Coming to terms with the idea that you may need fertility treatment can be stressful and scary. Add all the confusing treatment acronyms and this fertility alphabet soup might make your eyes cross and head swim.
The good news is that these acronyms mean that more fertility treatment options are available than ever before, increasing your chance of making a family. In fact, the use of fertility treatments has doubled over the past decade, and employers and health insurance companies are providing more coverage, too.
Knowledge is power: Your fertility specialist, or reproductive endocrinologist (RE), can help guide you to the best options for your needs and budget.
Of course, familiarizing yourself with different terms and processes will allow you to think through your needs and determine what questions to ask.
Two fertility treatments that you can discuss with your fertility specialist are IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization).
Here are the basics of each:
IUI, also called artificial insemination, is a procedure in which concentrated sperm is injected (guided) into a woman’s uterus through the cervix. It’s timed to when the woman’s ovary may release an egg, so putting the sperm close to the egg promotes fertilization.
This procedure can be coordinated with a woman’s natural cycle or she can be given medication to help the ovaries stimulate the release of one or more eggs.
For couples with mild male-factor and/or unexplained infertility or when a woman needs to use donor sperm, IUI is often the first recommended treatment after commonly used oral or injectable fertility medicines.
IVF is the most common form of ART and refers to a procedure in which a sperm and egg are combined outside the body in a lab. Once fertilization occurs, the resulting embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus to implant and develop. While IVF is the most effective fertility treatment option, it’s also among the most expensive.
IVF begins with controlled ovarian stimulation (COS), in which the ovaries are stimulated to produce multiple eggs. Then, the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and combined with sperm. After successful fertilization, the process in which the sperm and egg form an embryo, the selected embryo or embryos are transferred to the woman’s uterus.
IVF is often pursued when fertility challenges are related to fallopian tube problems, ovulation disorders, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, diminished sperm production or function, a genetic disorder, fertility preservation for cancer, or unexplained infertility.
Prepare for the conversation with your RE by keeping these questions in mind:
- What are the differences between treatments, and which one would you suggest for me?
- What’s involved in this treatment, including timeline, price, and scheduling considerations?
- Is there anything else about this treatment that I need to know?
Work with your RE to choose the right treatment for your needs
There’s no avoiding the fact that ART takes time, money, and patience, but many people have been able to have children this way. Every year, more than 75,000 babies are born with ART in the United States.
To find out how, ask your RE about the 2 “I”s—IUI and IVF. It’s important to educate yourself about your options and discuss them carefully with your fertility specialist to determine the best path for you. With hope and persistence, fertility treatments—whether IUI, IVF, or another approach—can help you build your family.