Treatment

Infertility treatment depends on:

  • What's causing the infertility
  • How long you've been infertile
  • Your age and your partner's age
  • Personal preferences

Some causes of infertility can't be corrected.

In cases where spontaneous pregnancy doesn't happen, couples can often still achieve a pregnancy through use of assisted reproductive technology. Infertility treatment may involve significant financial, physical, psychological and time commitments.

Treatment for men

Men's options can include treatment for general sexual problems or lack of healthy sperm. Treatment may include:

  • Altering lifestyle factors. Improving lifestyle and behavioral factors can improve chances for pregnancy, including discontinuing select medications, reducing/eliminating harmful substances, improving frequency and timing of intercourse, establishing regular exercise, and optimizing other factors that may otherwise impair fertility.
  • Medications. Certain medications may improve a man's sperm count and likelihood for achieving a successful pregnancy. These medicines may increase testicular function, including sperm production and quality.
  • Surgery. In select conditions, surgery may be able to reverse a sperm blockage and restore fertility. In other cases, surgically repairing a varicocele may improve overall chances for pregnancy.
  • Sperm retrieval. These techniques obtain sperm when ejaculation is a problem or when no sperm are present in the ejaculated fluid. They may also be used in cases where assisted reproductive techniques are planned and sperm counts are low or otherwise abnormal.

Treatment for women

Although a woman may need just one or two therapies to restore fertility, it's possible that several different types of treatment may be needed before she's able to conceive.

  • Stimulating ovulation with fertility drugs. Fertility drugs are the main treatment for women who are infertile due to ovulation disorders. These medications regulate or induce ovulation. Talk with your doctor about fertility drug options — including the benefits and risks of each type.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI). During IUI, healthy sperm are placed directly in the uterus around the time the woman's ovary releases one or more eggs to be fertilized. Depending on the reasons for infertility, the timing of IUI can be coordinated with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
  • Surgery to restore fertility. Uterine problems such as endometrial polyps, a uterine septum or intrauterine scar tissue can be treated with hysteroscopic surgery.

Assisted reproductive technology

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is any fertility treatment in which the egg and sperm are handled. An ART health team includes physicians, psychologists, embryologists, lab technicians, nurses and allied health professionals who work together to help infertile couples achieve pregnancy.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most common ART technique. IVF involves stimulating and retrieving multiple mature eggs from a woman, fertilizing them with a man's sperm in a dish in a lab, and implanting the embryos in the uterus three to five days after fertilization.

Other techniques are sometimes used in an IVF cycle, such as:

  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). A single healthy sperm is injected directly into a mature egg. ICSI is often used when there is poor semen quality or quantity, or if fertilization attempts during prior IVF cycles failed.
  • Assisted hatching. This technique assists the implantation of the embryo into the lining of the uterus by opening the outer covering of the embryo (hatching).
  • Donor eggs or sperm. Most ART is done using the woman's own eggs and her partner's sperm. However, if there are severe problems with either the eggs or sperm, you may choose to use eggs, sperm or embryos from a known or anonymous donor.
  • Gestational carrier. Women who don't have a functional uterus or for whom pregnancy poses a serious health risk might choose IVF using a gestational carrier. In this case, the couple's embryo is placed in the uterus of the carrier for pregnancy.

Complications of treatment

Complications of infertility treatment may include:

  • Multiple pregnancy. The most common complication of infertility treatment is a multiple pregnancy — twins, triplets or more. Generally, the greater the number of fetuses, the higher the risk of premature labor and delivery, as well as problems during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes. Babies born prematurely are at increased risk of health and developmental problems. Talk to your doctor about ways to prevent a multiple pregnancy before you begin treatment.
  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Fertility medications to induce ovulation can cause OHSS, in which the ovaries become swollen and painful. Symptoms may include mild abdominal pain, bloating and nausea that lasts about a week, or longer if you become pregnant. Rarely, a more severe form causes rapid weight gain and shortness of breath requiring emergency treatment.
  • Bleeding or infection. As with any invasive procedure, there is a rare risk of bleeding or infection with assisted reproductive technology.
July 23, 2016
References
  1. Infertility: An overview — A guide for patients. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/infertility_overview.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  2. Infertility FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/Infertility. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  3. Infertility. Merck Manual Consumer Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/women-s-health-issues/infertility/overview-of-infertility. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  4. Frequently asked questions. Gynecologic problems FAQ137. Treating infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq137.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130521T1023327144. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  5. Frequently asked questions. Gynecologic problems FAQ138. Evaluating infertility. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq136.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130521T1027034009. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  6. Infertility: Frequently asked questions. National Women's Health Information Center. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/infertility.pdf. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  7. Assisted reproductive technologies: A guide for patients. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. http://www.asrm.org/FactSheetsandBooklets/. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  8. Kuohung W, et al. Overview of infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  9. Kuohung W, et al. Causes of female infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  10. Swerdloff RS, et al. Causes of male infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  11. Kuohung W, et al. Evaluation of female infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  12. Swerdloff RS, et al. Evaluation of male infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  13. Kuohung W, et al. Overview of treatment of female infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  14. Wang C, et al. Treatment of male infertility. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  15. Hornstein MD, et al. Optimizing natural fertility in couples planning pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  16. What is assisted reproductive technology? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/art/whatis.html. Accessed May 23, 2016.
  17. Trost LD (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 16, 2016.
  18. Jensen JR (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 24, 2016.
  19. Cook AJ. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2016.