Infertility treatment options
Infertility affects about 15% of Australian couples and is defined as not conceiving after 12 months of trying. It can affect women at any stage, regardless if they’ve had a child before or not.
RELATED: What causes infertility?
Infertility can be a physically, mentally, and emotionally painful experience for everyone involved, but luckily, there are a number of treatment options for those having trouble conceiving.
We spoke with Fertility Specialist & Gynaecologist, Dr. Raewyn Teirney, to find out what treatment options are available so you know what to expect during this difficult time.
Menstrual Cycle Monitoring
The first treatment method Dr. Raewyn suggests is menstrual cycle monitoring. “The menstrual cycle can be monitored for follicle growth and time of ovulation to get the timing of intercourse precise.”
She explains that this treatment is ideal for those with variable menstrual cycles to alleviate stress and uncertainty around the right time to try to conceive.
Ovulation Induction Treatment
“Ovulation induction fertility treatment is recommended for women who do not ovulate regularly,” says Dr. Raewyn. “The aim is to encourage the ovaries to develop the follicles needed to produce and release a mature egg.”
Inducing the egg can be done in two ways: by using a tablet called Clomiphene Citrate, and by doing daily injections with follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). It’s monitored using scans and blood tests to establish when a woman’s follicle is ready. “Then we trigger ovulation with Human Chorionic Gonadatrophin. Women should ovulate 36 – 48 hours later, and have timed intercourse,” Dr. Raewyn explains.
Intra-Uterine Insemination Treatment (IUI)
Dr. Raewyn describes IUI as “fertility treatment for unexplained infertility. That means there is no obvious medical reason found for infertility.”
The IUI treatment involves giving the woman hormones to stimulate her ovaries to produce an egg. On the day of ovulation, the IUI procedure takes place. This involves passing the semen sample (gathered from the father/donor) through the cervix and into the womb using a fine straw. “During IUI, the hope is that the sperm will meet the egg and that fertilisation will take place in the fallopian tube, just as it does in a natural pregnancy.”
If a woman has any problems causing her pain or infertility, Dr. Raewyn says that reproductive corrective surgery may be an option. This is a keyhole surgery, called a laparoscopy or a hysteroscopy.
This surgery is used to repair endometriosis, ovarian cysts, adhesions, uterine fibroids, and polyps.
Advanced Reproductive Fertility Treatment with IVF and ISCI
Finally, Dr. Raewyn explains that IVF, a treatment that’s been around for 30 years, may need to take place. “Most couples I see after organising comprehensive tests do not need to have IVF, however around 10% will need IVF to greatly improve their chances of a baby. Common reasons for needing IVF include male factor problems with poor sperm quality, advanced female age, women with endometriosis, and blocked fallopian tubes.”
A standard IVF cycle takes around four weeks, where the first two weeks involve stimulating the woman’s ovaries with hormones to produce eggs. “Her eggs are collected from the ovaries using a fine needle. On the same day that eggs are collected, we combine the eggs with her partner's sperm in the laboratory.”
The eggs are then monitored in a lab to confirm they become fertilised and develop into embryos. The embryos are placed back in the uterus after 5 days when it’s become a blastocyst. “One of the benefits of IVF is that there may be remaining, good quality day 5 embryos that can be frozen for future use,” Dr. Raewyn details.
In addition, she describes that an extra technique during IVF, called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may increase the chances of fertilisation. This involves injecting sperm directly into the egg and is recommended during the IVF process if sperm count is low.
Have you tried any infertility treatments? Do you have any advice for people who may be going through it now?