The treatment you’re offered will depend on what’s causing the fertility problem.

There are different options available. These include:

  • lifestyle advice
  • medical treatment
  • surgical treatment
  • assisted conception

Lifestyle advice

Making certain lifestyle changes can greatly improve your chances of becoming pregnant.

These include:

Medical treatments

Sometimes medication will be prescribed to help you to become pregnant.

Most of the medications are to help you ovulate. If you have other problems, such as blocked fallopian tubes, medication may not be suitable.

Medical treatment might include clomiphene. This is a medication that may stimulate ovulation.

Occasionally other medications to trigger ovulation in women can be used if clomiphene does not work.

Metformin is a diabetes medicine. It is sometimes used to help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome to become pregnant.

Surgical treatments

You may need surgery to improve your fertility. Types of surgery include:

  • removing scar tissue from a woman’s pelvis
  • repairing or unblocking fallopian tubes
  • treating endometriosis
  • laparoscopic ovarian drilling for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Assisted conception

There are ways that fertility specialists can help you to become pregnant.

These treatments are available privately only. This means they are not provided by the public health service.

You can claim tax relief on the costs involved in IVF treatment as part of the tax relief for medical expenses scheme.

The Drugs Payment Scheme covers drugs used as part of fertility treatment.

Information on fertility treatment from Citizens Information

The treatments are:

  • IUI (intrauterine insemination)
  • IVF (in vitro fertilisation)
  • ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

IUI (intrauterine insemination)

IUI means that a sample of a man’s sperm is injected into the woman’s uterus (womb) around the time of ovulation.

The sperm is inserted into your womb using a small plastic tube. Sometimes you may be given fertility medications before to the procedure. The medication 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 prior to the procedure. Your healthcare team will tell you how to produce the best sperm sample possible.

Donor sperm might be used if:

  • your partner is not male
  • your partner has very few sperm, abnormal sperm, no sperm
  • your partner has a serious infection

This sperm is produced by a donor and is usually stored in a sperm bank.

IVF (in vitro fertilisation)

IVF is where a woman’s eggs are fertilised with a man’s sperm in a laboratory. When an egg is fertilised, it is called an embryo.

Any embryos that are produced after fertilising a woman's eggs are graded for quality. One is selected for transfer to the womb.

The woman will usually be given medication to encourage her ovaries to produce eggs.

Once the eggs have been produced, an operation is performed known as ‘egg retrieval’.

The eggs are then mixed with sperm. This sperm is from her partner or donor sperm.

When the eggs and the sperm meet, the aim is for embryos to form. This can take a few days.

Once embryos have formed, one or two of these can be inserted into your womb after they have been graded. This is through your cervix (the neck of your womb).

If the remainder of the embryos are of a good quality, they can be frozen (cryopreserved) for the future.

Around one in every four IVF procedures is successful (results in pregnancy).

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

ICSI involves the injection of sperm directly into an egg.

This method is chosen if the man has a low sperm count, as only one sperm is needed.

It is also used if the problem with getting pregnant is due to the sperm not being able to get inside the egg.

Any resulting embryos after fertilisation are then graded and 1 to 2 embryos can be transferred to the womb. Surplus embryos may be suitable for freezing (cryopreservation).

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2019
Next review due: 10 May 2022