An infertility treatment protocol depends on many factors such as: age, how many years you’ve been trying to conceive, whether it is male or female factor, diagnosis, and others. Many types of infertility are treated with assisted reproductive technology or ART techniques.
Male Infertility Treatment:
- General sexual problems – These can include premature ejaculation or impotence. Treatment procedures can include behavioral approaches or medication
- Lack of sperm – Hormone therapy, surgery or ART procedures (varicocele surgery or sperm injection into the egg) can be utilized for this type of problem.
Female Infertility Treatment
Treatment can entail the use of fertility drugs to treat ovulation problems. These drugs can include:
- Bromocriptine – Brand names Cycloset and Parlodel. Bromocriptine inhibits prolactin production and helps regulate ovulation cycles.
- Metformin – Brand name Glucophage. This drug helps improve ovulation and it is used to address infertility caused by insulin resistance or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
- Aromatase inhibitors – These include the drugs anastrozole (Arimidex) and letrozole (Femara). They aid in inducing ovulation; however, they can cause serious side effects like miscarriage and birth defects.
- Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analogs – These drugs are used to treat endometriosis, premature ovulation cycles and irregular ovulation cycles.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) - (Pregnyl and Ovidrel). These drugs help stimulate follicle maturation for normal ovulation.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) - (Bravelle, Gonal-F) - These drugs help stimulate the ovaries to release mature ovum follicles.
- Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG) - (Repronex). This is an injectable drug that contains LH and FSH hormones to help stimulate the ovaries.
- Clomiphene (Serophene, Clomid) – These are ovulation stimulators used for females suffering from PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome and other kinds of ovulation issues. Clomiphene blocks estrogen to helps the pituitary gland stimulate production and release of more LH and FSH. One of the major side effects of Clomid is that it heightens the risk of inducing multiple pregnancies.
Surgery is an option for structural problems with the reproductive system that may cause infertility. These problems can involve blockages in the fallopian tubes, polyps and fibroids.
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)
Thousands of babies are born each year because of ART helping parents have biological offspring. An ART procedure is performed by a professional health team comprised of specialized health professionals such as nurses, lab technicians, embryologists, psychologists and physicians.
ART technology can include:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) – IVF is the most common ART procedure performed today. It entails retrieving mature eggs from a females ovaries and fertilizing the eggs with sperm in a petri dish. When fertilization is attained, the fertilized egg or embryo is implanted into the woman’s uterus three to five days after fertilization. This procedure is recommended for females with blocked fallopian tubes and can also be the solution for ovulation problems, male infertility, cervical disorders, unexplained infertility or endometriosis. Most of the time an IVF procedure will implant more than one fertilized egg into the uterus to increase the chance of a successful pregnancy. IVF may necessitate regular hormone injections and frequent blood tests.
- Vibratory or electric stimulation to attain ejaculation – This is a technique used to stimulate semen ejaculation and is often applied in men suffering from spinal cord injury who are unable to attain ejaculation.
- Surgical sperm aspiration – This procedure involves the extraction of sperm from the male reproductive tract and is applied when the male’s ejaculatory duct is obstructed.
- ICSI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection – This procedure involves injecting a single sperm cell into the female partner’s matured egg to attain fertilization. This approach is often utilized for men with low sperm count.
- Assisted hatching - an embryologist creates a small hole in the zona pellucida of the embryo to increase the rate of implantation during IVF.
For heterosexual couples, one recommended treatment for infertility is frequent sexual intercourse. Having intercourse at least three times a week can improve fertility. However, too much sexual intercourse, can lead to the erosion of the quality of the sperm. This may result in the low survival rate of the sperm when it travels to the female reproductive tract to fertilize the egg.
Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of health conditions, including infertility. Numerous studies about this ancient procedure have led researchers to conclude that acupuncture for fertility:
- Increases pregnancy rates
- Improves blood flow to the uterus resulting in an optimal endometrial lining
- Lessens anxiety and stress levels
- Helps enhance ovulation in females suffering from PCOS
- Helps improve sperm quality and count in men with fertility problems
- Helps regulate the production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone leading to the normalization of ovulation
Photo credits to Josh Parrish
Dr. Jeda Boughton is a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Registered Acupuncturist in Vancouver. She is also a Registered Herbologist and the founder of BodaHealth.