A Quick Guide to Fertility Treatments

Learn about the assisted reproductive technologies (ART) that have helped many people become parents.

Treatment for infertility may include medications to stimulate ovulation.

The term infertility means being unable to get pregnant after at least one year of trying to get pregnant naturally.

Infertility is more common than many people realize. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1 in 5 heterosexual women of childbearing age are unable to get pregnant after one year of trying. And roughly 1 in 4 women from this same group experience difficulties getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

For the many couples who wish to become pregnant but are not finding success, there are healthcare providers and treatment options that can help.

What healthcare providers treat infertility?

Treatment for infertility is overseen by a medical doctor called a reproductive endocrinologist. This doctor will have completed an OB/GYN (obstetrician/gynecology) residency as well as a reproductive endocrinology fellowship—which involves three additional years of specialized training in a field of medicine called reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). You may hear this type of doctor referred to as a “fertility doctor” or “fertility specialist.”

This healthcare provider will help you diagnose what is causing infertility. There are many reasons why getting pregnant can be harder for some people than for others. The first steps involve diagnosing what is making it difficult to get pregnant.

What are the treatment options for infertility?

The choice of treatment options will depend on what is causing infertility, as well as other factors about the person trying to get pregnant and their partner. Treatment may include medications, such as medications to stimulate ovulation or correct hormone imbalances. It may also include surgery to repair or restore the function of reproductive organs.

Many people who are having difficulty conceiving naturally find help with assisted reproductive technology. Also known as ART, assisted reproductive technology refers to the variety of fertility treatments, therapies, and procedures that can help a person get pregnant when they have been unable to conceive.

Examples of ART include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF). One of the best-known ARTs, IVF involves combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory. The fertilized egg (embryo) is then implanted into the uterus.
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI). With this procedure, sperm is collected and then placed directly into the womb with a long, narrow tube. While IUI does not involve any manipulation of the eggs, the person receiving this procedure may also take medications to stimulate ovulation in combination with this therapy.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSL). This procedure involves the direct injection of sperm into eggs obtained from IVF. Again, when successful, it is combined with embryo transfer. ICSL may be indicated when male fertility is a factor.
  • Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). GIFT involves removing eggs, combining them with sperm, and immediately placing them into the fallopian tube. Unlike with IVF and ICSL, fertilization takes place inside the fallopian tubes.
  • Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT). This technique, also known as tubal embryo transfer (TET), is similar to GIFT, but in this case, the sperm and egg are given time to fertilize in the lab before being placed in the fallopian tubes.
  • Third party ART. This refers to approaches to ART that involve egg donation, sperm donation, embryo donations, or surrogates/gestational carriers.

Different people have difficulty conceiving for different reasons, and there is no one treatment option that is right for every person.

If you have been trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful, your best source of information will be a healthcare provider, who can perform tests and exams to determine why you are having difficulty getting pregnant and recommend treatments that may help you conceive.

Article sources open article sources

World Health Organization. Infertility. Defining Infertility.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility FAQs.
Penn Medicine. Fertility Specialist or Ob/Gyn: Which Is Right for You? January 22, 2020.
HCR Fertility. What Is a Fertility Doctor or Fertility Specialist?
Planned Parenthood. Infertility Signs, Symptoms, and Causes.
Mayo Clinic. Infertility.
Cleveland Clinic. Infertility Causes.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Fertility Treatments for Females.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Fertility Treatments for Males.
MedlinePlus. Assisted Reproductive Technology.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).
American Pregnancy Association. Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection: ICSI.
American Pregnancy Association. Gamete intrafallopian transfer – GIFT.
American Pregnancy Association. Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer: ZIFT.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Third-Party Reproduction.

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