Fertility treatment is used when people cannot conceive naturally, usually because of a medical problem e.g. a man is not producing enough sperm, or a woman is not ovulating. There are different forms, depending on the problem. Often, couples may have to try many fertility treatments for months or years in the hope of success. It doesn’t always work. It can be very expensive. However, it can bring great pleasure if it is successful. Childless couples may face the following options:
IVF – In Vitro Fertilization (in glass): Egg and sperm are brought together in a test-tube. Embryo is put back inside the woman’s body.
AI – Artificial Insemination: Sperm is collected and placed in the woman’s uterus artificially.
AIH – Artificial Insemination (Husband): Artificial Insemination using the husband’s healthy sperm.
AID – Artificial Insemination (Donor) Artificial Insemination using an anonymous donor’s sperm, e.g. if the husband’s sperm are not healthy, or a woman has no partner.
Surrogacy – If a woman cannot have children, her husband’s sperm is used to impregnate another woman – a 3rd party. She gives birth and hands the baby back to the couple.
Infertility is typically defined as the inability to become pregnant after one year of sexual intercourse without contraception. For women over age 35, this condition is diagnosed after 6 months of an inability to conceive. Using this threshold, there will be women, albeit a minority, who meet the criteria for “infertility” but who go on to conceive without medical intervention. However, this definition is used to ensure that people who are experiencing problems that can be remedied will seek timely medical intervention.
Having trouble conceiving is more common that you might think. Despite what we were taught in our sex education classes in school (if any such class was offered), in any given month a typical couple has a 20% chance of conceiving. In a lifetime, 10-15% of couples will experience infertility. This number jumps to 33% in couples with a woman is over 35 years of age. In about 45% of cases there is a male-origin for the infertility, female-origin infertility accounts for 30% of cases, and 20% of the time both partners are the source of difficulties.