Fertility treatments are medical interventions aimed at helping individuals or couples conceive a child when they are experiencing difficulties with fertility. There are various types of fertility treatments, each with its own purpose and methods. Here are five common types of fertility treatments:
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In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is one of the most advanced fertility treatments. It involves fertilising an egg with sperm outside the body in a laboratory dish. Once embryos are formed, one or more are transferred into the woman’s uterus. IVF treatment is suitable for couples with severe male factor infertility, tubal blockages, endometriosis, or unexplained infertility, as well as for same-sex couples and single individuals. The process of IVF consists of ovarian stimulation (using fertility drugs to produce multiple eggs), egg retrieval, fertilisation, embryo culture, and embryo transfer. It can involve preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) for certain genetic conditions or gender selection in some cases.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is a fertility treatment that involves the placement of specially prepared and concentrated sperm directly into the woman’s uterus. This procedure increases the chances of sperm reaching and fertilising the egg. IUI treatment is typically used for couples with mild male factor infertility, unexplained infertility, or when donor sperm is used. It may also be recommended when cervical mucus quality is a concern. The process of IUI involves semen collection, processed in the lab to isolate the healthiest sperm, and then inserted into the uterus using a thin catheter. Timing is crucial, as IUI is performed around the time of ovulation.
Timed intercourse, also known as “natural” or “cycle-based” conception, involves having sexual intercourse during the woman’s fertile window when she is most likely to ovulate. This method relies on tracking ovulation through methods like basal body temperature charting, cervical mucus monitoring, or ovulation predictor kits. Timed intercourse is often recommended for couples with regular menstrual cycles and no known fertility issues. It can also be the first step for couples who are just starting to try to conceive. With this fertility treatment, couples have intercourse around the time of ovulation, which typically occurs in the middle of the menstrual cycle. The goal is to maximise the chances of sperm meeting the egg during this fertile period.
Donor sperm is used when a male partner has severe male factor infertility or when single women or same-sex couples wish to conceive. Sperm from a healthy donor is used for fertilisation. Donor sperm is commonly used in cases where the male partner has no sperm, low sperm count, poor sperm quality, or genetic disorders that could be passed on to offspring. Sperm from a sperm bank or known donor is used for IUI or IVF procedures, depending on the specific circumstances. Donor sperm is carefully screened and tested to minimise the risk of genetic or infectious diseases.
Donor eggs are used when a woman’s own eggs are not viable or of poor quality. The recipient woman undergoes IVF using eggs from a healthy egg donor. Donor eggs are typically used by women with diminished ovarian reserve, premature ovarian failure, or a history of failed IVF cycles with their own eggs. Egg donors are carefully screened and undergo ovarian stimulation to produce multiple eggs. The retrieved eggs are then fertilised with sperm in the lab, and resulting embryos are transferred into the recipient’s uterus. The recipient woman may also need to undergo hormone therapy to prepare her uterus for embryo transfer.
The choice of fertility treatment depends on the underlying cause of infertility, the age and health of the individuals involved, and their preferences. It’s important for individuals or couples experiencing infertility to visit a fertility clinic and consult with a reproductive specialist who can provide personalised recommendations and guidance on the most appropriate treatment option for their specific situation.