ART – what?

ART stands for Assisted Reproductive Treatment. This is the general term for the different fertility treatments: artificial insemination, IVF, IVF-ICSI, IVM, etc.

If spontaneous natural conception is proving difficult, various ART treatments are available.
  • We already talked about artificial insemination (IUI) under Insemination and stimulation.
  • But sometimes IUI is not appropriate or does not lead to pregnancy. Then IVF (with or without ICSI) may provide a solution. 
    In IVF/ICSI, fertilisation (the fusion of sperm and egg) does not take place in the woman's body, but in a petri dish in the laboratory ('in vitro' means 'in glass'). The embryos form in this dish, hence the name 'test tube baby'.
  • An extra treatment that becomes possible after IVF/ICSI is FRET, an embryo transfer with thawed embryos.
  • And then there is in-vitro maturation (IVM), a patient-friendly treatment yielding increasingly better results.
    IVM allows in vitro-development of embryos after collecting immature eggs and maturing those in the lab (so also in vitro).

IVF-ICSI in a nutshell

Difficult but not painful 

The essence of IVF treatment is that fertilisation does not take place in the fallopian tube as in nature, but rather in a dish in the laboratory. The process is largely as follows.
  • Suppression and stimulation
    Your natural menstrual cycle is temporary replaced by medically induced cycle. Hormones are administered to stimulate the ovaries. The aim is to produce several eggs simultaneously.
  • Egg retrieval
    Just before ovulation, the follicles are punctured and drained with a fine needle, and the ripe eggs are collected.
  • In the laboratory
    • we either put the eggs in a dish with selected sperm of your partner (or a donor);
    • or inject one sperm in every egg to fertilise it. This is knows as IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmatic sperm injection).
    • The dish is then placed in an incubator which replicates the conditions of the uterus. If all goes well, a number of the eggs will fertilise and embryos will form.
  • Embryo transfer
    One (or two) of these embryos are transferred to your uterus in the hope that it will implant and grow into a healthy child.

Sound advice

What can I do to give my treatment a greater chance of success? Read it all here.

And click Folic acid if you want to know what every woman who wants to be pregnant should know about it.

Difficult but not painful   

In-vitro fertilization is both an easy and a difficult treatment.Physically it is relatively straightforward. 
  • IVF comprises a number of generally painless interventions which carry very little risk.
  • The side effects of the medication are usually restricted to abdominal pain during ovarian stimulation.
  • Treatment is entirely on an 'outpatient' basis. You are not required to stay a single night in the hospital.
However, the mental impact of IVF is more severe. The uncertainty and fear about the success of the treatment are stress factors which can put an enormous strain on any relationship.