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Infertility & Reproduction Health Center

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Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

What is assisted reproductive technology (ART)?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a term that describes several different methods used to help infertile couples. ART involves removing eggs from a woman's body, mixing them with sperm in the laboratory, and putting the embryos back into a woman's body.

How often is assisted reproductive technology (ART) successful?

Success rates vary and depend on many factors. Some things that affect the success rate of ART include:

  • Age of the partners
  • Reason for infertility
  • Fertility clinic
  • Type of ART
  • If the egg is fresh or frozen
  • If the embryo is fresh or frozen

The CDC collects success rates on ART for some fertility clinics. According to the 2003 CDC report on ART, the average percentage of ART cycles that led to a healthy baby were as follows:

  • 37.3% in women under the age of 35
  • 30.2% in women aged 35-37
  • 20.2% in women aged 37-40
  • 11.0% in women aged 41-42

ART can be expensive and time-consuming. But it has allowed many couples to have children that otherwise would not have been conceived. The most common complication of ART is multiple fetuses. But this is a problem that can be prevented or minimized in several different ways.

What are the different types of assisted reproductive technology (ART)?

Common methods of ART include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)means fertilization outside of the body. IVF is the most effective ART. It is often used when a woman's fallopian tubes are blocked or when a man produces too few sperm. Doctors treat the woman with a drug that causes the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once mature, the eggs are removed from the woman. They are put in a dish in the lab along with the man's sperm for fertilization. After 3 to 5 days, healthy embryos are implanted in the woman's uterus.
  • Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)or Tubal embryo transfer is similar to IVF. Fertilization occurs in the laboratory. Then the very young embryo is transferred to the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
  • Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)involves transferring eggs and sperm into the woman's fallopian tube. So fertilization occurs in the woman's body. Few practices offer GIFT as an option.
  • Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is often used for couples in which there are serious problems with the sperm. Sometimes it is also used for older couples or for those with failed IVF attempts. In ICSI, a single sperm is injected into a mature egg. Then the embryo is transferred to the uterus or fallopian tube.

ART procedures sometimes involve the use of donor eggs (eggs from another woman), donor sperm, or previously frozen embryos. Donor eggs are sometimes used for women who can not produce eggs. Also, donor eggs or donor sperm are sometimes used when the woman or man has a genetic disease that can be passed on to the baby.

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