Using Hormones to Treat Infertility

Infertility occurs when the male or female reproductive system is unable to achieve pregnancy naturally. Causes can include problems with ovulation, poor semen quality and blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.

Hormones can be used as a fertility treatment to increase the chances of fertilisation. Two main fertility treatments are:

  • Fertility drugs
  • In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Fertility drugs

Several hormones are involved in the release of an egg from the ovaries, otherwise known as ovulation. Two of the main hormones involved in this process are FSH and LH.

  • FSH causes an egg to mature in the ovaries
  • LH stimulates the release of the egg (ovulation)

In some cases, a woman is given fertility drugs that contain FSH and LH. This causes the woman to ovulate more than usual, which increases her chances of becoming pregnant after sexual intercourse.

Taking fertility drugs often comes with risks and potential side effects.

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is another infertility treatment that occurs outside the woman’s body.

The mother is treated with FSH and LH to mature the eggs. Then, the eggs are collected and fertilised in a laboratory using the father’s sperm. After the eggs develop into embryos, they are implanted into the mother’s uterus to continue development.

Advancements in microscopy techniques are improving the success rates of IVF. advancements include screening the genes and chromosomes of IVF-created embryos to prevent couples from transmitting severe hereditary (genetic) conditions.

Advantages and disadvantages of IVF

Advantages

  • Allows couples to have children of their own
  • Donated eggs or sperm can be used
  • Unused eggs can be used for research or donated

Disadvantages

  • It can often be very emotional and stressful for both parents
  • The success rates are not particularly high, so many couples often need multiple IVF cycles before achieving pregnancy
  • There’s a higher likelihood of multiple births (e.g., twins, triplets), posing risks to both the mother and the babies
  • Not all created embryos are implanted into the mother’s uterus. Many are disposed of, which is considered unethical by some
  • Undergoing IVF can be costly

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