Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a general term used to describe the variety of advanced medical methods used to help a couple conceive. ART is a division of the medical field of reproductive endocrinology and infertility which is an obstetrics and gynecology subspecialty with a focus on surgical techniques. Medical professionals who work in the field of ART have specialty training in numerous issues and causes of infertility including hormonal dysfunctions in both men and women.
There are numerous medical procedures used in assisted reproductive technology. Here's an overview of the most basic techniques.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the process of creating an embryo outside the female body and transferring the embryo in the hopes that it will implant in the uterus and develop into a full term baby.
Fertilization occurs in a petri dish. If fertilization occurs, the zygote (fertilized egg) is permitted to develop for a few days until it reaches embryo stage. Usually several embryos are grown and between two to four are implanted in the uterus in the hopes that one will begin to develop normally. Remaining embryos are frozen for future use.
Gammete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer
This procedure, normally referred to by the acronym GIFT, involves removing a woman's eggs and then mixing them with the man's sperm in lab. The mix of sperm and eggs is then immediately placed in the woman's fallopian tubes.
This acronym stands for Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer and refers to a procedure which involves retrieving a woman's eggs, fertilizing them outside of her body and then implanting the zygote into the fallopian tubes. The zygote is not allowed to grow to the embryo stage before transfer like it is with IVF. ZIFT has a higher success rate than GIFT because the physician knows for sure that an egg has been fertilized before it's returned to a woman's body. With GIFT it is the hope that mixing the sperm and the eggs together will increase the chance of fertilization, but the physician will not know for sure.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Insertion
This procedure, more easily referred to as ICSI, is used when the male partner has a low sperm count. It involves injecting a single sperm into an egg, allowing the egg to grow to early embryo stage and then implanting the embryo in the woman's uterus.
Follicle Aspiration Sperm Injection and Assisted Follicular Rupture (FASIAR)
This rather long and complicated name refers to a relatively new medical process where the egg is removed from the follicle with a syringe already containing sperm. The mixture is then immediately injected back into the follicle. It's a less expensive procedure and early studies indicate it might reduce the risk of multiple births.