In the UK, around 1 in 7 couples may have trouble conceiving. A couple may be diagnosed as infertile if they have been trying to get pregnant for a year with no success, or for 6 months if the woman is over 35 years old, as the chances of naturally becoming pregnant start decreasing from then. However, advancements in medicine have led to developments in fertility treatments that help more and more people with infertility issues to conceive.
The right treatment for you depends on the cause, your age, how long you've been infertile and personal preferences. Because infertility is a complex disorder, treatment involves significant financial, physical, psychological and time commitments. There are 3 main types of fertility treatments: medication, surgery and assisted conception.
Fertility drugs are the main treatment for women who are infertile due to ovulation disorders, they work by releasing hormones that trigger or regulate ovulation.
- Clomiphene/Letrozole is a medication taken orally to stimulate the ovaries to encourage the monthly release of an egg.
- Metformin is a drug used to help women with insulin resistance, common with a diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), ovulate.
- Gonadotrophins functions slightly different, stimulating the ovary directly instead of the pituitary gland. The objective is to stimulate the production of multiple eggs and improve the chances of conception.
In some cases, surgery may be offered to correct a problem and improve fertility. It isn’t the most common type of treatment due to the success of other options.
- Fallopian tubes surgery is a procedure offered when fallopian tubes get damaged or blocked, potentially from pelvic inflammatory disease or as a result of a previous infection or disease. Surgery will be done to remove scar tissue to make it easier for eggs to go through.
- Laparoscopic surgery is used for women suffering from endometriosis, a condition that sees tissue similar to the lining of the womb starts growing in other places than the womb, such as in ovaries or fallopian tubes. The procedure is quite common to destroy or remove endometrial cysts.
- Laparoscopic ovarian drilling is a similar procedure that aims to treat PCOS by removing cysts that have developed on the ovaries. This is usually recommended when other treatments haven’t worked.
If medication and surgery don’t help or aren’t suited to your needs, your doctor may recommend assisted conception, or assisted reproduction. This procedure controls the way the sperm and egg are brought together so that you’re more likely to become pregnant. The three most common methods involve the use of own sperm or eggs, or donor sperm or eggs, depending on the root of the issue.
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the process of fertilising the egg outside of the body. Eggs are removed from the ovaries and are fertilised with sperm in a laboratory in a petri dish. This becomes an embryo, which is returned to the womb to grow and develop.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, involves placing the sperm directly into the womb through a thin plastic tube that is passed through the cervix.
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a treatment reserved for men with low sperm count or low-quality sperm. It’s a laboratory procedure and involves injecting sperm into the outer part of the cytoplasm, the outer part of the egg. If the fertilisation works, the then embryo is put into the woman’s uterus.
If you or your partner are facing infertility issues, you could go through the process of finding an egg or sperm donor to help you conceive. Some clinics have a list of donors available to choose from, however, this usually involves a waiting list, especially if you’re looking for something specific.
Why Get Treatments Abroad?
If you’re one of the millions of people who need help to conceive, you have probably considered how getting treatment in your home country compares with going overseas for it. Time is often of the essence and having options can really help maximise your chances:
- Costs - European countries rank highly amongst the most desirable IVF destinations. In some countries, treatment can be half the price you’d find in the UK, meaning that even with travel and hotel fees involved you’d still be paying less.
- More treatment options – Going abroad also mean access to different and potentially more advanced IVF techniques that can increase your chance of conceiving.
- Egg donor availability – In some countries such as Spain, there is an abundance of egg donors as there are laws that keep the anonymity of the donor, unlike in other countries. This means there should be no waiting list to have the treatment and if a cycle fails, another can be started quickly.