Thanks to the miraculous developments in reproductive technology, thousands of babies are born in Australia each year with a little help from science.
1. Fertility drugs
For women who rarely or never ovulate, one option to help boost their chances of falling pregnant is fertility drugs. The two main types used are tablets of clomiphene citrate, branded Clomid or Serophene, or injections of follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), branded Gonal-F or Puregon.
With the clomiphene tablets, doses range from half a tablet to three tablets a day, depending on the severity of the ovulation issue and the woman's body size. The can be used in conjunction with IVF programs or on their own.
For follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), it is administered by injection via a pen-like device just under the skin.
For men who have hormonal irregularities, medication is available that can assist with producing hormones for sperm production and erectile dysfunction.
2. Assisted conception
Assisted insemination or intrauterine insemination (IUI) still remains a good option for some couples. It’s a quick and simple procedure, much like having a Pap smear.
The sperm are inserted into the cervix or uterus with a soft, thin plastic tube around the time of ovulation. To ensure the timing is spot on, the woman’s cycle will be closely monitored with blood tests and ultrasounds beforehand.
3. In vitro fertilisation
This is a reproductive procedure where a woman’s eggs are removed from her body, fertilised with sperm in a laboratory and then surgically implanted back into her uterus. Approximately 41,000 cycles of IVF are performed in Australia each year, resulting in about 10,000 babies or one in every 33 children born in Australia as technology is advancing rapidly.
4. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
This procedure involves injecting the sperm directly into the egg by piercing the outer covering of the egg. It is particularly helpful for men with a low sperm count or where few good quality sperm are produced, and where there’s a problem with anti-sperm antibodies in the semen.
5. Donor eggs and embryo transplants
Some women may not be able to produce healthy eggs due to ovarian failure or age-related infertility. For these women, egg (oocyte) and embryo donation have been successful. An embryo transplant involves the artificial insemination of a donor’s egg with the male partner’s sperm.
After fertilisation has occurred, the embryo is transferred to the female partner’s uterus. To be successful, it is imperative that fertility drugs be used to synchronise both women’s menstrual cycles. The first baby conceived with a donor egg was born in Australia in 1983.
First published in Mother and Baby magazine. Subscribe here