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Many women who have trouble becoming pregnant turn to in vitro fertilization, or IVF. However, while IVF can help some women, it doesn’t need to be their first option.
“I’ve met patients who said they couldn’t get pregnant but knew they didn’t want IVF because it can be expensive and invasive,” says Rachel Humphrey, MD, medical director of Florida Hospital’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine Program. “As a result, they didn’t seek any treatment when they may have been helped by a simple pill.”
Clearing up misconceptions like this is one of the most important benefits of seeing a doctor when you are having difficulty becoming pregnant.
“If you’re having trouble conceiving, the first person you should contact is an OB/GYN physician,” Dr. Humphrey says. “The OB/GYN may end up recommending you see a fertility specialist, but they will suggest you take some more simple steps first.”
Whatever the cause, having trouble getting pregnant can be stressful, which can make getting pregnant that much harder. Knowing more about conception — especially when to ask for help, how to be prepared to conceive and what your technological options are — can give you more confidence.
Infertility affects about one in eight couples and may be among their most difficult challenges. The experts at Florida Hospital for Women are not only well versed in the latest technology around fertility, they respond with empathy to the anxiety and concern that infertility can cause.
When to Seek Help
If you have trouble conceiving, it may not be obvious how long you should wait before looking for help. How long you ought to wait depends on how old you are as well as your personal history.
Dr. Humphrey says women under 35 who have been trying to conceive for over one year should seek help, as should women over 35 who have been trying for six months.
But there’s an exception to this rule. If you’re under 35 and are not having regular periods, then that may mean your body isn’t producing eggs regularly.
“If your period is irregular and you aren’t making an egg reliably, you’re not likely to get pregnant,” Dr. Humphrey says, and you should seek help sooner.
The goal for conception should be to time intercourse before ovulation occurs. Sperm is viable for roughly two or three days inside the fallopian tube, but the egg is viable for less than 24 hours, Dr. Humphrey notes.
“You want the sperm there to greet the egg,” she says.
Dr. Humphrey recommends women trying to conceive purchase an ovulation prediction kit. Most women ovulate between 12 to 16 days after their period begins, but a kit can offer more precision.
She also suggests women should eat right, exercise regularly and try to avoid being exposed to infections and radiation. It’s also helpful to have someone with whom you can talk through your troubles.
“Truthfully, once you decide to have a baby your stress level goes up because either you get pregnant or you don’t get pregnant, and both are stressful,” Dr. Humphrey says. “I’ve seen people who’ve had multi-year journeys to achieve pregnancies, and having social support, an outlet for talking to someone, can make a big difference.”
No Longer ‘Female Infertility’
Though women were once blamed for infertility, doctors now know male reproductive issues are behind nearly one-half of all cases of infertility.
When a couple is having difficulty conceiving, there tends to be a problem with one of the following steps:
- The man’s ability to produce healthy sperm
- The woman’s ability to produce healthy eggs
- Clear fallopian tubes so sperm can reach the egg
- The fertilized egg being able to reach and implant in the uterus
Having trouble conceiving doesn’t mean you need to turn first to time-consuming procedures like IVF. The most common causes of infertility — a low sperm count in men and the lack of eggs for women — are quickly treatable.
For most women, the first medicine to try is called Clomifene, or Clomid, and it’s an inexpensive and effective way to stimulate the production of eggs. It works by blocking the brain’s receptors for estrogen, which is a hormone that tends to stop egg production. It helps about 40 percent of women who use it become pregnant.
In other cases, minimally invasive procedures can clear blocked fallopian tubes or correct other problems. Intrauterine insemination, often combined with medication like Clomid, can be used to insert sperm into the uterus.
For some couples, more extensive therapy — broadly called Assisted Reproductive Technology, or ART — is needed. Generally, it involves combining a sperm and egg outside of the body, then putting the resulting embryo into the uterus. Florida Hospital for Women offers the following ART therapies:
- intracytoplasmic sperm injection (putting a single sperm directly into the egg)
- gamete intrafallopian transfer (places a fertilized egg into a healthy fallopian tube)
- donor eggs from one woman are fertilized and placed in the woman experiencing infertility
- embryo cryopreservation (freezes embryos so they can be implanted later if the first attempt is unsuccessful)
- in vitro fertilization
Florida Hospital for Women offers the full spectrum of services to help couples achieve pregnancy and pairs them with a deep understanding of the mental and emotional elements of fertility care.
If you’re struggling to conceive, remember you’re never alone — our specialists are here to be your guide. To learn more or request an appointment, visit our website or call 407-303-4HER.