When it comes to getting pregnant, most couples (approximately 85%) will conceive within the first year of trying – often during the first several months of trying. But it isn’t always that easy.
After the year marker has passed, the likelihood of conception without fertility treatment drops to a mere 7%. For families who don’t become pregnant within a year, seeking out various infertility treatment options might be the next best step in starting a family.
Figuring out which treatment is the right choice, however, isn’t always easy. That’s why we’re breaking down the most common and beneficial infertility treatment options–like IUI and IVF–for hopeful parents everywhere.
What to Expect at Your First Doctor’s Appointment for Infertility
The first step in any infertility treatment plan is finding a trusted fertility specialist to help diagnose and effectively treat your fertility problems. Once you’ve chosen your doctor, it will be time to schedule an initial appointment.
Before your doctor starts your infertility workup, which involves a variety of reproductive tests, especially blood tests, you’ll probably have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face for a discussion.
During my first appointment, we were welcomed into our doctor’s office, where we talked about our situation and expectations.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Infertility Treatment
Then she asked whether we had any questions for her.
My mind went blank. I couldn’t think of a single question that I wanted an answer to (even though I knew there were several!).
I felt unprepared for the meeting and wished I had a magic checklist of vital questions that I could’ve brought with me to the appointment.
That’s why I did the research using the Mayo Clinic’s guide to infertility for both women and men and came up with a comprehensive list of questions you can ask.
If you’re preparing to meet your fertility specialist for the first time, consider the following questions during your appointment:
- Based on our reproductive history, what types of problems can you foresee us facing during the treatment process?
- Is there any additional testing I need to confirm a diagnosis?
- How long do you think it will take to finish our initial workup and begin treatment?
- What type of treatment do you think will be the best option for us?
- How many cycles will we try using the first planned infertility treatment?
- Can you explain what these infertility treatment options entail?
- What can we expect cost-wise, and what types of financing plans do you offer?
- Who should I contact if I have questions about my treatment throughout the process?
What are the Most Common Female Infertility Treatment Options (And Which One is the Best)?
Infertility treatment options are not one-size-fits-all.
Each unique circumstance comes with its own set of recommendations and requirements. Before developing a treatment plan, your doctor will consider your comprehensive medical history, diagnosis, age, and several other factors.
While there are various treatment solutions available, three are typically more common than the rest. These include:
Hopeful parents often want to know which of these options is “the best.”
Unfortunately, however, “the best” solution doesn’t exist. What works for one family may not work well for another. There are favorable success rates with each different option.
It’s about figuring out what will be best for your body.
Also, be aware that it’s common to try more than one treatment option before finding the one that works. But don’t lose hope. It’s all part of the (admittedly, very frustrating) process.
Fertility Medicines are a “First-Choice” Infertility Treatment Option
Before doctors take patients through some of the more complex assisted reproductive techniques, like IUI or IVF treatment, they often suggest starting with various fertility stimulating drugs.
This particular kind of female infertility treatment is especially useful in women with ovarian dysfunction or unexplained infertility.
The most commonly used of these medications is Clomid, or clomiphene citrate, a pill that’s taken to regulate and stimulate ovulation in women with irregular or anovulatory menstrual cycles.
One of the best things about Clomid is that it’s less invasive than other injectable drugs and has minimal side effects. It can even be used as an infertility treatment for male patients, as it can help improve sperm density when male reproductive issues need improvement.
In addition to Clomid, there are other regularly prescribed fertility drugs, such as:
- Femara (an alternative to Clomid)
- Birth Control Pills
- GnRH Antagonists
- Baby Aspirin
It’s important to note that, while fertility drugs can be beneficial when you’re trying to conceive, using them comes with some risks, such as a higher chance of multiples and the development of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).
3 Different Types of Artificial Insemination
When you’ve tried taking fertility drugs on their own and you’re still not pregnant, your doctor might suggest moving on to different options, such as artificial insemination.
While the phrase “artificial insemination” sounds like some sort of strange sci-fi jargon, it’s not as unusual as it might seem. Honestly, it’s more or less a glorified way of saying you’re using the “turkey baster” method.
There are three different types of artificial insemination. These include:
During intravaginal insemination, unwashed sperm is placed in a syringe or cervical cap. The syringe or cap is then placed directly into the patient’s vagina and the sperm is released into her cervix.
While fertility drugs or sperm washing can increase the success rates with this method, it’s not usually the most effective.
It is, however, the least expensive and can be performed on your own from the comfort of home.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is one of the most frequently used infertility treatment options for reproductive assistance. It’s also one of the most “natural” of the assisted reproductive technologies (ART).
Usually, the hopeful mother or surrogate will be placed on fertility drugs before the procedure to help control her ovulation cycle and prepare her endometrial lining and uterus for implantation.
Intratubal insemination is the least performed of the three different types of artificial insemination. It’s also the most expensive.
This process involves placing washed sperm directly into a woman’s fallopian tubes. The procedure can be performed in two ways:
- A doctor can use a catheter to place the sperm into the fallopian tubes
- In sperm intrafallopian transfer, a doctor makes a small incision in the woman’s abdomen and places the sperm directly into her fallopian tube using a laparoscopic camera.
Either of these methods is extremely invasive. While they can yield optimistic success rates, many doctors don’t feel they’re worth the risks, which include:
- Perforated Uterus
- Inflammation of the Uterine Lining
When Do You Need IVF Treatment?
For many different reasons, IVF treatment is one of the most commonly used female infertility treatment solutions worldwide.
In many instances, individuals and couples find themselves using in vitro fertilization (IVF), simply because no other option would work.
In other cases, those alternate infertility treatment options were never really choices in the first place.
Like in my case, for example.
Going into our quest to have a baby, my husband and I knew we were in for a slightly more unorthodox conception journey.
We knew getting pregnant would not mimic the explanations we received in our middle school sex ed classes, but we were confused about how things would actually work.
We hoped we would be able to use the least invasive options possible, but we quickly learned these weren’t viable solutions for us.
A quirky blend of a wife with PCOS and a paralyzed husband meant we had to go for the gusto. Fertility drugs and IUI treatment weren’t plausible options for us.
We had to go straight to IVF treatment.
Despite my initial reservations, I quickly learned the IVF treatment process wasn’t as terrible as I’d expected. (Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park, but it was manageable!).
What’s Involved with a Typical IVF Treatment Process?
Utilizing some of the same fertility drugs previously mentioned, your doctor will stimulate your ovaries to produce and release more eggs than is typical in a regular monthly cycle. Your response to these methods will be monitored using blood work and transvaginal ultrasound technology.
Once you’re ready, your fertility specialist will collect each mature egg from its follicle during the egg collection procedure. From there, you will take another course of medications to prepare your endometrial lining and uterus for implantation after the embryo transfer has occurred.
While this process is taking place, your retrieved eggs will be fertilized with your partner’s collected sperm and allowed to develop. The fertilized egg will be paired with sperm, hopefully growing healthy embryos that are ready for implantation.
Once your body and the embryo are ready, the chosen embryo(s) will be transferred directly into your uterus with a catheter under ultrasound technology guidance.
Infertility Treatment for Male Patients
As many of us are well aware, a female partner Is not the only one whose body can struggle to conceive. It takes an egg and sperm to make a baby, so male fertility is an equally important factor.
Thus, it’s important to consider the several different male infertility problems that may also cause issues.
Some of the most common male-factor fertility issues are poor sperm counts, quality, and motility.
To determine whether these types of problems are present, fertility specialists will conduct various tests, such as:
- Semen Analysis
- Scrotal Ultrasound
- Hormone Testing
- Genetic Testing
- STD Screenings
- Post-ejaculation Urinalysis
Depending on the doctor’s findings, they might suggest various treatments, including surgery, antibiotics for infections, ART solutions, or hormone treatments.
What Types of “Natural” Infertility Treatment Options are Available?
Trust me; I get it. No matter how badly you want to have a baby, jumping into some of these infertility treatment options can seem like A LOT.
Considering the financial, physical, and mental burdens you’ll be placed under during many of these treatments, it’s no wonder so many men and women find themselves scanning the internet for “natural” infertility treatment options.
If this path is something that appeals to you, you’ll be happy to know that homeopathic options do exist.
Note: We do not encourage anyone to start a natural female infertility treatment plan without first consulting their fertility specialist or primary care physician.
If you’re interested in pursuing one of these options, set-up an appointment with your health care provider and determine the best way to get started.
Finding the Right Way to Build a Family
I know it’s easier said than done, but please try not to stress when someone else’s fertility journey and treatment looks different from your own.
Creating a female infertility treatment plan is a delicate process that’s based around your unique needs. Trust that your doctor has your best interests at heart, but don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself if you feel like you need to. Most of all, try not to worry if things don’t go exactly as you planned.
There’s even a chance that one of these infertility treatment options won’t work. If and when that happens, there are still other ways to have a child, such as using donor eggs or adoption.
Despite what our textbooks might have us believe, reproduction is not an exact science, and everyone’s fertility journey will look a bit different.
At the end of the day, knowing and understanding your infertility treatment options is the best way to get started in your journey to parenthood.
What did your own infertility treatment journey look like?
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.