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Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

What is Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)?

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are manipulated. Generally, ART procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory, and returning them to the woman’s body or donating them to another woman. They do not include treatments involving the handling of sperm alone, such as with artificial insemination. Cases in which women take medication to increase the production of eggs without the intention of retrieving the eggs from the woman’s body are also not considered forms of ART.

ART has been used in the United States since 1981 to help women become pregnant. The most common form of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves transferring fertilized human eggs into a woman’s uterus. Various forms of ART -- IVF in particular -- are very expensive and can take a great toll on a woman and/or couple with regard to time, emotion and expense.

There are several common methods of ART:

  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): IVF is the most effective and widely used form of ART. During IVF, the woman is given fertility medication that causes her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs are mature, they are removed from the woman’s body and mixed with the man’s sperm in the laboratory before being implanted into the woman’s uterus.
  • Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT): During a GIFT procedure, a woman is given hormones to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. Unfertilized eggs and sperm are placed into the woman's fallopian tube(s) via a surgical procedure called laparoscopy. Fertilization occurs in the fallopian tube before the embryo implants in the uterine wall.
  • Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) and Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET): Another ART procedure is zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), also called tubal embryo transfer (TET). Eggs are removed and fertilized in a lab before being transferred by laparoscopy to the fallopian tube rather than the uterus.
  • Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): ICSI is a procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into a mature egg. The embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus or fallopian tube. ICSI is used together with IVF to overcome severe male infertility.

What are some risks with ART procedures?

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control showed that babies born as a result of ART are two to four times more like to have certain types of birth defects. The risk is low, but prospective parents should discuss this with their physician.

What are the success rates?

Success rates vary per procedure. However, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) releases overall success rates which include a combined report for IVF, GIFT, and ZIFT. Success rates of a live birth range from 11.7% to 39.9% dependent on age.

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