What Exactly Is ART And What Does It Involve?
Just to be clear, let’s have a look at some definitions.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a general term that refers to the range of methods used to circumvent infertility and achieve pregnancy by artificial or partially artificial means. It is primarily used in infertility treatments but may also be used for genetic or other reasons.
Examples of ART include
Ovulation Induction – Fertility drugs are used to stimulate the follicles in your ovaries resulting in the production of multiple eggs in one cycle. The medications also control the time that you release the eggs, or ovulate, so sexual intercourse, intrauterine inseminations, and in vitro fertilization procedures can be scheduled at the most likely time to achieve pregnancy. These are typically
- Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid, Serophone) – This medication comes in a tablet form and tends to be used for women who have infrequent periods or long menstrual cycles.
- Gonadotropins (Repronex, Follistim, Bravelle, Pergonal and GonalF)- This is an injectable medication that is used to induce the release of the egg once the follicles are developed and the eggs are mature.
Artificial Insemination (AI) or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – Involves inserting prepared sperm through the cervix and into the uterus close to the time of ovulation. This is considered a simpler and more affordable starting point for ART before progressing to IVF.
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) – An egg (or more than one egg) is retrieved from your body and combined with sperm outside the body. Fertilisation then takes place over a number of hours in a culture dish in the laboratory.
If fertilisation is successful and the fertilised egg continues to develop to form an embryo, the embryo is subsequently transferred back into your uterus/ fallopian tube with the aim of achieving a pregnancy. If many embryos develop some of the surplus embryos may be frozen and used later.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – This is a technique where a single sperm is injected directly into each egg to achieve fertilisation. This is usually used where there are male fertility problems such as low sperm count or sperm that can’t penetrate the egg. ICSI may also be used if the male partner has previously had a vasectomy.
Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT): A procedure where an egg (or more than one egg) retrieved from you, mixed with sperm and immediately placing them into a fallopian tube with the aim to achieve fertilisation (and then pregnancy) within your body. The main difference between this procedure and IVF is that the fertilization process takes place inside the fallopian tube rather than in a laboratory. However, healthy tubes are necessary for GIFT to work.
Sperm Retrieval by Microsurgical Epididymis Sperm Aspiration (MESA) OR Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) are used where there is an epididymyl obstruction, after vasectomy or an absent vas deferens.
In some cases your own or donor eggs, sperm or embryos may also be used for some of these procedures.
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