Technology Is Changing The Infertility Landscape
Known for making life easier, technology is more than just fancy TVs, entire house control systems, and the brain inside car engines. Technology is changing how infertility is treated. People who could not have children before are now becoming parents. Several ways technology has improved the treatment of infertility includes: tracking ovulation, egg freezing, genetic screening, uterine transplants, artificial insemination and assisted reproductive technology.
The beginning of every fertility journey surrounds ovulation. The timing needs to be just right for conception to occur. Though the old-fashioned calendar and thermometer methods still work, ovulation tracking now includes cellphone apps and wearable fertility trackers. Cell phone aps take the thinking out of ovulation tracking. The aps let the user know when the most fertile days are and can even send reminder alerts.
Wearable fertility trackers are the newest rage in tackling infertility. Worn as bracelets or armbands, the fertility trackers monitor body temp, sleep, and activity levels. The trackers take the need out of having to compile multiple pieces of information. The trackers do the work Common non-wearable tracker types include body temp trackers, luteinizing hormone trackers, and electrolyte level trackers. Certain trackers are publicized to have an above 90% accuracy rate!
Known as cryo-preservation or vitrification, egg freezing involves storing unfertilized eggs at subzero temperatures for future use. The reason can be genetic, a result of a medical condition, or the simple desire to store eggs for use in the future. Most females that undergo egg freezing are around 35 years of age. Freezing eggs as young as 20 years old can be done, although the procedure may not be needed as there are still approximately 10-15 fertile years ahead. Natural conception may still occur. Currently there is no known time limit for egg freezing. There have even been reports of successful pregnancies occurring after eggs had been frozen for over 15 years.
Genetic screening lets an individual know if the fertility issues lie with the eggs in question, or the overall health of one or both parents. The tests can determine if the infertility is hereditary or a one-off occurrence. If the plan is to get pregnant in the future, genetic screening can shine light on any known conditions that could cause fertility issues. Fortunately, positive tests don’t always guarantee the newborn will develop the disease.
The first successful pregnancy post-transplant occurred in Sweden in October 2014. The uterus was transplanted from a live donor. The first reported post-mortem donor resulting in a positive pregnancy occurred in the US in 2017. Thanks to the handful of successful pregnancies, uterine transplants are becoming more and more of a viable option. Uterine transplants would not be possible without technology to perform the genetic matching or assist with the surgical procedure.
Artificial Insemination involves the insertion of sperm into a woman’s cervix/fallopian tubes. Timing of the procedure is critical as the window of opportunity from egg release is only 12 hours. AI is rarely just the insertion of sperm. AI will likely include procedures such as ovulation tracking, ultrasounds, and fertility drugs. Combining reproductive practices ensures a higher chance of success. AI techniques include: intracervical insemination (ICI), intrauterine insemination (IUI), intrauterine tubo peritoneal insemination (IUTPI), and intratubal insemination (ITI).
Assisted reproductive technology
Assisted reproductive technology (ART) includes all fertility procedures involving both the eggs and sperm. The eggs and sperm are joined outside of the body and then reintroduced once fertilization has occurred. Various forms of ART include in vitro fertilization (IVF), frozen embryo transfer (FET), zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). The most common form of ART is in vitro fertilization. As with artificial insemination, assisted reproduction techniques include multiple elements. Ovulation tracking, ultrasounds, and fertility drugs are a few of the procedures used in the ART process.
Technology has developed into one of the most useful tools to treat infertility. The ability to track ovulation, freeze eggs for future use, perform genetic screenings, and undergo uterine transplants or assisted reproductive procedures has opened doors that used to be welded shut. Technology has changed the future of infertility.