Alternative pregnancy treatments

Following on from the popularity of the Tygerberg Hospital In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) article, Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood is looking at alternative pregnancy treatments that couples wanting to fall pregnant can try.

Why do women opt for IVF?

Dr Paul Le Roux, reproduction medicine specialist at the Cape Fertility Clinic, notes: “There are many causes of infertility that lead to patients having IVF treatment. About one third of causes are from the female partner, one third from the male partner, and one third are a combination of factors.”

According to Le Roux, some of the more common causes of infertility in women include: blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, poor egg quality, fibroids, uterine problems, and pelvic adhesions (scar tissue).

In addition, women are having children later in life during modern times, and age affects egg quality. Le Roux points out that this is another factor that has led to an increase in the number of cases of IVF.

“Doing IVF with a donor egg or a surrogate is also reason why IVF would be used.  Some single women and women in same sex relationships may be doing IVF with a sperm donor.  Many women also wanting to freeze their eggs for later use if they are older than 35 years and not ready to have a child,” adds Le Roux.

The IVF procedure

The procedure for IVF takes three weeks. Le Roux explains that there are two weeks of subcutaneous injections which grow the eggs and are done at home. Following this, there is a small procedure under anaesthetic which is carried out at the fertility clinic, where the eggs are extracted.

“The eggs are then fertilized in the lab and grown for three to five days in the laboratory. Then the best one to two embryos are transferred back into the patient with a small procedure similar to having a pap smear. After waiting approximately 10 days a pregnancy test is done to see if the procedure is successful,” reveals Le Roux.

At the Cape Fertility Clinic, the cost of IVF treatment is about R45 000 per procedure. The success of the treatment depends largely on the age of the woman. Le Roux points out that for women under the age of 35 there is a 45% success rate per treatment. For women between the ages of 35 and 40 there is a 35% success rate per treatment, and women over the age of 40 there is a 20% success rate per treatment. When using a donor egg, the success rate increases to 65%.

Alternative medical treatments

There are several other fertility treatments that the Cape Fertility Clinic offer in addition to IVF. “We do laparoscopic surgery with cameras to repair physical problems in the pelvis. We also do ovulation induction (making a person ovulate) with simple medication (tablets called Clomiphene), and IUI (intra-uterine insemination).”

Le Roux notes that all of the treatments take about a month to complete. The price for each treatment varies, however, they are much cheaper than IVF treatment.

Ovulation induction costs about R1 500 per month, while IUI is approximately R3 500 per month. “Laparoscopic surgery is covered by the patient’s medical aid scheme,” says Le Roux.

At the Cape Fertility Clinic, the success rate for patients under IUI treatment is between 15% and 20% per month, while ovulation induction for patients who are not ovulating is about 25% per month.

According to Le Roux, medical aids will cover the costs of surgery, and sometimes the cost of the initial investigation, such as blood tests and scans, to identify any possible fertility problems. However, before choosing to undergo any treatment, contact your medical aid to find out what costs, if any, your medical aid will cover.

Intrelipid is a medical alternative to IVF that you come across when researching fertility treatments. There are some cases that claim this treatment may be effective. However, the effectiveness of the treatment is disputed, with Le Roux stating that there is very poor data on the treatment and that the Cape Fertility Clinic does not recommend it.

Non-clinical alternatives

There are a range of other alternative fertility treatments that you can come across when researching the subject. These include acupuncture and meditation. Le Roux, noted studies regarding acupuncture as a treatment have been conflicting, “however, a lot of interesting studies on this topic can be found.”

Laure Kirsten-Otto from the Semenette South Africa, a website that sells a range of products, including the Semenette, which can help couples fall pregnant, without the need of having to go to doctors’ rooms. However, these will only work if there are no medical conditions with the woman which may prevent her from falling pregnant and carrying a child to term.

The Semenette: Kirsten-Otto explains: “[The Semenette] is basically a sex-toy which mimics ejaculation and [can be] used by same-sex couples or couples where the man suffers from erectile dysfunction.”

It was developed by a lesbian woman in the United States who successfully got her partner pregnant using the device. It is made from medical grade silicon, and is therefore safe to use. You simply insert your partner’s sperm, or the donor sperm, into the device.

“What’s nice about it is, IVF is a once-off kind of thing (due to price), whereas with this you can try monthly until you succeed,” says Kirsten-Otto.

She adds that it has the same success rate as natural conception.

TheSemenette.co.za is the only distributor of the device at present, and it retails for R1 950. While it is costly, it is a cheaper alternative to IVF if the woman does not have a medical problem causing issues with pregnancy.

Softcup: The softcup is also made from medical grade silicon. Kirsten-Otto explains: “After intercourse you insert the soft cup and it keeps the sperm around the cervix for 12 hours, so it increases your chances of pregnancy as well.”

It retails for about R69.95 and is available on TheSemenette.co.za, as well as through MaybeMom.co.za.

“Worldwide there has been a very high success rate with it, obviously if there are no issues in terms of ovulation and that type of thing, [and] if there are no fertility issues. It works with washed sperm (frozen) as well as fresh sperm,” adds Kirsten-Otto.

Progesterone cream: “Research has shown that if you don’t have at least ten days between when you ovulate and when your period starts, your chances of getting pregnant are quite slim. So what you do is you use the progesterone cream two or three days before you ovulate, and it ensures that your cycle stays away for longer than ten days, so should you conceive, there is enough time for the embryo to implant,” reveals Kirsten-Otto.

This cream is also available through MaybeMom.co.za, as well as TheSemenette.co.za. It retails for about R365 a tub.

Saliva ovulation tool: There are a variety of products on the market which can help women track their menstrual cycle and determine when they are ovulating in order to determine when they are more likely to fall pregnant. The saliva ovulation tool is one of these products.

According to a video on MaybeMom.co.za it can be used up to 10 000 times, unlike other products which can only be used once, and is 98% accurate is determining when a woman is ovulating. The test measures the oestrogen in your saliva and indicates your most fertile period, and therefore the period where you are most likely to fall pregnant.

“When you’re ovulating, or when your fertile period is happening, the saliva crystalizes into a fern pattern, and then you know you’re at your most fertile. And what’s nice about it is you can use it over and over again,” says Kirsten-Otto.

While the initial cost may be high at R899, one of the benefits of this test is that it can be reused, unlike other ovulation tests.

For couples struggling to fall pregnant, but who want children, adoption is another alternative. For more information on adoption in South Africa, click here.



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