What is infertility?
Infertility is defined by the NHS as when a couple are unable to fall pregnant (conceive a child), despite having regular unprotected sex. If, after around a year of trying you have not been able to conceive then the NHS recommends speaking to your GP.
There are many causes of infertility in men and women – the NHS website offers a comprehensive breakdown of the main lifestyle risk factors such as smoking and obesity, as well as medical reasons such as testicular damage, hormonal imbalances, endometriosis, etc.
If you have been diagnosed with infertility and are looking into further treatment. Your GP and the NHS will support you but you will need to look into what treatments are available from your local clinical commissioning group (CCG), it is important if considering private treatment though that you make sure the clinic is licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA).
There are obviously many different procedures, treatments and lifestyle changes that could help to resolve infertility problems, here we have provided the main medical interventions you might hear about from your doctor with links to more information on them so that you can be informed about your choices.
Testing for men can include semen analysis – checking count and mobility, hormone and genetic testing, biopsies and image scans.
Testing for women can include hormone blood tests, imagery tests such as ultrasounds and x-rays and rarely – a scope being inserted into your uterus via your cervix, or a laparoscopy – into your lower abdomen to check for signs of scarring, abnormalities or blockages, etc, with the reproductive organs. We found a useful article from the Mayo Clinic that explains these tests in more depth.
Surgery may be the only way to resolve your fertility problem, in the case of men – this could be to reverse a sperm blockage or in women – problems such as endometrial polyps (areas where there is an overgrowth of cells), a uterine septum (where the uterine cavity is divided with extra tissue) or scar tissue (caused by previous surgery) – most of these can be operated on with a scope through your cervix.
ART, IVF or IUI
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is any fertility treatment in which the egg and sperm are handled, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) being the most common ART technique, involves stimulating and collecting eggs from a woman, fertilising them with sperm in a lab then implanting them into a uterus.
IUI is Intrauterine Insemination – healthy sperm are placed directly in the uterus around the time the woman ovulates – either with your normal cycle or with fertility medications.
Complications of taking fertility medications and having an ART procedure are multiple pregnancies, Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) which is where the fertility medications make the ovaries swollen/painful – this can require emergent treatment, as well as bleeding or infection associated with invasive procedures.
Surrogacy, defined by Surrogacy UK, is the act of a woman carrying a pregnancy and giving birth for the child’s parents as they are unable to carry a child themselves.
There are two types of surrogacy:
Host Surrogacy takes embryos made by intended parent/s and transfers them via IVF into the surrogate. The surrogate is not genetically connected to the child.
In this case you can use a donor for either the egg or the sperm, but not both – this is not currently allowed under UK Law.
Straight/Traditional Surrogacy is where the surrogate uses their own eggs to conceive – using artificial insemination or through IUI/IVF.
If you are interested in finding out what the process is for surrogacy in the UK, take a look at the Surrogacy UK website – it is really insightful and offers really straightforward advice.
Adoption is the legal process whereby a child who cannot be brought up by their birth family become a part of another family permanently.
Adopters become the child’s legal parents with the same rights and responsibilities as if the child was born to them.
Adoption is a lengthy process with assessments from social workers, adoption panels and agencies. Often children who are in need of adoption come from difficult pasts and you are offered lots of guidance to support the child.
We have a team of fertility experts across Surrey, ready to support you through your journey to conception.