Infertility // what are my options if I can’t conceive?

Today, about one in six British couples has trouble conceiving. Although trying to get pregnant can be emotionally challenging, stressful and upsetting, a lot of progress has been made over the past few decades and there are now several solutions to help you start your family.

The treatments you’ll need will depend on what is causing your infertility, for example, whether this is due to issues experienced by the male partner, the female partner or both. Of course, you’ll also have to take into consideration your own preferences, as well as your budget. Read on to discover a selection of the available options and fertility treatments that could help you to finally have your baby.

Egg or sperm donation //

Sometimes, couples experiencing fertility issues may consider getting pregnant with donated eggs or sperm, whether this is via artificial insemination at home, in a clinic or IVF with donor sperm and/or eggs. This is far from being an easy decision to make, as this option means that one or both partners won’t be genetically related to their child.

There are several factors that lead couples to choose donation. This might be because one or both partners are carrying genetic disorders which could be passed on to their baby. Older women or women with severe infertility may also need to undergo IVF with donor eggs in order to conceive (using either their partner’s sperm or a donor’s).

If the issue lies with the male partner, the couple can consider getting pregnant using donor sperm. There are multiple causes of male infertility. These include low sperm count, the inability of the male partner’s sperm to fertilise the eggs or the inability to produce sperm in their ejaculate.

Fertility drugs //

If you have trouble ovulating, your GP may prescribe fertility drugs such as Clomid. These stimulate hormones which trigger the ovaries to release one or more eggs. It’s often the first fertility treatment that women undergo, usually for 3-6 months, before moving on to other treatments if there is still no sign of pregnancy. Your GP may suggest you combine these drugs with one of the treatments outlined below to improve your chances of conceiving.

Artificial insemination //

Those whose partner has low sperm motility, low sperm count or poor sperm quality, may try artificial insemination (also called Intrauterine insemination or IUI). For this process, sperm (which needs to be washed) is inserted into the woman’s uterus using a thin catheter. This can take place at a fertility clinic or at the doctor’s surgery. If, after multiple attempts, you are still not pregnant, you might be advised to try IVF instead.

In vitro fertilisation // 

IVF, which involves surgery, is probably the most tiring and expensive option of all the fertility treatments. However, it has a higher success rate than IUI (although this largely depends on your fertility and age).

In vitro fertilisation is usually only recommended after all other treatments have failed. Women in their late thirties or over 40, as well as those with severe infertility problems, such as tubal issues, endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can also benefit from IVF.

Usually performed in conjunction with fertility drugs, this fertility technique involves the retrieval of a woman’s eggs which will be fertilised, at a later date, using sperm in a laboratory. Once this stage is complete, one or more developed embryos are transferred into the woman’s womb.

If the male partner experiences a very low sperm count, he might be advised to try Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This is when a single healthy sperm is injected directly into the egg via a tiny needle. Then, just as with IVF, the embryo is implanted into the uterus.

Know when you should pay a visit to your GP //

When to go see your doctor depends on your age, your level of fertility or any medical issues you might have, as well as how long you’ve been trying for a baby. If you’re a woman under 35, you can wait for a year before visiting your GP. If you’re over 35, you shouldn’t wait for more than six months. If you are 40 or older, or you have experienced infertility or several miscarriages in the past, pay a visit to your GP as soon as possible.

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