Assisted Reproductive Technology
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a term used to describe several different methods used to treat infertility. Each type of method using ART involves removing multiple eggs from the woman’s body, combining them with sperm in the laboratory for fertilization, and putting the healthy embryos back into the woman’s body for maturation.
Success rates vary and depend on many factors, including:
- age of the patients
- specific reason for infertility
- method of ART used
- egg condition
- embryo condition
The investment in ART methods is a lot to consider, in both your time and resources; however, treating infertility has allowed many couples to experience the joy of conceiving and childbearing who would have otherwise been unable to do so.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
This is the most common method using ART, and generally the most effective. Doctors treat the woman with a medicine to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs are mature, they are removed. They are then placed in a dish with the man’s sperm and allowed 3-5 days to join. The healthy embryos are then implanted into the woman’s uterus.
In Vitro Fertilization Procedure
The woman may be given hormonal drugs to stimulate her ovaries to produce several eggs before the procedure is performed to remove them. This allows for a higher chance of success. The surgeon then inserts a needle through the vagina into the woman’s ovary to remove eggs. General anesthesia is not required for this initial part of the procedure, but the woman may be given some sedation medication at this point. The fluid removed from the woman is examined in a laboratory to make sure eggs are present for insemination.
Usually at the same time the woman is undergoing the procedure the man will be asked to provide a semen sample. It is advised that he not have sexual intercourse for a few days before he produces a semen sample (usually achieved by masturbation). The sperm are separated from the semen in a laboratory procedure.
The active sperm are combined in the laboratory dish with the eggs for insemination. This action is what may be referred to as in vitro fertilization. Around 18 hours after this fertilization procedure your physicians will be able to determine if the egg(s) have been fertilized and begun to grow. They will be observed over the next 2-3 days or possibly longer.
The doctor then transfers the embryos into the woman’s uterus through the cervix with a catheter (a long slender tube). The woman should then remain in a resting position for the next hour or so. She is given certain hormones for the next 2 weeks. If implantation works (the egg or eggs attach to the uterine wall and grow), the pregnancy test result is positive.
Less Common ART Procedures
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) or Tubal Embryo Transfer
This method is very similar to in vitro in that the doctors treat the woman with a medicine to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs are mature, they are removed. They are then placed in a dish with the man’s sperm and allowed 3-5 days to join. The difference is that healthy embryos are then implanted in the woman’s fallopian tubes rather than the uterus.
Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
This method involves transferring the eggs and sperm into the woman’s fallopian tube. Fertilization then occurs in the woman’s body rather than the lab.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
This method is often used for couples in which there are serious problems with the man’s sperm. It may also be used with older couples with failed IVF attempts. In ICSI, a single sperm is injected into a mature egg. The healthy embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus or fallopian tube.