What is Assisted Reproductive Technology?
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes IVF but there are also some other methods used that are customized to the specific diagnosis of the patient or couple. Most ART procedures typically deal with the use of fertility medications. Success rates for ART procedures are at an average of 30%.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is when fertilization takes place outside of the body. In vitro fertilization, also known as IVF, yields the highest success rates of all forms of assisted reproduction. Male factor infertility (sperm quality and quantity) or female issues may require some couples to pursue IVF. With IVF, a woman is given various fertility medications in order for her to produce a large number of eggs. When the eggs reach maturity, they are retrieved from the woman during a procedure called egg retrieval. At this time, the husband or partner will typically give a semen sample. The eggs and the sperm are put in a dish for fertilization. After fertilization occurs, anywhere from 3 to 5 days, the best embryos are placed back into the woman’s uterus, this is called and embryo transfer.
If there are severe male factor issues, it may be recommended that the couple pursue IVF with ICSI.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – In ICSI, a single sperm is injected into a mature egg. Then the embryo is transferred to the uterus.
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) – GIFT involves putting the eggs and sperm into the woman’s fallopian tube so that fertilization occurs within the body. (This procedure is not common.)
- Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) – ZIFT begins similar to IVF as the embryos will be created the same way and fertilized outside of the body. In the ZIFT procedure the embryo is placed back into the women’s fallopian tube rather than the uterus.
Donors: For various reasons, couples may need to use a donor when seeking assisted reproduction. Eggs, sperm and embryos are all available for reproductive purposes. For women who are older or unable to produce eggs, she may seek the use of a donor egg. If the couple also faces issues that are both male and female factor, they may decide to use donor embryos. Donor sperm is commonly used for male factor issues.
Gestational Carrier (Surrogacy): If a woman doesn’t have a uterus or has been medically advised against carrying a pregnancy, she may decide to use a gestational carrier. This means that she will undergo treatment similar to IVF and will produce multiple eggs. The eggs will then be fertilized by her husband/partner and transferred back into the surrogate. (A surrogate is a women who carries a baby and at birth, the baby will be raised by other parents.) Many legal and ethical issues surround surrogacy. Dependent on the fertility clinic and state laws, certain practices may or may not be allowed.