Getting pregnant is a lot harder than most people imagine.
According to the Mayo Clinic, 15 percent of couples cannot conceive a child after one year of frequent unprotected sex, indicating that one or both partners are infertile. While infertility is common, several different treatments can significantly improve the chances of successfully getting pregnant. In vitro fertilization (IVF), one of the most popular fertility treatments, can help couples have a child despite some health concerns and circumstances.
How to Know if You Are Infertile
The most apparent symptom of infertility is the inability to get pregnant. However, infertility affects both men and women and can be caused by many different factors, so it can be hard to tell whether or not you’re infertile.
A few other symptoms may help detect infertility. For women, irregular or absent menstrual periods can sometimes indicate infertility. Changes in hair growth and sexual function may be signs of infertility in men.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for one year (or six months if you’re a woman over the age of 35), you should consider seeing a doctor to assess your chances of getting pregnant. You should also see your doctor if you want to get pregnant and have a history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), uterine fibroids, or endometrial polyps.
How Does IVF Work?
IVF is one of the most popular and successful forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART). “In vitro” literally means in a laboratory test tube or dish. This refers to a critical step of the IVF process: when sperm fertilizes an egg extracted from the ovaries.
One full IVF treatment cycle takes three to four weeks and includes five basic steps, as described below. While IVF does sometimes work on the first try, many couples opt for numerous rounds of treatment.
A single cycle of IVF includes the following:
- Fertility Medications – Medications are prescribed to help with the stimulation of egg release. During this step, doctors use a transvaginal ultrasound to analyze the ovaries and take blood samples to examine hormone levels.
- Collecting the Eggs – With the help of a minor surgical process that involves a hollow needle and ultrasound imaging, the eggs are collected through the pelvic cavity. Medications are administered to help with potential discomfort.
- Collecting the Sperm Sample – Either the male partner provides a new sample of sperm or frozen or donated sperm is retrieved.
- Insemination – The sperm and eggs are combined in the lab and stored in a laboratory dish to promote fertilization. The eggs are monitored to confirm that cell division and fertilization take place.
- Transferring the Embryos – The fertilized eggs (now called embryos) are transferred into the woman’s uterus three to five days after fertilization. The process can cause discomfort but rarely pain for most women.
Is IVF Treatment the Right Option for You?
IVF treatment often appeals to couples with a known infertile partner, same-sex couples, older women, and women with ovulation issues, blocked fallopian tubes, or endometriosis. According to ReproductiveFacts, the male partner is either the sole cause or a contributing factor of infertility in about 40 percent of infertile couples.
IVF may also be an option if your doctor can’t exactly pinpoint what is causing your infertility (also called ‘unexplained infertility’) or if other treatments have proved to be ineffective. Be sure to consult with your doctor before making any decisions about fertility treatment.
Where Can You Find Help for the Cost of IVF Treatment?
IVF is often very expensive. In the United States, you should expect to spend around $12,400 for a complete cycle of IVF if you plan to use your own eggs and your partner’s sperm. The total cost will further depend on the medicine you will require, where you live, and whether your state mandates partial insurance coverage for fertility treatments.
To pay for IVF, people often consider loans offered directly from fertility financing corporations, personal loans, home equity loans, credit cards, and grants.
Be Hopeful and Hold On
While the process of getting pregnant can be both physically and emotionally taxing, know that you are not alone and that there is hope. While no fertility treatment can guarantee success, IVF has led to the births of more than one million babies in the U.S. since the development of the procedure.