Risks of Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

Gamete intrafallopian transfer, or GIFT, is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in which sperm and eggs are inserted into the fallopian tube, where the egg can then be fertilized naturally within the woman's body. Like any ART procedure, it carries certain risks which much be considered before a woman or couple struggling with infertility makes the decision to pursue the procedure.

Risks General to ART

ART in general carries several risks, regardless of the specific type of ART that is used. These include:

  • Hormonal side effects. In vitro fertilization (IVF), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) and GIFT all make use of hormone treatments in order to stimulate the woman's body to produce multiple eggs in a single monthly cycle. These can have uncomfortable and even dangerous side effects. Because of the possibility that these treatments can cause severe problems such as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), in which the ovaries overreact to the hormone treatments and swell extensively. Because of these risks, fertility treatments should be administered under close supervision.
  • Risk of multiple pregnancies. Multiple pregnancies are much more common in those who have conceived via ART than in those who conceive naturally. GIFT is no exception. Because multiple eggs are placed in the fallopian tubes, the possibility that more than one of these eggs will be fertilized is quite high. Multiple pregnancies naturally carry greater risk to the mother as well as to the children, and often end in premature birth.
  • Additional pregnancy risks. ART carries the same risks as any other pregnancy, including ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placenta previa, and other complications faced by any pregnant woman. The risk of ectopic pregnancy, in which the egg implants in the wall of the fallopian tube instead of in the uterine wall, is somewhat higher in ART, however. The risk of miscarriage in ART is roughly the same as it is with natural conception, although the emotional results of a miscarriage after ART can be more devastating.

Risks Specific to GIFT

Because GIFT is a unique procedure, it carries certain specific risks, including:

  • Risks associated with anesthetics. GIFT requires two separate procedures during which the woman is usually placed under anesthesia. Anesthesia is used during the harvesting of the eggs as well as during the laparascopic procedure to place the egg/sperm mixture in the fallopian tube. This increases the risk of reactions to anesthetic.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is slightly more common in IVF than in natural conception. It is more common in GIFT than in IVF, since the sperm and eggs are placed in the fallopian tube, thus increasing the chances that the egg might implant in the tube rather than in the uterus.
  • Uncertainty about causes of failed pregnancy. In GIFT, fertilization occurs within the woman's body, so if pregnancy does not occur, it is impossible to tell if the eggs were not fertilized or were fertilized and failed to implant properly. This makes it more difficult to determine what the next step should be after an unsuccessful treatment. For those who have had a great deal of trouble conceiving, this can be frustrating if they must undergo multiple procedures.
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