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Community Health: Education, Prevention and Inspiration

Empowering people to make healthy, respectful and responsible choices.

Treating Infertility

Posted by Tammi A. Tannura -

Discussions about infertility are in the news and on talk shows where some celebrity couples openly talk about their struggles to become parents. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago the Today Show documented a fertility treatment procedure on live television.

Let's take a look at treatment options for infertility.

Reproductive endocrinologists (RE) treat infertility. It's likely that a RE will start with the least invasive procedure to achieve a pregnancy, such as medications to address disorders of erection or ejaculation in men, or medications to stimulate ovulation in women. Surgery to restore fertility in both men and women is sometimes also an option. The type of treatment will depend on the cause of infertility.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Assisted reproductive technology gives most couples the greatest chance of achieving a pregnancy. ART is defined as any fertility treatment in which egg and sperm are handled by a medical professional such as an embryologist. The following are examples of ART.

Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI)

During IUI, the male partner produces an ejaculate (sample of semen). From that ejaculate, healthy sperm are collected from the semen and placed directly into the women's uterus around the expected time of ovulation with the hopes of achieving a pregnancy.

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF involves stimulating the woman's ovaries with medication to increase the number of mature eggs that will be retrieved from her ovaries weeks later. After the mature eggs have been retrieved from her ovaries, they are fertilized with her partner's sperm in a laboratory. Three to five days later, one or two fertilized eggs, now called embryos, are transferred to her uterus with the hopes of implanting and creating a pregnancy.

Fascinating Fact: The first baby born through IVF was born on July 25, 1978.

Utilizing a Sperm Donor

A sperm donor is a healthy man who donates his sperm to a couple where the male partner has poor sperm quality, who does not produce sperm, or who has a high chance of passing on genetic abnormalities to his biological children. After medical and psychological evaluation, a sperm donor's sperm are placed into the female's uterus just like in IUI. Or, the sperm fertilize the female's eggs outside of the body, and then are transferred to her uterus later just like in IVF. The embryo is biologically related to the female partner, but not to the male partner.

Utilizing an Egg Donor

An egg donor is a healthy woman who donates her eggs to a couple in which the female partner has poor egg quality, who does not ovulate, or has a high chance of passing on genetic abnormalities to her biological children. During the procedure, eggs are retrieved from the egg donor just as it was described in the previously mentioned IVF procedure. However, the eggs that are retrieved are fertilized by the male partner's sperm. Three to five days later, those embryos are transferred to the female partner's uterus. The embryo is biologically related to the male partner, but not to the female partner who carries the pregnancy.

Fascinating Fact: 47, 000 women in the United States have given birth through egg donation over the last 25 years.

Gestational Surrogacy

Gestational surrogacy is when a woman carrying the baby is not genetically related to the baby. The gestational surrogate is carrying fetus of the intended parents. A gestational surrogate may be utilized when the intended mother has an illness or disorder that does not allow her to carry a healthy pregnancy, if the intended mother has an inhospitable uterus, or has other uterine abnormalities.

For more information about assisted reproductive technology, please check out the following sources:

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