The first step in infertility treatment is diagnosis. Both partners go through physical examination and testing to try to identify the reason they cannot conceive. After the cause (or causes—infertility often has more than one cause) is established, infertility treatment involves structural treatments, hormone therapy, artificial reproductive technologies and/or alternative therapies.

Structural Treatments

Structural problems are usually the easiest to resolve. Structural infertility treatments usually involve some kind of surgery to repair blockages or abnormalities of either partner’s reproductive system.

Hormone Therapy

Hormone therapy has two goals. The first goal is to stimulate sperm production or ovulation. The second goal is to control the woman’s hormonal cycle so that conception and implantation can take place.

Hormone therapy for men is usually pretty straightforward. For women, it can be as simple as taking ovulation-inducing medication, or as complicated as getting frequent, carefully timed injections each month.

Artificial Reproductive Technologies (ART)

Artificial reproductive technologies involve everything from artificial insemination all the way through intracytoplasmic sperm injection.

There are variations of each technology. Artificial insemination may use the man’s sperm or it may use donor sperm. Invitro fertilization may use the man’s sperm and the woman’s egg, or it can use one or two donors. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection can include cellular biopsy and genetic evaluation and it can be supplemented by assisted hatching.

These are all complex procedures and the terms may be unfamiliar. The point is that there are many options available for infertility treatment that use ART.

Of all the infertility treatments, ART is the most controversial. There are ethical and moral issues involved with every procedure. Each couple needs to grapple with these issues and decide what choices are the best ones for them. There is no “right” answer.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies are gaining favor in the world of fertility treatment. Even skeptics are becoming convinced that acupuncture, yoga and massage improve fertility. Many fertility clinics offer acupuncture or massage as part of infertility treatment.

Herbal therapies, including traditional Chinese medicine, are more controversial. Some herbs may interfere with medical treatments. Few Western fertility specialists are enthusiastic about herbal treatments. If you are thinking of trying herbal infertility treatment, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your physician first.

Some couples find that their fertility problems are solved by a simple surgery. Some couples go through treatment after treatment, and wind up trying all of the above infertility treatments and more, alone and in combination. The process can be stressful, discouraging and expensive. On the other hand, infertility treatment allows couples who would never have been able to conceive any other way the opportunity to have children of their own.

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