It is heartbreaking to go through failed attempts to conceive month after month, experiencing disappointment every time. At many points in time, you feel the urge to give up, and it may feel like you’ll never realize your dream of having a family. Constant failure and disappointment can leave a couple overcome with frustration, distress, and depression.
Luckily, there are many alternative assisted reproductive treatments (ART) available to help couples get pregnant.
During my 3-year-long fertility fight, there were countless moments when I felt that I might never get pregnant. I gave up and then summoned back my courage numerous times with every test, poke, injection, and unsuccessful procedure. The journey was getting more challenging and more painful with every step of the fertility treatments, but I also realized that for every door closing on us, a new one opened every time.
There is much medical science has to offer in this age to address various hurdles and complications a couple faces in their fertility journey. If medical assistance doesn’t work or you and your partner don’t wish to go for assisted medical procedures, there are other options, including surrogacy and adoption.
Infertility treatment options and other methods available today
What can a hospital do for infertile couples? There are lots of ways today to help couples with fertility issues, and these can go beyond medication and medical procedures. The best choice for you will be determined by the cause of infertility and your condition.
Depending on the reason for infertility, one or both of you might need assistance. The available options below consist of treatment options for female infertility, treatment options for male infertility, pregnancy options for infertile couples, among others.
To choose the option that suits you best, you must first understand every choice available and then, together with your doctor, decide what would work for you.
1. Fertility medications
This is the first place for doctors to start the infertility treatment program. Your physician will prescribe you infertility medicines based on the hurdles you’re facing. Some medicines are used for women diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), while others are intended to regularize ovulation. They are also used to increase the number of mature eggs the ovaries release.
These medicines are usually based on hormones, have different chemical compositions and brand labels, and can be taken orally or injected. They help to improve ovulation and egg quality in women undergoing infertility treatments. In some cases, doctors prescribe drugs to men to boost sperm quality and secretion.
While medication may be the first step, it is usually not the last. Doctors will combine medication courses with ART to increase the chances of success. Hormones-based fertility drugs aren’t cheap, and the bill will grow further when they are coupled with ARTs.
2. Intra-uterine insemination (IUI)
IUI, also commonly known as artificial insemination, is a procedure where a prepared sample of sperm is injected directly into the uterus to increase the chances of fertilizing the egg. The doctor will keep track of your ovulation cycle by ultrasound every day until the egg is mature and ready for fertilization. Your doctor can also recommend fertility drugs to boost ovulation and the quality of mature eggs.
The sperm sample (provided by your partner or a sperm donor) is prepared by collecting healthy sperms and removing any chemicals that can hinder the fertilization. This process is called “sperm washing.” The doctor will then inject the sample into the uterus, using a thin tube inserted through the cervix. Doctors can prescribe hormone-based drugs to further assist in establishing a pregnancy.
As an IUI success story, I can tell you that the process is quick (takes no more than 15 minutes) and painless for most ladies. The price of one IUI cycle would be between $300 and $1,000.
The success rate is lower compared to IVF, but your chances increase with every IUI cycle you undergo.
3. In-vitro fertilization (IVF)
IVF is recommended to couples when multiple cycles of IUI fail to produce positive results. Instead of injecting sperm samples and letting the fertilization happen naturally in the uterus, this type of fertilization occurs in a lab dish. Interesting fact: the phrase “test-tube baby” was coined to describe children conceived in this way.
The procedure starts with medications that help your ovaries produce multiple eggs in one cycle. Doctors then extract these eggs and fertilize them in a petri dish in the lab using a washed sperm sample from your partner or a donor. Specialists prefer to fertilize 2 or more eggs to improve the chances of successfully establishing a pregnancy. The fertilized eggs (embryos) are then placed back in the uterus, and 1 or more embryos need to attach to its lining to confirm pregnancy.
IVF is a relatively lengthy procedure as the medications to boost ovulation are administered for several months, and it involves more ultrasounds and blood tests.
The cost of IVF (including drugs, tests, and the procedure) can exceed $11,500. This method has a better success rate, but only a few couples get lucky the first time. You may need several cycles of IVF before getting pregnant. IVF techniques differ in terms of the source of egg, sperm, or embryo. IVF with donor eggs/ sperm/ embryo is also recommended for same-sex couples.
4. IVF with ICSI
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a method where instead of adding sperm samples to the eggs and letting them fertilize naturally in a dish, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg.
This process also takes place in the lab and has a much higher success rate than conventional IVF.
Most of the IVF treatments use the ICSI technique to ensure a higher success rate.
5. IVF with donor eggs
When a woman’s eggs are of poor quality and can’t be fertilized, doctors would advise using eggs from a donor. These eggs will be fertilized with your partner’s sperm, and the embryo will be implanted into your uterus. You will carry the baby although you won’t be biologically related to the child.
This is what specialists generally recommend to women above 40 years of age or to couples who have undergone multiple IVF rounds without success. The price of the procedure increases with the added cost of donor eggs.
6. IVF with donor sperm
If a man has a low sperm count or poor sperm mobility, doctors suggest using donor sperm to fertilize the eggs. The rest of the procedure remains the same, and the embryo gets injected into the uterus. In this case, the baby is not biologically related to the father.
The procedure is more expensive than IVF due to the added cost of donor sperm.
7. IVF with donor embryo
When none of the above work and a couple undergoing IVF has more embryos than they wish to get implanted, they can donate them to another couple.
In this case, the woman will carry the baby as in any other pregnancy, but the child will not be biologically related to either of the parents. This procedure is cheaper than other donor options.
When a woman can’t carry the pregnancy to term, surrogacy is the best option for the couple. The surrogate mother is inseminated with the male partner’s sperm, and she will then carry the baby and deliver it. The child will be biologically related only to the father.
Another option is to use eggs and sperm from the couple and fertilize them in the lab, ensuring that the child is related to both the mother and the father. This embryo is then implanted in the surrogate mother’s uterus.
The cost of surrogacy can range from $110,000 to $170,000 depending on legal costs, hospital charges, and surrogate fees, among others.
Surrogacy with donor sperm
When neither partner is healthy enough to reproduce, donor sperm is used to impregnate the surrogate.
Reading through all these options, one might assume that the ART process is easy and full of possibilities. Yet, no matter how hard you try and what procedures you undergo, infertility remains incurable at times, and every treatment leads to a dead end.
The battle against infertility is not just hard on your body but also takes an enormous toll on your mental health and well-being. It is emotionally draining and painful to fail in every cycle and still muster the courage to go through every step over and over again.
Adoption can be the answer for such couples. It also works for same-sex partners who don’t want to deal with surrogacy or donor eggs/sperm. The options include foster care adoption, international adoption, and domestic adoption.
The price may vary from $50,000 to $60,000 and depends on various parameters, including legal fees, country of adoption, and the annual income of prospective parents.
While medical science has greatly advanced and provides a plethora of alternatives for infertile couples, the battle to conceive can still be long and tiring. Struggling with infertility is a challenge in both physical and emotional terms. We recommend that you check your and your partner’s emotional well-being from time to time and seek expert help if necessary.