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What Are Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)?

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Updated August 25, 2009

Question: What Are Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)?
Answer:

Assisted Reproductive Technologies, or ART, encompasses a variety of techniques that are used to bring about a pregnancy. The ovaries are stimulated to produce many eggs which are surgically removed when mature. They are combined in the lab with the sperm where they will hopefully fertilize to make an embryo. They are allowed to grow in the lab for a few days after which they will be transferred back into the woman’s uterus. Some of the ART procedures used by the lab include Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), Assisted Hatching (AH), Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) and egg or sperm donation.

  • ICSI - A procedure where the embryologist directly injects a single sperm into the egg, causing fertilization. This may be helpful in cases where there is poor quality sperm from the male partner, or where there is an issue with the egg where fertilization can’t occur due to changes in the membranes surrounding the egg.
  • AH - Assisted hatching occurs in the lab prior to the embryo transfer. Before the embryo can implant in the uterine wall, it must break out of its membrane. In some women, particularly older women, this membrane is hardened, making it difficult for the embryo to hatch and implant. The technician will use a laser or a mild acid to thin the shell, enabling hatching.
  • PGD - In women with many miscarriages, couples who are known carriers for genetic diseases, or couples who have already had a child with a genetic disease, PGD is performed to distinguish genetically healthy embryos. Before embryo transfer, a single cell is removed from the embryo and is studied in a special lab. This allows only genetically normal embryos to be transferred.
  • Egg/Sperm Donation - There are many reasons why an egg or sperm donor may be used. A woman may use an egg donor if she has had her ovaries removed, is menopausal, is older or has not had success with multiple attempts at IVF with her own eggs. A woman who carries a known genetic disease may also elect to use donor eggs to prevent the disease from being passed onto their child. Donor sperm may be used in situations where a man does not produce his own sperm, the sperm is of poor quality, or has had chemotherapy which has left him sterile. Same sex couples or single women may also choose to use donor sperm if they want to have a child.

Source:

Fertility Lifelines: ART. Advanced Reproductive Technologies. Accessed April 2008.

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