Everyone has heard the expression “biological clock” but there is a science behind this phrase. As a woman ages, her chances of conceiving a healthy child decrease. If you are 35 years of age or younger, there are numerous fertility treatments that fertility specialists can recommend to help you achieve a healthy pregnancy. After the age of 35, your fertility specialist may suggest more comprehensive fertility treatments.
While the chances of getting pregnant decrease with age, the risk of miscarriage rises. Though no treatment can guarantee success, science has come a long way in the past 50 years. Today, couples will find a wide range of options for treating infertility. In healthy couples, it is highly probable a woman will become pregnant within the first six months of having unprotected sex. As a general rule, if a healthy pregnancy has not occurred after one year, it’s time to seek the help of a fertility specialist.
The most recommended starting point when looking to build a family begins with preconception counseling. During counseling, it is important for couples to discuss their values and family goals with their fertility specialists. Thinking about these things ahead of time can help a couple mentally, emotionally and financially. The process can be daunting and overwhelming, however, preconception counseling is designed to help couples prepare.
Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before a woman’s monthly period. If her cycles are consistently regular at 28 days, then she will ovulate on day 14. In many cases, the female cycle varies though, so it’s important to track the cycle each month, creating a calendar of period occurrences. For instance, if your period occurs every 32 days, then you will be ovulating on day 18. The window for fertility is about 5 days, which means the woman can get pregnant from day 13 to day 18. There are now apps and various other resources to help women track their cycle and determine the optimal days for pregnancy to occur.
Types of Fertility Treatment
Fertility doctors typically begin with simple, non-invasive solutions. Your OB/GYN or fertility specialist will get a thorough medical history on both partners. They might ask about lifestyle habits, eating habits, cultural background, and sexual activity. A healthier body increases the female’s chances of producing a healthy embryo. This is also true for men. Unhealthy habits like smoking, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise can be a factor.
First, the fertility doctor will determine whether the woman has regular monthly periods. Then the doctor ensures the woman is ovulating regularly. In a healthy scenario, a woman’s body releases one egg from her ovaries each month. For pregnancy to occur, that egg must be fertilized with sperm, then travel through a fallopian tube to the uterus. Once implanted in the uterus or womb, the egg begins to grow, much like a seed planted in fertile soil. At each step along the way, problems can occur.
A woman releases one egg each month, while a man might release 200 million sperm. The egg must travel up the fallopian tube and meet with the sperm in just the right time frame for conception to occur. When an egg cannot make the journey, the doctor performs diagnostics to determine the cause. Sometimes there is a blockage in the woman’s tubes. The blockage may require a surgical procedure that clears the way. Drugs such as letrozole or injections can be used to induce ovulation and encourage eggs to move forward.
Here are some of the most common types of fertility treatment options available.
Fertility specialists commonly use drugs like gonadotropins and Clomiphene. These drugs work to regulate a woman’s reproductive hormones. They also encourage her body to release more than one egg during the ovulation cycle. With this treatment, it can take three to six months to conceive. It is also important to note the likelihood of having twins or multiple births increases.
Sometimes the fallopian tube is blocked or damaged where the egg cannot move freely through it. Your doctor can perform a simple surgery to remove these blockages or repair damage. Fibroids and endometriosis tissue in the fallopian tubes require surgery. Surgery can also be used to treat PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Laparoscopy and laparotomy are commonly used surgical procedures for these types of gynecological issues.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Using intrauterine insemination (IUI), the doctor deposits a concentrated quantity of sperm directly into the female’s uterus. Sperm may come from her partner or a donor. The doctor may place her on fertility drugs before performing this procedure to promote a higher likelihood of success.
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
In in vitro fertilization, eggs are removed from female ovaries and combined with sperm from a partner or donor. When successful fertilization occurs, the embryo or embryos are implanted back into the woman’s uterus. The odds of having multiple births increase to about 10 to 30 percent.
Exploring various fertility treatments to achieve a healthy pregnancy can prevent many mental, emotional and physical challenges for couples. Partnering with a fertility specialist during preconception counseling can help discover and address these potential challenges that can either delay or prevent a healthy pregnancy, better ensuring the couple is prepared for the journey of creating their family.