Infertility is a common phenomenon, affecting one out of every eight American couples. Luckily infertility is not the end; there are many paths to parenthood. IVF for forty years has been the go to for parents with infertility, but IVF is no longer the only option. Visit an Obstetrician–gynecologists (OBGYNs) and/or reproductive endocrinologists to diagnose and treat infertility.
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Infertility is identified most commonly when after a year of trying parents have not become pregnant. This means the trying parents are having regular sexual intercourse and are not using birth control. A year is shortened to six months without becoming pregnant for women age 35 and older.
Women infertility is often caused by irregular or lack of ovulation, defined as when an egg is released from the ovary to be available for fertilization. Infertility can also be the effect of scarring or blockage of the fallopian tubes. This could occur due to endometriosis or STIs. Causes also include problems with the reproductive organs or hormones, and problems with the thyroid gland or pituitary gland. A woman’s fertility is also impacted by age. The decrease of fertility will start most rapidly at the age of 37.
Men infertility is caused most often in the testicles, which affect how sperm are made and function.
IVF is the most common treatment of infertility. A man’s sperm (which may come from the woman’s partner or a donor) and woman’s egg are combined in a lab to create an embryo. After creation the embryo will wait ten days until a specialist called an embryologist to be examined. If all seems to be working well, the viable embryo is transferred to the woman’s uterus through her cervix.
This process is usually a success. The concern lies in the cost of the procedure, which can vary from $12,000 to $17,000 per cycle.
IVF treatment will not work with a mother’s eggs that are not viable. If this is the case for the couple, they can instead try using a donor egg in the IVF procedure. The donor is usually under the age of 30 and had undergone medical and psychological testing. The recipient must take estrogen and progesterone until well into the pregnancy when the placenta is self-sufficient.
You may know it as minimal stimulation IVF. This procedure involves stimulating the ovaries with low dosage medication. Low Stim IVF has a smaller chance of success because fewer eggs are retrieved, but it is generally a cheaper and safer treatment.
An embryo is created through IVF; the egg and sperm can come from the mother and father or a donor. Gestational Surrogacy differs by placing the embryo in the uterus of a surrogate. The surrogate will carry the baby to term, which means this process has the benefit of the parents being involved with the pregnancy and being present at the birth. However, Gestational Surrogacy is not legal in every state, and there are additional challenges with drawing up legal agreements between the parents and the surrogate. This process can also be expensive.
This process should be on the radar of all women in their twenties interested in raising a child in the future. It serves as a form of insurance in case fertility decreases later on. The whole process takes around two months. The woman would first undergo some standard tests to be approved to continue. Once her period has started she will begin to take stimulatory hormones in the first two weeks of her cycle. Her eggs will then be harvested while she is under sedation, and the eggs will be frozen for potential future use.
This option is currently around the cost of $15,000, but prices are dropping across the country as the procedure becomes more mainstream.
If a couple or a woman has a frozen embryo they or she does not plan to use, another individual or couple can adopt the frozen embryo. These frozen embryos are donated to infertility centers, where they become available for adoption.
And of course there is always the option of adopting a child, or taking care of one or several children in the foster system.
Thanks to modern medicine and practices there are many options available to achieve parenthood. Infertility is no longer a roadblocker, and IVF is no longer your only option.