To most, pregnancy should be as simple as having unprotected sex. But several factors must happen for a successful full-term pregnancy. To start, both eggs and sperm must be healthy. Mobility: the sperm must be strong enough to meet the egg with a clear path through the woman’s fallopian tubes. Morphology: the sperm must also be the right shape to fertilize the egg. The resulting embryo must be strong enough to attach and develop in the uterus. If one or more scenario encounters problems, infertility occurs.
What causes the disease?
Contrary to popular belief, infertility is not only a female problem. Both men and women can have medical conditions causing the issue. For women, key reasons include endometriosis, Pelvic inflammatory disease, ovarian cysts, and fibroids. In men, low sperm count, no sperm or abnormal sperm causes infertility. But one of the biggest causes can be age. From age 30 onwards, women create fewer eggs, increasing the odds of infertility. Studies show smoking and other poor lifestyle choices impact fertility.
What are your options?
Couples dealing with infertility should know there are options to treat infertility. Medicine, and surgical procedures are the first lines of defense. Additionally, techniques called assisted reproductive technology (ART) help couples get pregnant. Each technique brings different degrees of success for different scenarios.
The GIFT of fertility
Gamete intrafallopian transfer or GIFT is an ART technique to treat infertility. Doctors extract eggs and sperm, combine and transplant them into the fallopian tubes. Reinsertion occurs via laparoscopy with the condition the tubes are healthy. The goal is to allow the egg and sperm to fertilize naturally, though determining the procedure’s success is difficult. GIFT is popular among couples who do not believe in external fertilization.
Straight to the ZIFT
ZIFT and GIFT are similar in steps but differ in execution. Like GIFT, Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer or ZIFT occurs with the egg and sperm removed, combined and reinserted. The major difference is fertilization occurs in vitro. Like GIFT, the embryo goes into the fallopian tube. Both techniques happen within 24 hours for maximum effect and require laparoscopy.
In vitro fertilization is the most popular ART procedure to date. GIFT and ZIFT are both IVF techniques. Doctors provide medicine to stimulate egg production. Through surgery, doctors remove the eggs, combining with sperm in a lab to stimulate fertilization. After a few days, surgeons will then reinsert the embryos into the uterus. IVF is the gold standard of ART techniques, used more than GIFT and ZIFT combined. IVF has a live birth rate as high as 40%.
A direct approach with ICSI
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI has changed the game for male factor infertility. With traditional IVF, the extracted sperm and egg interact and potentially fertilize without help. With ICSI, the clinic injects the sperm directly into the egg. ICSI takes IVF to the next level. This technique has a high level of difficulty. But successful clinics can inject one sperm into the egg, allowing infertile fathers to still be the biological parent.
There is hope
Infertility continues to be a serious issue affecting millions of couples. Luckily, there is a wealth of options doctors use before resorting to ART techniques. Doctors provide couples with medicine or IUI options. Once unsuccessful, couples can explore GIFT, ZIFT, IVF, or ICSI with a clinic devoted to providing the best service possible.