For many couples fertility drugs (clomid or gonadotrophins) are often the first treatment received when seeking medical help for their infertility.
The drugs will stimulate the ovaries to produce more mature eggs each month, therefore increasing your chances of becoming pregnant. For women who rarely ovulate these drugs can sometimes have great results, however, there is a chance of multiple pregnancies.
IVF (in vitro fertilisation) may be the next course of action to be recommended by your doctor especially if one or both partners have been diagnosed with a problem such as blocked tubes or sperm production.
When undergoing IVF, the woman will again take fertility drugs to stimulate egg production. Once these eggs have matured they will be removed by your gynaecologist (using a fine catheter tube) and immediately put into a Petri dish with a fresh sample of your partner’s sperm. Several days later, if healthy embryos have developed, one or two will be returned to your uterus (also by a fine catheter). Any remaining embryos can be frozen for the future. If your partner’s sperm is unviable, donated sperm can be used.
GIFT (Gamete intrafallopian transfer) is another procedure similar to IVF but the extracted eggs and the sperm are immediately transferred to the uterus to fertilise in the body instead of the laboratory.
If the man has a problem with sperm production, sperm extraction can be an option. This involves using a small needle to remove sperm directly from the testicles. This can be particularly successful after failed vasectomy reversals.
Since the 1990’s ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) has been successfully carried out using only one sperm injected directly into the harvested egg in the laboratory and then returned to the uterus. This procedure has brought success to many couples where the man has a very low sperm count.
Recently, experts are turning to two new treatments for infertility. The first of these is 'blastocyst transfer': Sometimes your gynaecologist may recommend this procedure if previous attempts at IVF have failed. The embryo is created in the lab in the same way as IVF but is only transferred back after five or six days when it has had longer to develop. This delayed transfer is in keeping with the timing of natural implantation and the success rate can be higher.
The second of these new procedures is 'assisted hatching': When an embryo attaches to the lining of the womb, it must first break through its tough outer membrane. Some doctors now believe that this gelatinous film could hamper the progress of the embryo so a small hole is made in the membrane before transfer takes place to 'assist' the implantation.
Since the late 1970's when Louise Brown became the first IVF baby in the world there have been many thousands of pregnancies from successful fertility treatment. Each year 200,000 babies are born worldwide using IVF techniques.
Many couples chose to have fertility treatment at private fertility clinics.