If you’re having problems conceiving a child, you are not alone. Although it can feel as if everyone in the world is getting pregnant at the drop of a hat except you, 25% of all couples experience a period of infertility, and one in ten couples will need medical help conceiving.

After a year of trying for a baby, one in seven couples will not have conceived, although after two years of trying 90% will have been successful. However, if it’s still not happening for you, or you want to maximise your chances, there are lots of things you can do at home to help boost your fertility. Failing this, there is a wide range of medical fertility treatment procedures that can assist couples having difficulty conceiving a child.

This article is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.

Things you can do to increase chances of conceiving

Putting into practice the following measures can help increase the fertility of both men and women:

  • Reduce stress levels
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Reduce or cut out alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Eat a healthy and varied diet
  • Have sex often

There is limited evidence that some of the following additional measures may help with fertility:

  • Vitamin supplements – such as co-enzyme Q10, angus castus, antioxidants, and special conception-specific tablets available in many supermarkets
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Reflexology

The next step to take is to monitor ovulation and make love the day before, during, and the day after ovulation.

Drugs which increase fertility

If all these techniques have not worked within two years (or a year if you’re a female in your late 30’s), your doctor may recommend you to a fertility specialist. The specialist may start by putting you on fertility drugs such as Humira, Clomid, Tamoxifen and other gonadotrophins. Fertility drugs are prescribed when the cause of your infertility is thought to be failure of the ovaries to ovulate properly. They work by increasing hormonal stimulation of the ovaries making them more likely to release an egg (ovulate). If you make love with your partner at the time of ovulation it will increase your chances of conceiving and becoming pregnant.

Medical help with conceiving

Intrauterine insemination

Sometimes known as artificial insemination or IUI, this is a fertility treatment option for people who are having difficulty conceiving due to sperm antibodies present in the body. Sometimes males or females can develop a kind of allergy to sperm which means that, in the case of the man, as soon as sperm is made the body tries to destroy it, and in the case of the woman, as soon as it’s deposited in her body it is attacked by her immune system. Many couples with this problem are successful in conceiving using IUI. Sperm is introduced into the womb via a catheter at the time of ovulation, giving it the best possible chance of connecting with the egg and fertilising into an embryo before it’s destroyed.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

This is a process that can help people with unexplained fertility, endometriosis, male factor problems, women with cervical issues, or couples using donor sperm. A very similar process to full IVF, the woman’s ovaries are chemically stimulated to produce eggs, which are then collected during a small operation, mixed with the man’s sperm and then immediately put back into the woman’s body for incubation. During IVF, fertilisation takes place outside the body whereas during GIFT fertilisation occurs inside, taking advantage of the woman’s fallopian tubes as a natural incubator.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

IVF can help couples who have difficulty conceiving for a variety of reasons. This fertility treatment involves chemically stimulating the woman’s ovaries to produce several eggs instead of just one, using a series of injected gonadotrophins (stimulating drugs). When the eggs are the right size, they are collected during a small operation, mixed with the man’s sperm, and left to fertilise in an incubator in the laboratory. When fertilisation has been established, the embryos are painlessly introduced back into the womb for the natural process of implantation to begin.

Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

ICSI is the most successful infertility treatment for people having difficulty conceiving due to male factors, such as oligospermia, azoospermia, blockages, vasectomy, hernia, genetic problems, impotence, premature ejaculation and many other problems. The process is exactly the same as for IVF, except the sperm is actually injected into the egg. Fertilisation takes place in an incubator in the laboratory, and embryos are painlessly returned to the womb via a catheter so they can hatch out and begin the process of implantation.

In many of these procedures, donor eggs and sperm can be used if conditions are necessary, or the eggs or sperm of either partner are too few or of too poor quality. Using donor eggs or sperm can help couples where the woman has gone into premature menopause or the man does not produce enough, good quality sperm. It can also help people who have had diseases affecting their fertility.

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