Study: Infertility Treatments No Help
Drug Treatment and Intrauterine Insemination May Not Work When Used Separately
Aug. 7, 2008 -- Two common infertility treatments do not improve fertility,
according to a study conducted in the U.K.
Researchers compared drug treatment to induce ovulation with no treatment;
they also compared intrauterine insemination -- in which the sperm are placed
inside the uterus to facilitate fertilization -- with no treatment. They only studied couples with unexplained
infertility, only one of many reasons for failing to conceive.
"What we found is that neither of these popular and commonly used
treatments offered a higher birth rate than no treatment at all," says
Siladitya Bhattacharya, MD, a professor of reproductive medicine at the
University of Aberdeen in Scotland and the study's lead author. "What we've
shown is that neither of these first-line treatments is better than [the
couples] trying themselves."
The rate of live births was 17% for the no-treatment group, 14% for the
medication group, and 23% for the insemination group. "There were no
significant differences between them," Bhattacharya tells WebMD.
But U.S. fertility experts who reviewed the study for WebMD say the findings
probably have little relevance for infertile couples with unexplained infertility in the
U.S. because the two infertility treatments -- each compared singly to no
treatment in the U.K. study -- are typically used in combination here. The dose
of medication used in the U.K. study is also much lower than what is typically
prescribed in the U.S.
Infertility Treatments Fall Short
Bhattacharya and his colleagues recruited 580 infertile women, average age
32, from five hospitals in Scotland, randomly assigning them to one of three
- The medication group took a 50 milligram oral dose of Clomid. If that
overstimulated the ovaries, the dose was dropped to 25 milligrams. They were
given advice about the best times to have intercourse.
- In the intrauterine insemination group, women monitored their hormone
levels and when they were ideal, the sperm were placed inside the uterus to
- The no-treatment group was given general advice about the need to have
intercourse regularly during the six-month study.
All the women had been trying unsuccessfully to become pregnant naturally
for at least two years. All had unexplained infertility, a condition in which
doctors are unable to find any abnormalities after doing tests such as semen analysis, evaluating the
fallopian tubes, or ovulation.
About one in seven couples are infertile, with about one-quarter of
those experiencing unexplained infertility, according to the researchers.
Comparing Infertility Treatments
At the study's end, 32 women (17%) in the no-treatment group had given
birth, compared to 26 (14%) in the medication group and 43 (23%) in the
More women who got either the insemination or the medication found the
process more acceptable than those who got no treatment, the researchers