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Want to get pregnant? What is assisted reproductive technologies (ART)?

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For different reasons, many women may postpone having a baby and being pregnant until a later stage of their lives. However, sometimes, there may be challenges down the road after a specific age or even at a younger age for women to get pregnant.

Infertility is a statistically significant problem in Canada and USA. Around 16% of Canadian and 19% of American couples experience infertility!

In the coming sections of this article, we will expand on methods to treat infertility, known as assisted reproductive technologies.

Introduction to assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are a group of medical procedures used to help couples conceive a child when they are unable to do so naturally. This inability may be due to females, males, or a combination.

ART procedures are typically used when other fertility treatments, such as medication or surgery, have failed.

How assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are used

The most common type of ART is in vitro fertilization (IVF). In IVF, eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a lab. The resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus.

Other types of ART include intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected into an egg; embryo cryopreservation, where embryos are frozen and stored for later use; and gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), where eggs and sperm are placed in the fallopian tubes, allowing fertilization to occur naturally.

ART can be an expensive and emotionally taxing process, but it can also be life-changing for couples struggling to conceive.

The success rates of assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

ART success rates vary depending on a number of factors, including the woman’s age, the cause of infertility, the number of embryos implanted, and the type of procedure used. Overall, the success rates of ART are increasing as the procedures become more refined and better understood.

IVF is the most successful type of ART, with success rates ranging from 20 to 35 percent per cycle, depending on the woman’s age. The success rate of GIFT is lower, at about 10 to 20 percent per cycle.

The success rates of ART are also affected by the cause of infertility. Infertility caused by ovulation problems can be treated with fertility drugs and artificial insemination, which has a success rate of about 15 percent per cycle. Infertility caused by blocked Fallopian tubes can often be treated with IVF, which has a success rate of about 25 percent per cycle.

Age is another critical factor in the success of ART—the success rates of IVF and GIFT decline with age. For women under the age of 35, the success rate of IVF is about 30 percent per cycle. For women over the age of 40, the success rate of IVF is about 15 percent per cycle.

The number of embryos implanted also affects the success rates of ART. The implantation of a single embryo has a success rate of about 20 to 25 percent per cycle. The implantation of two embryos has a success rate of about 35 to 40 percent per cycle. The implantation of three or more embryos has a success rate of about 50 to 60 percent per cycle.

The risks associated with assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

The most common risks associated with ART include the following:

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): This condition can occur when the ovaries are stimulated too much to produce eggs for fertilization. Symptoms of OHSS include abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and shortness of breath. In severe cases, OHSS can lead to kidney failure, blood clots, and even death.

Multiple births: When more than one embryo is implanted into the uterus, there is a higher risk of multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.). Multiple births can be associated with several complications, including premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental delays.

Infection: There is a small risk of infection associated with any surgical procedure. Infection of the reproductive organs can lead to infertility.

Ectopic pregnancy: This potentially life-threatening complication can occur when an embryo implants outside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies often result in miscarriage.

Birth defects or congenital disabilities: ART procedures increase the risk of certain birth defects, such as those affecting the brain, heart, and skeleton.

There is a risk of multiple births, as well as premature birth and low birth weight. There is also a small risk of developing ovarian cancer or breast cancer.

It is essential to discuss the risks of ART with your doctor before undergoing any treatment. While the risks of ART procedures are relatively low, it is vital to be aware of them to make an informed decision about whether or not to proceed with treatment.

The costs of assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

In vitro fertilization (IVF) and other assisted reproductive technologies (ART) are costly, and the price tag can be a barrier to treatment for many couples. The average cost of a single IVF cycle in Canada and the United States has climbed from an average of $12,500 in 2016 to around $17,500 USD in 2022, and the success rate is about 40 percent.

Most insurance plans do not cover IVF, so patients must pay out of pocket. Some patients may be able to get coverage for IVF through their employer-sponsored health insurance, but this is rare.

There are a few ways to finance IVF, such as through fertility loans or grants, but these can be difficult to obtain. Some couples also choose to fundraise for their IVF treatment.

The cost of IVF can be a financial burden for many couples, but it is important to remember that the cost of treatment should not be the only factor considered when making the decision to undergo ART. The success rate of IVF and the potential to have a healthy baby are also important factors to consider.

The benefits of assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

There are many benefits to using ART, including:

1. Increased success rates: With ART, the chances of achieving successful pregnancy are much higher than with traditional methods such as IVF.

2. Shorter treatment time: ART can often be completed in a shorter time frame than traditional methods, meaning you can start trying for a baby sooner.

3. Greater flexibility: ART provides more treatment options and allows for more personalized care.

4. Increased chance of having a baby: ART can help couples who have been trying to conceive for a long time to finally have the baby they’ve been dreaming of.

The challenges associated with assisted reproductive technologies (ART)

One of the challenges of ART is the cost. ART procedures can be expensive, and many insurance companies do not cover them. This can create a financial burden for couples who are already struggling with fertility issues.

Another challenge of ART is the emotional toll that can come with the procedures. The stress of fertility problems can be challenging to cope with, and the added pressure of undergoing medical procedures can be overwhelming. Some couples may also feel disappointed or guilty if they cannot conceive after undergoing ART.

Before starting any procedures, you must talk to your doctor about all the potential risks and challenges associated with ART. This way, you can be prepared for what to expect and be sure that you are making the best decision for your family.

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