Struggling to conceive is a common problem in the U.S. Between 10 and 15 percent of couples will have a hard time getting pregnant and be diagnosed with infertility. While a diagnosis of infertility can be discouraging, there are still many options for conceiving and having children.
1. What is Infertility?
Infertility can be a scary diagnosis, but it becomes a little less overwhelming once you understand what it really means. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infertility is being unable to conceive for a year or longer while having unprotected sex. It can be physically and emotionally taxing to try for so long and not get pregnant, but infertility doesn’t necessarily mean you can never have a child.
Considering how long it can take to get pregnant, you may be wondering when it’s time to discuss infertility with a doctor. While you can have this conversation at any time, many couples try for about a year before seriously considering assisted reproductive technology (ART) or adoption.
For women trying to conceive, there are several reasons to talk to your doctor about infertility:
- If you are over 35 and unable to conceive after six months,
- If you are over 40.
- If you have irregular, absent, or painful periods,
- If you have past issues with infertility or multiple miscarriages, or
- If you have certain illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease and endometriosis.
Infertility is also common for men. Research shows that nine percent of men and 11 percent of women experience problems with fertility. Men should talk to their doctors if they experience the following:
- A history of sexual dysfunction or testicular or prostate health conditions,
- A low sperm count,
- Swelling in the scrotum or small testicles, or
- A family history of infertility.
Both men and women are at risk for infertility if they have been through cancer treatment.
2. What Are Your Options if You Are Struggling to Conceive?
If any of the above apply to you, you should start discussing your options with a doctor. You can also try certain actions that may improve fertility: quit smoking, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight, and limit or stop drinking alcohol. Men can also avoid exposure to very high temperatures, such as hot tubs and environmental toxins.
Aside from changing these lifestyle habits, you may consider medical infertility treatments. The two most common options to increase the chances of conception are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
3. What is IVF? How Does it Work?
The IVF treatment process includes: retrieving eggs from the ovaries, fertilizing them with sperm in a lab setting, and then implanting any developing embryos in the uterus. Sometimes, other technologies are used in conjunction with IVF.
The IVF cost is often a concern for couples trying to conceive, so it helps to know the success rates before deciding to proceed. Success rate statistics are recorded as the percentage of treatment cycles that result in a live birth, and success varies by the age of the mother.
According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, IVF has a 30 percent success rate if all women in the U.S. who receive IVF are taken into consideration. However, because age makes a significant difference when it comes to conception, success rates are much higher if you look at just women under the age of 35.
To go through IVF treatment, you and your partner need first to undergo several tests such as semen analysis and a uterine exam. Next, the woman will need to take medications (usually by injection) for a week or longer to stimulate the ovaries to develop and release more eggs. Women are then given another set of drugs to help the eggs mature and to prevent premature ovulation.
After a few weeks of medication, your doctor will do tests to make sure you’re ready for egg retrieval. You will receive medication and can be sedated during the retrieval process. Your doctor will remove eggs and put them in a special incubator. Healthy eggs get mixed with sperm that has been retrieved from the man. Once the embryos have developed, they will be implanted into the uterus.
4. What Can You Expect from Doing IVF Treatments?
IVF treatment cycles are several weeks long and may not end in successful conception. Many couples who choose IVF go through multiple cycles. IVF treatment can also cause several physical side effects in women. These include bloody discharge, bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, and constipation.
5. Don’t Let the Cost of IVF Treatment Worry You
Unfortunately, IVF can cost between $12,000 and $17,000 per cycle. Before starting, it’s important to understand the chances of success and to determine with your partner how many cycles you can afford. However, price should not be a barrier for hopeful couples. There are multiple ways to lower costs and get assistance.
Start by checking your insurance plan. Not many plans cover the full cost of IVF, but some states require at least some degree of coverage. To reduce costs, you can start your testing at your doctor’s office, which tends to be less expensive than testing at a fertility clinic. Contact the National Infertility Association for resources if you’re a low-income individual looking for assistance.
While IVF is costly, it is the most effective and most common way to conceive a child despite infertility. The process is long and doesn’t always succeed, but IVF provides hope and possibility for those who want to have children and can’t conceive on their own.