What is assisted reproductive technology?


Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is an effective treatment for infertility issues. During the treatment, the woman's egg is removed from the body and combined with sperm to make embryos which are then transferred back into the woman's body. 

ART procedures can also use donor eggs, donor sperm, or even donated embryos for successful fertilization. It may also involve a gestational carrier or a surrogate. Notably, the most effective type of ART procedure today is in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Types of assisted reproductive technology

There are many types of assisted reproductive technology methods that leverage different reproductive cells and techniques. The ideal ART depends on your specific circumstances. 

Some of the commonly used ART include:

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

As mentioned earlier, IVF is the most popular and effective ART today, accounting for 99% of all ART procedures. IVF involves extracting eggs and fertilizing them. During the procedure, fertility physicians combine the egg and sperm before transferring the resulting embryos into the uterus via an embryo transfer (IVF-ET). The benefits of IVF include:

High success rate: IVF helps many patients who would otherwise be unable to conceive. This includes women with block tubes, older patients, people with polycystic ovary syndrome, and premature ovarian failure.

Safe track record: Since IVF has been used for several years, it offers a safe track record. IVF was first introduced in the 1970s, and since then, it has advanced its technology and techniques to create safer and more successful treatments.

Works when other treatments fail: A doctor may recommend IVF if it is determined other fertility treatments are less likely to work based on an infertility diagnosis. IVF is ideal for severe diagnoses such as severe male infertility factor, blocked fallopian tube, advanced maternal age, and more.

Can be used by anybody: IVF is not restricted to the baby's mother. It can be used by a surrogate or gestational carrier, thus enabling a range of people to become parents and participate in the pregnancy experience.

Intrafallopian Transfer

Intrafallopian transfer works similarly to IVF but leverages laparoscopic surgery to deliver gametes directly to the fallopian tube. Some people may prefer this method due to religious reasons or if their insurance only covers this type of ART. Types of intrafallopian transfers include:

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT): GIFT involves collecting sperm and eggs in a tube after which specialists place gametes directly into the fallopian tube using laparoscopic surgery. Because it doesn't involve an IVF procedure, you cannot choose the embryo to transfer.

Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT): ZIFT combines GIFT and ZIFT. Doctors collect and simulate eggs via IVF methods. They then mix the sperm and eggs in the laboratory before returning the fertilized egg to the fallopian tube.

Ideally, because Intrafallopian transfers involve surgeries, there is a risk of complications from surgery and organ puncture. It is also more expensive than IVF.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

Frozen embryo transfer involves thawing IVF frozen embryos and transferring them to a woman's uterus. FET has gained some popularity in the USA, with a recent study revealing about 52% of people who had FET had successful ongoing pregnancies. However, experts reveal there could be an increased risk of preterm birth with FET. Another risk with this method is that some frozen embryos may be damaged by the thawing process. However, these risks are rare, making FET the most common and most successful form of IVF today.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

ICSI is a technique that embryo specialists may perform alongside IVF. It involves injecting a single sperm directly into the center of an egg using a tiny needle. ICSI can fertilize between 50–80% of eggs and could be ideal for persons with sperm-related infertility. Since ICSI is usually an add-on procedure to IVF, it can be more expensive than IVF alone. ICSI is becoming the standard for IVF because of how much it increases success rates, and ultimately lowers the cost of your IVF journey. 

Getting Started with ART 

There are several types of ART available to treat infertility. The success rate of the method you choose varies depending on several factors, including your age and health. ART involves a lot of research, and specialists usually weigh the risks, benefits, and costs before recommending the technique. Have further questions on assisted reproductive technology? Learn more about fertility here

Note: This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided is for general educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. Speak to your doctor directly with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any information contained herein does not replace any care plan as determined by a physician. 

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