Surgical Options for Infertility Treatment
Many women and couples prefer to delay parenthood for various reasons. Research shows that the older you get, the more difficult it is to conceive. For these reasons, infertility is becoming a more common issue nowadays, as women choose to bear children when they are older. A Houston OBGYN will guide you through the many options available to women suffering from infertility.
Infertility is medically defined as being unable to get pregnant after 6-12 months of trying to conceive. Infertility can be very emotionally difficult for a couple, especially if they are already set on starting their own families. Because this condition can stem from a variety of causes, it is imperative that you and your partner get a thorough health check-up from a Houston Gynecologist before experimenting with different treatment options.
Among the many possible causes of infertility, the top 3 are: ovulation problems, blocked fallopian tubes, and sperm quality issues. It can also be caused by certain infections that affect the reproductive tract, including various sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Sometimes, a combination of these causes may be the culprit, and rarely, doctors cannot find a cause.
In general, your treatment method depends on what causes your infertility. Possible treatment options include surgery, assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and medications using hormonal therapy. It can possibly be treated with a simple change in your lifestyle. In this article, we will tackle the first two: surgery and ARTs.
If blocked fallopian tubes are the reason for your infertility, you may opt to undergo surgery to correct this. You can have them opened, or you can also choose to have them removed. If you have endometriosis, uterine polyps or fibroids, or fibrosis or scarring on your fallopian tubes, you may also experience infertility. Different types of surgery can treat these various conditions.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies
ARTs are methods of processing egg cells and sperm cells so that there is a higher chance of conception. These procedures include artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization, and intrafallopian transfers. All these are done in a laboratory setting.
This refers to the process of placing sperm in a woman’s uterus by methods other than having sex. Sperm will be taken from the man, and are treated to reduce the risk of the woman contracting infections. During the ovulation period of the woman, these sperm cells are placed in her uterus.
The source of sperm cells may be the woman’s partner or they may come from a donor. If they are from a donor, these are frozen so they won’t decompose right away. The donor is screened for medical conditions such as HIV and other STDs. He may also be tested for genetic disorders that may be passed on to his sperm.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
With IVF, both sperm and egg cells are taken, and they are allowed to fertilize in a petri dish. After the sperm and egg combine, the zygotes are placed into the woman’s uterus via a special catheter.
Egg cells are taken using a needle that is inserted into the ovary through the vagina. A real-time ultrasound is performed to guide the needle in the right direction. Sperm is taken through masturbation or by using a specialized condom during sexual intercourse. It can also be obtained through surgery, by sperm aspiration or testicular biopsy.
The eggs and sperm are combined, and they are closely monitored if they successfully become fertilized. In some cases where there are issues with the sperm, an intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be performed. This procedure involves injecting the sperm directly into each egg cell. This increases the chance of fertilization to occur.
When the eggs become fertilized, they are transferred into the woman’s uterus through the vagina. Usually, only a few embryos are placed inside the uterus to decrease the chance of multiple pregnancies. The woman can opt to freeze the extra embryos for future use.
These treatments are done only rarely, and for women who have problems with their cervix that blocks entry of sperm into the uterus and into the fallopian tube. One type of this procedure is the gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). Eggs and sperm cells are placed in the fallopian tube, and this is where they fertilize. Alternatively, a zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) may be done where eggs are fertilized in a petri dish before being transferred into the woman’s fallopian tubes.
Both GIFT and ZIFT are procedures that require surgery, so they are relatively more expensive than artificial insemination. Like any other surgical procedures, they involve more risks such as infections or anesthesia-related problems.
There are other options for infertile couples such as adoption. You can find several support groups that can help you and your partner go through this phase. Whether or not you succeed at conceiving, the essential thing is that you and your partner are together through whatever decision you both come up with.