Around one in six Australian couples have problems with fertility. Infertility is diagnosed when a couple has been unable to fall pregnant after having regular unprotected intercourse for a year.
There are many causes of infertility, including problems with ovulation (the release of an egg from a woman’s ovary), fertilisation by a man’s sperm and implantation of the fertilised egg into the lining of the woman’s uterus.
Both men and women can optimise their fertility by aiming for a healthy weight, eating a healthy well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and not smoking (including passive smoking) or taking recreational drugs.
However, if you have had unprotected sex for over 12 months without getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about having further investigations. This might include a pelvic ultrasound (to check the health of the ovaries, uterus and fallopian tube) and blood tests (to check hormone levels) for women, and a semen analysis (to check the number and health of sperm) for men.
Depending on the results of investigations, there are several options available to increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Fertility treatment might also be an option if you are in a same sex relationship or if you are single and would like a child.
Fertility treatment options include:
- Ovulation induction using medications to improve ovulation. This is often the first line of treatment for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) who have irregular or absent periods.
- Surgery to treat blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, endometriosis or fibroids.
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) which is also sometimes also called Artificial Insemination. This can be done using a partner’s sperm or donor sperm, and involves inserting the sperm into the woman’s uterus.
- IVF (in vitro fertilisation) involves removing eggs from the ovary, mixing them with sperm (from a partner or donor) and allowing the embryos to grow for a few days before transferring one into the woman’s uterus. You can also freeze extra embryos to use in future IVF cycles. IVF can be used to help with many different fertility issues.
- Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) can be used as part of an IVF treatment cycle and involves injecting a single sperm into each egg to assist with fertilisation. It is used when there is a problem with a man’s sperm.
Depending on your situation, assisted reproduction can involve sperm donation, egg donation, embryo donation or surrogacy. However, there are laws around surrogacy in Australia. You can find out more by visiting: Surrogacy Australia
For more information, visit: Pregnancy Birth Baby: Fertility Treatments
- Health Direct: Infertility
- Jean Hailes Australia: Infertility Treatment
- Family Planning NSW:Infertility
- Fertility Society of Australia and New Zealand: Fertility
- Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority: Fertility Treatment