What is assisted reproductive technology?

According to the Center for Disease Control, ART includes all fertility treatments in which both the eggs and sperm are handled. In general, ART procedures involve surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with the sperm in a laboratory, and returning them to the women’s body or donating them to another woman. They do NOT include treatments in which only sperm are handled (i.e., intrauterine – or artificial – insemination) or procedures in which a woman takes drugs only to stimulate egg production without the intention of having eggs retrieved.


The types of ART include the following:


IVF (in vitro fertilization). Involves extracting a woman’s eggs, fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory, and then transferring the resulting embryos into the uterus through the cervix. For some IVF procedures, fertilization involves a specialized technique known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). In ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into the woman’s egg.


GIFT (gamete intrafallopian transfer). Involves using a fiber-optic instrument called a laparoscope to guide the transfer of unfertilized eggs and sperm (gametes) into the woman’s fallopian tubes through a small incisions in her abdomen.


ZIFT (zygote intrafallopian transfer). Involves fertilizing a woman’s eggs in the laboratory and then using a laparoscopeto guide the transfer of the fertilized eggs (zygotes) into her fallopian tubes.


In addition, ART often is categorized according to whether the procedure used a woman’s own eggs (non donor) or eggs from another woman (donor) and according to whether the embryos used were newly fertilized (fresh) or previously fertilized, frozen, and then thawed (frozen). Because an ART procedure includes several steps, it is typically referred to as a cycle of treatment.

What is an ART cycle?

Because ART consists of several steps over an interval of approximately 2 weeks, an ART procedure is more appropriately considered a cycle of treatment rather than a procedure at a single point in time. The start of an ART cycle is considered to be when a woman begins taking drugs to stimulate egg production or starts ovarian monitoring with the intent of having embryos transferred. All cycles that are started, even those that were discontinued, are counted in a clinic’s success rate.