Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

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

Assisted Reproductive Technology refers to any fertility 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.

Assisted reproductive technology is used in cases where the uterus is thought to be healthy and capable of pregnancy, but other approaches, such as fertility tracking and medications, have not succeeded in producing pregnancy. 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 is implanted in 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 avalaible eggs. This increases the chance of a successful conception, but also increases the chances of a multiple birth.

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 implanted instead to allow a successful pregnancy. A donor embryo from another couple may also be used.
  • Surrogacy. In cases where a couple is unable to carry a pregnancy themselves, their embryo or sperm may be implanted in a woman with a healthy uterus, who can carry the baby to term.
  • Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT). In this procedure, eggs are harvested and mixed with sperm outside the body, then immediate surgically implanted into the fallopian tube. These embryos will travel down the fallopian tube immediately after fertilization, just like a naturally conceived embryo would. Although some think this earlier introduction of embryos immediately after conception increases the chances of implantation, this procedure requires surgery, has added risks, and may not work for women with fallopian tube problems. It has not been demonstrated to have higher success rates than IVF.
  • Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT). Just like GIFT, this involves fertilization outside the body, rapidly followed by surgical introduction into the fallopian tubes. In this version, doctors wait until they can be sure that fertilization has occurred before introducing the zygotes into the fallopian tubes.

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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