Being infertile means that you can’t have a baby. This could be as a result of several different things, such as your partner having a low sperm count or a problem with your reproductive system.
Infertility affects almost 4 million people a year in the UK, with a couple deemed infertile after a year of trying for a baby, to no avail.
There are two different types of infertility, known as primary and secondary. Primary infertility is where someone has difficulty conceiving a baby and has never conceived one in the past. Secondary infertility, on the other hand, is where a person already has one or more children but is facing difficulty in conceiving another one.
There are a few different options couples can take if they have been trying for a baby for over three years. These treatments are:
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – This is a procedure carried out in a laboratory, with the aim of separating fast-moving sperm from slow-moving sperm. The faster sperm are then placed in the woman’s womb close to the time of ovulation, with the egg released from the ovary during the middle of the month. The sperm can either be your partners, or a sperm donor’s, depending on whether you have a partner or not. If this procedure doesn’t work, then IVF is normally the next step.
- In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) – This involves the fertilisation of eggs outside of the body, which is where ‘in-vitro’ comes from. IVF is a major infertility treatment, and one that is used only when others have failed. This process sees the ovulation process hormonally controlled, taking the woman’s eggs from her ovaries. Once fertilised, it is then put back inside the woman, with the hope that a successful pregnancy will be the result. Twins are very popular when this form of treatment is used, and occur in one of every four IVF treatments. This is because several fertilised eggs can be put inside the woman at the same time, just incase not all of them turn into a pregnancy.
Currently, the success rate for IUI is 15% and around 29% for IVF, although these percentages decrease as the woman gets older. A woman stands the best chance of conceiving when they are less than 35 years old, and after this age fertility problems are more likely to occur.
Generally, males account for 25% of infertile couples, whilst 25% of cases remain unexplained, and 50% are a result of problems with the woman.