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Infertility Treatments

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD Updated: Jun 28th 2016

A variety of treatments may be pursued to help undo infertility. The selection of a particular intervention depends on the cause of infertility as identified by medical testing, your own preferences, and the opinion of your physicians. As medical insurance may not pay for some infertility treatments, the cost of those treatments may also play a role in your decision making. The most common treatment approaches for infertility are described in the following discussion. Remember that a doctor may combine multiple treatments to increase the likelihood of pregnancy.

woman choosing healthy foodLifestyle changes: In women, being over or under weight can lead to problems conceiving. Women can increase their chances of getting pregnant by pursuing a weight loss (or gain) diet and regular exercise program until a healthy weight is achieved and then maintaining that healthy weight.

Other lifestyle choices that can increase fertility or chances of conception include stopping smoking of all types, as well as stopping alcohol consumption and recreational drug use. Intake of caffeine (often present in coffee, many sodas, chocolate and over-the-counter diet and/or alertness pills) should also be kept to a minimum (1 caffeinated drink per day). As much as possible, you should minimize stress and emotional strain.

Hormonal Therapy: Hormone therapy may be used to stimulate ovulation or to make the lining of the uterus (called the endometrium) better prepared to hold a fertilized egg. These medications can increase the number of eggs which mature and exit the ovary; so this increases the chance of having twins, triplets, or other multiple gestations (meaning more than one baby during a pregnancy). Hormonal medications include clomiphene citrate (Clomid), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). Hormones can be taken in pill or injection form. Injections may be made under the skin, or deeply into muscle tissue (typically the buttocks).

Intrauterine Insemination (also known as Artificial Insemination): Intrauterine Insemination is used when the male partner has a low sperm count or when the female's cervical mucosa is not adequate to assist the sperm on its travel to the egg. This procedure involves placing specially prepared sperm directly into the uterus via a flexible tube which is inserted into the vagina and through the cervix.

Surgery: Surgery can repair damaged or blocked structures (e.g. fallopian tubes) or be used to treat endometriosis. Surgery may be laparoscopic (with small telescopes inserted through small holes) or open (where a bigger incision is made to give access to the organs). Female surgeries are usually performed by gynecologists. Similar surgeries can also be performed in males to overcome anatomical (structural) abnormalities which get in the way of sperm maturation or ejaculation.


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