Infertility treatment

Before we discuss the range of treatments available, we have put together a section on preparing for fertility treatment.

We know that treatment can be stressful, both mentally and physically and that you will experience highs and lows throughout. A support network can help as can talking things through with each other.

So it can be useful to know what to expect in advance so that you can prepare yourself for what we hope will be a rewarding process.

Preparing for infertility treatment

There are two forms of preparation:

  • Physical
  • Mental

Physical preparation includes following a healthy diet, taking exercise, stopping smoking (if you are a smoker) and reducing alcohol intake.

The aim is to be in the best shape you can be to deal with the side effects of the fertility drugs and hormones.

Women: you may experience such side effects as nausea, vomiting, mood swings, headaches and tiredness. These drugs are designed to enable you to conceive but like all forms of medication, do have side effects.

These affect some women more than others but if you know what they are then you can arrange some time to relax until they ease.
Try not to panic if they do occur. It may seem easy saying this but if you can just accept that these effects will happen but will subside will make it easier for you. Don’t try and fight it just go with it.

Mental preparation (emotional) means being aware that your emotions will ‘see saw’ during this process. You will experience highs and lows as you pass from excitement at the thought of being able to conceive through to frustration and anger at the time the process takes. And then there is disappointment if you are unable to conceive.

Then there is the stress experienced by both of you during treatment which when combined with the physical aspects is likely to take a toll on both of you.

Add in the feeling that your body is no longer yours to control and that you are at the mercy of the medical profession and no wonder couples feel under siege throughout.

Clinics do offer counselling before, during and after treatment and even though it is not obligatory it can be worthwhile. Sometimes it can help talking to someone who you don’t know very well as they can offer an objective opinion.

But, don’t forget to keep talking to each other. Even though there will be times that you will feel like strangling each other it is important to keep the communication going.

This is a two way process irrespective of whether one or both of you are affected.

So what types of treatment do clinics offer?

To start with you will find that many clinics offer a sperm and egg freezing service. This is useful for those forms of treatment such as IVF which use frozen embryos as well as fresh ones.

Freezing sperm

Sperm can be frozen for future use which is useful for men who will undergo cancer treatment. These include chemotherapy and radiation therapy which are effective but can lead to infertility in the man. So, it’s a good idea for the man to have his sperm frozen before undergoing this treatment.

Frozen sperm can be stored by a clinic for up to 10 years. When it is ready to be used it is thawed out and checked for sperm volume and mobility.

The process starts with the man consenting to the procedure followed by a series of checks and recordings of the sperm to ensure that it can be correctly identified.

Freezing eggs

This is offered to women who are likely to develop a fertility problem or has produced good quality eggs during a cycle of IVF. If she has produced more eggs than she needs for that cycle then these can be frozen for future use.

The process for this is more complex than for the man. To start with, the woman must produce plenty of eggs as a result of taking a fertility drug. These eggs are removed in an invasive procedure which uses ultrasound as a guidance tool.

When the frozen eggs are required they are thawed out and their quality checked. The healthiest ones are chosen for
intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI. This involves inseminating the eggs with sperm from either the partner or a donor.

This carries a lower success rate than for other forms of treatment so check to see what your clinic’s success rate is for this.

Whichever of the following treatments you choose, one thing that might help is an ‘infertility treatment timeline’.

Infertility treatment timeline

This is a chart which tracks the number of treatment cycles you undergo (or are able to afford to undergo).

When discussing your treatment with your specialist you might want to draw up a list of questions on the various treatments that he or she recommends.

A timeline is there to help you: it is not meant to be restrictive rather it is a good way of charting the progress of your treatment and how much it is costing you.

When you create this timeline ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do we want to spend on infertility treatment and how much can we spend?
  • What do we feel about infertility treatment?
  • Do we want to try more than one form of treatment?
  • How does this treatment fit in with our personal beliefs?

When talking to your specialist ask the following questions:

  • How many cycles should I undergo for this treatment?
  • How much time is there between treatment cycles?
  • What are my chances of getting pregnant with this treatment?
  • What effect does my age have on this?
  • How much does this treatment cost?
  • If this doesn’t work can you recommend an alternative?

So, what treatments are available to you? Here is a list of all the infertility treatments:

  • Assisted hatching
  • Clomid therapy
  • Donor insemination
  • Drug therapy
  • Embryo freezing
  • Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)
  • Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Insemination (ICSI)
  • Intratubal Insemination (ITI) (also includes intra-cervical and intra-vaginal insemination)
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
  • Kisspeptin hormone
  • Laser assisted hatching
  • Ovary transplants
  • Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)
  • Surrogacy
  • Tubal embryo transfer (TET)
  • Womb transplants
  • Zygote IntraFallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

There are also a range of alternative treatments such as acupuncture or herbal remedies such as black cohosh which can ease the side effects of fertility medications.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Techniques such as IVF, GIFT, ZIFT and TET (tubal embryo transfer) to name but a few are what we term ‘assisted reproductive technologies’ or ART. These techniques are so called because they involve the manipulation of both sperm and eggs.

The process involves removing eggs from the woman, combining them with sperm in a laboratory dish and replacing them back into the woman.

ART can treat a whole range of infertility problems which results in successful conception. However, there are risks associated with any ART procedure which needs to be taken into account. And this adds up to a great deal of physical, mental and financial stress.

Infertility treatment Guide Index:

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