According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12% of the population who are currently in their reproductive years are infertile. These statistics are troubling, and although fertility can take a significant toll on your emotional well-being, there is still hope! There is hope because as science advances so do alternative conception methods.
The National Institute of Health reports that more than 1/2 of all couples experiencing infertility are able to conceive after receiving treatment. When it comes to which treatment a couple should focus on, it depends largely on the cause of their infertility. The costs of treatments also vary widely due to what treatment path your doctor advises.
Here are some alternative conception methods to keep your hopes running high!
How Fertility Drugs Work: Typically fertility drugs are injected or taken in pill form and those drugs release hormones that can help induce ovulation in order to boost egg production while making the uterus more receptive to embryo implantation.
Best For: These are best for women whose ovulation schedule is unpredictable and/or who have partners who have poor sperm quality. These should not be used if you have had damaged, previously blocked Fallopian tubes or scarring due to endometriosis. Endometriosis is a disease where tissue that is supposed to grow inside the uterus grows outside of it, causing pelvic pain and it can also contribute to infertility.
How Well Do Fertility Drugs Work: Of women who use this method, 40-50% get pregnant. Those are very inspiring numbers for those who feel infertility is ruining their chances of starting a family.
Pros of Fertility Drugs: Fertility drugs are typically the first step couples experiencing infertility try because they’re relatively inexpensive due to other methods.
Cons of Fertility Drugs: Symptoms of using fertility drugs vary from person to person but reported symptoms include headaches, bloating, hot flashes and nausea. For those individuals using fertility shots, they may have multiples, premature delivery and may develop ovarian cysts.
Cost of Fertility Drugs: The cost associated with fertility drugs vary depending on whether the drug being used is a pill or a shot, as well as if ultrasounds and blood tests are being done. Also for some, insurance companies don’t cover fertility treatments.
(Intrauterine Insemination or IUI)
How Artificial Insemination Works: Artificial insemination is when doctors prepare the sperm and insert it into the uterus through a catheter during IUI, which is the most common fertility method. Fertility drugs are also advised because they increase your chances of fertilization.
Best For: IUI is ideal for those men whose sperm count is low, their quality of sperm is low or if they have sperm that are slow-moving. For women, this method is ideal if their body has produced antibodies to their partner’s sperm or if their cervical mucus is too acidic or too thick to transport the sperm to the egg.
How well does IUI Work: Though the success rates depend on the ages of both partners, there’s a 15-20% chance of conception per cycle. By six cycles, the chance of conception jumps to 60-70%.
Pros of IUI: It’s a simple procedure that can be performed at your fertility doctors office.
Cons of IUI: Undergoing IUI can result in multiple births which could be explained by the side effects of the fertility drugs.
Cost of IUI: The cost of IUI is around $865.
There is a cool over-the-counter home conception device called The Stork. This device allows for couples trying to conceive a way to use a cervical cap insemination in your own home. The smart technique of this device places the sperm as close as possible to the opening of the cervix, optimizing the chances of becoming pregnant. The Stork is FDA-cleared and available for home-use without a prescription. This is a serious alternative when trying to conceive before possibly having to seek more aggressive treatments, plus it’s much more affordable!
How Reproductive Surgery Works: This procedure is done when anatomical abnormalities exist in men or women, resulting in the removal of scarring or clearing blockages.
Best For: This method is ideal for couples with a diagnosed disease such as endometriosis.
How well does Reproductive Surgery Work: Understanding the success rate for this procedure can be hard to calculate because of the condition, severity and age of the individuals involved.
Pros of Reproductive Surgery: This procedure helps alleviate any pain or discomfort that were associated with the individual’s disease and also may increase their likelihood of becoming pregnant.
Cons of Reproductive Surgery: Depending on the issue, the surgery can be quite invasive which can lead to increase in the risk, costs and recovery time.
Cost of Reproductive Surgery: Costs associated with reproductive surgery can range depending on the surgery, surgeon involved and what the procedure actually entails. For example, a procedure to help correct endometriosis can range from $1,700 to $5,000.
How this Method Works: Eggs are obtained from another woman’s (the donor) ovaries and fertilized with sperm from the woman who wants to become pregnant’s partner. Embryos are then transferred into the woman’s uterus.
Best For: This method is ideal for women whose ovaries are failing prematurely or are damaged. Women who have undergone chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may find themselves having a difficult time conceiving. Women who are older and who encompass poor egg quality may be good candidates for donor eggs, as well as women carrying genetic disorders they’d rather not be passed down to their children.
How well does this Method Work: This method has a fairly high success rate. In fact, 55% of women using fresh donor eggs will get pregnant. It’s important to keep in mind that that number declines to about 34% when using frozen eggs.
Pros of using Donor Eggs: Women with the inability to conceive naturally because of age or issues with their ovaries receive a shot of becoming a parent.
Cons of using Donor Eggs: Receiving donor eggs is expensive and the process if rigorously full of fertility drugs with many possible side affects. Women receiving donor eggs also have to understand that they will have no genetic link to their child.
Cost of Receiving Donor Eggs: This method is one of the most expensive methods and ranges from $15,000-$30,000. That cost does not include IVF and compensation from the donor.
How this Method Works: Another man, other than the intended father, donates sperm that is then used for IUI or IVF.
Best For: This method is used when male-factor infertility exists or if a genetic disorder exists that the couple does not want to be passed down to their child. This method is also used when a woman wants to become a mother but doesn’t have a partner, as well as for lesbian couples.
How Well Does this Method Work: This method has a high success rate. After one cycle, 15% of women get pregnant but after 6 cycles, 80% conceive.
Pros of using Donor Sperm: This method helps infertile men conceive, minimizes genetic disorders from being carried down to their children, and enables single women and lesbians to have a child.
Cons of using Donor Sperm: This method can be a tough pill for some men to swallow because they have to understand that the child will have no genetic relationship to them.
Cost of Receiving Donor Sperm: Typically obtaining donor sperm ranges from $300-$400, but can vary based on donor consultation, storage sperm and for the sperm to be washed and prepared.
How this Method Works: Embryos are donated by couples undergoing IVF who miraculously become pregnant and no longer need their unused fertilized eggs. The donated embryo is then transferred into the lucky recipient.
Best For: For men and women who are both experiencing infertility, they’re able to experience pregnancy.
How Well Does this Method Work: For individuals using this method, the live birth rate ranges from about 30%-50% which depends on the amount of embryos implanted. It’ll also vary depending on whether they were fresh or frozen embryos.
Pros of using Donor Embryos: This method allows those couples who are both infertile to enjoy the childbearing experience.
Cons of using Donor Embryos: The medical screening associated with this method is extensive as well as the fertility drug regimen required for the recipient. It can also prove difficult to find donated embryos as couples are reluctant to give them up.
Cost of Receiving Donor Embryos: The cost is between $15,000 and $30,000.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
How IVF works: IVF is a multi-step process which consists of eggs being extracted from the woman and fertilized with the man’s sperm in a lab. Once embryos have been created, one or two are then implanted back into the uterus and the rest are typically stored for future use.
Best For: This method is ideal for older women who are trying to conceive, women who have damaged Fallopian tubes, scarring from endometriosis, men with low sperm quality and for couples whose infertility is unexplained.
How well does IVF work: The success rate of IVF varies mostly on age. For instant, 41% of women under the age of 35 see success with this method, whereas 32% aged 35 to 37 see success and 23% percent of women see success who are 38-40 years of age.
Pros of using IVF: Couples who try IVF have the chance to become parents.
Cons of using IVF: IVF is expensive and an aggressive regimen that requires fertility drugs for weeks before the process starts.
Cost of IVF: Pricing varies again, but on average, IVF can cost anywhere from $8,000-$9,500 per cycle which doesn’t include medication or other drugs associated with this method.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
How ICSI Works: An expert who specializes in embryos called an embryologist will select a healthy single sperm and injects it directly into the egg with a microscopic needle. Once an embryo develops, it’s then transferred into the uterus via IVF.
Best For: ICSI is best for couples whose sperm count is low and/or sperm quality is extremely poor.
How well does this Method Work: When undergoing this method as well as IVF, about 30% of couples will become pregnant.
Pros of ICSI: Men who have very low sperm count or poor quality have the chance of becoming a father.
Cons of ICSI: This method is relatively costly and much more is involved, such as fertility drugs and IVF. Those undergoing this method may also experience side effects from taking the fertility drugs.
Cost of ICSI: Prices range from $1,000-$2,000 per cycle, but that does not include the costs associated with IVF.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
How GIFT Works: In this method, eggs from the woman are collected, then they are mixed with sperm from the man in a petri dish. Once that is done, they are then placed directly inside the Fallopian tubes where fertilization can occur.
Best For: This conception method is ideal for women who have one functioning Fallopian tube or for men who have a lower sperm count or poor motility.
How well does this Method Work: For couples who undergo this procedure, they can expect a pregnancy success rate of 25%-30%. Women who are younger and also healthier can see a higher success rate of pregnancy.
Pros of GIFT: GIFT allows fertilization to occur more naturally.
Cons of GIFT: There is no immediate verification that GIFT was successful; rather couples have a longer time to see if the procedure was successful. It’s also a more complicated procedure than IVF, and because more than one egg is used, there is a higher-than-normal risk of multiple births.
Cost of GIFT: This procedure costs between $15,000 to $20,000 dollars.
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
How ZIFT Works: This procedure is similar to IVF, but in this case the embryo is inserted into the Fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
Best For: This method is ideal for couples whose infertility is unexplained or in those instances where a man’s sperm count is low. It’s also ideal for women who have at least one functioning Fallopian tube or for those who are experiencing ovulation inconsistencies or other problems associated with ovulation.
How well does this Method Work: The success of this procedure again is largely dependent on the age and health of those involved. Generally, 36% of couples undergoing ZIFT become pregnant during a cycle, with 29% going on to deliver.
Pros of ZIFT: Unlike GIFT, it’s easier to confirm if the zygote has been fertilized. Because of this, fewer eggs are used which will lower the chances of multiple births.
Cons of ZIFT: A laparoscope is used in this procedure so it’s considered invasive. Because of this, it increases risks and costs compared to IVF.
Cost of ZIFT: Costs associated with ZIFT range from $8,000-$13,000 per cycle.
How Surrogacy Works: This method involves another woman carrying a baby for a woman the duration of the pregnancy. The surrogate becomes pregnant through artificial insemination which includes using the father’s sperm, or through IVF with the couple’s embryo. For some couples, it may include donor eggs and donor sperm.
Best For: This method is ideal for those women who are unable to carry a baby because of a disease, hysterectomy or infertility. In some unfortunate instances, both partners are infertile.
How well does this Method Work: The success rate depends on the quality of the eggs and sperm being used, but on average, live birth rates range from 5%-30% per cycle.
Pros of using a Surrogate: Couples who are experiencing infertility due to uterus issues or disease are able to become parents.
Cons of using a Surrogate: Not only are the costs nearly impossible to afford, but couples may feel removed from the pregnancy. Couples using surrogacy as their conception method will also have to deal with an array of state surrogacy laws and legal contracts.
Cost of Surrogacy: As mentioned, the costs are excessively high ranging from $50,000-$100,000. The cost is varied due to fees associated with the surrogate agency, compensation for the surrogate mother and if IVF is also needed in the process.
How Adoption Works: For couples who are unable to conceive naturally, adoption is a method they can use to have the child or children they have always wanted. A person or persons will assume the responsibility of parenting another child without being biologically linked. Couples who do this receive the rights, responsibilities and filiation from the biological parent or parents.
Best For: Adopting is great for those who are unable to conceive naturally and who are unable to conceive with fertility methods.
How well does this Method Work: For couples wanting to adopt, the process length can vary. Sometimes it takes a matter of days while other times it can literally take years to get through the process. Reasons for this include the type of adoption, resources involved and the requirements from the prospective adoptive parents.
Pros of Adopting: Couples who are unable to conceive a child still have a chance to be parents.
Cons of Adopting: The process of adopting can be long and tedious and the costs associated with adoption are high.
Cost of Adoption: Costs of adoption vary widely from $0.00 to $50,000 depending on the type of adoption being pursued. Adoption costs will also vary depending on whether they are domestic private adoptions or independent adoptions.
There is a lot of information here, but you need to understand that hope exists. If you’re unfortunately dealing with infertility, it’s important to understand that it’s not impossible to become a parent and more importantly that you’re not alone. There are millions of individuals and couples experiencing infertility. There are also many procedures and methods that can help you conceive and become a parent.
Photo credits: Jamie Rabbits, Tiffany Wilson Schmidt, Daniel Lobo, Danielle Jones, Pixabay, Toa Heftiba on Unsplash
Sources: AdoptionHelp.Org, Adoption.Org, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute of Health