ART helping millions of infertile couples become parents: How does it work?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most commonly used form of ART.

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is increasingly used to overcome infertility among couples. Read to know the different types of fertility treatment and how they work.

More and more couples are becoming infertile today. As per estimates, around 10%-15% of couples in reproductive age group are facing infertility problem. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a big hope for these infertile couples. ART has help millions of infertile couples worldwide to have children. Assisted Reproductive Technology refers to treatments and procedures used primarily to address infertility. It includes all fertility treatments which involve manipulation of eggs, sperm and embryos outside the body in order to achieve a pregnancy. Sometimes ART involves use of donor eggs (eggs from another woman), donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos.

Types of ART

There are different types of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Depending on the cause of your infertility, the following types of fertility treatments may be recommended:

In vitro fertilization (IVF)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most commonly used form of ART and it is also considered to be the most effective fertility treatment. Here mature eggs are retrieved from a woman's ovaries and manually combined with sperm in a laboratory dish. The fertilized egg (embryo) or eggs (embryos) are then transferred to a uterus (womb). The procedure can be done using your own eggs and your partner's sperm or may use eggs, sperm or embryos from a donor. In some cases, the fertilised egg may be implanted into another woman' uterus. This is known as Gestational Carrier IVF.

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Intracystoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

This type of fertility treatment is suggested for semen abnormalities and couples who have failed fertilization. During ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm (centre) of the egg. Once fertilization occurs, the embryo will be allowed to grow in the lab for 1 to 5 days before it is transferred to the woman's uterus.

Gamete intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

If you want to do IVF but avoid conception outside the body, this is the treatment you need. Just like in other IVF treatments, the eggs are stimulated and harvested. But instead of manually combining the egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, they are placed into the fallopian tube where fertilization happens. However, Gamete intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) is rarely done nowadays.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) or tubal embryo transfer is similar to IVF. Here fertilization occurs in the laboratory, but the very young embryo is transferred into the fallopian tube instead of the uterus. However, ZIFT has also become obsolete.

Risks Associated With ART

Women who conceived by ART are at a higher risk of maternal/perinatal complications such as multifetal gestations, prematurity, low birth weight, small for gestational age, perinatal mortality, caesarean delivery, placenta previa, abruptio placentae, preeclampsia, and birth defects.

Some studies indicated slightly higher blood pressure and altered cardiovascular function in children conceived by ART. But these are small studies and the findings need to be confirmed in larger controlled cohort studies. Most experts agree that the greatest risk of ART is still twin conception, suggesting that the doctors should on reducing twin birth rates by implementing single embryo transfer in ART.

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