What types of fertility tests are there?
There are many types of fertility tests, including the following procedures:
IVF - in vitro fertilisation
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is the process of fertilising eggs outside of the body.
When undergoing IVF treatment, women will usually be given a course of fertility drugs. The type of course of drugs you undergo will be determined by your fertility specialist based on your individual clinical needs.
Natural IVF is the process where medication is not used so you do not have any side effects from hormonal drugs. It reduces the chances of success as only one egg might be collected.
When a couple conceives naturally, sperm from the man and the egg from the woman meet in the woman’s fallopian tubes. These are the tubes that join the ovaries to the uterus (womb). One sperm penetrates the egg and fertilises it.
In IVF, this process happens outside the woman’s body. A woman’s eggs are surgically removed and fertilised in a laboratory using sperm that has been given as a sperm sample.
Next, the fertilised egg, called an embryo, is surgically implanted into the woman's womb.
Typically, one cycle of IVF takes between four and seven weeks.
IVF can be a physically and mentally demanding process and does not always result in pregnancy with around 20-25% of IVF treatment cycles result in a birth in the UK. In general, younger women have a higher chance of success. Success rates decrease dramatically in women over 40. There is also an increased chance of multiple pregnancy with IVF.
ICSI - intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection
Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) differs from conventional in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in that the embryologist selects a single sperm to be injected directly into an egg, instead of fertilisation taking place in a dish where many sperm are placed near an egg.
You take fertility drugs to stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs, as for IVF, and your progress will be monitored through vaginal ultrasound scans and possibly blood tests.
The eggs are then collected using the same procedure as IVF and each egg is injected with a single sperm from your partner or donor. The rest of the process is also the same as IVF.
You are more likely to become pregnant with twins or triplets if more than one embryo is transferred so your clinic will recommend single embryo transfer (SET) if they feel it is the best option for you. An embryologist will examine your sperm under a microscope and decide whether ICSI could increase your chances of fathering a baby.
The next step depends on whether you are able to provide sperm without a medical procedure. If you can, you produce a fresh sperm sample on the same day as your partner’s eggs are collected or sperm can be collected through a medical procedure.
IUI - intrauterine insemination
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves placing ‘washed’ sperm inside the uterus to fertilise eggs. It is a lower-cost, less invasive fertility procedure than traditional IVF as it does not involve surgical collection of eggs.
Choosing IUI can be a good treatment option if you are a single woman or a lesbian couple and already have a high chance of conceiving.
The IUI process may be recommended if you are struggling with impotence or premature ejaculation, or if you are experiencing ovulation problems.