Understanding fertility treatment
There are many types of fertility treatments available, ranging from simple interventions such as medication to help a woman ovulate, through to more complicated procedures known as assisted reproductive treatment (ART). ART, also known as assisted reproductive technology, refers to medical and scientific methods used to help people conceive.
Fertility treatments are used:
to treat infertility
for people who can’t become pregnant, carry a pregnancy or give birth
to reduce the chance of a baby inheriting a genetic disease or abnormality
to preserve fertility.
Types of treatment
Depending on the cause of infertility, the following types of treatment may be recommended by your fertility specialist. This information provides a general overview of techniques available. Speak to your fertility clinic for more information.
Ovulation induction (OI)
Ovulation induction (OI) can be used if a woman is not ovulating or not ovulating regularly. It involves taking a hormone medication (tablets or injections) to stimulate ovulation. The response to the hormones is monitored with ultrasound and when the time is right, an injection is given to trigger ovulation (the release of the egg). Timing intercourse to coincide with ovulation offers the chance of pregnancy.
Artificial insemination or IUI
Artificial insemination, which is sometimes called intrauterine insemination (IUI), involves insertion of the male partner’s (or a donor’s) sperm into a woman’s uterus at or just before the time of ovulation. IUI can help couples with so called unexplained infertility or couples where the male partner has minor sperm abnormalities. You can use the Unexplained infertility - exploring your options guide to better understand if IUI is a suitable option for you.
IUI can be performed during a natural menstrual cycle, or in combination with ovulation induction (OI) if the woman has irregular menstrual cycles. If a pregnancy is not achieved after a few IUI attempts, IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be needed.
In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)
During IVF, the woman has hormone injections to stimulate her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When the eggs are mature, they are retrieved in an ultrasound-guided procedure under light anaesthetic. The eggs and sperm from the male partner or a donor are placed in a culture dish in the laboratory to allow the eggs to hopefully fertilise, so embryos can develop. Three to five days later, if embryos have formed, one is placed into the woman's uterus in a procedure called embryo transfer. If there is more than one embryo, they can be frozen and used later.
The IVF process:
Is IVF safe?
IVF is a safe procedure and medical complications are rare. But as with all medical procedures, there are some possible health effects for women and men undergoing treatment and for children born as a result of treatment. Read more about the possible health effects of IVF here.
Understanding IVF success rates
Clinics report success rates in different ways, so when comparing clinics’ success rates make sure you compare like with like or ’apples with apples’. Most importantly, you need to consider your own personal circumstances and medical history when you estimate your chance of having a baby with IVF. You can read more about interpreting success rates here.
The chance of a live birth following IVF depends on many factors including the woman’s age, the man’s age and the cause of infertility. Research using the Australian and New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database calculated the chance of a woman having a baby from her first cycle of IVF according to her age. The results below apply to women who used their own eggs, and it includes the use of frozen embryos produced by one cycle of IVF:
Under 34: 44 per cent chance of a live birth
35-39: 31 per cent chance of a live birth
40-44: 11 per cent chance of a live birth
44 and above: one per cent chance of a live birth.
Costs of IVF
In Australia, Medicare and private health insurers cover some of the costs associated with IVF and ICSI but there are also substantial out-of-pocket costs.
The difference between the Medicare contribution and the amount charged by the clinic is the ‘out-of-pocket cost’. These costs vary, depending on the treatment, the fertility clinic and whether a patient has reached the Medicare Safety Net threshold. You can read more about costs here.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) is used for the same reasons as IVF, but especially to overcome sperm problems. ICSI follows the same process as IVF, except ICSI involves the direct injection of a single sperm into each egg to hopefully achieve fertilisation.
Because it requires technically advanced equipment, there are additional costs for ICSI. For couples with male factor infertility, ICSI is needed to fertilise the eggs and give them a chance of having a baby. But for couples who don’t have male factor infertility, ICSI offers no advantage over IVF in terms of the chance of having a baby. You can read more about what’s involved in