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Fertility Treatments, De-Mystified

With names like intrauterine insemination and zygote intrafallopian transfer it’s no wonder that fertility treatment options, which sound like science fiction episodes, confuse and intimidate newcomers. So to simplify things, here are down-to-earth explanations of the top five fertility treatments:

IUI (intrauterine insemination)

A fine tube containing the best quality “washed” and treated sperm is inserted into the woman’s vagina through the cervix and into the uterus. The aim is to get the sperm closer to the site of fertilization. Either the partner’s sperm or donor sperm is used.

Insemination is carried out during the most fertile part of the woman’s cycle, sometimes two or three days in a row. IVF (in vitro fertilization)

Eggs are gathered from the woman’s ovaries and mixed with sperm. Fertilization takes place in a flat glass (Petri) dish, not in a test tube as is the popular belief. The fertilized egg or embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus. It sounds simple, but a single treatment cycle can take from four to six weeks, and will include phases where you’ll need to take injections every day and be monitored with blood work and ultrasound.

An Australian study recently found that women who conceive via IVF have a higher chance of having postpartum depression and early parenting problems. Fit Pregnancy magazine reported an Australian study where six percent of women who sought help for postpartum depression had conceived via IVF.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

This is a relatively new technique that uses a microinjection needle to inject a single sperm directly into the egg. And it means that men whose sperm quality or quantity was previously too poor for IVF treatment now have a better chance of fathering children biologically. GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer)

GIFT is similar to IVF except that fertilization occurs inside rather than outside the body. Once egg collection is complete, the eggs are assessed by an embryologist and up to three of the “best” eggs are mixed with about one hundred thousand motile sperm. The eggs and sperm are placed immediately in the woman’s fallopian tube in the same operation.

ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer)

ZIFT is a mixture of IVF and GIFT. Fertilization occurs in the laboratory, just as it does with IVF. Three zygotes (an egg after fertilization but before cell division has started) are then transferred to the woman’s fallopian tube much sooner than in the case of IVF because the natural environment of the body is a better place to encourage an embryo to develop than a petri dish.

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