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Fertility 2016
Newsweek Health Insight

Having children is often taken as a symbol of pride because it represents a couple's fulfilment of their perceived responsibility to continue the family lineage. On the flip side, however, infertility is often synonymous with 'failure' and thus tends to be a taboo subject that evokes shame, pain and pity for those affected. Despite the stigma, it is by no means a rare condition; in 2010, the World Health Organization found that 48.5 million couples worldwide were unable to conceive.

The advancements made in modern science mean that there now exist a variety of options to better help such couples with conception. According to an article by the UK's National Health Service (NHS), there are three main types of fertility treatments:

-Fertility-assisting medicines such as clomifene and gondotrophins;

-Surgical procedures like fallopian tube and laparoscopic surgeries;

-Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and intrauterine insemination (IUI).

Most visits to a fertility clinic are similar to regular doctor's appointments, involving consultations and blood work with added ultrasounds and semen analyses. With that initial data, the physician can then recommend and start a treatment plan for you. Suggested treatments may vary widely depending on biological factors, so it is crucial to have an experienced medical team guiding you through these life-changing processes. Return visit frequency depends on the type and intensity of the treatment used.

On a basic level, some people respond well to ovulation stimulation medication such as Clomid, which can increase egg production and trigger ovulation. However, aggressive procedures like IVF, where the egg and the sperm are removed and fertilisation is done manually outside the body before the new embryo is transferred back into the uterus, are slowly gaining popularity; CNN recently reported that more American women than ever before were using IVF to get pregnant.

While most fertility treatment studies revolve around Western medicine, more and more people are beginning to embrace Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices as a way to boost fertility. Many TCM philosophies involve traditional herb remedies to promote a healthy gynaecological environment for better conception chances. These treatments can run over several months and may also include the use of acupuncture, which is said to lower stress levels and thus promote fertility hormone production.

Further fertility advancements await on the horizon; some breakthroughs announced this year include combining parts of two women's eggs and fertilizing the result with a man's sperm to create a three-parent embryo, solving the issue of dysfunctional mitochondria that can be passed down in eggs. Meanwhile, an experimental technique named in-vitro maturation (IVM) could help women with some ovarian disorders by growing immature eggs in a lab, then fertilizing and implanting them.

No matter what the type of treatment chosen, it seems clear that expert medical care and advice is crucial not only for the best chances of success in this delicate field, but also to avoid unnecessary financial burdens as fertility treatments can incur significant costs per cycle. Though the thought of finally being able to have a child can be exciting and overwhelming, it pays dividends to spend time researching and weighing up just what is the right treatment for you, and where the best place to receive it is.

Good luck to those about to embark upon this journey!

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