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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that approximately 10 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 in the United States have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. The cause of infertility may be difficult to determine, but there are many treatments available that can significantly improve the chances of getting pregnant. They include hormone treatments, fertility drugs and surgery. In some cases, assisted reproduction may be recommended.
Women or men with infertility should consider making an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist, a doctor who specializes in managing infertility.
Here, Dr. Sigal Klipstein, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, investigates some of the fertility treatments and options that are presently available:
Women can preserve their fertility by freezing their eggs at an early stage if considering pregnancy later in life (late thirties to early forties). Vitrification is a flash-freezing technique that allows delicate eggs to be frozen quickly enough to prevent damage. This technique allows a woman to freeze and later thaw the eggs in order to achieve a pregnancy.
This refers to the process of collecting, analyzing and storing a man’s sperm. Men have the option of freezing their sperm prior to cancer treatments, military service or in preparation for an In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedure.
Surgical Fertility Treatments
Doctors may be able to correct a number of anatomic defects that may be impairing a person’s ability to conceive. For women, some common situations where surgery is required include the removal of uterine fibroids, polyps, pelvic adhesions and endometriosis tissue. For men, surgical treatments include vasectomy reversal and varicocele repair.
Fertility drugs may be prescribed to serve different purposes depending on each individual’s diagnosis. These drugs can be used to induce ovulation, stimulate follicular growth and maturation in the ovaries, or mimic the hormones normally secreted by the pituitary gland. These drugs come in pill form or can be administered by injection.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies
ART involves the direct manipulation of eggs, sperm and embryos for use in fertility treatment, including IVF, ICSI and IUI.
IVF: In Vitro Fertilization is an assisted reproductive technology in which eggs and sperm are combined in the laboratory. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus. This technique can be used to treat infertility in patients with blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, male factor infertility, women with ovulation disorders, women who have had their fallopian tubes removed and individuals with a genetic disorder.
ICSI: Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is an assisted reproductive technology that’s used in many cases of male infertility. The procedure directly introduces a single sperm into each of the eggs obtained during the IVF process. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the uterus to initiate a pregnancy.
IUI: Intrauterine Insemination, also known as artificial insemination, involves delivering sperm directly through the cervix into the uterus.
Holistic, or integrative medicine, refers to combining complementary with conventional approaches. After any conventional treatment, women may seek to boost their health through complementary medicine, such as acupuncture. Acupuncture may enhance fertility and increase a woman’s chances of conceiving. Menstrual cycles and ovulation often regulate with acupuncture treatment, and it has also been shown to increase fertile cervical mucus, which can help predict ovulation and the best time periods for conception.
Acupuncture also has benefits for men as it may improve male factor infertility. Additionally, acupuncture often reduces stress, which in turn can improve pregnancy outcomes.