Alternatives to IVF

Fertility treatment isn’t always about In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). We talk to a fertility specialist about some other options which may help increase your fertility.

When trying to conceive, many people assume there are simply two options: natural conception and IVF. In reality, there are a number of different treatments that may help increase your chance of getting pregnant. 

Associate Professor Anusch Yazdani, Director of Clinical Research and Development at Queensland Fertility Group, says that many fertility issues can be corrected without having to use IVF. 

“The most important thing to understand is why a couple has a fertility problem, because not all fertility problems are the same,” she says.

Lifestyle changes

One primary way that a fertility specialist may support you getting pregnant is to assess any lifestyle factors that may be causing problems. Professor Yazdani advises, “Worldwide, lifestyle factors are one of the largest causes of fertility or ovulation problems. Increasingly we are seeing obesity as one of the big issues. Lifestyle correction and weight reduction may lead to conception and a safe pregnancy without any medical intervention.”

It’s important to remember that some lifestyle factors can cause fertility problems for both males and females. A healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption can all help increase your chances of conception.

Ovulation induction

Ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), are a common cause of fertility problems and for these patients, improving ovulation can help. 

“There are different levels of ovulation induction," Professor Yazdani says. "After lifestyle modification, treatment may involve something simple like taking the medicine clomiphene, a tablet that is taken for five days and may lead to ovulation in up to four out of five patients.” 

Other medications, such as metformin, may also have a role in optimising ovulation in some patients.

In the hands of a fertility specialist, other methods of ovulation induction can be administered, such as follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) injections. 

“The impact of these is greater, particularly in patients where simple medications do not work, but the complication rate is higher, which is why people need to be monitored by a specialist," Professor Yazdani advises.

IUI insemination

Artificial insemination

Artificial insemination or intrauterine insemination (IUI) is where sperm is prepared and inserted via the cervix into the uterus around the time of ovulation. This is another form of fertility treatment that can be used if a couple are experiencing sexual difficulties, where there are minor issues with the sperm, or for unexplained infertility. IUI can be used as a treatment on its own, or in combination with ovulation induction.

Surgery

In cases where there is an issue with the woman’s reproductive organs, such as an issue with the tubes, uterus or ovaries, or a condition such as endometriosis, surgery can help without the need for other fertility treatments. Similarly, a number of corrective surgical options are also available for males if the male reproductive organs are found to be causing fertility issues.

Other factors to consider

Professor Yazdani advises that one factor, which will have a big impact on the number of options available to you, is age. 

“Age really plays a very important role. If you have a younger patient, then you can propose a lower level of intervention that might have a lower success rate, but it can be done for much longer. In an older patient where there is limited time, there is more pressure to jump to a higher level of intervention.”

It’s also important to note that some clinics focus primarily on IVF, so if you want to explore alternatives to IVF you’ll need to see a specialist with a high level of fertility expertise. Professor Yazdani suggests that a good starting point when seeking help is to follow the advice of Access Australia. She also advises you to ask your specialist or clinic what treatment they provide, what support they offer and what the success rate is for each option for a person in your situation in that particular clinic.

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