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Depending on the nature of your infertility, your doctor will work with you to create a plan of action. Here are some treatments for infertility in women:
For some couples, extensive treatment is needed for infertility. With most forms of assisted reproductive technology (ART) the sperm and egg are united in the laboratory, and the fertilized egg is returned to the woman's uterus where it can implant and develop. Although ART procedures often are costly, many are being used with success. These include the following:
In vitro fertilization (IVF)
In vitro fertilization involves extracting a woman's eggs, fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory with sperm, and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) into the woman's uterus through the cervix (embryo transfer) where it can develop. Most couples transfer two embryos; however, more may be transferred in certain cases. IVF is the most common form of assisted reproductive technology, and it often is the treatment of choice for a woman with blocked, severely damaged or absent fallopian tubes. IVF also is used for infertility caused by endometriosis or male factor infertility. IVF sometimes is used to treat couples with long-term unexplained infertility who have not been able to conceive with other infertility treatments.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
This is a procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg. This procedure is most commonly used to help with male factor infertility problems.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)
This treatment uses a fiber-optic instrument called a laparoscope to guide the transfer of unfertilized eggs and sperm into the woman's fallopian tubes through small incisions in her abdomen. GIFT is used only in women with healthy fallopian tubes.
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)
During this procedure, a woman's eggs are fertilized in the laboratory, and then a laparoscope is used to guide the transfer of the fertilized eggs (zygotes) into her fallopian tubes. ZIFT is used only in women with healthy fallopian tubes.
During this procedure, an embryo formed from the egg of one woman (the donor) is transferred to another woman who is unable to conceive with her own eggs (the recipient). The donor relinquishes all parental rights to any resulting offspring. Assisted reproductive technology using donor eggs is much more common among older women than younger women. The likelihood of a fertilized egg implanting is related to the age of the woman who produced the egg. Egg donors are typically in their 20s or early 30s.
During this procedure, embryos are preserved through freezing (cryopreservation) for transfer at a later date. This procedure often is used when an IVF cycle produces more embryos than can be transferred at one time. The remaining embryos can be transferred in a future cycle if the woman does not become pregnant.
For some conditions, including low sperm count and cervical mucus problems, a procedure that places specially washed and prepared sperm directly into the uterus through a small catheter (flexible tube) helps increase the chances for conception. This procedure often is used in combination with ovulation medications.
Your physician may prescribe medication to help regulate the timing of ovulation and stimulate the development and release of mature eggs. Medications also can help correct hormonal problems that can affect the lining of the uterus as it prepares to receive a fertilized egg.
Surgery may be used to treat or repair a condition that is causing infertility such as fallopian tube blockage or endometriosis. In a laparoscopy, a small telescope inserted into your abdominal or pelvic cavity allows internal organs to be visualized. Some procedures to treat infertility can be performed using instruments inserted through the laparoscope.
This surgery may be performed employing open surgery through a large incision or with minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy). However, Lehigh Valley Health Network performs this procedure robotically using three da Vinci® Si HD Surgical Systems, two at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest and one at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg. Robotic surgery usually involves three to five small incisions
The robot gives our surgeons the ability to perform complex and delicate surgery. The scarring can be minimal, and many patients have less pain after surgery and return back to work within weeks. All of these benefits may lead to a faster recovery with an improved overall patient experience.
The da Vinci® Si HD Surgical System offers these potential benefits compared to open surgery:
- Lower rate for major complications
- Low conversion rate (need to convert to open surgery)
- Less blood loss and fewer transfusions
- Lower wound infection rate
- Virtually scarless results
- Minimal pain
- Faster recovery time
- Shorter hospital stay (typically less than 24 hours)
- Quicker return to normal activities
If you elect to have surgery, please know that eight Lehigh Valley Health Network surgeons who specialize in minimally invasive surgical techniques for women’s urologic and gynecologic disorders have also earned COEMIG™ designation. The COEMIG program recognizes their experience in this surgical specialty, their ability to deliver safe and evidence-based care and their commitment to patient education.