Treatment that may help you have a baby includes:
- medicine or hormone treatment
- specialist fertility treatment like IVF
Getting fertility treatment
The first step in getting tests and treatment is to talk to your GP. Your GP may give you advice about lifestyle changes that will help you get pregnant.
They may also refer you for tests and treatment.
These may be at a regional fertility hub - if you meet the criteria for getting a referral.
These are separate from the criteria to access specialist fertility treatment like free IVF.
You can also get treatment privately - this is when you pay for it or your insurance company pays for part of it.
Lifestyle changes to improve your fertility
Your GP or fertility specialist may recommend you make lifestyle changes to improve your chances of having a baby.
- having a healthy weight
- getting help to quit smoking
- reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
- stopping any illegal or performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids
- reducing stress
Having enough sex
If you are not having enough regular sex your GP or specialist will recommend you have regular sex. This means having sex every 2 to 3 days.
Types of fertility treatment
Your specialist will discuss your treatment options with you when they get your test results.
Fertility treatment for women
Surgery and medicine may be used to treat causes of fertility problems in women.
You may need surgery to treat:
- ovarian cysts
- tubal disease
- pelvic scarring
This is usually done using keyhole surgery.
If you are not ovulating regularly, you may be given medicine to help you ovulate.
These are usually tablets or injections to stimulate the development and release of eggs.
Some medicines may cause side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, headaches and hot flushes.
Your cycle may be tracked by ultrasound to find the best time to try to conceive.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
If you have PCOS, treatment for it can increase your chances of becoming pregnant.
This includes losing weight if you have a body mass index (BMI) over 25.
Fertility treatment for men
Surgery and medicine may be used to treat the cause of fertility problems in men.
If you have a varicocele (swollen veins in your testicles) you can get surgery to improve your fertility. But not all men with this will need surgery.
You may need surgery to repair or unblock the tubes that carry sperm from your genitals to your penis for ejaculation.
Most of the time, this can be done by keyhole surgery.
Medicine for hormonal problems
If you have a hormonal imbalance that affects sperm production, hormonal treatment may improve your sperm production.
This is usually done with a specialist in hormones (endocrinologist).
IVF and other specialist fertility treatment
If you cannot get pregnant through sex, you may be able to get:
- intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) - a type of IVF
- intrauterine insemination (IUI) - a type of artificial insemination
These are treatments that can help you have a baby. These are sometimes known as assisted human reproduction (AHR) treatments.
A specialist will decide if this treatment is suitable for you. These fertility treatments are available for free through the HSE. But you need to meet certain criteria to access them.
You can also get IVF and other fertility treatment privately. This is not free. You'll have to pay for it private treatment. If you have health insurance, they may pay for part of it.
Free IVF and specialist treatment
To get free IVF, ICSI and IUI treatment through the HSE, you need:
- a GP or consultant to refer you to a regional fertility hub
- to meet the access criteria for free IVF
- your specialist to decide that you need this treatment
IVF is where eggs are removed from your ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory. The eggs and sperm can be yours, your partner's or from a donor.
When an egg is fertilised, it is called an embryo. Usually, a number of embryos are produced. A specialist will select the best embryo and put this (sometimes 2) in the womb of the person getting pregnant.
ICSI is similar to IVF. The main difference is sperm is injected directly into an egg.
It is used for some sperm problems.
It is also used if the problem with getting pregnant is due to the sperm not being able to get inside the egg.
IUI involves inserting sperm into your womb. The sperm can be your partner's sperm or sperm from a donor. It's done around the time of ovulation. The sperm is inserted using a small plastic tube.
Sometimes you may be given medicine before the procedure. The medicine helps to stimulate ovulation.
If your partner is male and his semen analysis results were within normal limits, his sperm can be used.
In this case, he will normally produce the sample by masturbation before the procedure. Your healthcare team will tell you how to produce the best sperm sample possible.
Having a baby with donor sperm or eggs
You may need to use donor eggs or sperm if:
- doctors have advised you not to use your own for health reasons such as genetic problems
- you have no eggs
- you have no sperm
- you are LGBT+
- you are single
If you need donor eggs or sperm you cannot get this treatment through the HSE. But it will become available in the future. This will happen when laws that are needed are in place.
There are no egg or sperm banks in Ireland, you will usually get donor eggs or sperm from another country.
If you are not producing any eggs, you may be able to use eggs from a donor.
This is where a female donor is treated with fertility medicines to stimulate ovulation. Her eggs are collected and fertilised with sperm from your partner or donor sperm. The embryos are placed into your womb, like in IVF.
Your fertility specialist will advise you if this is the right choice for you.
This is where a man donates sperm for IUI or for IVF.
This sperm is produced by a donor and is usually stored in a sperm bank.
Surrogacy is when someone has a baby for another person.
This could be if you:
- cannot get pregnant due to problems with your womb
- have been advised not to get pregnant for health reasons
- are in a same-sex male couple
- are a single man
There are no laws in Ireland around surrogacy and it is not available through the HSE.
Ask your GP about your options if you are interested in having a baby through surrogacy.
How likely you are to get pregnant after any type of fertility treatment depends on:
- your age
- the cause of your fertility problems
Stress and fertility treatment
Dealing with fertility problems and fertility treatment can be very stressful. If you have a partner, try to talk about your feelings with them.
You can get support to help you before, during and after fertility treatment. For example, counselling or a peer-to-peer support group.