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Assisted Conception: How To Get Pregnant Through IVF And IUI

Dr TC Tan | Published on February 16, 2023

For lucky couples, becoming pregnant can be a straightforward affair — but some couples may face difficulties conceiving naturally. Here are some common challenges that may arise — and how a little medical assistance can help you overcome them.

The Need For Assisted Conception

Sometimes having sex to get pregnant could itself be an impossible task. For example, an injury or disability could make it physically challenging. In other cases, a mental roadblock towards sex or a psychosexual problem could be a factor. Women who have been trying for over a year and still can’t get pregnant should make an appointment with a doctor to determine the cause of her sub-fertility.

Alternatively, the problem could lie with her partner’s semen. To tackle this issue, a process called “sperm washing” may be needed. Sperm washing separates the sperm from the semen fluid — and removes chemicals in the semen that could affect a successful pregnancy. In extreme cases, for example, the partner could be suffering from azoospermia, the technical term for the total absence of sperms in semen, leading to conception difficulty.

Assisted Conception Through IVF And IUI

Two common medical interventions that may help you become pregnant are intrauterine insemination (IUI), where sperm cells are inserted into the womb at the time of ovulation, and in vitro fertilisation (IVF), where your egg and your partner’s sperm are combined in a laboratory dish and the embryos produced are placed back into your womb.

Intrauterine Insemination

IUI is a straightforward solution for couples whose main problem is difficulty in having sex. Part of the process involves sperm washing before the “cleaned” sperm cells are inserted into the womb. This helps to remove low-quality or dead sperm, in turn increasing the chances of a successful pregnancy.

Dr Tan Thiam Chye, an obstetrician and gynaecologist explains, “We wash and concentrate the sperms, and inject into the womb at the time of ovulation. This is unfortuantely a random process that will hopefully achieve egg fertilisation.”

In Vitro Fertilisation

IVF can be the only solution in many cases, especially if there is irreparable damage to both your fallopian tubes, or if your partner produces sperm of very poor quality. Turning to IVF to help you get pregnant when all natural efforts have failed can be appealing but there are a few crucial things to consider before deciding to proceed.

For one thing, the success rate for IVF is generally higher when you are younger. So if you have been unable to get pregnant despite trying for over a year, a decision needs to be made quickly. You may also have to take into account social factors and local laws. In Singapore, for example, women over 40 are not eligible for the Ministry of Health’s monetary support if they choose to participate in assisted reproduction programmes.

Dr Tan says, “If you want to go for IVF, you must do it when you are young — hopefully below the age of 40. Because after that, the success of IVF drops tremendously. And secondly, there are also genetic issues to factor in. And as an older mother, you may be more likely to have medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy.”

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