Infertility is defined as the inability to contribute to conception. Infertility occurs in both males and females and it is estimated that there are over 11 million couples suffering from infertility in the US alone. Infertility is caused by genetic, physiological, and environmental factors.
Usually about one third of reported infertility cases are due to female factors, another one third are due to male factors, while the remainder is due to a combination of both factors or unknown factors. A woman’s chances of conceiving reduces each year after the age of 30, therefore it is important to consult a fertility specialist if a woman has been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months. The effect of age on male infertility is not well understood. Nowadays, there are many types of infertility treatment methods available.
Fertility medication is a method of infertility treatment administered if the couple is in a low age risk group, the reproductive structures are functioning, and the sperm is of good quality. The infertility treatment includes the prescription of ovarian stimulating medication and medical devices such as cervical caps, which increase the chances of pregnancy.
Artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination is the process in which specially prepared sperm is introduced into the uterus via a catheter. This is the typical form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) used when there are male factor problems in conceiving. Commercial sperm banks provide the donor sperm in most cases. These banks provide all the relevant information regarding their donors and the most compatible donor is often chosen. However, the success of this type of infertility treatment depends on many factors such as the age and health condition of the recipient.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is currently the most efficient ART. It is used in the case of blockage of the female fallopian tubes or low production of male sperm. Physicians treat the female with ovarian stimulation drugs that causes the release of multiple eggs. Once these eggs mature, they are fertilized with the male sperm under controlled conditions. After 3 to 5 days, the embryos are implanted in the uterus. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is a variation of IVF and is a type of infertility treatment used when there are serious dysfunctions with the sperm. This procedure involves the injection of a single sperm into a mature ovum which is then transferred into the uterus.
Gestational carriers are another popular infertility treatment method, where a carrier under the age of 40, is carefully selected, and given hormonal therapy to prepare her uterus for embryo implantation. The patient undergoes standard IVF treatment and the eggs produced are transferred to the gestational carrier.
Due to modern advances in infertility treatment the chances of conception have dramatically increased for infertile couples. However, there is always a risk associated with these methods and the chance of post-treatment complications. Regardless the advances in infertility treatment have given infertile couples all over the world a second chance.