitro fertilization (IVF) or surgery.
Intrauterine insemination is the process whereby a clinician will place a concentrated specimen of sperm in your uterus. For this procedure, he or she will insert a speculum into your vagina in order to better visualize your cervix. He or she will then pass a soft, thin catheter through the cervix opening and into the uterus. The clinician will introduce the washed sperm into the uterus through this catheter. The procedure is done in our office and takes 1 to 2 minutes. It is not painful and does not require anesthesia. You can return to normal daily activities immediately after an IUI.
The best study in the field enrolled 750 women to receive clomid or letrozole, followed them for 5 courses of therapy and revealed that the group receiving letrozole had higher live birth rates and fewer multiple gestations. The data is of exceptional quality, and there’s no reason to believe the conclusion doesn’t also apply to the choice of drugs if these patients proceeded on to IUI.
If a man and woman 35 or younger have had unprotected sex for at least 12 months (or six months if older than 35) without getting pregnant, they should suspect secondary infertility. This especially applies to women older than 30 who have experienced pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods, irregular menstrual cycles or miscarriages, and to men with low sperm counts.
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.
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.