In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is often thought to be the only option for couples with fertility issues, with many GPs and couples often discounting the efficacy of low intervention treatments.
However, according to Fertility Specialist Dr Michelle Wellman, from Fertility SA, there are a number of alternatives to IVF that are non-invasive, efficient and effective.
Changing the perception
“There’s a perception among couples and even specialists, that IVF is the only way forward. That thinking should change. We, at Fertility SA, put almost 50 percent of patients with fertility issues on low intervention treatments before getting into IVF,” Dr Wellman says.
Before initiating low intervention treatments, Dr Wellman adds, it is imperative that the patients’ life and medical history is thoroughly understood.
“Discerning how long a couple been trying to conceive, and difficulties with intercourse, among other information about any underlying issues such as endometriosis, gives a fair idea about the depth of the fertility problems faced by the couple,” she says.
Examining the menstrual cycle of the female patient to determine if and when ovulation is occurring is also extremely critical.
“We also look at our male patients’ medical history and lifestyle. People often don’t realise that stopping smoking, reducing alcohol and losing weight, can have a huge impact on their chances of conceiving,” says Dr Wellman.
Types of low intervention treatments
Dr Wellman points out that awareness regarding ovulation cycles and planning intercourse accordingly will improve a couple’s chances of conception.
Sometimes, the patient 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 patient is not ovulating at all, simple treatments like Clomid or Letrozole can help induce ovulation. If they still don’t respond, 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 patients dealing with fertility issues.
“Often the changes people are required to make are much smaller than they think,” she says.
“It is important to assess the kind of lifestyle choices they make in terms of nutrition, cigarettes and the amount of alcohol consumed, usage of steroids, etc.”
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.
Medications to avoid
If you are treating a couple struggling with fertility issues you should also be concerned about the intake of certain medications, says Dr Wellman.
“Some of the acne and blood pressure medicines can be harmful during pregnancy and should be modified or reduced,” 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 1100 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.