Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Definition - What does Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) mean?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) refers to any treatment in which eggs or embryos are handled outside of the body. Some doctors also include intrauterine insemination, in which sperm are handled outside the body, among ART technologies.

The most common type of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which a woman's eggs are removed from her body and fertilized externally, and one or more resulting embryos are transferred to her uterus.

FertilitySmarts explains Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

ART procedures are expensive and can be invasive, but are often the best chance at conceiving a biological child for individuals or couples with fertility issues. ART procedures are generally combined with fertility drugs to increase the number of available eggs. This increases the chance of a successful conception but also increases the chances of multiple births.

Types of ART include:

  • Intrauterine insemination. In this procedure, sperm are delivered directly into the uterus using a tube. This may be useful for women who have cervical issues preventing sperm from passing through the cervix, or for men who have problems with sperm production or delivery. Intrauterine insemination allows sperm count to be verified and then delivered directly into the uterus. If desired, the woman may also take fertility drugs prior to intrauterine insemination, to increase the number of mature eggs available at the time of the procedure.
  • In vitro fertilization, in which mature eggs are harvested from a woman's ovaries, and fertilized outside of her body. After being fertilized in a laboratory, the resulting zygotes are allowed to develop for 3-5 days before one or more embryo is introduced to the uterus.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICIS). This practice, in which sperm are injected directly into the egg instead of being placed alongside it, is used in about 2/3 of in vitro fertilization cases. This technique can help in cases where it's suspected that the sperm and egg may have trouble binding to each other and merging for fertilization.
  • Donor egg or embryo. In cases where there are problems with a woman's eggs, healthy eggs harvested from a donor may be fertilized and transferred instead to allow a successful pregnancy. A donor embryo from another couple may also be used.
  • Surrogacy. In cases where a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy themselves, their embryo or sperm may be transferred to a woman with a healthy uterus, who can carry the baby to term.

Each type of ART has its own benefits and risks. Most types of ART have been observed to have similar success rates, with 20-22% of ART treatments resulting in the birth of at least one baby.

People undergoing ART may also be advised to pursue special education, counseling, and other measures to learn how to improve pregnancy health.

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