7 Fertility Treatment Options For Women Struggling with Infertility
Struggling with infertility? You are not alone.
Studies have shown that after one full year of trying to conceive a baby, 15% of couples are unable to do so. Around one-third of these issues are related to female fertility issues, another third is related to male fertility issues, and the final third is either a combo or unknown.
Fortunately, there are many fertility treatment options for both men and women.
In this article, I want to go over fertility treatment options for women who are struggling with infertility. Some of these are also used when male fertility is the issue – but I will focus on that topic in a separate article.
When To Start Fertility Treatments
So when do you move from “trying to get pregnant” to “I think we need some help”? The standard answer is one year. If you have been trying to get pregnant over 12 ovulation cycles with no success – it is probably time to see your doctor.
This advice is not perfect for every woman. For example, if you are over the age of 35, you may only want to give it 6 months before seeing a specialist.
Or if you believe that you could have some hormone, reproductive, or fertility issue (like polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, etc.) you may not want to wait at all before getting a checkup.
Once you are ready to seek fertility treatments, here are the most common options you will be presented with:
Natural Fertility Boosters
Let’s be honest: most medical doctors will not start you out with natural fertility options. However, these can be a great place for a woman to start before she starts spending the time and money on medical fertility treatments.
And with these options, there is really no need to wait 6 months or a year. You can start anytime. These include:
- Herbs like vitex, ashwagandha, and stinging nettle
- B and D vitamins
- Healthy weight management; getting enough exercise, but not overdoing it
1. Fertility Drugs
Now let’s take a look at fertility drugs. Many times, this will be the first fertility treatment women will try. It does not cost that much, nor is it too inconvenient – so it is practical to see if these help first.
Fertility drugs are normally either taken by a pill or injected. Most of the time they are helping your eggs – whether that means encouraging your body to ovulate if it is not doing so on its own or increasing egg production.
There are two main types of fertility drugs:
- Clomiphene medications help you ovulate through brain hormones (common brand: Clomid) and are in pill form
- Gonadotopins help you ovulate through direct ovarian stimulation (common brands: repronex, follistim, pregnyl) and are in injection form
Here is a great video explaining all of the fertility drug options in more detail – how they work, what they do, and complications that could arise.
The costs can vary depending upon which drug you take and what your insurance covers.
2. Artificial Insemination or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
Did you think this option was just when men had sperm issues? Think again. Sometimes artificial insemination is needed for the woman.
For example, if your cervical mucus does not provide ideal conditions for your partner’s sperm to reach an egg, artificial insemination may be a perfect solution. Women with endometriosis may benefit from artificial insemination as well.
With artificial insemination, women are often given a drug to help stimulate their eggs. The sperm sample is washed and placed either in the cervix or up into the uterine cavity. The discomfort level could be compared to a regular pap smear.
If you are using your own partner’s sperm, you can expect the cost to be somewhere between $300 and $800. If you are using donated sperm, the cost can go up.
3. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Up until now, these fertility treatments tried to make a woman’s body get pregnant naturally. But at this point, we are going to look at a common type of assisted reproductive technology: IVF.
With IVF, doctors will extract a woman’s egg and manually combine it with the man’s sperm in a dish. Then in a few days that embryo is transferred back into the woman.
TED Ed has a wonderful video with beautiful graphics that explains the IVF process in detail (but still in a way that is easy to understand).
Fertility drugs are often still used in this process to ensure the woman has as many healthy, mature eggs as possible.
The American Pregnancy Association estimates the average cost of one IVF cycle to be between $12,000 and $17,000. Unfortunately, this is not covered by most insurance.
Recommended Reading: How To Use the Ketogenic Diet to Conquer PCOS-Related Fertility Issues
4. Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
The next form of assisted reproductive technology is ZIFT. In many ways, it is similar to IVF. The woman takes medications to improver her egg production, an egg is extracted and manually combined with the sperm in a dish, and it is then inserted back into the woman.
But there are a few big differences:
- Fertilized eggs are transferred back into the woman within 24 hours through ZIFT (as opposed to a few days with IVF)
- Fertilized eggs are transferred into the fallopian tube instead of the uterus
According to Baby Center, the average ZIFT treatment will cost between $15,000 and $25,000 per cycle.
5. Donor Eggs And Embryos
These last two examples of assisted reproductive technologies are dependent upon healthy eggs. If a woman has issues with her eggs – or if she is older and has far fewer viable eggs – she may choose to use eggs from a donor.
In fact, over 70% of women who are 45 and above and using assisted reproductive technology have a donor egg.
But if the male partner has issues with his sperm – or if there is no male partner – you can also do the assisted reproductive technology with a full embryo donation.
6. Reproductive Surgery
Sometimes there are problems with a reproductive system that cannot be fixed with drugs and cannot be overcome by assisted reproductive technology. In some of these cases, surgery can be the answer.
Examples of fertility problems that can be helped with reproductive surgery are:
- Endometriosis: Laparoscopy or laparotomy can be used to remove – or at least lessen – the amount of problematic tissue; they may also re-open fallopian tubes blocked by endometriosis
- Fibroid Tumors: Fiber optic telescope can be used to remove the fibroids
- Ovarian cysts: Laparoscopy can sometimes be used to remove the cyst without harming the ovary
- Abnormalities: When a woman is born with congenital defects in her reproductive system, surgery can be used sometimes to treat the problem
The costs of these surgeries vary wildly. Some may be covered by insurance; others may not be.
Finally, we will end up with the fertility option that is often the last case scenario – but still a valid option: gestational surrogacy.
A surrogate can either carry your embryo or an embryo from a donor.
Not only can this be one of the most expensive infertility options, it can also be one of the more draining. Legal professionals will have to get involved. Plus, there can easily be a large emotional toll from having another woman carry your baby.
The average cost for a surrogate? Somewhere between $98,000 and $140,000.
Fertility Treatment Options For Women
How you choose to go about fertility treatments obviously depends upon your age, income, and overall health. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for fertility treatments. So listen to your doctor, talk to your nutritionist/naturopath, and even get a second opinion.