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Infertility Treatments Continued

Jessica Evert, MD, edited by Benjamin McDonald, MD Updated: Jun 28th 2016

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): Assisted Reproductive Technology is an umbrella term for multiple types of fertility treatment which utilize laboratory and other technology to help a couple get pregnant. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is one type of ART. IVF consists of harvesting a woman's eggs (usually after medications have been given to mature more than one egg), collecting a sample of her partner's sperm, and joining them in a laboratory. The sperm inseminate (enter into) the egg and produce an embryo (the multi-cell result of a sperm/egg union). Resulting embryos are cultured for several days in the laboratory environment so as to watch them mature and to identify the healthiest embryos. When embryo maturation is complete, one to three of the embryos are inserted back, through the vagina and cervix, into the woman's uterus where they will hopefully implant and cause a pregnancy to occur.

lab tech and microscopeThe average cost of one cycle of IVF is several thousand dollars and may not be covered by medical insurance. As multiple cycles of IVF may be required before a successful pregnancy occurs, IVF can quickly become a very expensive procedure to undergo.

Though IVF is the most well-known type of ART, there are others that may be useful to infertile couples:

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) occurs when a laparoscope (a fiber-optic surgical instrument requiring only a small incision to place) is used to place unfertilized eggs and sperm into a woman's fallopian tubes. In successful situations the egg and sperm unite and an embryo implants into the woman's uterus.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) is similar to GIFT except that the fertilization occurs in the laboratory and then the embryo is placed using laparoscopic surgery into the woman's fallopian tube.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) occurs when an individual sperm is directly injected into an egg, bypassing the usual struggle that sperm undergo to penetrate the egg's outer membrane. Fertilized embryos resulting from ICSI are then implanted into the woman's uterus as per IVF.

Embryo Cryopreservation is used to preserve embryos that have been created in the laboratory using harvested eggs and sperm but which have not been selected for implantation. These embryos are frozen so that they may be thawed and transferred to the woman's uterus at a later date (e.g., so that additional pregnancies may be produced from the single harvest of eggs and sperm). Freezing takes a heavy toll on embryos. Roughly 50% of thawed embryos are viable. However, no better preservation technique is currently available.


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