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Find out how infertility is treated. The three main types of treatment are medicines to assist fertility, surgical procedures, and assisted conception, such as IVF and IUI.
If you have fertility problems, the treatment you're offered will depend on what's causing the problem and what's available from your local integrated care board (ICB).
Find your local integrated care board (ICB).
There are 3 main types of fertility treatment:
Common fertility medicines include:
Some of these medicines may cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and hot flushes.
Speak to your doctor for more information about the possible side effects of specific medicines.
Medicine that stimulates the ovaries is not recommended for women with unexplained infertility because it has not been found to increase their chances of getting pregnant.
There are several types of surgical procedures that may be used to investigate fertility problems and help with fertility.
If your fallopian tubes have become blocked or scarred, you may need surgery to repair them.
Surgery can be used to break up the scar tissue in your fallopian tubes, making it easier for eggs to pass through them.
The success of surgery will depend on the extent of the damage to your fallopian tubes.
Possible complications from tubal surgery include an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the fertilised egg implants outside the womb.
Endometriosis is a condition where tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, grows in other places outside the womb.
Laparoscopic surgery is often used to treat endometriosis by destroying or removing fluid-filled sacs called cysts.
It may also be used to remove submucosal fibroids, which are small growths in the womb.
If you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a minor surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling can be used if ovulation medicine has not worked.
This involves using either heat or a laser to destroy part of the ovary.
Read more about laparoscopy.
The epididymis is a coil-like structure in the testicles that helps store and transport sperm.
Sometimes the epididymis becomes blocked, preventing sperm from being ejaculated normally. If this is causing infertility, surgery can be used to correct the blockage.
Surgical extraction of sperm may be an option if you:
Surgical extraction is usually done under local anaesthetic, but might be done under general anaesthetic depending on which type of procedure you have. It will usually be done as an outpatient procedure.
You'll be advised on the same day about the quality of the tissue or sperm collected.
Any sperm will be frozen and placed in storage for use at a later stage.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also known as artificial insemination, involves inserting sperm into the womb via a thin plastic tube passed through the cervix.
Sperm is first collected and washed in a fluid. The best quality specimens (the fastest moving) are selected.
Read more about IUI.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF), is when an egg is fertilised outside the body. Fertility medicine is taken to encourage the ovaries to produce more eggs than usual.
Eggs are removed from the ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. A fertilised egg (embryo) is then returned to the womb to grow and develop.
Read more about IVF.
If you or your partner has an infertility problem, you may be able to receive eggs or sperm from a donor to help you conceive. Treatment with donor eggs is usually done using IVF.
Anyone who registered to donate eggs or sperm after 1 April 2005 can no longer remain anonymous and must provide information about their identity.
This is because a child born as a result of donated eggs or sperm is legally entitled to find out the identity of the donor when they become an adult (at age 18).
Get more information about fertility treatment options from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) website.
Fertility treatment funded by the NHS varies across the UK. Waiting lists for treatment can be very long in some areas.
The eligibility criteria can also vary. A GP will be able to advise about your eligibility for treatment, or you can contact your local integrated care board (ICB).
If the GP refers you to a specialist for further tests, the NHS will pay for this. All patients have the right to be referred to an NHS clinic for the initial investigation.
If you have an infertility problem you may want to consider private treatment. This can be expensive, and there's no guarantee of success.
It's important to choose a private clinic carefully.
You should find out:
Ask for a personalised, fully costed treatment plan that explains exactly what's included, such as fees, scans and any necessary medicine.
If you decide to go private, you can ask a GP for advice. Make sure you choose a clinic licensed by the HFEA.
The HFEA is a government organisation that regulates and inspects all UK clinics that provide fertility treatment, including the storage of eggs, sperm or embryos.
GOV.UK has more information about your consumer rights when paying for fertility treatment.
There's no evidence to suggest complementary therapies for fertility problems are effective.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) states further research is needed before such interventions can be recommended.
It's important to continue taking any medication prescribed unless your GP/specialist specifically tells you to stop. Please visit our Existing Health Conditions page for more information, or visit 'Bumps' ('Best Use of Medicines in Pregnancy').
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