What Are My Infertility Options?
6 Family-Building Options for Infertile Couples
Struggling to become pregnant can feel like the end of your dreams for building a family. So many couples always imagine themselves conceiving naturally and becoming pregnant, adding to their family the “traditional” way. It can feel unfair when you realize this will never become your reality. However, this doesn’t have to be the end of your goals for building a family.
Now more than ever, there are so many options for infertile couples who want to build their families. Thanks to advances in medical technology and a greater acceptance for “nontraditional” families, an infertility diagnosis is no longer the end of the road for hopeful parents. Today, there is no right or wrong way to have a child; any option that leads to a couple’s dreams of becoming parents can be a great choice. In this article, we’ll explore six of those common infertility options, so you can begin thinking about which one might be best for your family.
Keep in mind that not all of these choices will work for all couples, so it’s crucial that you and your spouse communicate openly with each other and consult with an infertility counselor before starting down any of the following paths.
1. Fertility Drugs
The first step for many couples exploring their infertility options is often to try taking fertility drugs. A reproductive endocrinologist will typically examine both partners to see what could be causing the infertility before prescribing medication that may increase sperm production and quality, stimulate ovulation, thicken the uterine lining, and more. It’s important to talk openly and honestly with your doctor to learn which medications may be most helpful for you and your partner.
2. Medical Procedures
If fertility drugs don’t work, a couple typically begins to consider their options for infertility in the form of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Depending on your circumstances, your reproductive endocrinologist may advise any of the following ART procedures:
In vitro fertilization (IVF): In vitro is the most common of the ART methods and refers to the harvesting of a sperm and egg cell from each partner (or a donor, when necessary). Once the two have been successfully combined in a laboratory, the embryo will be implanted in the woman’s uterus. If the procedure is successful, her pregnancy will then continue just as any other pregnancy would.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): Typically used as an infertility option when a male is the one experiencing infertility problems, this procedure is part of the IVF process in which a single sperm is inserted into a retrieved egg.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI): If a reproductive endocrinologist feels that harvesting an egg is not necessary, he or she will recommend collecting sperm from the male partner, removing seminal fluid, and inserting the sperm directly into the uterine cavity as an option for infertile couples.
Assisted hatching: “Hatching” is a technique physicians use to make it easier for embryos to “hatch” out of certain layers of protein before implanting it in the woman’s uterus.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): GIFT is similar to IVF, except in this process the egg and sperm, which have both been harvested, are implanted into the fallopian tube for fertilization.
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): The ZIFT process is almost the same as the GIFT process, with the exception of the fact that the egg is fertilized before transfer to the fallopian tube in a Zygote intrafallopian transfer.
3. Sperm, Egg or Embryo Donation
Sometimes it happens that an intended parent does not have a viable egg or sperm for the embryo-creation process, in which case the intended parents may pursue a gamete donation as one of their options for infertility. If this is the path taken, one parent will have a genetic connection to the child, even if both of them can’t. Gamete donation is also frequently used in cases of same-sex family building, when a lesbian couple needs a sperm donation or a male couple needs an egg donation. Of course, if neither parent has a healthy egg or sperm, you can also pursue an embryo donation.
If a couple cannot carry a child themselves, whether for medical reasons or because the intended parent is a single male or a gay male couple, surrogacy can be an amazing experience. In this option for infertile couples, an embryo is either donated or created by the intended parents before being implanted into a surrogate’s uterus. The surrogate will carry and deliver the child for the intended parents.
In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate was biologically related to the child she carried. However, because of the emotional and legal complications involved, this type of surrogacy is rarely practiced today. Instead, the most common kind of surrogacy is gestational, which means the surrogate has no relation to the child she carries. In fact, gestational surrogacy often involves the use of the intended parents’ own gametes, which allows them to be the biological parents of their baby. To learn more about the surrogacy process and whether it might be an option for you, contact our sister company, American Surrogacy.
Adoption is when a parent bring a child they are not genetically related to into their family. In this family-building method, the adoptive parents have nothing to do with the conception of the child. There are many different forms of modern-day adoption, including:
Private domestic adoption: The adoption of a child within the United States from a woman who has independently chosen to place her baby for adoption. In this form of adoption, a pregnant woman gets to choose her adoption plan as well as her child’s adoptive family, and adoptive parents raise the baby from birth. Adoptive parents and birth parents often have a relationship as the child grows.
International adoption: The adoption of a child (typically an older child or one with special needs) from a foreign country.
Foster care adoption: If a child in the foster care system is legally free to be adopted, it means his or her biological parents have had their rights terminated by the court. The biological parents are no longer eligible to regain custody of their child, and so the child is now free to be adopted by a permanent adoptive family.
Adoption, of course, is not a cure for infertility. Rather, this is a separate family-building method for families who are more interested in being parents than being pregnant or having a genetic relationship to a child.
6. Living Child-Free
The final choice for a couple considering their infertility options is to live child-free. If you and your partner both come to decide (after very serious consideration) that you would prefer to live without children, that is perfectly okay. Not everyone has to be a parent, and it is completely possible to feel happy and fulfilled without adding children to your family.
Interested in talking more about your infertility options? American Adoptions has social workers on staff who can help you to talk about your options for infertility. Don’t hesitate to contact us at 1-800-ADOPTION.
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