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What are the treatment options for infertility in women?

Problems with fertility are diagnosed based on a couple’s inability to get pregnant after approximately 6 months to 1 year of regular intercourse without using contraception. Essentially there are three general categories which may cause infertility conditions: problems involving the woman’s egg, the man’s sperm or the anatomy required for getting the egg/sperm/embryo to the fallopian tubes/uterus for it to implant and develop. There are many treatments available for fertility depending on the problem that is preventing conception (i.e., getting pregnant). Treatments range from non-medical lifestyle behaviors to medical or invasive surgical interventions. Some treatments may be aimed at improving a woman’s ability to ovulate, such as weight loss or medications. There are also fertility interventions which allow a doctor to operatively retrieve an egg for evaluation and/or implantation into the uterus. Other treatments might include using a donor egg, sperm or uterus (e.g., a surrogate to carry the pregnancy). There may be surgical treatments available if there is a blockage found in the woman’s fallopian tubes or something obstructing the uterus (for example, a septum or large fibroid masses). The first step in determining treatment options should always include a detailed discussion with your doctor.

There are several treatment options that may be used to increase women's fertility, depending on the cause. The most common treatment for most women with ovulation problems is fertility drugs. There's a wide variety of medications that may be used depending on the exact problem, but most work by triggering ovulation using hormones and other chemicals. These drugs may be injected or taken by mouth. In some cases, surgery may be used to treat infertility, especially if it's caused by blocked fallopian tubes. If other treatments don't work, a variety of techniques called "assisted reproductive technology" may be used. These methods may include in vitro fertilization (removing eggs and sperm from the body, fertilizing the egg in the lab, and re-implanting the egg in the uterus), or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (injecting just one healthy sperm into an egg in the laboratory). Every treatment option for infertility has its own risks, and no one treatment can be guaranteed to work. Because of this, it's important to work with your doctor to find the best treatment options for you.

Dr. Mark Perloe, MD
Fertility Specialist

Nearly 90 percent of all infertility cases, both male and female factor, are overcome through treatment, including surgical and medical techniques. A treatment plan is specific to each patient's needs that will lead to the desired result of conceiving a child. Several combined factors determine the treatment option that will be most fitting for the patient’s situation based on financial, social, religious, ethical and medical factors. Treatment options include assisted reproductive techniques such as IVF and ICSI, ovulation induction to enhance the production of eggs, surgery to repair reproductive organs and intrauterine insemination to increase the chances for egg fertilization by the sperm.

Infertility can be treated with medicine, surgery, artificial insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Many times these treatments are combined. In most cases infertility is treated with drugs or surgery.

Doctors recommend specific treatments for infertility based on:

  • Test results
  • How long the couple has been trying to get pregnant
  • The age of both the man and woman
  • The overall health of the partners
  • Preference of the partners

Doctors often treat infertility in men in the following ways:

  • Sexual problems: Doctors can help men deal with impotence or premature ejaculation. Behavioral therapy and/or medicines can be used in these cases.
  • Too few sperm: Sometimes surgery can correct the cause of the problem. In other cases, doctors surgically remove sperm directly from the male reproductive tract. Antibiotics can also be used to clear up infections affecting sperm count.
  • Sperm movement: Sometimes semen has no sperm because of a block in the man's system. In some cases, surgery can correct the problem.

In women, some physical problems can also be corrected with surgery.

A number of fertility medicines are used to treat women with ovulation problems. It is important to talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of these medicines. You should understand the possible dangers, benefits, and side effects.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

There are a number of treatments available for someone with unexplained infertility. They can be very conservative using oral medications, can involve inseminations or can progress to the use of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Dr. John K. Jain, MD
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

Reproductive endocinologist Dr. John Jain explains the treatment options for infertility in women. Watch Dr. Jain's video for information on reproductive health.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.