Pregnancy and birthing come easily for many women, while others struggle to conceive. Acquired and inborn health conditions can affect your reproductive organs and are common causes of infertility. Fertility problems related to your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus can be troubling, but help is often available. If you have health issues with your reproductive system, ask your doctor about infertility treatments that might help you conceive.
Reproductive System Basics
Your reproductive organs work as a team to nourish and protect a tiny embryo or growing fetus. A healthy reproductive system carries a pregnancy to term, leading to the birth of a healthy baby. Here is a refresher on how it all begins:
- Your ovaries foster the growth and maturity of eggs for release during ovulation.
- During ovulation, a mature egg travels from your ovary into your fallopian tube where it may join with sperm for fertilization.
- The fertilized egg (now called an embryo) travels to your uterus where it can implant and grow, getting ready for birth.
When one of these steps is impaired, fertility problems may occur.
When you are born, your ovaries contain hundreds of thousands of immature eggs. Your ovaries house these eggs in tiny follicles. When these eggs are released, you have a chance of becoming pregnant. Ovulation disorders, ovarian cysts and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can affect this process and prevent pregnancy. Fertility drugs, surgeries, and other fertility treatments may help. But what if these treatments fail? Women with abnormal ovulation may be able to get pregnant one day with help from an artificial ovary. This artificial ovary will house tiny eggs, taking them from the early follicular stage to maturity, helping women conceive.
About 1 in 4 cases of infertility include problems with tubal factors. Tubal reconstructive surgery can help many women conceive, despite tubal issues. Tubal surgery can reduce scar tissue build-up in the fallopian tubes, restoring tubal health and fertility. This surgery can help many women with endometriosis, a condition that causes fertility problems for 1 in 3 infertile women. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another option for women with tubal problems. During IVF, your fertility doctor extracts healthy eggs from your ovaries, fertilizes them in a lab setting, and then transfers a healthy embryo directly into your uterus. This fertility treatment can help you get pregnant by bypassing your fallopian tubes altogether.
Providing a home for a growing embryo and fetus, the uterus also plays a starring role in reproduction. When fertility problems affect the uterus, surgery can help to restore your fertility. Uterine surgery can correct blockages and abnormal tissue growth, removing scar tissue and fibroids. Surgery can also help repair an abnormally shaped uterus. Some women are born with, or develop, an irregularly shaped uterus, including the following:
- Septate uterus
- Tipped uterus (also known as a tilted, backward, or retroverted uterus)
- Unicornate uterus (associated with a single fallopian tube)
A septate uterus is the most common of the inborn uterine malformations. A septate uterus contains a uterine septum. This septum acts like a wall that separates the uterus in two (similar to a nasal septum). This wall can impede pregnancy and cause recurrent miscarriages. A surgery called hysteroscopy may help, reducing miscarriage rates and leading to a healthy pregnancy.
Treatment Options for Women
Consider Baby-Boosting Drugs
There are a variety of baby-boosting medicines that you can take for female infertility treatment. Before prescribing these fertility pills, your doctor will determine if you are ovulating and whether your ovaries are producing follicles. Using a variety of different tests, your doctor will check to see if your uterine lining is functioning normally and whether your luteal phases are normal, among other things.
After determining what you might need to get pregnant, your doctor will prescribe female infertility treatment. Some fertility drugs help to trigger ovulation. Other fertility pills or hormones help prepare your uterus for pregnancy. Still other female infertility treatment helps to prevent premature ovulation and to enhance high-tech fertility treatments like IVF.
Surgery for Female Infertility Treament
Your doctor may prescribe surgery as a female infertility treatment. Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes account for a large percent of all fertility problems. Surgical procedures can heal blockages in the tubes, helping women with tubal issues get pregnant.
Surgery can also alleviate problems with scar tissue, which is often a problem for women with endometriosis.
Female Infertility Treatment is an ART
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) consists of one or more of the following procedures:
- Withdrawing one or more of your eggs
- Fertilizing the egg with sperm outside of your body (in a lab)
- Transferring the egg and sperm or fertilized embryo back into your uterus where it will implant and grow
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most commonly used type of ART. This female infertility treatment has a pregnancy success rate similar to the rates of couples trying to get pregnant without assistance. If your doctor recommends in vitro fertilization as female infertility treatment, read more about this procedure so you fully understand the amazing process.
Artificial Insemination and Female Infertility Treatment
Artificial insemination (AI) and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are other popular female infertility treatments. Insemination is used in a variety of common situations, like when your partner’s sperm isn’t able to fertilize your egg. Artificial insemination is less expensive than other high-tech types of female infertility treatment, and the success rates are quite high.
Egg & Sperm Donation
If you need female infertility treatment to get pregnant, your doctor may suggest that you use a donor egg, donor sperm or a donor embryo to have a baby. If you are not producing healthy eggs you may also consider using a surrogate. This is a woman who provides the egg(s) to be fertilized by your partner’s sperm and then she carries the baby to term. With these female infertility treatments, it’s important to have legal representation. If you have healthy eggs but are unable to carry a baby to term, ask your doctor about a gestational carrier. With this female infertility treatment, your partner’s sperm will be used to fertilize your egg(s) outside of your uterus. Then, the healthy embryos will be transferred to the gestational carrier. Again, legal representation is necessary.
Age and Female Infertility
If you are like many women today, you may be seeking female infertility treatment after years of trying to conceive. Or you may be waiting to start your family. That’s why the statistics of those undergoing female infertility treatments is higher than ever before. By the mid-30s, many women have struggles trying to conceive. Even with female infertility treatment, older women may have more difficulty getting pregnant than younger women.
Ask Your Doctor
Depending on your age or your fertility history, it may be time to consider female infertility treatment. Your fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist is educated in the latest research and patient care for female infertility treatment. The doctor can explain all the options available – from baby-boosting fertility pills or hormones to artificial insemination to high-tech assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization.