What are the treatments for female infertility?
The treatment of infertility has made enormous progress in the last decade as a result of advances in assisted reproductive technology, or ART. This technology combines the use of fertility drugs - hormonal therapy - with artificial insemination using any of a group of techniques: intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), or oocyte (egg) donation.
Ovulation problems are usually treated with medications (clomiphene, GnRH, gonadotropins, and bromocriptine) that stimulate the body to produce and release eggs. Clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene) is typically the first-choice medication for stimulating ovulation. However, treatments vary according to the cause. For example, initial treatment of women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) often focuses on weight loss and metabolism.
Fallopian tube damage (including tubal ligation) and structural ovary or fallopian tube problems can sometimes be corrected with tubal surgery.
A blocked fallopian tube can be bypassed by collecting eggs from the ovaries for in vitro fertilization and placement of fertilized eggs in the uterus.
Endometriosis, the growth of uterine lining (endometrial) cells in other parts of the abdominal cavity, may be treated using laparoscopic surgery to remove endometrial tissue growth.
Cervical problems (such as a narrow cervical opening or presence of sperm antibodies) can be bypassed with intrauterine insemination.
If initial treatments are not successful, assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments are available, such as in vitro fertilization or gamete or zygote intrafallopian transfer (GIFT or ZIFT). These procedures require eggs and sperm of good quality, so some couples use donor eggs or sperm. Other couples choose adoption.
Acupuncture may be helpful in the treatment of some cases of female infertility due to problems with ovarian function. In a preliminary trial, women who did not ovulate were treated with acupuncture 30 times over three months. Effectiveness was determined by a combination of measures indicating ovulation was returning to normal. Acupuncture treatment resulted in a marked improvement in 35% and slight improvement in 48% of trial participants. The beneficial results achieved with acupuncture may be due to alterations in the hormonal messages from the brain to the ovary.