- by Pocahontas
It’s amusing to hear some of the “old folks” talk about fertility treatments. Since things like Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and In vitro Fertilization (IVF) didn’t exist back in their day, they often look at these procedures with hesitation and think they would be unnecessary if the woman undergoing them would “just relax which would help her get pregnant the old fashioned way”. But if you are one of the unfortunate women in the world who suffer from an IF diagnosis, you may have to get used to hearing unsolicited “elder” advice and even advice from peers like, “why not just adopt?” when you inform people that you are doing ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology). These misguided and sometimes in appropriate comments can come with the territory. What might actually help instead is to explain the usefulness of such procedures in the lives of hundreds of thousands of women for whom they bring the gift of life in the form of a baby.
IUI and IVF are two of the most popular (yet controversial) ART tx (treatments) in the IF world today. There are others like ZIFT and GIFT that are used far less frequently. So let’s examine what each of these tx entail and which ones suit what IF situations. Remember only an experienced RE will be able to tell what will give you an optimal chance at pregnancy given your circumstances.
IUI stands for Intrauterine Insemination, but you’ll sometimes hear it referred to as “Artificial Insemination” depending on the source. Understanding-infertility.com describes it as the woman being, “ injected with carefully prepared sperm from the husband, partner, or a donor”. This technique can be used in instances where there is a male IF problem (like low motility…meaning the sperm aren’t “swimming” properly) or where the vaginal canal for whatever reason is too acidic for sperm to survive. The sperm is processed, drawn up into a catheter and injected directly into the woman’s uterus bypassing the vaginal canal altogether. Sometimes it is done without any medication. Often times it is done in conjunction with Clomid or an injectible hormone (like the ones described in Part II of this series). The drug is given to help the woman either have a stronger ovulation or ovulate more than one egg to give the sperm “more targets” so to speak.
IVF stands for In vitro Fertilization, and hopefully you won’t have to hear anyone archaically refer to it as “test tube babies” (although you might depending on the generation of the person). It is a more invasive treatment than IUI and is typically used when all other treatment options have not been successful. However, there are some instances in which IVF is the first course of action. These would be cases where a woman has had to have a fallopian tubes removed previously, where both tubes are blocked and unable to be repaired, or in cases of women with their tubes tied who decide they want more children and IVF is their only option. It is also used before other ART techniques when a man has had testicular cancer and may have to rely on previously frozen sperm or has such a low sperm count that ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) has to be used during IVF. ICSI is a procedure in which one single sperm is injected into the egg under a microscope using a needle. During IVF, a woman’s eggs are fertilized outside her womb and requires stimulating her ovulation (typically with injectible drugs), a retrieval of her eggs under conscious sedation or general anesthesia, incubating sperm and eggs together, and then tx’ing the resulting embryos back into the woman’s uterus typically 3 to 5 day later.
ZIFT (Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer) is a similar procedure to IVF except a woman must have healthy tubes for it to work since the embryos are tx’ed into her tubes as opposed to her uterus. For this reason it is sometimes referred to as Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET).
GIFT (Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer) is also similar to IVF and ZIFT except once the woman’s egg is mixed with her partner’s sperm, they are immediately placed back in the fallopian tube which means fertilization takes place there. Whereas with IVF and ZIFT fertilization takes place outside of the woman’s body.
Regardless the ART procedure used to achieve pregnancy, every IF woman’s desired end result is a healthy baby. It may not be as easy for a woman suffering from IF to achieve that result as a woman who has no issues conceiving, but if you have been diagnosed with a problem that makes it difficult to get pregnant, take heart in knowing that technology and medicine have come a very long way and with the right tx, you, too, can experience motherhood.