How to Have a Baby When You Can’t Have a Baby?
The decision to bring another life on earth is a noble one indeed. It is a responsibility of a lifetime and requires a strong mindset to raise a baby. One needs to be mentally resilient and brave, and be able to put aside a huge amount of time as well as energy for the baby.
Having a baby is a brave decision since it involves embracing the changes that come along in lifestyle along with the immediate physical and emotional changes. Nevertheless, the journey of parenthood is not always as smooth and hassle-free as one imagines it to be. There are many hurdles and barriers that one might face while trying to conceive a baby. For same-sex couples, and single parents, the scenario is quite different. Many times it might seem to them that under no circumstances they can have a child in their lives. Our society is still very much rooted in the tradition of heterosexual marriage and hold women responsible for not being able to conceive a child.
Science and medicine, however, have advanced, and conceiving a child, apart from being the consequence of sexual intercourse between a man and woman is possible. With the help of various choices such as medicines, assisted reproductive technology, donation of eggs, surrogacy, etc. the dream of welcoming a child into a family is now a reality. However, it is important to understand all the options that are available to you before making the decision so that you can find out what is right for you in order to start a family.
What is infertility?
To put it in simple words, the inability to conceive a child through sexual intercourse is considered to be infertility. However, the traditional way of having a baby is not the only way to bring a healthy life to earth. There are innumerable reasons as to why a couple cannot conceive a child such as problems in the reproductive system of either of them. At times both partners can have medical issues that do not allow them to have a healthy child.
As per the data collected in the United States, about 12% of women of the entire population are considered to be infertile. Common physiological issues include blocked fallopian tubes and problems with ovulation. An alarming percentage (about 15%) of the cases of infertility are not resolved as the medical science has failed to determine the cause of infertility.
There should not be any misconception regarding infertility being restricted to women. Men too can be infertile due to various reasons such as low sperm count, hormonal imbalances, and even issues with ejaculation. A comparison has been carried out between the two sexes and it has concluded that more than one-third of the reported cases of infertility is because of the man experiencing various issues and hence preventing the woman from getting pregnant.
Thus, if you are coping with infertility and are unable to get pregnant, it might be the right time for you to look into the various options that shall allow you to bring a baby into your life and family.
1. Drugs for fertility
It is possible to treat many cases of infertility with surgery, or a particular drug, or even some hormones. Although it is very much subjective in nature as to which case is possible to be treated with drugs, a prescription drug for an infertile woman might be able to stimulate the process of ovulation or the stage when the eggs are matured. However, there are various side-effects of fertility drugs. The most problematic one being the chance of the woman being pregnant with multiple children- research has found that twins, triplets, and at times quadruplets are born. Women who conceive multiple children at the same time run the risk of having complicated pregnancies as well as premature labor. Moreover, the babies who are born as preemies run the risk of developing health problems and even show signs of unnatural growth.
Men can also be prescribed medication in order to treat their hormonal imbalances and problems with erection and ejaculation. Infections preventing pregnancy are also treatable by medication.
Another common remedy to infertility is making changes in the lifestyle which might increase the chances of conceiving. Reduction in the intake of alcohol, stopping any intake of nicotine, etc. is also recommended. Nevertheless, there are cases where all these solutions are not enough to cause a successful pregnancy. Moreover, homosexual partners and single parents too cannot opt for medication for starting a family.
2. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
As stated previously, the options that are available that would lead to a successful pregnancy and childbirth are very subjective. Thus, the couple’s infertility can also involve treatments that would result in pregnancy. For such couples, ART or Assisted Reproductive Technology might be an option, where a procedure involves the handling of the eggs and the embryos outside the body of the woman. In a laboratory, the sperm is combined with the eggs and then implanted into the uterus of the woman or a surrogate. The decision of taking the sperm and egg from the couple or from a donor completely depends on the nature of infertility.
When it comes to ART, there are a few types that are available, depending on the needs of the couple:
IVF or In-Vitro Fertilization
The process of IVF is chosen when the couple chooses to have their eggs and sperms fertilized instead of a donor. In such cases, the woman is prescribed medication for stimulating the production of eggs before they are collected. When the time is right, either an infertility specialist or a reproductive endocrinologist will begin the process of egg collection by inserting a needle in the woman’s pelvic cavity. Once the eggs are collected, they will be combined with the sperms and put in the laboratory for growing which takes place anywhere between three to five days. Once the fertilization occurs successfully, the fertilized embryo is placed in the uterus of the woman.
It is important to note that many couples choose to go for IVF only when they have exhausted all other options since it is an extremely expensive process. Normally insurance companies don’t provide coverage for IVF.
For couples who do not have the option of a woman carrying the fertilized embryo in the uterus, a surrogate mother can also have the embryo placed in her uterus.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
This process involves placing sperm in the uterus of the woman which can come from the partner, a sperm band, or a donor, again depending on the preference of the couple and the situation. Typically, an OBGYN performs the IUI in the clinic where the sperm is inserted with the help of a catheter. Doctors at times are known to recommend the woman to lay down which increases the chance of fertilization. Known side effects of IUI are nothing severe, but mild cramping, and people have compared it with that of a pap smear.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
This process is meant for the male partner who is infertile and is the cause of the couple being unable to get pregnant. ICSI involves injecting sperms into a mature egg. But the process is different from the previous ART method (IVF allows natural fertilization in the laboratory) as the fertilization takes place outside the body of the woman.
The process that involves the removal of healthy and viable eggs from a fertile and healthy woman, followed by implanting them in a woman who is not capable of conceiving is known as egg donation. After the removal of the eggs from the donor, the process of fertilization takes place in the lab, followed by the implantation of the embryo in the woman by using IVF. Parents at times choose the donors of the eggs among their acquaintances, while anonymous egg donors are also very common.
Irrespective of who the egg comes from, it is mandatory for a donor to go through rigorous screening which evaluates their physical health, mental health, and also eliminates any chance of passing of genes having defects. It is important to consider that egg donation is an extremely emotional process, not just for the donor, for the couple who is the receiver as well. It is important to conduct extensive research before choosing this option baby.
This procedure is very similar to egg donation, viable sperms are removed from a healthy man which is then used to fertilize the egg. Sperm donation is often used by women who are aiming to be single parents or same-sex couples who wish to have a baby. Men diagnosed with infertility also choose the process of sperm donation for their female partners to have the baby. The process of sperm donation can be carried out either by injection via IUI or an IVF to insert the fertilized egg.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer and Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer
GIFT or Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer and ZIFT or Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer is a process that is rarely used in the United States in the present times. The process of GIFT includes a process of harvesting the sperms and eggs. Then both the sperms and eggs are put in the fallopian tube, followed by the natural fertilization in the woman’s body. ZIFT includes the fertilization of the egg in the laboratory. After a lapse of 24 hours, the fertilized egg is inserted into the woman’s fallopian tube.
Surgery might be suggested by your doctors as a possible method of conception, especially when the woman is diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes or endometriosis, where the growth of the uterine tissues are found on the outside of the uterus. Endometriosis is an extremely painful condition that also causes immense discomfort and may make women infertile.
However, there are cases when none of these medical methods work in favor to have a baby. In those times, a couple or a single adult may wish to go for adoption or have a gestational carrier in order to have a baby.
Having said that, adoption is not always the last resort for those wanting to have a baby and building a family. Some couples choose to adopt babies, while some parents also welcome older children in their family through adoption. However, there are a lot of formalities that are involved in the process of adoption. Citizens of the United States are capable of adopting children from within the state, as well as overseas with the help of various agencies that allow the couple to understand the laws and requirements. It is essential to have a clear idea about the adoption laws since they are different for every state. A good adoption agency shall be able to walk the couple or the single adult through the various criteria of the state laws, as well as that of the agency itself. In most cases, marital status and age are important factors that may qualify you as a prospective family for adopting a child.
Although adoption is not a medical procedure, it is nonetheless expensive. For the same reason, grants have been made available with many organizations which take away some of the financial burdens from couples wanting to adopt kids. Thanks to the development in society, many employers offer assistance to their employees who wish to adopt children to build a family.
5. Surrogacy or Gestational Carrier
A couple might choose surrogacy when neither of them is capable of sustaining a pregnancy. In such cases, a woman is chosen by the couple, who is healthy and willing to carry their child and give birth to the would-be-parents. At times couples tend to choose someone who they know, such as a close friend or family who has volunteered for being a surrogate mother. Fertility clinics also provide the option of anonymous surrogates. Regardless of all the options available for choosing a surrogate mother, there is nothing right or wrong about any of the options.
The process of surrogacy becomes partly medical since the surrogate might need to go through an IVF. Embryos are also created with the help of a donated egg or sperms, which is then placed in the womb of the surrogate.
The laws that govern surrogacy are again different for each state, and it is crucial to understand them before going for the search of a surrogate. In cases where the couple wants an anonymous surrogate, it is advisable to choose a reputed fertility clinic. It is not uncommon to face confusion and end up overwhelmed as far as surrogacy is concerned, it happens to people with the best intentions as well. Moreover, surrogacy is an expensive process since travel expenses, legal fees, as well as medical care need to be covered by the couple. Some states also have made it mandatory for couples to pay a surrogate fee, while it is altogether illegal to have children via a surrogate.
Which would be the right option for you?
While the diagnosis of infertility in itself is heartbreaking and overwhelming for couples who wish to have children, there is still a lot of hope. The intention of this article is to only provide you with an extensive list of options, which will allow you to know about the pros and cons of each of them, and help your conduct further research.