Most people think that IVF is the only solution when it comes to infertility treatment, but this simply is not true. There are many options for couples struggling with infertility, and depending on the cause of infertility, IVF may not be your best solution.
As you navigate infertility treatment and whether or not it is necessary for you, you should be sure that you are thoroughly informed about the options that are out there and what treatment could entail. The most important thing to know is that, there is a fertility specialist in Houston that can help you, and there is an answer for why you have not been able to achieve conception.
The Important Facts about IVF
What is IVF? The process of IVF consists of taking the male partner’s or donor’s sperm and combining it with the female or donor’s egg to create an embryo in the lab. The embryo will then be implanted in the female’s womb to hopefully result in a successful pregnancy.
Who IVF is done for. This particular type of treatment is generally done for women who are experiencing infertility because of their fallopian tubes being damaged or blocked, severe endometriosis, or due to other fertility issues that cannot be explained. Also, women with irregular ovulation cycles may benefit from IVF because the treatment is meant to induce ovulation in order to produce more eggs. If the infertility is due to an issue in the male’s reproductive system, intracytoplasmic sperm injections may be used for low sperm count to fertilize an egg.
Who IVF would not benefit. If a woman’s ovaries cannot produce healthy eggs and a donor does not interest you, IVF may not be the right option either. Also, being over the age of 37 can put you in the same position. Women over 40 have the most success by using donors, as about half of women that attempt IVF with donor eggs are successful.
Other conditions that can hinder success with IVF include:
- fibroid tumors
- abnormal hormone levels
- ovarian dysfunction
- & uterine abnormalities
After meeting with a fertility specialist, they will help you to decide if IVF is the best course of action. Once treatments begin:
- You will begin injections somewhere in the lower half of your body over a period of 11 days to encourage the production of eggs. The injections may be difficult to accomplish on your own, so you may require the assistance of your significant other.
- The specialist will monitor your progress by use of ultrasounds and measuring estrogen levels.
- After the eggs have matured, your doctor will then retrieve them from the ovaries.
- After the eggs are retrieved they will be fertilized with the chosen sperm and grow in the lab for 3 to 5 days before being implanted into your uterus.
The Likelihood of Achieving Pregnancy After IVF
The reality is that every woman is different. Depending on your age and your condition of health, your body will respond differently to the treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the success rate falls at 50% at age 30 and decreases as women grow older. These statistics are not valid for everyone, and you will want to speak to a specialist to ensure that there is not a treatment that would be better suited for you.
Why IVF can Fail
There are a number of reasons why IVF treatment can fail. Sometimes the reason is not evident, but your fertility specialist may be able to glean knowledge they did not have about your cause of infertility due to the failed treatment. The most common causes for unsuccessful IVF treatments include:
The embryo was not able to implant. This can occur if the embryo did not continue to develop on the way to the implantation stage. Often times this is due to age, the older a woman is the more likely. But this is also a common reason why most women do not achieve pregnancy when trying, even when in perfect health. It can happen to anyone.
The embryo was partially implanted, but did not make it all the way. An embryo cannot implant if it does not have normal chromosomes. An embryo’s chromosome health can be tested with a preimplantation genetic diagnosis. This is a procedure where one cell is taken from the embryo before it is implanted in order to test its DNA for any existing abnormalities.
There is an issue existing within the female’s uterus. In some cases, a woman’s uterine lining may not be healthy enough or prepared for the embryo’s implantation. The existence of fibroids, polyps, or polycystic ovarian syndrome are common reasons reasons that achieving pregnancy can prove to be difficult. Such issues may be discovered with the essential infertility tests at the clinic before the method of treatment is decided upon. If a specialist discovers that the uterine lining is in poor condition, they will most likely offer a form of treatment other than IVF.
Other Fertility Treatment Options
Ovulation Induction. A doctor may recommend using this treatment option if the woman has difficulty ovulating. Ovulation can be induced with injections or pill forms of hormonal drug treatments. This is generally prescribed to women who have infrequent periods, or none at all, because of a hormonal imbalance. Emotional problems or depression have also proved to have an affect on a woman’s cycle health.
Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection. This is a newer treatment that is being used to treat males who have very few sperm or if his sperm is unhealthy. With this strategy, the sperm is ‘washed’ and then injected directly into the egg. In order to achieve accuracy, the doctor will need to use a special microscope and glass needles so they can inject one sperm right under the protective outer layer and into the middle of the egg. After this, the fertilized egg will be placed back into the woman’s uterus in hopes that it will be accepted and begin to grow into a baby.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer and Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer. This is when the sperm and egg are retrieved from the male and female partner to be then fertilized in the lab and placed immediately into the fallopian tube. GIFT consists of the sperm and eggs being placed directly into the fallopian tube, where ZIFT is placed into the tube after 24 hours.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI). A common alternative to IVF, this is where the ‘washed’ and concentrated sperm are directly placed into the woman’s uterus during ovulation. Those who are usually recommended to use IUI include:
- Couples using donor sperm
- When the cause of infertility cannot be determined
- When the woman has endometriosis
- If the infertility is due to an issue with the male’s sperm
- If there is an issue existing within the female’s cervix
- Most rarely, if the woman has a semen allergy
How to Know When to see a Specialist
If you think you might need fertility treatment but you are not completely sure, there are some factors that can help you make this decision. Infertility specialists will recommend that you come in for a consultation if:
- You have been trying to conceive for over a year (or 6 months if you are 35 or older)
- You have been diagnosed with cancer
- You have painful and irregular periods
- You have had pelvic inflammatory disease
- You have had a number of of pelvic surgeries that could have affected your reproductive organs
- You have endometriosis
- You are over 40 years old
- You know of a genetic condition that runs in your family
Choosing a Fertility Clinic
When you begin your search for a fertility clinic, it can be immensely helpful if you already the kind of tests you anticipate needing. The only way you can possibly determine this is if you have received results from your gynecologist or primary doctor about your state of health that could affect fertility in the past. Another clue would be to consider your age or if you have been taking any sort of medications or cancer treatments that could hinder fertility.
If you have no clue why you are having trouble, that is okay. Analyzing your state of fertility is the infertility specialist’s job, and they will go about it in the most sufficient way possible due to the information they learn about you in your first consultation and as you move forward with them. Some key factors to pay attention to when choosing a clinic include:
- How long the medical director, doctor, and technicians have been practicing and been at this specific location. If the turnover rate is high, this can be a sign that the clinic is not run properly and may not be a place you can truly depend on.
- The different types of treatments that the clinic offers and how up to date their technology and equipment is. You will want to know that you have options and that the doctor is providing you with the treatment that makes the most sense for you.
- If there are age limits for treatment. This means that the clinic is paying attention to the health of the patient and not just trying to take your money.
- Who makes the final calls on the type of treatment you are using and, if you are having your eggs fertilized outside of your body, how many eggs are used to attempt conception. At the end of the day, these decisions should be yours. The doctor should give you their educated opinion and what your decision could ultimately end up meaning for you, but this is your body, life and money and you are the one that should be in charge.
- The cost of different types of treatment and whether or not your insurance provides any coverage. Many clinic’s will also offer you advice on how to receive help with payments or give you the option of a payment plan. If they are not willing to discuss various options to make the payments less of a burden for you, you should look elsewhere. A fertility clinic should feel like a place that is there to help you. If it does not, something isn’t right.
Scheduling a Consultation
Once you have done your research, the only way to truly know if a clinic is a good fit for you is to pay a visit and speak to a specialist. This way you can get a feel of the environment and the overall type of care you would receive there. Bring a list of questions you want to ask the fertility specialist so you can get a sense of their personality and commitment to you, as well as the options they can offer you. Remember this is your journey, and the choice is always up to you. The Center of Reproductive Medicine has 5 locations in and around Houston, Texas. Come see us today!