Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are procedures that support reproduction through one or more of the following techniques:
- Transfer sperm into the woman's uterus
- Implant donated eggs
- Retrieve eggs from the ovaries and implant them
The eggs are fertilized either in the uterus or in a lab environment. Artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are the most common ART procedures.
Artificial Insemination (AI)
AI is the least complex ART technique; it is usually the first intervention used in uncomplicated infertility situations. Artificial insemination involves inserting the sperm either directly into the cervix (intracervical insemination) or into the uterus (intrauterine insemination, or IUI). IUI is considered the standard artificial insemination procedure.
IUI is conducted in the following situations:
- With woman whose cervical mucus is unreceptive
- If the man's sperm count is very low
- When donor sperm are used
- When both partners are experiencing unexplained infertility
When AI fails because couples have specific fertility-related defects, or when the woman is older, more advanced artificial insemination procedure, which entails the following:
- A woman usually (but not always) takes fertility drugs in advance.
- The man must produce sperm at the time the woman is ovulating.
- The sperm are subjected to certain so-called washing procedures. They are then inserted into the uterine cavity through a long, thin catheter.
- The administration of fertility drugs and sperm retrieval is timed so that the process can be administered at the time of ovulation.
Standard In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
An in vitro procedure is one that is performed in the laboratory.
A typical IVF procedure is as follows:
- The physician first induces superovulation using fertility drugs so that several eggs can be harvested from the ovary before they have been released from the follicles.
- To harvest eggs, the physician generally inserts a probe into the vagina and is guided by ultrasound. A needle is then used to drain the liquid from the follicles, and several eggs are retrieved.
- The eggs and sperm are combined in a dish. Between 48 to 72 hours later the eggs are usually fertilized.
- The resulting embryos are reimplanted into the woman's uterus.
- It takes about two weeks to determine if the process is successful.
Other IVF Techniques