Deciding to start a family is a big and exciting step to take. For some that step becomes a little more complicated after failing to conceive naturally. However, failing to conceive naturally does not mean that you have to shelve your plans – it just means that you may end up taking a slightly different route to parenthood than the one you have first anticipated and planned for. In this simple guide, we take a closer look at the options that are available to you so that you can still realise your desire of starting a happy and healthy family.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
ICSI is the process that most people probably picture when they hear the term ‘IVF’! However, the process involved is somewhat different. Whereas with IVF a number of eggs are mixed with a number of sperm, with ICSI a single sperm is injected into a single egg using a very fine laboratory needle. The fertilised embryo is then planted back into the womb, as it is in IVF. ICSI is used in preference to IVF when an issue with sperm count or mobility is detected after fertility testing for males has been carried out. It is also used when frozen sperm is being used in the fertilisation process. A full ICSI cycle can take between four and six weeks to complete.
Whichever form of assisted conception you opt for, it is important to remember that there is a chance that you will not realise success on the first cycle. In fact, research shows that it can take up to three cycles of treatment before pregnancy occurs. With this in mind, it is important to stay optimistic and healthy as well as being patient as you go through the process.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is perhaps the commonly used method of assisted conception, and there is a good chance that you have heard it mentioned before; even before you started thinking about starting a family yourself. During IVF treatment eggs are removed from the body and fertilised with the sperm and then put back into the body. Before the procedure itself is undertaken, you will be asked to take medication in order to stimulate egg production as this will give the highest possible yield of viable eggs for fertilisation and therefore increase the chances of success. IVF is carried out over six stages:
- Suppression of the menstrual cycle – periods are suppressed using medication
- Egg supply is boosted – medication is taken in order to increase egg production
- Monitoring of egg production – ultrasound scans are carried out in order to check on egg production
- Collection of eggs – the eggs are collected ready for fertilisation
- Fertilisation – the eggs are fertilised in the laboratory by mixing them with sperm collected from the partner or donor – this takes a few days
- Transfer of embryos – one or two fertilised eggs are put back into the womb After a period of two weeks, another ultrasound scan will be carried out in order to determine whether the treatment has been successful.