Understand your options for support with IVF and fertility, including common issues, what to expect at an assessment, and fertility treatments.
Common Fertility Issues
Fertility issues may be more common than you think. Around 15% of couples experience difficulty when trying to have a baby. Infertility can be due to factors associated with the female partner, the male partner or a mixture of both.
The definition of ‘infertility’ is when you are not able to conceive a pregnancy after 12 months of trying. In most of these cases, fertility treatments and IVF have the potential to help.
Fertility issues in women have a range of causes, including:
- Conditions affecting the reproductive organs, such as endometriosis and adenomyosis.
- Ovulation issues such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and premature ovarian insufficiency
- Issues with the uterus such as fibroids (non-malignant tumours in the womb) or polyps (overgrowths of uterine tissue)
- Issues with the fallopian tubes, such as blocked or scarred tubes, which can prevent the sperm meeting the egg or result in a fertilised egg not implanting in the uterus.
- Advanced age. Ovarian reserve and fertility diminishes over time particularly over the age of 35 though the threshold varies between patients.
- Autoimmune disorders such as those that effect the thyroid
- Lifestyle factors such as smoking, stress, body mass index and exercise levels
Fertility Assessments - What to Expect
Understanding what is affecting your fertility is the first step to beginning treatment. When doing a fertility assessment, your doctor may recommend some or all of the following:
- Blood tests, to test your hormone levels and identify any irregularities
- Ovulation assessment, where you will be asked to track your cycles, temperature and vaginal discharge to understand when and how often you are ovulating
- A pelvic ultrasound, to take a closer look at your ovaries and determine what treatments might be best and safest for you
- Tubal patency testing, which checks the patency or ‘openness’ of your fallopian tubes to see if there are any blockages
Many fertility treatments don’t involve surgery, and act to simply ‘kick start’ your fertility to hopefully cause a pregnancy. These can include:
- Ovulation induction, where you will be given hormones to get your body to ovulate (produce eggs) at a higher rate
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination. This is where sperm is inserted directly into your uterus close to ovulation.
- In vitro fertilisation (IVF) where eggs are removed from your body, fertilised with sperm and then transferred into your uterus
- Preimplantation genetic testing (PGT) which is a test used to tell if an embryo has a gene condition or chromosome variation
- Egg freezing, where your unfertilised eggs can be stored so you can use them to try and conceive in the future
As with any surgery or medical treatment, your doctor will recommend the right action for your circumstances. Surgeries for fertility usually relate to a specific condition, for example a hysteroscopy to remove endometrial polyps, or a laparoscopy (key hole surgery) to remove fibroids or endometriosis.
Fertility and IVF specialists are available for consultations and treatment at Frances Perry House. To book a consultation with a fertility specialist at Frances Perry House please request a referral from your GP. You can choose a specialist using our specialist search tool.
Remember, a baby may not always be possible, and it’s important to care for yourself emotionally when you are dealing with fertility issues. Talk to your doctor about how you are feeling – support is there if you need it.
If you have been trying for 12 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse without conception it is recommended that you seek specialist help.
If you’re 35 or above or you have additional risk factors for infertility such as PCOS, endometriosis or irregular cycles it is best to seek help at 6 months.