In humans, infertility is the inability to become pregnant after one year of intercourse without contraception involving a male and female partner. There are many causes of infertility, including some that medical intervention can treat. Estimates from 1997 suggest that worldwide about five percent of all heterosexual couples have an unresolved problem with infertility. Many more couples, however, experience involuntary childlessness for at least one year: estimates range from 12% to 28%. Male infertility is responsible for 20–30% of infertility cases, while 20–35% are due to female infertility, and 25–40% are due to combined problems in both parts. In 10–20% of cases, no cause is found. The most common cause of female infertility is ovulatory problems, which generally manifest themselves by sparse or absent menstrual periods. Male infertility is most commonly due to deficiencies in the semen, and semen quality is used as a surrogate measure of male fecundity.
Only 30 percent of patients who receive 100 mg of Clomiphene a day will produce more than three follicles. Patients that produce less than than three follicles have about half the chance of getting pregnant than those that produce greater than three follicles. Patients that receive fertility medications but do not do an insemination have only half the success rates compared to those who do.
There are multiple treatment options including using oral or injectable medications, intrauterine insemination (IUI), assisted reproductive technology using in vitro fertilization (IVF), or a combo of these solutions to help. A 2010 study called the FASTT trial indicated that in vitro fertilization might be the quickest and best route to pregnancy for couples with unexplained infertility.(4)
Obesity: The obesity epidemic has recently become is a serious issue, particularly in industrialized nations. The rising number of obese individuals may be due in part to an energy-rich diet as well as insufficient physical exercise. In addition to other potential health risks, obesity can have a significant impact on male and female fertility. BMI (body mass index) may be a significant factor in fertility, as an increase in BMI in the male by as little as three units can be associated with infertility. Several studies have demonstrated that an increase in BMI is correlated with a decrease in sperm concentration, a decrease in motility and an increase DNA damage in sperm. A relationship also exists between obesity and erectile dysfunction (ED). ED may be the consequence of the conversion of androgens to estradiol. The enzyme aromatase is responsible for this conversion, and is found primarily in adipose tissue. As the amount of adipose tissue increases, there is more aromatase available to convert androgens, and serum estradiol levels increase. Other hormones including inhibin B and leptin, may also be affected by obesity. Inhibin B levels have been reported to decrease with increasing weight, which results in decreased Sertoli cells and sperm production. Leptin is a hormone associated with numerous effects including appetite control, inflammation, and decreased insulin secretion, according to many studies. Obese women have a higher rate of recurrent, early miscarriage compared to non-obese women.
In general, the cost of IVF is higher than for IUI, but IVF confers the highest pregnancy rates per cycle. It is impossible to put a precise figure on the two treatments for comparison as much will depend on your personal treatment program. You can see some ballpark figures on the website of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. It also contains an overview of the differences between IUI and IVF.
Laboratories have developed grading methods to judge ovocyte and embryo quality. In order to optimise pregnancy rates, there is significant evidence that a morphological scoring system is the best strategy for the selection of embryos. Since 2009 where the first time-lapse microscopy system for IVF was approved for clinical use, morphokinetic scoring systems has shown to improve to pregnancy rates further. However, when all different types of time-lapse embryo imaging devices, with or without morphokinetic scoring systems, are compared against conventional embryo assessment for IVF, there is insufficient evidence of a difference in live-birth, pregnancy, stillbirth or miscarriage to choose between them. Active efforts to develop a more accurate embryo selection analysis based on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning are underway. Embryo Ranking Intelligent Classification Assistant (ERICA), is a clear example. This Deep Learning software substitutes manual classifications with a ranking system based on an individual embryo's predicted genetic status in a non-invasive fashion. Studies on this area are still pending and current feasibility studies support its potential.
West states that the "hardest thing about secondary fertility issues is that you want a sibling for your child." Fiona, who has a son of five and has been trying to conceive a second child for two years, says she can no longer look out of the window at her son playing in the garden. "It breaks my heart. He just looks so alone out there. All I want is a sibling for him but I don't think it's going to happen."
Alternatives to donating unused embryos are destroying them (or having them implanted at a time where pregnancy is very unlikely), keeping them frozen indefinitely, or donating them for use in research (which results in their unviability). Individual moral views on disposing leftover embryos may depend on personal views on the beginning of human personhood and definition and/or value of potential future persons and on the value that is given to fundamental research questions. Some people believe donation of leftover embryos for research is a good alternative to discarding the embryos when patients receive proper, honest and clear information about the research project, the procedures and the scientific values.
The grief and anxiety of SI is, of course, self-perpetuating. You find yourself in a double-bind: you're constantly told that the chances of conceiving are maximised if you can relax and eliminate stress, but it's hard to let go of something so all-consuming, so elemental, as infertility. People were always saying to me: "If you just forgot about it, you'd get pregnant straight away." For the record, this is the most unhelpful thing you can say to someone with fertility problems. West explains that "couples become more and more anxious about the gap [between children]".
^ 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.