What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility

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Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a term used to describe a number of different fertility treatments performed to help achieve pregnancy. The following are defined:

  • In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

  • Intra-Cervical Insemination (ICI)

  • Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI)

  • Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

  • Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

  • Egg donation

  • Sperm donation

  • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

  • Surrogacy

IN VITRO FERTILISATION (IVF)

Medication is used to suppress a woman’s natural menstrual cycle. The ovaries are encouraged to produce more eggs than usual with medication. The development of the eggs is checked with an ultrasound scan and medication helps stimulate the eggs to mature. A needle is inserted into the ovaries and eggs are surgically removed, this is known as egg collection. In a laboratory, the eggs are left with sperm to fertilise. Once fertilised, one or two embryos are transferred into the uterus. Any spare embryos can be frozen for future use. There is then a two-week wait to see if the procedure is a success.

Can I use donor egg or sperm?

Eggs and sperm can be biological or from a donor.

Do I have to pay for IVF?

In England, your local Clinical Commissioning Group decides whether they are going to offer you NHS-funded IVF. If you are not eligible for NHS-funded treatment, you can pay a private clinic to carry out the procedure, but this comes at a cost.

What are the risks involved?

  • Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome: Medication causes over stimulation of the ovaries, where too many eggs are developed.

  • Side-effects to medication used during IVF treatment, such as bloating, hot ushes and headaches

  • Multiple births if more than one embryo is transferred back into the womb

  • Ectopic pregnancy, which is a pregnancy that grows in a part of the body where it shouldn’t, such as the fallopian tubes

  • IVF may not be successful. The success rate depends on a number of factors including female age and cause of infertility

INTRA-CERVICAL INSEMINATION (ICI)

A process used to help improve chances of pregnancy. A tube is inserted within the vagina and unwashed sperm are directly inserted into the uterus when a woman is ovulating. It’s then left up to nature to do the rest.

INTRA-UTERINE INSEMINATION (IUI)

In this procedure a man provides a sample to a laboratory. Sperm is then removed from the semen. The best looking sperm are either frozen and then thawed when ready for insertion or they are inserted straight away directly into the uterus when a woman is ovulating.

INTRA-CYTOPLASMIC SPERM INJECTION (ICSI)

A procedure carried out in a laboratory used in cases of sperm- related infertility. A sperm is injected into an egg. Once it starts to divide, it is transferred into the uterus.

PRE-IMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS (PGD)

This procedure involves checking the chromosomes of embryos for specific genetic abnormalities. It’s carried out along with IVF. Those embryos free of genetic abnormalities are transferred into the uterus. It tends to be used by those who have inherited diseases in their family or a history of multiple miscarriages.

EGG DONATION

A healthy young woman donates her eggs, which are then fertilised in a laboratory. An embryo is then transferred into another woman’s uterus.

SPERM DONATION

A healthy man donates his sperm that is either injected into a woman’s reproductive organs or used to fertilise an egg in a laboratory.

FROZEN EMBRYO TRANSFER (FET)

This is where embryos are frozen to be used for future use. They are then thawed and transferred into the uterus. Sometimes embryos don’t survive the thawing process. Unused embryos can be stored, donated or discarded.

SURROGACY

This involves a woman carrying a baby for another couple. There are two types, straight surrogacy when the surrogate provides her own egg or host surrogacy, when the surrogate doesn’t provide her own egg and the embryo is instead created in vitro and then transferred to the uterus.


Juliana Kassianos