What is unexplained infertility?
The decision to diagnose a couple with unexplained infertility is not taken lightly. A reproductive endocrinologist will go through a range of tests on both parties first. For the woman, the doctor must do a deep dive into ovulation and ovarian reserve. Ultrasounds and other tests review the structural health of the reproductive organs. For male infertility, sperm count, mobility, and even structure are examined. If both the man and woman have a clean slate of health, the doctor may declare the reason as unexplained. From here, treatment could start to improve the chances of pregnancy.
Turning to IUI
Unexplained infertility does not mean there is no issue at all. There could be an issue that does not come up on standard tests. That’s why intrauterine insemination (IUI) is one of the first forms of treatment. With IUI, the reproductive specialist places a sperm sample into the uterine cavity using a catheter. The procedure is timed around ovulation, and the clinic uses a washed sperm sample. A washed sample ensures the best sperm is available for the procedure. The couple may need to try several cycles of IUI, which has a 15% success rate.
Hormone medication and IUI
In some cases, timed IUI with ovulation is not enough. Fertility specialists may recommend hormone treatment along with IUI. Using medication increases egg production. The increased number of eggs may increase the chances of getting pregnant. Together with IUI, the procedure’s effectiveness may increase up to 25%. Couples should note that there are some risks, like the possibility of getting pregnant with twins.
The power of IVF
If IUI fails, the clinic may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF), the gold standard in reproductive treatment. With IVF, the woman must first take hormone medication to increase the production of mature eggs. In some cases, like advanced age, the couple may use donor eggs. If there are no donor eggs, the clinic then extracts the mature eggs from the ovaries. The eggs are then combined with sperm samples in a clinic to create embryos. A doctor implants the embryo, then checks for pregnancy after a 2-week wait.
ICSI and IVF
In some cases, the clinic uses ICSI or intracytoplasmic sperm injection. With ICSI, the embryologist uses solitary healthy sperm with the egg. This step improves the chances of a healthy, viable embryo. The doctor then implants one or more embryos in the uterus, timed with ovulation. IVF and ICSI have high success rates. However, there are some factors to consider, including cost, emotional toll, and risk of multiple births.
Consider some simple lifestyle changes
Unexplained infertility is often a sign that hopeful parents could make simple changes to improve the chances of pregnancy. For example, through diet and exercise, weight loss can improve the chances of pregnancy significantly. Other changes couples can make include stopping smoking, reducing alcohol and caffeine intake. While these changes won’t guarantee pregnancy, doctors have seen improved success rates when coupled with treatment.
Unexplained infertility is not the end
For any woman trying to get pregnant, a diagnosis of unexplained infertility can be confusing. However, these treatment options can significantly improve the chances. After 6-12 months of trying to get pregnant without success, consider seeing an OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist immediately. The sooner everyone knows what’s wrong, the sooner these treatment options can help bring a new bundle of joy.