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Mother Nature vs. Infertility Treatment

Still not pregnant? When to seek infertility treatment and when to let nature take its course.

Troubleshooting Your Fertility Problem continued...

"If that fails, we may advance to something like in vitro fertilization (IVF)," Shaffran says. IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a Petri dish. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus where they will hopefully implant. After several failed courses of IVF, couples may consider using donor eggs or adoption.

Sometimes the cause of the infertility is unexplained. "This can be harder to treat, as there is nothing particular that we can identify as the problem," she says. "If tubes are blocked, at least we know that the tubes are blocked and we can take steps to overcome it," Shaffran says.

Sometimes de-stressing and taking the focus off of conception is the missing link. "There are studies that suggest stress plays a role in infertility and as a result, we offer mind and body programs that involve counseling as well as acupuncture and massage therapy," she says.

Infertility Treatment: Risk vs. Reward

We all know the (presumptive) reward of infertility treatment - a beautiful bouncing baby girl or boy (or both), but there are risks, says Millie Behera, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.

"The biggest risk seen with any type of infertility treatment is multiple pregnancies," she says. Risks inherent in multiple pregnancies include preterm labor and birth, which poses greater risks of illness, disability, and death. There is also a higher chance of miscarriage and other maternal complications with multiple births.

Overstimulation is a risk if women are given too high a dose of drugs to stimulate ovulation. This is marked by melon-sized ovaries, pain, discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and fluid in the belly. Women who are overstimulated may also get dehydrated and their blood can become thickened and clots may develop, she explains. What's more, "there hasn't been good data on the long-term outcomes of these drugs," she says.

The bottom line? "If we are dealing with two healthy people, give it time because chances are that it will all work out and you don't have to go through invasive, painful, and expensive testing or procedures," she says.

Reviewed on November 13, 2008

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