When you’re trying to become parents, infertility can seem like an end to your family-building dreams. However, just because you can’t conceive naturally doesn’t mean that you can’t become parents.
There are many infertility options available to you, including some that will preserve your genetic connection to your child. Not all options for infertility will work for all couples, which is why it’s important you consult with your fertility counselor and reproductive endocrinologist about which options are available for your particular situation.
In general, here are the several options for infertile couples available today:
Usually, the first infertility treatment that couples undergo is fertility medication. When a couple first has trouble conceiving naturally, their physician will usually prescribe them fertility drugs aimed at stimulating ovulation, thickening the uterine lining, increasing sperm count or other methods designed to increase the chances of conceiving. Talk to your reproductive endocrinologist to discover which fertility drugs might be right for your infertility options.
Medical Procedures for Infertility
If fertility drugs do not enable a couple to conceive naturally, their reproductive endocrinologist or fertility counselor will usually suggest medical infertility options, otherwise known as assisted reproductive technology (ART). Again, which medical procedure will be best for you will depend upon your own situation, but here are some of the more common ways that conception is assisted medically:
- In vitro fertilization (IVF): Perhaps the most commonly known ART method, in vitro fertilization involves the harvesting of sperm and egg cells from each partner. Then, the gametes are combined for conception in a laboratory dish. Once the embryo develops, it will be transferred into the woman’s uterus for implantation. After it successfully implants, her pregnancy will likely proceed just as any other pregnancy would.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI): If the harvesting of egg is not needed, a physician will usually recommend IUI. In this procedure, sperm is collected from the male partner, “washed” to remove seminal fluid and then inserted directly into the uterine cavity to increase chances of conception.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This treatment is the part of the IVF process where a single sperm is inserted into a retrieved egg. It’s usually used in cases of male infertility problems.
- Assisted hatching: To increase the chance that an IVF-created embryo will implant in a woman’s uterus, some medical professionals use the “hatching” technique. This method makes it easier for an embryo to “hatch” out of certain layers of protein and then implant.
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): Like IVF, the GIFT process harvests egg and sperm from intended parents. Instead of fertilizing the egg in a laboratory dish, however, this method mixes sperm and egg and then implants them into the fallopian tube for fertilization.
- Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): The ZIFT process is similar to the GIFT process, although the egg is fertilized before transfer to the fallopian tube.
Sperm, Egg or Embryo Donation
If the egg or sperm of an intended parent is not viable for a healthy embryo-creation process, gamete donation may be the next path to take. This way, intended parents can preserve at least one parental genetic connection to their child even if both parents cannot be genetically related to the child.
In addition to cases where parents’ sperm or eggs are not healthy enough for IVF, gamete donation is used in cases of same-sex family-building — lesbian couples will need a sperm donation and male couples will need an egg donation (as well as a gestational carrier, which you can read more about below). Gamete donations may also be used to avoid passing along a genetic disease for which one or both intended parents are a carrier. For people in these situations, an egg, sperm or embryo donation is the best of the infertility options available to them.
Like with other options for infertile couples, a reproductive endocrinologist will be able to tell you whether a sperm, egg or embryo donation is necessary or could be useful for your situation. Fortunately, there are many sperm, egg or embryo banks from which to find a donation, and intended parents can have the choice of an anonymous or identified donor. They can also choose important characteristics, like IQ, eye color, hair color, medical history, etc.
Before you choose to use a gamete donation, it’s important to talk to your fertility counselor about the potential challenges of doing so, including your future child’s identity as a donor-conceived child. Only once you are comfortable with these should you move forward with this ART process.
For those parents who cannot carry a child to term themselves (either due to medical reasons or because they are a single male or gay male couple), surrogacy may be the answer. In this family-building method, an embryo is created by the intended parents (from their own sperm and egg or with a donor gamete) and then transferred into the uterus of a surrogate, who will carry the child to term for them. For intended parents who believe that becoming parents is more important than actually being pregnant, surrogacy is the best way to preserve a genetic connection to their child.
There are technically two kinds of surrogacy — gestational and traditional — but most surrogacy professionals today will only complete gestational surrogacies, where the surrogate is not related to the child she carries. Even in gestational surrogacy, the process is an emotional one, and both intended parents and surrogates should be prepared for the physical and emotional challenges that will await them.
To learn more about the surrogacy process, contact a surrogacy agency today or take a look around our website. While surrogacy may not be one of the infertility options that’s best for everyone, it may be possible for you.
One of the more popular options for infertile couples is adoption, through which parents bring a non-genetically related child into their family. Adoption has changed a lot over the last few decades, and many are surprised at how positive an experience it can be for all involved. There are a couple of different paths if you choose to pursue adoption:
- Private domestic infant adoption: In this adoption process, a pregnant woman chooses to place her child for adoption. She chooses the adoptive family, creates a relationship with them and is able to be a part of her child’s life as they grow up through open adoption.
- Foster care adoption: There are many children in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption after their parents’ reunification plans have failed. Many of these children are older and may have special needs, but the foster care adoption cost is generally the least expensive of all adoption processes.
- International adoption: While the options for international adoption are dwindling, it is still possible to adopt from certain countries other than the U.S. Children adopted internationally are usually older or have special needs, and the wait time for international adoption can be long.
It’s important to remember that adoption is not a “cure” for infertility, as it does not bring a child into your family that shares a genetic relationship with you. However, for those intended parents who believe that raising a child is more important than having that genetic relationship, adoption is the right path to pursue.
Finally, one of the last options for infertility is choosing to live child-free. This is a serious decision to make — and only one that should be made after serious consideration by both members of an infertile couple. While this is certain one of the least popular options for infertile couples, there are some who choose to go this path.
Many times, when people choose to live child-free, it’s because they have already spent many years and funds trying to have a child of their own with no success. Rather than go through that process again, they decide that they can be happy living without children. They may have the joy of children in their life through nieces, nephews and neighbors, and they decide that missing out on the joys and pitfalls of parenting is not a huge loss for them.
Before you and your partner make this decision, it’s important that you talk it over in detail. A fertility counselor can also help walk you through this discussion.
Deciding Which Infertility Options are Right for You
Because there are so many options for infertile couples, how do you decide which one is right for you? One of the best resources in this decision is your fertility counselor, who can not only inform you of the medical options available in your situation but also the practical and emotional requirements of each infertility option, including the differences in cost for each one. Intended parents should also consider speaking with a financial advisor before selecting a family-building option.
With the proper preparation and research, you can have the child you’ve always dreamed about through the family-building method that’s best for you. Every couple’s situation is different, so make sure to speak to professionals to find out which option is perfect for you.
Are you interested in learning more about surrogacy or starting the process? Complete our form to request free surrogacy information now.