IVF isn’t the first option if you’re having trouble conceiving. There are simpler, less expensive things you can try first.
IVF is a complex procedure that can be financially and emotionally draining, so you may want to try these simpler options first. They may also improve the success of IVF, if you do decide to go ahead with it.
Check your timing is right
Getting to know your cycle is important. The 5 days leading up to, and the day of ovulation, are considered your ‘fertile window’ so understanding when you ovulate will enable you to time sex for your best chances of conceiving. An ovulation predictor kit, which uses samples of your urine, is available at pharmacies. Other methods of checking when you ovulate include recording your temperature in the morning or looking for changes in your saliva or vaginal mucus.
If you have a regular cycle, you only need to do this for a few cycles, as it will tend to be similar from one cycle to the next. If your cycles are irregular, it’s best to see your doctor who may prescribe medication to make your cycles more regular and maximise your chances of getting pregnant.
Smoking can reduce fertility in men and women. Women who smoke take longer to get pregnant than non-smokers. The toxins in cigarette smoke can affect the early stages of fertilisation and implantation (when the fertilised egg attaches to the wall of the uterus).
A man’s smoking can also play a role as it can damage the DNA in sperm. It takes 3 months for sperm to develop, so it’s good if a man can quit smoking 3 months before conception. If both partners quit, there’ll be less temptation to start again.
If you smoke, this could be a good opportunity to quit. Quitting smoking is the one thing that will have the biggest positive effect on your overall health.
HCF members on eligible extras cover may be able to access HCF-approved quit smoking programs.
Achieve your ideal weight
Being overweight or underweight can reduce fertility in both men and women. For women, obesity can cause hormonal imbalances as well as inflammatory changes that can affect egg quality and implantation. Obesity is also associated with polycystic ovary syndrome, a common cause of infertility that affects up to 1 in 5 women. If you’re affected, even a small weight loss can increase your chances of conceiving naturally. Being underweight can also affect a woman’s fertility. For a man, being overweight can reduce sperm quality and also lower interest in sex.
If you’re overweight or underweight, a dietitian can help you with a healthy eating plan so you can work towards reaching a more ideal weight.
Emotional stress is believed to affect fertility in both men and women, although scientists aren’t sure how. Certainly, the frustration of failing to get pregnant can increase a couple’s level of stress, and additional life stress doesn’t help. If you’re feeling stressed, talk to your doctor about whether relaxation therapy or meditation may help.
Cut out alcohol
Seven or more alcoholic drinks a week, or more than 3 drinks on one occasion can increase the amount of time it takes for a woman to get pregnant. If you’re trying to get pregnant, the best option is not to drink at all. Heavy drinking also affects men’s fertility as it can reduce sperm quality and cause sexual difficulties.
Ensure your fallopian tubes aren’t blocked
If your fallopian tubes are blocked, your eggs can’t make contact with sperm. There are different ways your tubes can be checked, such as an x-ray or ultrasound scan of your tubes after you’ve had an injection to increase visibility. This is called a hysterosalpingogram or hysterosalpingo-contrast-sonography (HyCoSy). Using a combination of iodine and poppy seed oil for the investigation has recently been shown to increase women’s success with conceiving. If your tubes are blocked, your doctor can try and unblock them using a microsurgical technique.
Some women don’t ovulate regularly or reliably, which reduces fertility. You may have irregular or infrequent periods and being over or underweight can make this more likely. Ovulation can be stimulated with oral medication (clomiphene or letrozole) or injections (follicle stimulating hormone), which can encourage eggs to mature in your ovaries. Induced ovulation, combined with timing of intercourse, can help increase your chances of conceiving.
Increase sperm count
If a hormone imbalance is causing a man to have a low sperm count, or if his sperm are low quality, hormone therapy (with gonadotropin), may increase their quantity and strength.
Try intra-uterine insemination
Compared to IVF, intra-uterine insemination is a relatively simple procedure that involves placing sperm directly into your uterus at the time of ovulation. There are a number of circumstances where intra-uterine insemination is worth trying. If your partner’s infertility has no obvious cause and his sperm count is only slightly impaired, or if your doctor thinks your cervical mucus may be to be hostile to his sperm, this can be a good choice.
Investigate fertility-restoring surgery
A number of possible problems with your uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries could make it difficult for you to fall pregnant. They include endometriosis (where tissue from the lining of your uterus grows in other parts of your body), fibroids (benign tumours in your uterus), blocked fallopian tubes, or scar tissue around your uterus, tubes or ovaries. Often these problems can be successfully treated with fertility-restoring surgery.