Having trouble getting pregnant?
Once you and your partner have had fertility checks, you’ll be able to decide with a specialist whether assisted conception is for you when trying to get pregnant.
Medical intervention is the only way some couples will ever conceive a baby. But don’t assume that if you go down the hi-tech route you’ll be closing the door on natural methods and complementary therapies.
Many couples who go through assisted conception, which can be a very stressful time, find they’re helped by complementary therapies. And following advice about diet, lifestyle and stress-reduction can help you get the most out of fertility treatments such as IVF.
What you can receive on the NHS and what you have to pay for depends on the ‘post-code lottery’. Government watchdogs are recommending that couples with a problem receive ‘at least three IVF attempts funded by the NHS’ – although this would not apply to women over 40. If you do have to pay, one cycle of IVF can cost £2000 to £3000.
There are six most common methods of fertility treatment.
A drug that increases progesterone levels in your blood, to stimulate ovulation. You can use an ovulation kit to find out when you are likely to ovulate within the next 24-36 hours, so you can plan the optimal time to have sex.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF)
You will be given drugs to develop several mature eggs, which are then retrieved while you’re sedated or anaesthetised. The eggs are mixed with your partner’s sperm in a small dish or test tube. If fertilisation occurs, normally two embryos are transferred into your uterus via a thin catheter through your cervix. It takes around four to six weeks to complete one cycle of IVF.
Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
This is a fairly new method of assisted conception. It’s similar to IVF, but with ICSI a single sperm is injected into the egg under a microscope. This approach is used when a low sperm count, or sperm with poor motility, is the problem.
If your partner is not producing any sperm, donor insemination (DI) may be the only option. Sperm donors are screened and can be matched to your partner for race, build, colouring and blood group.
If you’re not producing eggs, you may want to consider using an egg donated from another woman which has been fertilised with either your partners sperm, or with donor sperm. The embryo would then be transferred to your uterus, where it would develop and grow inside you in a pregnancy. You would not be genetically related to the baby, but you’d give birth.
If you are unable to carry a baby, you might want to think about finding a surrogate mother to have a baby for you. This person, who could be a relative, a friend or a stranger, could carry a baby conceived using your egg and your partner’s sperm, or a donated egg and sperm. If the baby was created from your own egg, it would mean the baby would genetically be your child – or your partner’s if only his sperm was involved – although you would not have actually given birth.
Getting through fertility treatment
Fertility treatment can be a challenging experience
- Decide whether or not you’ll tell other people about your treatment. You may want to keep it private – or you may want support.
- Make sure you’re clear about what your treatment involves BEFORE you begin. Ask for an out-of-hours contact number in case you need it.
- Discuss everything carefully with your partner. There may be times you’ll need extra support from him, such as after egg collection.
- Look after yourself and allow lots of ‘treats’ to reduce stress.
- Rest is crucial to your physical and emotional well-being.
Where you can find support:
- Foresight, the Association for the Preconceptual Care, also offers advice on natural ways to boost fertility. For more information contact 01483 427 839.
Infertility Network UK offers advice about fertility treatment. Plus its branch More to Life for those facing involuntary childlessness. For details call 0800 008 7464.