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Treatment

Treatment depends on the results of your infertility evaluation. Some causes of infertility have a specific treatment. For example, surgery may be done to remove a fibroid tumor.

Fertility Drugs

Infertility may be associated with infrequent or absent ovulation. This often can be treated with hormone medications. These are called fertility drugs.

All fertility medications have potential side effects. And they can cause multiple babies in one pregnancy. Most fertility treatments require the supervision of a fertility specialist.

Examples of fertility medicines include:

  • Clomiphene (Clomid, others). This medicine stimulates the ovary to release one or more eggs. It works by adjusting levels of your natural hormones.

  • Luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These injected hormone medications encourage the ovaries to release more than one egg at a time.

These medicines are sometimes given after treatment with another hormone medicine, a GnRH analogue. A GnRH analogue prepares the body for a precisely timed cycle of ovulation.

Surgical Procedures

After treatment with fertility drugs, eggs can be allowed to travel naturally from the ovary into the uterus, if the fallopian tubes are healthy. Sometimes surgery is used to harvest the mature eggs after fertility drug treatment.

Procedures that can help to start a pregnancy include:

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a procedure in which sperm are directly inserted into the uterus using a special catheter or a syringe.

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF). The eggs that the ovary has been stimulated to release are collected surgically. The eggs and sperm are combined in the laboratory, to produce embryos. One or more embryos are then inserted into your uterus.

    IVF does not guarantee pregnancy. On the other hand, sometimes more than one embryo implants itself in the uterus. This can result in twins, or higher-order multiple pregnancies.

    IVF requires treatment with hormones beforehand.

  • Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) are variations of IVF. They require at least one healthy fallopian tube.

    In ZIFT, eggs are surgically removed from the ovary. They are combined with sperm in a laboratory, to produce tiny early embryos. The embryos are placed in the fallopian tube. They are allowed to travel to the uterus on their own.

    In GIFT, eggs and sperm are placed in the fallopian tube before the sperm has fertilized the egg. This allows the eggs and sperm to fertilize inside the woman.

    As with IVF, these procedures require hormone pretreatment.

It is important to get counseling about all options for parenthood. This includes procedures for adoption.

Some health insurance plans do not pay for infertility treatment.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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