Assisted conception unit

An assisted conception unit is more than just an IVF unit (in vitro fertilisation).

Conception is the name given for the fertilisation of an egg by sperm resulting in an embryo and then foetus.

Many couples require assistance for a variety of reasons. One or both partners may be sub-fertile (fertile but with factors decreasing fertility) or infertile (unable to reproduce) - and quite commonly, partners may be fully fertile but has either lifestyles or anxieties that are stopping them from conceiving.

An assisted conception unit exists to look at the fertility of both partners and then to choose appropriate remedies for anything found.

Although most people attending an assisted conception unit will already have had some baseline tests done by their general practitioner, sometimes this is not the case.

Both partners should have been examined by a doctor for obvious abnormalities. Men should have had a minimum of a sperm count performed and women should have had some baseline hormone tests performed.

At an assisted conception unit, these tests will either be checked or repeated and then further tests performed. Evidence of ovulation will be checked, the uterus and fallopian tubes investigated to make sure there is a route for the sperm to pass, and more complex hormone tests to check that the complex interactions that are required are occurring.

Sometimes everything appears normal, but antibodies in the vagina or uterus can destroy the sperm - called a hostile environment.

 

Treatments

Treatments are aimed at whatever cause is found. These might be quite simple but  if necessary the assisted conception unit will also have more invasive treatments available.

Such treatments may include drugs or hormones to increase the ovulation, and then harvesting of the eggs and fertilising them outside of the body. The resulting fertilised eggs can then be replaced into the uterus (IVF) or the egg and sperm unmixed can be put back into the fallopian tube allowing fertilisation within the body and passage of the fertilised egg as normal down the fallopian tube (GIFT - gamete intra-fallopian tube transfer).


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