Assisted conception – what is it and what are the possibilities?
In the UK, one in six couples are having difficulties conceiving and after spending a significant amount of time trying for a baby, couples are usually directed towards assisted conception treatments.
If this is your case, we’d like to welcome you to our website with pointing out two things.
Firstly, fighting a battle for a new life is never an easy one and we are here to bring you the newest findings, products and methods that could help you conceive.
Secondly, success rates of assisted conception treatments are rising as we speak. Teams of scientists are creating more and more sophisticated methods, medications and other products that are showing high success rates and very low risks. That is why more and more couples are heading on this journey.
Let’s take a look at assisted conception – what it is exactly and what options you have ahead of you.
The experts’ advice is that if you’ve been having sex regularly for at least a year (regularly meaning two or three times a week) and you are under 35 years of age, it is time to visit a fertility specialist. If you are older than 35, the time you should spend trying to conceive without professional help should be shorter than a year.
When seeing your fertility specialist, both you and your partner should go to the appointment. You will probably have a long discussion with your doctor talking about your reproductive health, your medical history, how long you’ve been trying to conceive, etc. Afterwards, you and your partner will be directed to have some tests done – we’ll be talking about these in detail in the weeks to come.
If your fertility specialist suggests an assisted conception treatment, it’s good to know that these are often combined with fertility medications and supplements that can increase your chances to conceive.
A new study performed in Copenhagen analysed data on more than 92,000 children all over Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden. This is the biggest long-term research (children’s health was being observed for the last 20 years) into the health of babies born with the help of assisted reproductive technology – ever.
The findings have shown that the artificially conceived children’s health has been improving since 1988 when the study began. A significant improvement in health outcomes for these babies includes fewer babies being born prematurely, less babies being born with low birth weight, as well as less stillborn babies or deaths occurring within the first year of life.
This study has concluded that the safety of assisted conception has come close to the natural conception – especially for single babies.
What are the options?
There are many kinds of assisted conception treatments and we will talk about them in our future texts. The choice of a method depends on your and your partner’s fertility tests results and a diagnosis. If the cause of fertility is unknown, your fertility specialist will probably suggest a simple intervention and then try a bit more complex methods.
Here are some terms you may come across when researching assisted conception:
Intrauterine insemination or IUI
In this method, sperm is inserted directly into your uterus. The procedure is performed while you’re ovulating. This method can be suitable for you if you cannot have normal sexual intercourse, if your partner has difficulties ejaculating, then if your cervical mucus is inhibiting your partner’s sperm from traveling towards the egg or if it doesn’t allow the sperm to survive. It can also be a good solution if your partner has a low sperm count or slow sperm.
In vitro fertilisation or IVF
This method is performed partially outside of your body – your eggs and your partner sperm are being joined in a laboratory dish and allowed to develop into an embryo for up to 5 days. Once fertilisation is successful and an embryo is created, it is transplanted into your uterus. IVF may be a good solution for you if your fallopian tubes are blocked.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI
Similar to IVF, except instead of letting eggs and sperm join on their own, a single spermatozoid is injected directly into a single egg in laboratory conditions, under a microscope. If the embryo was successfully created, it is transplanted into your uterus. This method is usually chosen in cases of male infertility.
Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer or GIFT
In this method, a woman takes medication so that ovulation is stimulated and mature eggs are collected. The eggs are then transferred into the fallopian tubes together with a man’s sperm.
Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer or ZIFT
Similar to GIFT, except the egg is being joined with the sperm in the laboratory conditions and the zygot or the fertilised egg is then transferred into your fallopian tubes. Both GIFT and ZIFT are mostly used in cases of unexplained fertility.
If there is a physical problem affecting your or your partner’s fertility, you may need a surgical procedure. This can involve clearing out fallopian tubes for you or repairing or reconstructing a blocked semen duct for your partner. If you suffer from endometriosis, you may need to have the scar tissue removed. Some men may need a surgical sperm retrieval if they are producing healthy sperm, but it cannot be ejaculated because of the blocked sperm duct.
If your partner produces no sperm or has very low sperm count, you can use a donor’s sperm. The proceedings are the same as if you were having IVF or ICSI.
Egg or embryo donation
You can also have eggs or an entire embryo donated. Again, the proceedings are the same as if you were having IVF or ICSI – the embryo is being implanted into your womb. The donor of the sperm, the egg or an embryo can be anonymous, a close friend or a family member.
In this case, your baby is carried by another woman, a surrogate mother. This can be performed with your and your partner’s embryo or with a donor’s embryo.
Whatever your chosen assisted conception treatment may be, make sure to discuss all available options, success rates, benefits and risks with your fertility specialist. It is also very important to discuss everything with your partner or other family members.