Some women are able to conceive naturally the moment they have intercourse without using contraception, but the majority healthy women under the age of 35 conceive within twelve months of seriously trying for a baby. Over the age of 35, fertility begins to decline and it becomes harder to conceive, but although age is generally a factor when a woman fails to conceive, it isn’t the only issue and there are a number of reasons why a woman might need fertility treatment. So what are the options if you are unable to conceive a baby naturally?
In order for a woman to fall pregnant, her ovaries need to produce eggs. In some women, this doesn’t happen at all, or if it does happen, ovulation is not regular. Medications such as Tamoxifen and Clomifene can be used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce eggs if a lack of ovulation is the underlying cause of fertility issues.
Fallopian tube surgery may be used to break up scar tissue inside fallopian tubes caused by pelvic inflammatory disease. Success isn’t guaranteed, however, as it depends on how bad the damage is. Fallopian tube surgery also increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Corrective surgery may also be required in women who suffer from endometriosis.
Artificial insemination is an option for women who are unable to have sexual intercourse. This could be because they have a physical disability or they are in a same sex relationship. Sperm are collected and then passed directly into the womb via a fine tube. The success rate of artificial insemination under optimum conditions is around 15%.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) involves fertilising a woman’s egg (or donor eggs) in a laboratory. Fertilised embryos are then placed back in the body. The woman will be given medication to stimulate egg production and then her eggs are harvested. The success rate is about 32% for woman under the age of 35, and this falls the older a woman is. Women over the age of 42 are unlikely to be offered IVF treatment in the UK.
Another option for couples who want a baby but are unable to conceive naturally is to have a child through a surrogate mother. A woman’s own eggs can be fertilised and implanted into a surrogate, or the surrogate can donate her own eggs and undergo artificial insemination using the father’s sperm. However surrogacy is fraught with legal and ethical problems, so it is not a route you should take without thorough investigation.
Fertility treatment availability varies greatly in the UK and depending on whereabouts in the country you like, waiting lists for NHS treatment can be extremely long. Private treatment is always an option, but fertility treatments such as IVF can be very expensive and you may end up spending thousands of pounds and still be unable to get pregnant.
If you do decide to have fertility treatment at a private clinic, make sure you do your research as success rates vary across different treatments and clinics.