Before Baby - Week 3
What is ovulation induction? What’s the difference between artificial insemination, IVF and ICSI? Let us explain.
What you need to know about fertility treatment
Sometimes we need a little help to fall pregnant. Some of the most common fertility treatments are artificial insemination, IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), but even if you’ve already done a ton of research, you might be feeling confused about which is which and what does what. And how does ovulation induction fit into the picture?
To help prepare you for your journey to parenthood, it’s worth understanding what these treatments do and how they could potentially help make your baby dreams come true.
This is a form of medication that brings on ovulation, encouraging eggs to develop in the ovaries and be released. It’s designed to improve your chances of conceiving – both naturally and through artificial insemination. Ovulation induction can be used for women who are producing low levels of hormones for ovulation, or are not ovulating at all (but have normal fallopian tubes and a male partner with a normal semen analysis).
Also known as IUI (intrauterine insemination), artificial insemination is where sperm is inserted into the uterus close to the time of ovulation, to enhance the chances of pregnancy. It’s one of the simpler, less invasive forms of fertility treatment, and is often used when there’s a diagnosis of unexplained infertility, what’s known as hostile cervical mucus or minor sperm abnormalities. It’s also used when the male’s sperm has been frozen previously (due to cancer treatment, for example). In the case of single women or same-sex couples, artificial insemination can also be used with donor sperm.
This is probably the most well-known fertility procedure, but that doesn’t mean we all necessarily have a good understanding of what it involves. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is where a woman’s ovaries are stimulated for around two weeks to create more eggs, which are then surgically removed. In a laboratory, those eggs are joined with sperm, and the fertilised egg (also known as an embryo) grows in a protected environment before being transferred into the woman’s uterus later.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a procedure done as part of IVF, but only in certain cases. It involves a single sperm being injected into each egg to assist fertilisation, using very fine micro-manipulation equipment. It can be recommended when there’s been a diagnosis of male fertility issues, such as low sperm count or motility, anti-sperm antibodies or after a vasectomy. It can also be used when poor (or no) fertilisation has occurred during standard IVF.
All about fertility preservation
While we’re talking all things fertility treatment, we thought it beneficial to get to know the fertility preservation options available. After all, life happens – and if you decide the timing is just not quite right to conceive, or life throws you a curveball, we want you to be aware of the choices you have to protect your future fertility.
Also, it’s pretty amazing that we have the option in the first place, right? Let’s dive in.
- Egg Freezing
Egg freezing is a method of storing a woman’s unfertilised eggs to allow her to try to conceive at a later date. Medical egg freezing is an option when fertility is at risk due to upcoming cancer treatment or serious illness. It’s also becoming an increasingly popular choice for social reasons.
We mentioned previously the importance of female age and fertility, that the number of eggs you produce rapidly declines as you get older, and sadly there is also an increased risk of miscarriage and chromosomal variations. That’s why we recommend social egg freezing only under the age of 36.
It involves the first part of an IVF cycle, where the ovaries are stimulated to produce more eggs than usual and then these are surgically collected. The collected eggs are carefully vitrified (frozen), and stored for use later. Once you’re ready to use the eggs, the IVF process will continue with your partner’s, or a donor’s, sperm.
The good thing about egg freezing is that your chance of conception is tied to the age at which you froze the eggs, not the age you are when you decide to finish the process. Those little eggs are frozen in time, just for you. And just in case.
The drawback of egg freezing is that you don’t know the quality of the eggs until you thaw them and egg freezing should never be taken as a guarantee of future fertility.
- Sperm Freezing
Most often, sperm freezing is used as a way to preserve fertility for medical reasons - if someone is about to undergo cancer treatment, which can harm their sperm production. It’s also an option if you have a partner who travels frequently and cannot physically be there for your optimal fertile window. In both cases, artificial insemination can then help you conceive – or more advanced treatment such as IVF or ICSI may be recommended depending on individual factors and sperm quality.
- Embryo Freezing
Sometimes couples are not in a position to have a baby at the moment. Embryo freezing has a good chance of success and offers an extra possibility of future fertility in this situation. However, embryo freezing can not be considered a guarantee for future fertility and where possible, couples should strive to conceive sooner rather than later. It’s also a choice made for medical reasons. For example, if your fertility becomes at risk from a serious illness such as cancer. The process of embryo freezing involves an IVF cycle, except once the eggs are fertilised by sperm, the resulting embryos are frozen for future use.
At the end of the day, these fertility preservation options are good to be aware of. We have advanced technology and science on our side to help people conceive, no matter what unpredictable path life takes.
If fertility preservation is something you would like to talk through more, we’d be happy to have a chat. Call 1800 111 483 to discuss your options.
In case you missed it last week: Week 2 of Before Baby >>>>