Clinics, Reproductive Medicine, IVF Treatment, Fertility Programs and Infertility advice
More than 6.1 million people nationwide experience infertility, the inability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to delivery after one year of well-timed intercourse. While the disease is often thought of as a female problem, the fact is that "approximately about one-third of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors, and about one-third to factors that affect women. For the remaining one-third of infertile couples, infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, in about 20 percent of cases, is unexplained," according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).
Infertility is a hidden life crisis; there are no visible wounds. Individuals and couples unable to have children experience grief and loss as each treatment fails. Infertility has a ripple effect; it may impact self-esteem, relationships with family and friends, a couple’s intimacy and may put life plans on hold. The hope that "next month will be the month that I will get pregnant" can continue for months or years. Seeking good care from a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist can move treatment forward.
Most infertility is successfully treated with low-tech treatments such as ovulation inducing medications, intra uterine insemination and surgical procedures to correct tubal or uterine problems. Fewer than 5% of those treated for infertility use assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) donor egg, donor embryo and gestational surrogacy.
Infertility treatments have continued to improve since the 1978 birth of Louise Brown, the first IVF baby. For example, in IVF, the surgical procedure laparoscopy is no longer used to retrieve mature eggs; ultrasound guided aspiration is used instead. Medications to stimulate ovulation are now given subcutaneously (under the skin) rather that intramuscularly.
ART success rates rise annually, according to the "Assisted Reproductive Technology Success Rates, National Summary and Clinic Report," published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) since 1989. The latest report, published in 2003, offers data from the 384 ART clinics in operation in 2001; 107,587 cycles were performed and 40,687 babies were born. In contrast, according to the 1997 report, 335 clinics performed 71,826 ART cycles and 24,582 babies were born.
Breakthroughs in ART treatments include intracytoplasmic sperm insertion (ICSI), offering couples with severe male factor infertility the hope of having a biological child. Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) enables doctors to select genetically normal embryos for transfer, reducing the risk of carrying a baby with an inherited disease. The use of donor eggs has increased as more women over 40 are trying to have children and are confronted with the fact that age affects the quality of their eggs. The use of donated embryos to build families is a more recent family building option.
The future holds promise for infertility patients. Scientists are working to unlock the mystery of implantation and to find ways to improve embryo quality. With ongoing research and increased insurance coverage for infertility treatments more and more couples and individuals will have the baby that they long for.
RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association is a non-profit organization with chapters nationwide that provides education, advocacy and support to men and women facing the crisis of infertility. Please visit the RESOLVE website or call our RESOLVE (toll free: 703-556-7172).