Fertility technology has come a long way, but it doesn’t always have the answer to your infertility problem. Unexplained infertility is a common diagnosis for about 10-20% of all infertile couples. Both men and women can be diagnosed with unexplained (or idiopathic) infertility.
A diagnosis of unexplained infertility does not means it’s the end of your fertility journey. A highly-trained fertility specialist, such as Dr. Levi, can help couples with unexplained infertility explore a number of treatment options, including IVF, ICSI, and IUI treatments.
How Unexplained Infertility is Diagnosed
All couples who are struggling with conceiving will undergo fertility testing. Depending on the results of the tests, your fertility doctor will develop a treatment plan that is unique to your situation.
Sometimes, testing doesn’t reveal a cause for infertility in either partner. In these cases of unexplained infertility, tests will often reveal no concerning results. Through a process of elimination, couples will be diagnosed with unexplained infertility.
In some cases, people with unexplained infertility may become pregnant within a few years. This can occur without any assistance from a medical team.
Possible Explanations for Unexplained Infertility
Potential Causes of Unexplained Female Infertility
While unexplained infertility is an idiopathic condition, there are several possible explanation available.
In some cases, a woman’s fallopian tubes may not be functioning properly. Even if testing has confirmed that the tubes are open, it’s possible that something along the way is preventing normal conception from happening.
Fertilization itself may not be able to occur in the body for one reason or another. Similarly, there are some cases in which the sperm isn’t able to get through the cervix during sex. This can happen even when there are no obvious blockages or problems with the cervical mucus.
Endometriosis can also be a cause of unexplained infertility. Mild or even microscopic endometriosis can prevent an embryo from successfully attaching. Though endometriosis is diagnosable, some women experience this condition at such a microscopic level that it cannot be specified as a true cause.
Possible Causes of Unexplained Male Infertility
When males undergo fertility testing, the sperm is evaluated. A fertility specialist will see if the sperm’s shape and motility is normal. In cases of unexplained infertility, the shape, motility, and sperm count may all fall within normal ranges. Despite this, it is still possible that there is an undiagnosable problem that prevents the sperm from reaching the egg.
Similarly, although sperm may appear normal, there is still a chance that it is unable to fertilize the egg.
Available treatments for Couples with Unexplained Infertility
Though unexplained infertility is a difficult diagnosis to receive, it is not the end of the road. However, many of the fertility treatments that work for couples with a diagnosable problems can also help those with unexplained infertility.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is often a successful treatment option for couples with unexplained infertility. As a part of this treatment, the male partner will produce a semen specimen that is then processed and concentrated.
In an outpatient procedure, the sperm specimen is injected into the uterus using a thin, soft catheter. After lying down for 5-10 minutes, the patient can leave and continue normal activity.
In many cases, IUI will result in a pregnancy within 3 treatments, making it a good option for couples experiencing unexplained infertility.
In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In-vitro fertilization is another frequently successful treatment option for couples with unexplained infertility. The technology used for in-vitro fertilization can bypass many of the potential causes of unexplained infertility.
This treatment involves ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval, fertilization, and then an embryo transfer to achieve a pregnancy.
Similarly to IUI, IVF treatments require a semen specimen that is then injected into the egg and transferred into the uterus using a thin catheter. Each treatment is performed in an outpatient center and the woman can resume normal activity after the embryo transfer.
ICSI for Unexplained Infertility
ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, can be used in the in-vitro fertilization procedure. It involves injecting sperm directly into the cytoplasm of the egg. This assures that the sperm penetrates the egg, and requires a single sperm only. Depending on your specific situation, your fertility team may recommend ICSI as a treatment option.