Although fertility issues are common, it can be a stressful and difficult time, and many couples feel anxious about the potential of having invasive and expensive treatment.
While In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is one option for couples experiencing fertility issues, Fertility Specialist Dr Michelle Wellman, from Fertility SA, says there are many low intervention and highly effective options available.
Changing the perception
“There’s a perception that fertility issues means IVF. That thinking should change. At Fertility SA we put almost 50 percent of patients with fertility issues on low intervention treatments before getting into IVF,” Dr Wellman says.
Before initiating any kind of treatment, Dr Wellman says the first step is always a chat to learn more about the couple, their story and experiences.
“We never start treatment straight away. We start by listening and talking, learning about how long you’ve been trying to conceive, any issues around menstruation and intercourse, finding out about underlying medical issues and talking about lifestyle too,” she says.
The first stages of treatment generally involve some simple test or ultrasounds to check on the health of both the eggs and sperm of the couple.
Types of low intervention treatments
Dr Wellman points out that awareness regarding ovulation cycles and planning intercourse accordingly will often improve a couple’s chances of conception.
Sometimes, the woman might not be releasing the egg, and in those cases, Dr Wellman adds, doctors, can trigger the release of the egg.
“Similarly, if the progesterone levels in the second part of the cycle are low, doctors can supplement it with additional progesterone,” she explains.
“If the woman is not ovulating at all, simple treatments like Clomid or Letrozole can help induce ovulation. If there is still no response then follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is used to stimulate ovulation with injections.”
Dr Wellman also adds it is important to critically evaluate the lifestyle of both men and women dealing with fertility issues.
“Often the changes people are required to make are much smaller than they think,” she says.
“Quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, maintaining a healthy weight and the right amount of exercise can make a huge impact on the chances of a couple conceiving naturally.”
Dr Wellman adds that couples undergoing fertility issues should keep an open mind, and initiate conversations with organisations such as Fertility SA and their own GP.
“Being informed and aware of various low intervention treatments, medicines, and lifestyle choices can lead to positive results,” she says.
Speaking about the recent studies conducted in the field of low intervention fertility treatments, Dr Michelle says that a large study of more than 1,100 women found 40% of infertile women fell pregnant after a commonly used technique that involves flushing a woman’s fallopian tubes with iodised poppy seed oil.
“This study was conducted by the Robinson Research Institute in 2017, and although the process can be uncomfortable for women, it is a simple procedure and the results have been quite positive,” she said.