Struggling to become pregnant naturally as an intended parent — whether because of medical infertility or social infertility — can certainly be a disheartening journey. Fortunately, thanks to medical advances, those who are struggling with having a child on their own have many infertility options that can help them become the parents they’ve always dreamed of being.
Before moving forward with any particular treatment, all hopeful parents should discuss their options for infertility with their fertility clinics and fertility doctors to understand exactly what infertility options are available to them. Because the options for infertile couples and singles depend on a person’s medical history, not all options may be a possibility for everyone. Your fertility counselor will be the professional to advise you on the best path for your parenthood journey.
When you start exploring your family-building possibilities, there are several infertility options you may be presented with:
Before someone struggling with infertility turns to medical treatments, they will usually try taking infertility drugs. These medications may stimulate ovulation, create a thicker uterine lining for implantation, increase a man’s sperm count or take other steps to increase fertility. Your doctor can prescribe the best medications for your infertility options based on your individual health situation.
Medical Infertility Procedures
Most people struggling with infertility will first turn to an assisted reproductive technology (ART) medical procedure. These methods are used to assist the natural conception process by taking it into a lab, where the conception is completed under medical supervision in various ways. Some examples of these infertility options include:
Intrauterine insemination (IUI): Sperm cells are collected from the male partner, “washed” to remove seminal fluid and then placed directly into the uterine cavity. A higher concentration of sperm directly inserted in a shorter path to the fallopian tubes may increase chances of conception.
In vitro fertilization (IVF): Sperm and egg cells are collected from both partners and combined for conception in a laboratory dish. After the embryo starts to develop, it is transferred into a woman’s uterus for the remainder of the pregnancy.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This medical procedure is a part of the IVF process. It involves the injection of a singular sperm cell into a retrieved egg and is typically used in cases of male infertility problems.
Assisted hatching: Assisted hatching is used to increase the likelihood that an IVF-created embryo will implant into a woman’s uterus. The technique makes it easier for an embryo to “hatch” out of certain layers of proteins and attach to the lining of the uterus.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): GIFT is another infertility treatment in which the eggs and sperm are removed from the intended parents before transfer to the woman’s uterus. However, rather than fertilize the embryo in a laboratory dish, the sperm and egg are mixed and implanted into the fallopian tube for fertilization.
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): ZIFT is a similar process to GIFT, although the egg is fertilized before being transferred to the fallopian tube.
Sperm, Egg or Embryo Donation
It’s not uncommon for those struggling with infertility to use gamete donation while creating their embryo through IVF. Some situations require it (for example, same-sex couples or single men or women looking to have a child), while the process is otherwise highly recommended in other situations (like when an intended parent has low-quality sperm or eggs or is at risk of passing along dangerous genetic conditions). Either way, using sperm, egg or embryo donation is one of the common infertility options that people turn to today.
There are many sperm, egg and embryo donation centers across the country where intended parents can find the gamete they need for their IVF process. Parents can choose whether they want an anonymous or identified donor, as well as select key characteristics like appearance, intelligence and other donor traits that are important to them. Many former intended parents with leftover embryos from their own IVF processes also donate these embryos for “embryo adoption,” providing another infertility option for those who are struggling with infertility. If intended parents are unable to complete the IVF process on their own with a donated gamete, they may also combine this infertility treatment with surrogacy, another treatment option listed below.
While gamete donation can provide a way for intended parents to create healthier embryos for implantation, it’s also important to recognize the future challenges that come with parenting a child conceived with donated sperm, egg or embryo. Parents of these children must be open about their infertility journey and their child’s biological parents; children will eventually be curious and have questions about their genetic history. If you choose to have a child through this family-building method, it’s important that you prepare for these challenges by speaking with your fertility clinic and your fertility counselor.
For some parents, a genetically related child is not as important as the chance to become parents and raise a child, no matter their biological connection or what they look like. For these hopeful parents, adoption may be the answer to their infertility struggles.
There are many ways parents can welcome a child into their family: through private domestic infant adoption, through an international adoption, through a foster care adoption, and more. All parents who choose adoption have the right to decide what kind of adoption preferences they’re comfortable with, from the race of their child to their relationship with their child’s birth parents.
Like many infertility options, adoption does require some financial planning for base costs. It also comes with challenges for all members of the adoption triad as they learn to navigate their individual open adoption relationship. However, unlike other infertility options, you will be guaranteed a child at the end of the process when you work with experienced agencies like our sister agency, American Adoptions.
Most importantly: Adoption is not an infertility “cure.” The process does not result in a genetically related child, and all hopeful parents must grieve that loss before they can successfully move forward with adoption. For many people, however, adoption is one of the best options for infertility because of the guarantee of eventually bringing home a child.
Another far less popular infertility option is the choice to live child-free. This is a difficult decision and should not be made lightly. However, for some hopeful parents who have suffered through multiple losses and disappointments in the infertility process, deciding to live without children is the best option for them.
Before you choose to take this route, it’s important that you (and any partner you may have) do some deep introspection and thinking about what this will mean for you. While living childless doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have the joy of children in your life (you may have nieces, nephew, neighbors or other children you know), it will mean that you won’t experience all the highs and lows of parenting yourself. All couples and singles should attend infertility counseling before making this decision, to make sure you’re ready for the permanency of taking this path and what it will mean for your life.
One of the final options for infertility is surrogacy, an ART method in which intended parents can have a genetically related child but don’t carry the baby to term themselves. Surrogacy combines IVF and a gestational carrier to bring a child into the intended parents’ lives.
In surrogacy, intended parents create an embryo either on their own or through a donation process. The embryo is then transferred into another woman’s uterus, where it will develop until she gives birth. Surrogacy is a partnership; the intended parents and surrogate will be there to support each other throughout the process, with their surrogacy specialist helping mediate and provide any other resources they might need.
While surrogacy does provide the genetic relationship many intended parents are looking for, it’s also an emotional process. Parents must have grieved the loss of the pregnancy experience before moving forward to prevent any hostile feelings toward their surrogate during this intimate relationship. They also must be prepared for raising a child born from surrogacy and normalizing that process from the very beginning, tackling any challenges that may come their way. Despite these potential difficulties, many intended parents and surrogates who complete this process find it a fulfilling, beautiful one they treasure for the rest of their lives.
If you have any questions about how the surrogacy process works and whether it’s the right choice for you, you can always contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-2229(BABY). American Surrogacy’s professionals will always provide the support, guidance and advice you need to make the best choice for you and your family and, when you’re ready, help you move forward with this infertility option.
How to Know What’s Right for You
Clearly, there are many infertility options available to hopeful parents who are struggling in their journey to start a family. However, as mentioned before, your options for infertility will be tailored to your own situation. No one can make the choice of which parenthood path to pursue except you — which is why it’s so important to talk to your fertility clinic and do your diligent research before moving forward with this process.
In addition to your medical situation and circumstances, your decision between your infertility options will also depend on your personal beliefs and values. For example, if you greatly value the experience of being pregnant, a process like surrogacy or adoption won’t be right for you. However, if you don’t have a strong need for a genetically related child, you may wish to explore gamete donation or adoption. Alternatively, if having a genetic relationship is more important to you than experiencing pregnancy, surrogacy might be an option for you. You’ll also want to consider your financial situation beforehand; we always encourage intended parents to talk to a financial advisor before committing to an expensive infertility treatment method.
As you’re considering the various options for infertile couples and singles, make sure to reach out to infertility counselor to help decide what’s best for you. One way or another, you can have the child you’ve dreamed about — it will just take time and determination to get there.
If you think surrogacy may be the right choice for you, or you’re simply interested in learning more, you can always contact our surrogacy specialists at 1-800-875-2229(BABY) for more information — with absolutely no obligation to move forward until you’re sure you’re ready.