Choosing A Different Path: Alternative IVF Options For Women Seeking Fertility Treatment
For many women struggling to conceive, in vitro fertilisation (IVF) has long been the go-to solution for turning their dream of starting a family into a reality.
However, while it may be one of the most popular forms of fertility treatment, it may not be the best option for everyone.
Over recent years, a number of alternative fertility treatments have emerged, not only providing women with more options to choose from but also allowing those that IVF hasn’t worked for with a bit of extra hope of being able to start a family.
In this blog, we will take a detailed look at what some of these alternative fertility treatments are, highlighting the situations where IVF is recommended before looking at when taking a different route could be the better choice for you.
When is IVF recommended?
Choosing the right type of fertility treatment for you will vary depending on a number of factors, including your age, medical history, sexual preferences and many more. As such, you should always talk to a fertility expert to discuss which fertility options are best suited to your circumstances.
According to guidelines set by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), IVF should be recommended as a fertility treatment for women aged under 43 that have struggled to conceive for two years after having regular unprotected sex or 12 cycles of artificial insemination.
IVF may also be recommended depending on the type of relationship you’re in; if you’re to women in a same-sex relationship, for example, or if the male partner involved in the relationship has low sperm mobility or is unable to ejaculate.
Some other cases where IVF is typically recommended include:
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- Low sperm count
- Unexplained infertility
Exploring IVF alternatives
Thanks to numerous advances in fertility research, several alternative pathways to parenthood since emerged over the past few decades.
While the right option for you will still depend on your personal circumstances, having more treatments available offers a lot more choice to want-to-be parents both before and during their fertility journey.
Let’s explore some of the key alternative fertility treatments that can now be used instead of IVF:
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a popular alternative to IVF.
During the process of IUI, a fertility specialist will place specially prepared sperm directly into a woman’s uterus at the time of ovulation. The purpose of this is to bring the sperm closer to the fallopian tubes, where the fertilisation process typically occurs, enhancing the likelihood of the sperm actually reaching and fertilising the egg.
Less invasive and more affordable than IVF, IUI is often recommended for couples that are experiencing certain fertility challenges, such as infertility, intercourse difficulties or male fertility issues like low sperm motility.
While it can increase your chance of pregnancy, IUI isn’t suitable for everyone and may not be recommended to you depending on several factors, like your age, fertility history or lifestyle choices.
It can, however, boost your chances of conception if you are in a same-sex couple, are wanting to use donor sperm, have a health condition that prevents you from having unprotected sex or are unable to have sex due to a physical disability.
Natural cycle IVF
Similar in name but different in practice, natural cycle IVF differs from conventional IVF in the way it approaches ovarian stimulation.
During the traditional IVF process, the woman’s ovaries are stimulated with gonadotropins (a fertility medication) to produce multiple eggs during the menstrual cycle.
Once the eggs have matured, a fertility specialist then retrieves them and fertilises them in the laboratory with sperm before transferring them back into the woman’s uterus.
Natural cycle IVF follows the same process but with one key difference: no fertility medications are used.
Instead, the ovaries are allowed to follow their natural cause, with the fertility specialist only retrieving the one egg that the woman releases during her menstrual cycle after it has matured.
Certain women tend to prefer this type of fertility treatment as it is more natural and less drug-intensive.
However, the likelihood of success is highly dependent on individual circumstances — depending on your fertility status, conventional IVF may be recommended as a better option instead.
Another alternative your fertility specialist could recommend is ovulation induction.
As its name suggests, this technique involves stimulating the ovaries to release their eggs. This could be particularly useful for women who experience difficulties in either ovulating on a regular basis or may not ovulate at all due to underlying medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome.
Unlike natural cycle IVF, ovulation induction involves using fertility medications to encourage the development and release of one or more mature eggs. These types of medications include:
- Clomid (clomifene citrate) – an oral medication that increases the amount of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) to stimulate the production and release of eggs from the ovaries.
- Gonadotropins – an injectable type of fertility medication that contains FSH and/or LH hormones to directly stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs.
- Letrozole – a form of fertility medication primarily used to treat breast cancer that is sometimes offered as an alternative to Clomid.
While taking these medications could increase your chances of falling pregnant naturally, as with any type of medication, they could also come with side effects like bloating, mood swings and abdominal discomfort.
What’s more, since certain types of fertility medications stimulate the release of more than one egg, you could end up with multiple pregnancies.
In some cases, you may need to have surgery in order to get pregnant naturally.
Endometriosis, for example, is a condition that causes the lining of your womb to grow outside of it, making it difficult to fall pregnant. By having surgery, however, this endometrial tissue can be removed, increasing your fertility.
This is just one example of the type of surgery you can have to boost your fertility. Depending on the condition or personal fertility circumstances you have, other types of reproductive surgeries could be recommended, such as:
- Laparoscopic ovarian drilling
- Testicular sperm extraction (TESE)
- Epididymal sperm aspiration (TESA)
It’s important to note that not all fertility issues can be resolved through surgery. Therefore, it’s crucial to talk to a qualified fertility specialist to determine your best option.
How to boost fertility naturally
Alongside your fertility treatment, there are a number of simple things you can do to boost your fertility more naturally.
Eating a well-balanced diet, for example, can make a big difference, impacting not only your ability to conceive but also the health of your baby should you manage to get pregnant. Eating more protein from plant sources instead of animal sources has also recently been shown to improve issues like infertility.
Similarly, leading a healthy lifestyle, exercising regularly and practising mindfulness techniques throughout the day have all been shown to help balance your hormones, reduce your overall stress level and protect against infertility, all of which can boost your success of conceiving.
However, before making any kind of change to your lifestyle, it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional to get peace of mind that it’ll actually benefit your situation.
Speak to a fertility specialist
If you’d love to start a family but aren’t sure how to go about it, or don’t know which type of fertility treatment is right for you, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered.
Here at IVF Matters, our fertility specialists are highly trained to work around you, helping identify the best fertility solution based on your personal circumstances.
We have an in-depth knowledge of a wide range of fertility treatments and take great pride in turning couples into families.
To find out more about us, why not book a free advisory call? A member of our team will be able to answer any questions you might have and help you get started on your fertility journey.