Infertility

Seeking Out and Preparing for Treatments

By Mimi Greenwood Knight


Infertility is a common problem, affecting approximately one in six couples. In fact, the World Health Organization calls it “a global health issue affecting millions of people of reproductive age worldwide.” But if you’re struggling to get pregnant, it can feel like you’re all alone.

Statistically, 40% of the time, infertility is related to the woman, 40% the man, and 20% a combination of the two. Regardless of where the issue lies, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a godsend. According to the CDC, 2% or one in 50 US babies are born using IVF.

IVF occurs when eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries, fertilized outside the body, then replaced inside the womb. The process can be lengthy. The woman’s body is typically “stimulated” with medication followed by weeks of scans before eggs are collected. After the IVF procedure, she must return to the clinic for the embryo to be transferred and then return for a pregnancy test. You can expect a round of IVF to take four to five weeks.

There are a few options, including natural IVF, which doesn’t use stimulating medication, natural-modified IVF, which only requires three or four days of medication, and mild/mini-IVF, which requires five to nine days of medication. Treatments can be carried out without halting the woman’s menstrual cycle and restarting it. Egg and sperm donation and surrogacy cycles are also available when needed.

Because a decline in the number and quality of eggs begins at around age 35 in women, it becomes more challenging to conceive starting in your 40s. Men’s sperm gradually declines in quality and quantity over time, too. Not that couples don’t have success with IVF in their 40s, it’s just recommended to begin sooner rather than later.

The success rate of IVF cycles is around 35%. So, know going in that you may require more than one cycle of treatment. Although success rates are constantly improving and the number of cycles before becoming pregnant is lowering, prepare yourself mentally for a race, not a sprint.

While mentally preparing, consider the increased chance of a multiple blessing with IVF. Twins and triplets are more common with IVF because placing more than one embryo in the womb increases the chances of pregnancy. Talk to your fertility doctor about your unique challenges, recommendations, and additional techniques and diagnostics that might strengthen your IVF success rate.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • 12% of women experience difficulties becoming pregnant or carrying a child to term.
  • 12 to 15% of all couples are unable to conceive after a year of unprotected sex.
  • 10% of all couples are unable to conceive after two years of unprotected sex.
  • 33% of Americans have turned to fertility treatments or know someone who has.