Frequently Asked Questions
- Am I sterile?
Sterility is rare. In a large UK survey only 2.4% of women aged 40–55 years reported unresolved infertility with no pregnancies over their reproductive years. Further 1.9% never gave a birth despite achieving pregnancy. For most couples, expectations of a successful pregnancy are realised even if a little help is needed along the way.
- Do treatments work?
Improvements in medication, microsurgery and Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) make pregnancy possible for a majority of the couples pursuing treatments. In particular, success rates have dramatically improved for couples requiring ART. A Danish study from 2009 found that within five years of starting ART treatment, almost 70% of couples had succeeded in having at least one child. It’s important to remember however that the success rate for fertility treatment is not absolute. The outcome will be different for every individual couple and clinic.
- Any side effects?
Clinical studies have shown that hormonal therapies have a good safety profile. However, as with all prescription medications, there are possible side effects. Your doctor will discuss any potential effects and monitor your response to therapy. Remember to report all symptoms to your doctor.
- What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?
ART is the name given to a variety of fertility treatments or procedures that include the in vitro handling of both human oocytes and sperm, or embryos, for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy. ART includes a variety of procedures including In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), (which is most common) Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) or Zygote Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT), Intracyto-plasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) and Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE).
- How many treatment cycles should we plan for?
Most couples who succeed getting pregnant need multiple treatment cycles. A Danish study from 2009 found that within five years of starting ART treatment, almost 70% of couples had succeeded in having at least one child. Within this period of time the number of successful couples nearly doubled between one and three years of following ART treatments. More than 40% went through four or more cycles during 5 years of the study. It’s important to remember however that the success rate for fertility treatment is not absolute. The outcome will be different for every individual couple and clinic.
- How established are Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)?
The first baby conceived with the help of ART was born in the United Kingdom in 1978. Her name is Louise Brown. Louise herself became a mother in 2006; she gave birth to her son without ART. Every doctor and clinic will have a different level experience with ART. Make sure you’re comfortable with your clinic choice before starting treatment.
- Sometimes it feels like our fertility treatment has taken over our lives. I can feel the strain it’s having on our relationship. What can we do to make sure we stick together?
The pressures of fertility treatment can get the better of any relationship, no matter how solid its foundations. At times, emotions can spiral out of control and communication may break down. Work as a team and discover ways to strengthen your relationship.
- Is there anything I can do while I’m waiting for the outcome of my pregnancy test to improve my chances of conception?
Your doctor will advise if (s)he believes you should take any precautions, but for the most part, all you can do is allow nature to follow its course. Use the waiting card to maintain your spirits at this time and keep yourself busy with the activities you enjoy. Starting to plan for the next cycle may help ease your disappointment a little if things don’t go as hoped. Most couples that succeed do so after multiple treatment cycles.
- Sometimes I feel that my partner seems detached from the process we’re going through. Is this a normal male reaction?
Men and women are different. They communicate differently; they deal with emotions differently and solve problems differently. Chances are, his feelings are just as deep as yours, but he processes them differently. Being aware of these differences you can help you avoid misunderstandings and enable you to experience your treatment journey as a team. Use the Fertility Compass to discover your coping style and ask your partner to do the same. Discussing your results may help you understand each other better and find the way to work together as a team.
- I feel I lack the stamina to go through another treatment cycle, but my partner says we mustn’t give up. What are my chances of getting pregnant?
Fertility treatment is strenuous, physically as well as emotionally. At times, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed. If you’re not sure about your chances of getting pregnant, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your doubts. In the meantime, it may help to discuss these four key questions with your partner to decide whether you need a break.
1. Oakley L et al. Lifetime prevalence of infertility and infertility treatment in the UK: results from a population-based survey of reproduction. Hum Reprod 2008;23(2):447-450. 2. Pinbourg A et al, Prospective longitudinal cohort study on cumulative 5-year delivery and adoption rates among 1338 couples initiating infertility treatment. Hum Reprod.2009;24: 991-999.