Most people get pregnant in the usual way; they find a partner, have sex and wait for the positive pregnancy line to show up on the home pregnancy test. This doesn’t work for everyone, though; people with infertility issues, who have no partner or whose partner isn’t fertile need to find alternate methods of getting pregnant. Fortunately, there are several ways today to achieve pregnancy besides the old fashioned, but not always effective, method.
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Intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI, is sometimes called artificial insemination, but there’s nothing artificial about it; it’s a real alternative for getting pregnant. Many women use IUI to get pregnant, for different reasons. Women whose partners have no sperm use sperm banks to find a sperm donor that matches their needs, have the sperm shipped to a fertility clinic, and undergo insemination right before or during ovulation, the time when the egg releases from the ovary.
Women with partners who are sub-fertile may use their partner’s sperm for insemination, but the sperm is concentrated in the fertility lab first to increase its potency and improve the odds of pregnancy. Infertile women may also take fertility medication to help them produce more or better quality eggs before IUI is done.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization, called IVF, involves taking fertility medications to stimulate the ovaries, then undergoing an egg retrieval, where eggs are removed from the follicles in the ovary and fertilized in the IVF lab. Several days later, embryos are placed back into the uterus where they implant and emerge as screaming 7-lb. infants nine months later.
Both infertile women and men benefit from IVF, because fertility medications help women who don’t normally ovulate to produce eggs. The IVF lab can fertilize eggs by injecting a single sperm right into an egg, a process called ICSI, which helps with men who have poor sperm. The best looking sperm in the sample are used for ICSI; they should be shaped right and swim well; these are generally the healthiest sperm and the ones most likely to succeed at fertilization.
Women who no longer produce eggs on their own can get pregnant by using donor eggs. Another woman undergoes IVF and donates her eggs to the infertile mom to be; the embryos are transferred into the recipient after she takes medications to prepare the uterine lining for implantation by thickening it. The woman’s partner’s sperm is used to fertilize the eggs, so the child produced is genetically his and carried by her, but not genetically hers. If both partners have fertility issues, both donor eggs and donor sperm can be used.
Some couples going through IVF produce more embryos than they can use. They may choose to donate these already made embryos to an infertile woman. In this case, if the woman has a partner, neither of them is the genetic parent of the child she gives birth to. Embryo adoption involves taking medications to thicken the uterine lining so it’s a good place for the embryo to implant. Some IVF centers don't get involved with matching embryos with couples, but will transfer the embryos once a couple is matched. Embryo adoption is similar to traditional adoptions; it just takes place at the cellular stage.