Fertility treatments and alternative pregnancy options

For many people, conceiving a child can be challenging. Whether you’ve started trying for a baby or you’re dealing with known fertility issues, you may feel like the path to parenthood is taking longer than expected. Fortunately, there are options that may help you build the family you’ve been hoping for. Let’s learn more and see which option may be right for you.

What is assisted conception?

If you’ve started exploring fertility treatments, you may see terms like “assisted conception” or “assisted reproduction.” This just means that a person needs medical assistance to help them conceive. The type of support needed depends on the unique situation of each person or family.1

What are fertility options if I need help getting pregnant?

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or 6 months if you’re over 35), you may want to talk to your doctor about fertility testing.2 Infertility can affect both women and men. In women, it might be caused by a lack of ovulation, hormone imbalance or lifestyle factors. In men, a low sperm count or genetic condition could be contributing factors. And in some cases, there’s no known cause of infertility.3

Fertility medications

While it depends on the results of your fertility testing, one of the first options to explore when treating infertility is often fertility medication.4 It’s typically the easiest, most inexpensive option.

  • How it works: Fertility drugs encourage ovulation by acting like the natural hormones in your body. These hormones are follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). If you need help producing more eggs or better-quality eggs, your doctor may also recommend hormone shots to stimulate egg growth.5, 6
  • Costs: Common oral fertility drugs that help with ovulation range from $10 to $100 a month. Your cost will depend on your health plan’s prescription drug coverage. If hormone shots are recommended, they can cost between $1,000 to $3,500 per cycle.6
  • Pros and cons: Oral medications and hormone shots tend to have good success rates. They’re also generally the most cost-effective fertility treatment options. You may experience mild, temporary side effects from certain medications, including hot flashes, breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, bloating and nausea.5

What are medical procedures to help with getting pregnant?

If you’ve used fertility medication for a certain amount of time and haven’t conceived, your doctor may recommend moving on to the next step. This likely means trying an assisted reproduction procedure like intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).4

How does egg or sperm donation work?

Using donor eggs or sperm can expand your options when you’re trying to conceive. Sperm donors can help couples with a partner who has low or no sperm count.1 Egg donors can help a partner who has no ovaries or low-quality eggs or no eggs.12 Egg and sperm donation can also be an option for individuals who’d like to start a family on their own, or LGBTQ+ families who are same sex or have the same reproductive organs.

  • How it works: Egg donation and sperm donation typically involve selecting a donor from an egg bank or sperm bank. You can also choose a donor you know. Donor sperm is used to fertilize your eggs, either through IUI or IVF. If you’re using donor eggs, they are fertilized with your partner’s sperm or donor sperm in a lab. The resulting embryo is implanted in your uterus via IVF.1
  • Costs: Donor sperm ranges from $25 to $1,500 per vial, plus the costs of IUI or IVF. Donor eggs can cost $25,000 to $30,000, plus the cost of IVF.8 The cost for donor eggs is significantly higher because the process of retrieving eggs from the donor is much more complex than sperm donation.
  • Pros and cons: Donor sperm and donor eggs can give you a chance at conceiving that might not otherwise be possible. However, the associated costs can be high. You’ll also want to consider how you’ll feel if you’re not genetically related to your child, and how you’ll explain that to your child in the future.12

What is surrogacy?

Surrogacy is when a woman, called a surrogate, carries and gives birth to a child for you. An egg and sperm from you and your partner (or donors) are used to create an embryo that’s implanted in the surrogate’s uterus. This is known as gestational surrogacy, meaning your surrogate has no genetic connection to your child.13

  • How it works: Gestational surrogacy always requires IVF. When the baby is born, the surrogate surrenders parental rights and gives the baby to you. You’ll typically work with an attorney to complete the steps needed to secure legal parentage.13
  • Costs: The entire surrogacy process can cost between $200,000 to $250,000. This includes all expenses and pay for your surrogate, plus the costs of IVF, egg and sperm donations (if needed), agency fees, legal fees and more.13
  • Pros and cons: If you’ve had unsuccessful fertility treatments or you have a condition that makes pregnancy unsafe, surrogacy can give you a chance at having a biological child.14 But surrogacy is often a long, expensive and complex journey. Working with a reputable surrogacy agency and family law attorney can help guide you through the process.13

How does adoption work?

Adoption can be another path to parenthood. You’ll have the chance to expand your family while providing a child with a loving, stable home. The 3 main types of adoption are domestic adoption (within the U.S.), international adoption and adopting through foster care. You’ll want to consider your family, finances and other factors to decide if adoption could be an option for you.

Which fertility treatment or alternative pregnancy option is right for me?

It may feel encouraging to know there are many options that can help with fertility challenges. And maybe a little overwhelming too. Meeting with your doctor is often the best place to start.15 They can review your medical history and where you’re at in your family-building journey. Together, you can discuss the options that may be right for you and determine the next steps to take. 

What questions should I ask my doctor about conceiving?

There are a variety of factors that can affect the conception process. Learning what may help or hurt your chances — and knowing when to get support — can help you better understand what to expect.

Need to find a doctor?

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