There have been some amazing advancements in fertility treatments in recent years. So, if you’re an aspiring mama, things are looking good.
However, there’s no denying that the array of different treatment options can be confusing. And you probably have lots of questions from what is the best fertility drug to get pregnant? All the way to what is the cheapest fertility treatment? (Sadly, yes, price does sometimes come into it.)
Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
What is fertility treatment?
Fertility treatment covers any medical treatment that’s used to help you conceive a baby. It might involve medication, surgery, or assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Fertility treatments (sometimes also known as infertility treatments) are used when all other avenues for improving your chances of conceiving have been explored. That is, any underlying health issues that could impact your fertility have been resolved (if that’s possible).
Your doctor will carry out tests to try and work out the exact issue with your fertility. For women, the problem often lies with our ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. If you’ve got a male partner on the scene, there could be a problem with his swimmers.
The results of these tests will guide your doctor as they determine which would be the best fertility treatments to help you get pregnant.
What are the different types of fertility treatments?
Here we explore 7 different fertility treatment options to give you a feel for what’s out there.
1. Fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation
For many women, especially women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), medication that spurs their ovaries on to produce mature eggs can be a very effective fertility treatment. (Note: “mature” means the eggs are ready to leave the ovary and be fertilized by any handy sperm that come along.)
Drugs that are used to stimulate ovulation include clomiphene (in tablet form) and gonadotrophins (as a shot).
2. Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Also known as artificial insemination, IUI is a fairly simple procedure where sperm (from a male partner or donor) are inserted into your uterus via a long thin tube.
The procedure is timed to take place when you’re ovulating, and you may also be given medication to boost ovulation.
Before the procedure, the sample of semen goes through something called “sperm washing”, which leaves a very concentrated amount of sperm behind. This maximizes your chance of a healthy sperm cell meeting your egg and fertilizing it.
3. Tubal cannulation
If it’s discovered that you have a blockage in one of your fallopian tubes which is stopping you conceiving, you might be offered tubal cannulation.
This is a type of keyhole surgery that uses two tiny cameras (a hysteroscope and a laparoscope) to find the site of the blockage, which can then be cleared using a thin wire.
Tubal cannulation works well for small blockages at the end of the fallopian tube nearest your uterus. For more severe blockages, IVF might be recommended as an alternative fertility treatment.
4. In vitro fertilization (IVF)
One of the best-known fertility treatments, IVF is a complex process that takes several months to complete. You’ll start by taking fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation. Once you have enough mature eggs, they are retrieved and placed in a container with your partner’s/a donor’s sperm.
Hopefully, the sperm will fertilize the eggs and then these fertilized eggs (or embryos) are left to grow for 3 to 5 days in the lab.
After that, one or more embryos will be inserted into your uterus and – with a bit of luck – one of them will decide to set up home there for the next nine months!
5. Egg donation
If you have a problem with the quality or quantity of your eggs, or you have a genetic condition you don’t want to pass to your child, you could consider the route of IVF with an egg donor.
Using an egg donor screening program, you can find a suitable donor who’s willing to provide some of her eggs. She will then take medication to stimulate ovulation and have her eggs collected. These can be fertilized with your male partner’s sperm and inserted into your uterus like we mentioned earlier.
6. Gestational carrier (surrogacy)
This is a great option if your eggs and your partner’s sperm are healthy, but your uterus isn’t able to support a pregnancy, or your health would be at risk if you did become pregnant.
IVF is used to create embryos from your eggs and your partner’s sperm, and these can be implanted in a gestational carrier. That’s the name for a surrogate mama who will carry the baby for you, while the baby is still genetically your child.
7. Fertility treatments for men
We’ve focused on treatments for all of the hopeful mamas out there, but of course you might also have a man in your life who needs some extra help to make your baby dream come true.
Fertility treatments for men include:
- Medication to boost sperm count or quality
- Surgery to treat a sperm blockage or repair a varicocele (aka swollen veins)
- Sperm retrieval procedures to remove sperm that can then be used for IUI or IVF
How much do fertility treatments cost?
The cost and availability of different fertility treatments will vary based on where you are in the world. In the US, for example, only 16 states have laws that say medical insurance must cover or offer coverage for fertility treatments.
You’ll find that the more complex the treatment is the more expensive it will be. So, a fairly quick, low-tech procedure like IUI might cost $300 to $1,000 (without medical insurance), while one cycle of IVF can cost upwards of $15,000.
It’s worth contacting your healthcare or medical insurance provider to check what kinds of fertility treatments are available in your region and whether you’ll need to cover the cost yourself.
Support when you’re going through fertility treatment
Infertility can be a tough mountain to climb at the best of times, before you start throwing in hormone shots, stressful appointments, or the hunt for a suitable egg donor.
If you’re undergoing treatment to get pregnant and you’re finding it difficult, remember that there’s a whole community of women who have been there (or are going through the same thing right now!) on Peanut. Be gentle with yourself, and reach out for support when you need it.