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.
In the well-established fertility treatment of IVF, unlike IUI, the meeting of sperm and egg takes place outside the body, in the laboratory (in vitro). This gives fertility practitioners a lot more control over the selection of a genetically normal embryo that has the best chance of establishing a successful pregnancy. IVF is the fertility treatment with the highest likelihood of taking home a healthy baby. These are the stages involved in IVF:

Alternatives to donating unused embryos are destroying them (or having them implanted at a time where pregnancy is very unlikely),[90] keeping them frozen indefinitely, or donating them for use in research (which results in their unviability).[91] 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.[92]
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.
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.
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.
The take home message of these studies is that when gonadotropins are given to this patient population at a dose that doesn’t put the patient at significant risk of twins (like the 75 units in the Huang study), they are no better than oral medications (clomid and letrozole) at producing successful pregnancies. This is important because clomid and letrozole are also cheaper to purchase (hundreds vs. thousands of dollars) and easier to administer (oral rather than injectable). For this reason, many clinics have moved away from using gonadotropins in IUI cycles.
IUI: An IUI can be done with no medications or a number of different medications to help develop and ovulate one or two eggs. Around day 14 of a woman’s cycle, the insemination takes place which deposits sperm inside the uterus. This greatly increases the number of sperm at the junction of the uterus and fallopian tubes, the distance they have to swim to meet the egg, and thus increases the chances of natural conception for many people.
^ Jump up to: a b Broer SL, van Disseldorp J, Broeze KA, Dolleman M, Opmeer BC, Bossuyt P, Eijkemans MJ, Mol BW, Broekmans FJ (2012). "Added value of ovarian reserve testing on patient characteristics in the prediction of ovarian response and ongoing pregnancy: an individual patient data approach". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (1): 26–36. doi:10.1093/humupd/dms041. PMID 23188168.
In a bid to understand my chances of IVF success, I took a quick dive through the vast information available from these sources and came away thinking I had the information I needed. I skipped merrily along thinking things looked pretty promising after reading my chances of IVF working the first time was somewhere around the 40% mark. I naively thought that meant I had an 80% chance if I did two cycles, and that I’d definitely have a baby after three rounds at the most. Unfortunately as later reflection revealed, math and statistic just don’t work like this…
Fertility preservation for cancer or other health conditions. If you're about to start cancer treatment — such as radiation or chemotherapy — that could harm your fertility, IVF for fertility preservation may be an option. Women can have eggs harvested from their ovaries and frozen in an unfertilized state for later use. Or the eggs can be fertilized and frozen as embryos for future use.
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.[156] 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".[157] Prices paid by the NHS in England varied between under £3,000 to more than £6,000 in 2014/5.[158] 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.[159]
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.
IVF is complicated and, while we wish we could say that it's possible to absorb all the details during the 5 - 30 minute visits with your doctor, that's really not the case. This comprehensive guide to IVF boils down every major issue you'll encounter -- a high level overview of the IVF process, a deeper dive into the IVF process, IVF success rates and how they differ depending on diagnosis and age, the medication protocols that can be used during IVF, the choice of inseminating eggs either using ICSI fertilization or conventional insemination, the pros and cons of growing embryos to Day 3 cleavage stage or Day 5 blastocyst stage, the decisions around genetic screening of embryos, deciding which embryo to transfer, deciding how many embryos to transfer at once, the ways the IVF laboratory can impact your odds of success and the things you need to know up front to avoid going to the wrong lab for you, the risks of IVF, and the costs of IVF. We're always sure to provide details about how data might be different depending on different unique types of patients -- because in the world of fertility, it's really not one-size-fits-all. We truly believe this guide is the foundation every fertility patient should start with when they're navigating the world of treatments.
Regardless of pregnancy result, IVF treatment is usually stressful for patients.[42] Neuroticism and the use of escapist coping strategies are associated with a higher degree of distress, while the presence of social support has a relieving effect.[42] A negative pregnancy test after IVF is associated with an increased risk for depression in women, but not with any increased risk of developing anxiety disorders.[43] Pregnancy test results do not seem to be a risk factor for depression or anxiety among men.[43]

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.

Mild IVF[64] is a method where a small dose of ovarian stimulating drugs are used for a short duration during a woman's natural cycle aimed at producing 2–7 eggs and creating healthy embryos. This method appears to be an advance in the field to reduce complications and side-effects for women and it is aimed at quality, and not quantity of eggs and embryos. One study comparing a mild treatment (mild ovarian stimulation with GnRH antagonist co-treatment combined with single embryo transfer) to a standard treatment (stimulation with a GnRH agonist long-protocol and transfer of two embryos) came to the result that the proportions of cumulative pregnancies that resulted in term live birth after 1 year were 43.4% with mild treatment and 44.7% with standard treatment.[65] Mild IVF can be cheaper than conventional IVF and with a significantly reduced risk of multiple gestation and OHSS.[66]


Twenty-eight days is the average length of a menstrual cycle, though anything between 21 and 35 days is considered normal. Fluctuating a little from month to month is one thing, but if your period is so irregular that you don’t even try to track it anymore, it could indicate a problem producing eggs, or ovulating. Ovulation disorders (meaning you ovulate infrequently or not at all) account for infertility in about 25 percent of infertile couples, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the most common causes of female infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—a condition characterized by longer than normal stretches between periods, or even skipping cycles for months in a row. (Get the silent signs of PCOS here.) Irregular periods may also result from excessive physical or emotional stress, which can mess with the hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation each month; being too heavy or too thin, or gaining or losing a lot of weight quickly may also have the same effect. Talk to your doctor; he may be able to prescribe fertility drugs to help induce or stimulate ovulation.

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.

At the same time, in older women, the IVF success rates can vary dramatically, and that’s why it’s so important to focus only on live births. For example, a clinic may have a very high pregnancy rate among older women, but a low live birth rate. Or, the rates may be quite high – 40% or even 50% – but only after four or five rounds. That makes a very big difference, especially in the overall cost of treatment!


Cancer. Although some early studies suggested there may be a link between certain medications used to stimulate egg growth and the development of a specific type of ovarian tumor, more-recent studies do not support these findings. There does not appear to be a significantly increased risk of breast, endometrial, cervical or ovarian cancer after IVF.
Risk of multiples. IUI with fertility medication carries a significant risk of multiple pregnancies, including higher-order multiples (triplets or more). A good clinic will carefully monitor your follicles to make sure that only a safe number are mature before the IUI, but they cannot entirely eliminate the risk. Recent advances in IVF (including blastocyst transfer) mean that most modern fertility clinics now transfer only one or two embryos per IVF cycle. As a result, the risk of multiple pregnancies for IVF patients is much lower than it used to be.
Ovulation induction (in the sense of medical treatment aiming for the development of one or two ovulatory follicles) is an alternative for women with anovulation or oligoovulation, since it is less expensive and more easy to control.[7] It generally involves antiestrogens such as clomifene citrate or letrozole, and is followed by natural or artificial insemination.
Fertility has long been considered a “woman’s problem.” This is simply not true, and men are in fact, equally as infertile as women. Traditionally the metrics for male fertility have been mostly limited to sperm count, morphology, motility, and, occasionally, DNA fragmentation. For females, on the other hand, a vast array of tests are available. These include ultrasound, cervical position, basal body temperature, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, cycle tracking and a diversity of hormonal tests.
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. 

There’s an intense emotional response to hearing, “There is no apparent reason for your infertility”. It can be difficult, maddening and equally frustrating for both you and your partner. People who do find out a specific cause find their situations difficult, too, of course, but knowing the “whys” makes it more bearable. In cases of unexplained infertility, couples feel that one reason, one cause is lurking in a shadowy corner. It just hasn’t been uncovered yet.
Nonmedicated cycle with IUI: Also known as natural cycle IUI, a non-medicated cycle with IUI is often used by single women or same-sex female couples who are not directly experiencing infertility, but rather a lack of sperm. This treatment involves tracking the development of the egg that is naturally recruited during a menstrual cycle and then introducing the donated sperm. You will come into the office for two to four monitoring appointments to track egg development and cycle timing.
In the United States, expect to spend an average of $12,400 for one cycle of IVF if you're using your own eggs and your partner's sperm. The amount you'll pay depends on how much medicine you need, where you live, and whether your state mandates insurance coverage for fertility treatments. If your insurance doesn't cover them, you'll probably have to pay the entire cost up front.
The live birth rate is the percentage of all IVF cycles that lead to a live birth. This rate does not include miscarriage or stillbirth; multiple-order births, such as twins and triplets, are counted as one pregnancy. A 2017 summary compiled by the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) which reports the average IVF success rates in the United States per age group using non-donor eggs compiled the following data:[10] 

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.
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