Infertility Treatments: Making the Right Choice
Whether you’ve just received the diagnosis of infertility or have been on the journey to motherhood for some time, the idea that you may not be able to conceive can be overwhelming. Given the number of fertility treatment options available to families, couples often find themselves in a ‘sea of information,’ unsure of which path is right for them. Familiarize yourself with the different causes of infertility and specifics of each treatment approach so that you can select the one that represents the best match for your family-building goals.
The Medical Approach (Assisted Reproductive Technology)
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
- Fertility drugs
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)
- Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)
- Donor eggs and embryos
The Natural Approach
- Chinese Herbs
- Nutrition / Diet
- Physical Therapy (The Clear Passage Approach)
The Clear Passage Approach® – The Clear Passage Approach is a treatment that addresses both the mechanical and hormonal causes of infertility. Published studies have shown that it can improve both natural and IVF pregnancy rates.
This manual therapy appears to decrease scarring and adhesions anywhere in the pelvis and the reproductive tract; this includes adhesions that form at the site of endometrial implants or block the fallopian tubes. These adhesions can hinder the female reproductive organs from functioning normally, prevent sperm and egg from joining, decrease the opportunity for implantation or cause implantation.
In women whose infertility is linked to hormonal factors such as high FSH or PCOS, our therapists treat the dura and all of its attachments, from the tailbone into the head. This sheath surrounds the central nervous system, responsible for a myriad of complex activities. Any adhesive restriction within that system can create profound effects in various areas of the body and affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
Acupuncture – This ancient form of medicine involves the insertion of ultra-thin needles into specific points on the body. These points are found on channels or meridians — pathways that circulate electrical energy throughout the body. When needled, these points can regulate the body’s function.
Acupuncture may help conditions that affect fertility such as an under-functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning thyroid (hyperthyroidism). It has also been said to stimulate egg production. In addition, acupuncture may may help women whose lining is too work to sustain a pregnancy by increasing blood flow. This enables the lining to better absorb the nutrients and hormones it needs in order be strong enough to hold onto an implanted embryo.
IVF (In vitro fertilization) – In vitro means “outside the body,” while fertilization refers to the sperm attaching to and entering the egg. Thus, (IVF) is the process in which a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm are joined in a laboratory dish.
As the first step, the doctor performs a semen analysis on the male, as well as a trial or mock embryo transfer. During the mock transfer, a catheter is passed through the cervix and into the uterus in order to determine its path through the cervix and distance to the top of the uterine cavity.
Next, the doctor uses ovulation-stimulating drugs to increase the number of eggs available for retrieval. S/he removes the eggs from the ovaries with a hollow needle during a procedure called follicular aspiration. After the sperm is prepared for joining with the egg, insemination occurs, where the sperm and eggs are placed in lab incubators. Transfer of the embryos into the woman’s uterus typically occurs one to six days later. The doctor inserts a speculum into the vagina to expose the cervix; suspended in fluid, the embryos are inserted into the womb using a catheter.
The embryos are usually transferred into the woman’s uterus one to six days later, but in most cases the transfer occurs between two to three days afteregg retrieval. At this stage, the fertilized egg has developed into a two-to-four cell embryo. The transfer process involves inserting a speculum into the vagina to expose the cervix. A predetermined number of embryos are suspended in fluid and placed through a catheter into the womb.
IUI (Intrauterine insemination) – IUI is the process of placing sperm into a woman’s uterus during ovulation. The sperm is inserted via catheter into the vagina, through the cervix and into the uterus. Because IUI must occur at the time of ovulation, timing is critical for this treatment approach — monitoring signs of impeding ovulation is a crucial step.
IUI is most commonly used in women who are using donor sperm to become pregnant. Like IVF, it is often used in combination with ovulation-stimulating drugs.
GIFT, ZIFT – GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer) and ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer) are modified versions of IVF. GIFT involves placing individual sperm and eggs into the fallopian tubes. With ZIFT, fertilized eggs are placed into the fallopain tubes.
The difference is that GIFT and ZIFT requires less time than IVF. With IVF, embryos are kept in the lab for several days prior to transfer. In GIFT, the sperm and egg are joined right before transfer; with ZIFT, the transfer is done within 24 hours.
Because both GIFT and ZIFT require a surgical procedure for tubal transfer that IVF does not, IVF has become the more popular form of ART.
Helpful Tips: Choosing Infertility Treatment
- Go online. The web offers countless resources to help you learn about fertility treatment. Browse forums, blogs, and health websites to gain a well-rounded understanding of all the treatment options available.
- Talk to those who have experienced it first hand. Speaking to someone who has dealt with infertility can help you gain helpful insights as to what treatment may be like for you. Again, blogs and forums are a great place to find support and advice from those who share your journey.
- Keep your well-being in mind. Some treatments can be stressful — physically, emotionally and financially. Choose a fertility treatment that makes sense for your health, lifestyle and financial situation.
- Research. Gathering information about infertility treatment can prove to be an overwhelming task. However, knowing all the options before choosing a treatment that is right for you is often worth a few hours of research on the internet.
- Discuss. Couples should take the time to discuss which infertility treatment makes most sense for them. It is also important to discuss how it will effect your relationship, budget, and physical health.
- Plan. Planning ahead can help decrease the stress of beginning infertility treatment. Find out how much time you will need to set aside to receive treatment. If you plan on altering your diet to increase fertility naturally, make a plan for your grocery budget and the healthy meals you will cook ahead of time.
- Budget. Infertility treatment often involves significant costs. Check to see if your insurance covers fertility treatments. You should check to see if reimbursement is available to you even if you choose a natural fertility treatment such as manual physical therapy.
- Communicate. There are many feelings that often arise during this process. Listen to one another’s fears, hopes, concerns and feelings. Be sensitive and caring toward one another. If complications arise, it is important to know that you have your partner to lean on.