Infertility Treatments: Which Ones Are Best?

Before a couple can be considered infertile, it’s important to know just how infertility is classified. Many times, couples become afraid that they may be infertile after trying to conceive a few times, but a number of things, such as stress, fatigue, and even poor appetite can affect a couple’s ability to ‘get pregnant.’

A couple is officially considered infertile if they have been trying to conceive for 18 consecutive months with no success. In most cases, couples should be able to conceive within six months to a year of trying to have a baby. And, infertility is not only a female problem–cases of inferitlity have proven that about 30% are a result of male reproduction difficulties, 30% of infertility problems are female, and an additional 30% of infertility cases are due to joint complications in both individuals.

Some common infertility treatments include in-vitro fertilization (IVF), donor insemination (DI), and embryo freezing and storage.

In-vitro fertilization is ideal for couples who may both be experiencing fertility problems, such as blockage in the fallopian tubes for women, or a significantly low sperm count for men. For the IVF procedure, a woman has one or more eggs taken from her ovaries before the eggs are released into the fallopian tubes. In most cases, women are encouraged to take IVF drugs in order to produce more eggs faster; this will increase the chances of conception. After the woman’s eggs are collected, they are combined with the man’s sperm and placed in an incubator so that embryos can develop. Up to three embryos can be implanted in a woman’s womb at a time. While IVF is fairly safe, there are a few risks to consider, including mulitple births or overstimulation of the ovaries, a condition called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.

Donor insemination is ideal for couples in which the male cannot reporduce. Couples also consider DI when the male has a genetic disease that could be passed on to the child. Sperm donors are recruited by clinics, and each donor must undergo screenings and tests to determine state of health, potential for disease, and medical history. Sperm is stored in a clinic for up to six months, so that donors can continue to be tested for HIV and other diseases. The physical characteristics of the donor are also recorded, so that couples can choose donors that closely resemble the father; though in some cases, this is not always possible.

Embryo freezing and storage works in conjunction with IVF, since the additional eggs are frozen in case fertilization does not occur when the maximum of three eggs are transferred to the mother’s womb. When embryos are stored, this may reduce the need for additional treatments. While freezing embryos is a suitable backup plan, embryos do not always survive freezing, and the survival rate for frozen embryos in the womb is lower than embryos transferred during the first IVF treatment.

In addition to the medical treatments that have been proven to aid in infertility, alternative therapies, such as Chinese herbs and integrated treatments, like mind/body retreats for couples, have also helped men and women become parents. Herbal treatments work best in women with irregular periods or hormonal imbalances. Saw palmetto and tribulus are recommended for men experiencing infertility, and black cohosh and licorice are recommended natural remedies for women. As opposed to traditional medical treatments, herbal remedies focus on treating the whole body, and should be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle to achieve the best results. Since most herbs have not been regulated or regarded as substantial treatments, couples should be advised that herbs are extremely potent and can treat a number of conditions in the body. Taking over-the-counter drugs or prescription medications could prevent the herbs from working properly, and could cause additional problems, such as blood clotting, depression, or high blood pressure.

Couples that are considering herbal infertility treatments are encouraged to speak honestly with their doctors about natural treatments, as well as ask for advice on which herbs are suitable for each of them.

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