Infertility, assisted conception and IVF

Infertility is a problem that is more common than many expect, with around three and a half million people in the UK are classed as infertile. This is around one in seven people. Medically, you are classed as infertile if you cannot conceive naturally, despite practicing regular, unprotected sex, which means trying at least every two to three days.

There are many different factors that can affect this, such as your age, the time of the month you have sex and the type of contraception you had been using previously. For example, some contraceptive pills take a few days, weeks or months to work their way out of the body once you stop taking them.

If you believe you cannot conceive, there are two kinds of infertility to understand – primary and secondary. Primary is where you have never been able to conceive a child naturally. Secondary is where you have been able to have a child (or a number of children) in the past but are now having difficulty conceiving again.

If you haven’t managed to conceive naturally in the first year then there are options available to assist conception.

What can be done to help infertile couples?

Most people have heard of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) but this isn’t the only avenue to explore if a couple are having trouble conceiving. In fact, there are a variety of things that will be explored first before this is recommended.

Sometimes, a lack of conception can be caused by issues in the ovaries, for example, if they are not producing eggs regularly enough. If that is the case, doctors can test for this and try medications (such as clomiphene citrate and follicle-stimulating hormone) that are specifically designed to help encourage and optimise egg production.

Treating conditions that can be affecting fertility

For some women, it can be the presence of another condition that is affecting their ability to conceive. If you are suffering from something such as endometriosis, a condition where tissue similar to the inside of the womb is found outside of the womb, doctors will try to address that problem first, as it is likely to be affecting your overall ability to conceive. For women with endometriosis, an operation that removes some of this excess tissue is proven to help reduce symptoms of the condition and which also improves fertility.

If there are no specific conditions affecting your ability to conceive naturally and you wish to explore more specifically targeted approaches, there are two key routes: intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). IUI involves extracting healthy male sperm cells and implanting them directly into the womb. The hope with this treatment is that it will increase the presence of sperm in the womb and will result in egg fertilisation. IVF is a different approach whereby an egg is removed directly from a woman’s ovary and fertilised with male sperm cells in a Petri dish within a laboratory. Once this process has taken successfully, the fertilised egg now called an ‘embryo’ is then transplanted back into the womb.

London fertility expert Mr Nitish Narvekar is a specialist in all aspects of Reproductive Medicine and Surgery. If you are interested in arranging a consultation to undergo diagnosis and discuss treatment options for fertility problems, call Mr Narvekar’s private secretary D Loziak on 020 3794 8769 or fill in the contact form and we’ll be in touch.