Treatment of Infertility

How do doctors treat infertility?

Infertility can be treated with medicine, surgery, artificial insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Many times these treatments are combined. In most cases infertility is treated with drugs or surgery.

Doctors recommend specific treatments for infertility based on test results, how long a couple has been trying to get pregnant and the age, overall health and preference of the couple.

Doctors often treat infertility in men in the following ways:
  • Sexual problems. Doctors can help men deal with impotence or premature ejaculation. Behavioral therapy and/or medicines can be used in these cases.

  • Too few sperm. Sometimes surgery can correct the cause of the problem. In other cases, doctors surgically remove sperm directly from the male reproductive tract. Antibiotics can also be used to clear up infections affecting sperm count.

  • Sperm movement. Sometimes semen has no sperm because of a block in the man's system. In some cases, surgery can correct the problem.

In women, some physical problems can also be corrected with surgery.

A number of fertility medicines are used to treat women with ovulation problems. It is important to talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of these medicines. You should understand the possible dangers, benefits, and side effects.

What medicines are used to treat infertility in women?

Some common medicines used to treat infertility in women include:
  • Clomiphene citrate (Clomid). This medicine causes ovulation by acting on the pituitary gland. It is often used in women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or other problems with ovulation. This medicine is taken by mouth.

  • Human menopausal gonadotropin or hMG (Repronex, Pergonal). This medicine is often used for women who don't ovulate due to problems with their pituitary gland. hMG acts directly on the ovaries to stimulate ovulation. It is an injected medicine.

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH (Gonal-F, Follistim). FSH works much like hMG. It causes the ovaries to begin the process of ovulation. These medicines are usually injected.

  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analog. These medicines are often used for women who don't ovulate regularly each month. Women who ovulate before the egg is ready can also use these medicines. Gn-RH analogs act on the pituitary gland to change when the body ovulates. These medicines are usually injected or given with a nasal spray.

  • Metformin (Glucophage). Doctors use this medicine for women who have insulin resistance and/or PCOS. This drug helps lower the high levels of male hormones in women with these conditions. This helps the body to ovulate. Sometimes clomiphene citrate or FSH is combined with metformin. This medicine is usually taken by mouth.

  • Bromocriptine (Parlodel). This medicine is used for women with ovulation problems due to high levels of prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that causes milk production.

Many fertility drugs increase a woman's chance of having twins, triplets, or other multiples. Women who are pregnant with multiple fetuses have more problems during pregnancy. Multiple fetuses have a high risk of being born too early (prematurely). Premature babies are at a higher risk of health and developmental problems.

Surgical Options

Several surgical procedures can correct problems or otherwise improve female fertility. They include:
  • Tissue removal. This surgery removes endometrial tissue or pelvic adhesions with lasers or ablation, which can improve your chances of achieving pregnancy.

  • Tubal reversal surgery (microscopic). After a woman has had her tubes tied for permanent contraception (tubal ligation), surgery may be done to reconnect them and restore fertility. Your doctor will determine whether you're a good candidate for the surgery.

  • Tubal surgeries. If your fallopian tubes are blocked or filled with fluid (called hydrosalpinx), tubal surgery may improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Laparoscopic surgery is performed to remove adhesions, dilate a tube or create a new tubal opening. Tubal surgery is more successful when the blocked or narrowed part of the tube is closer to the ovary than to the uterus. Tubal blockage close to your uterus may increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy. In these and other severe cases of blockage or hydrosalpinx, removal of your tubes (salpingectomy) can improve your chances of pregnancy with in vitro fertilization.

Additional Infertility Information