Indeed, one of the greatest blessings of life is your child. Giving birth is a wonderful phenomenon, and no technology has been able to create life on its own. However, for those unable to conceive, technology is available to facilitate this natural process and help those groups of people who need help. This new assisted reproductive technology is a boon to many couples trying to have a baby. The use of assisted reproductive technology, also known as IVF, dates back to as early as the 1970s when the first baby was born using in vitro fertilisation. Assisted Reproductive Technology was introduced by scientists Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards.
So, what is assisted reproductive technology? Assisted Reproductive Technology is modern science's answer to both female and male infertility. How are assisted reproductive technologies helpful to humans? Since its inception, over 5 million babies have been born worldwide using assisted reproductive technology. This is because couples are planning for a family at later ages than in traditional ways. When family planning is done at a later age, the quality and quantity of eggs in women are decreased and sperm parameters are also affected. This leads to infertility among couples. Young couples are also facing problems in conceiving which may be attributed to lifestyle, lack of proper nutrition, stress and rising pollution. According to the latest data released by WHO, about 48 million couples experience infertility globally. Modern science has introduced assisted reproductive technology to address this global health issue. There are several types of assisted reproductive technology, each with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. What are some examples of assisted reproductive technologies? Let us find out more about each of these artificial reproductive technology & techniques:
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1. In Vitro Fertilization
Popularly known as IVF, this is the most preferred type of assisted reproductive technology. So how does IVF work? Firstly, a woman's egg and a man's sperm are combined in a laboratory under controlled conditions. Following this, the embryo that is formed is then transferred to the woman's uterus for further nurturing and growth.
For a good success of this method, it is first imperative to extract good number of eggs from the woman's ovaries. The eggs are formed by giving injections. Once the eggs or female gametes are separated from the ovaries, they are kept in a liquid along with the sperm for fertilisation. In traditional IVF-assisted reproductive technology, about 50,000 sperm cells are placed next to an egg in a laboratory petri dish. Fertilisation occurs when at least one of these sperm cells makes its way into the egg cell's cytoplasm and fertilizes egg nucleus.
2. Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
This method primarily addresses male infertility issues such as poor sperm motility, reduced sperm count and the inability of sperm to penetrate the egg cell. Using this method, a single sperm cell is directly injected into the egg cell's cytoplasm using a micropipette, which is a tiny needle. With this assisted reproductive technology, the chances of conception are higher than with the traditional IVF method in male factor and unexplained infertility.
3. Donor eggs
In this procedure, donor eggs are extracted from another woman, are fertilized with male partner sperm and the embryos formed are placed in the recipient woman's body to carry a baby and give birth. Women who have premature ovarian failure, a condition in which their bodies begin menopause before the age of 40, are potential candidates for this procedure. Also, females who plan pregnancy after 40 years of age can be benefitted. Likewise, donor sperms can be used in severe male factor infertility.
Surrogacy is a type of assisted reproductive technology which uses a surrogate woman's womb for a pregnancy achieved by fertilisation of both male and female gametes, none of which belong to her. This form of assisted reproductive technology is used by women whose womb does not support and nurture a fertilized egg.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
IUI is a common assisted reproductive technology used to treat several types of infertility, such as unexplained infertility, endometriosis-related infertility, mild male factor infertility, cervical factor infertility, ovulatory factor infertility etc. To treat these issues, a common method of artificial intrauterine insemination is performed. In IUI, washed and concentrated sperm cells are placed directly into the uterus around the time the ovary releases the eggs for fertilisation.
Besides addressing infertility, there are other benefits of assisted reproductive technology, such as:
1. Reduced risks of miscarriage: PGT (pre implantation genetic testing) in which genetic make up of embryos is checked, reduces rates of miscarriages in couples with known genetic syndromes and in couples with recurrent miscarriages.
2. Better chances of a healthy child: With PGT, embryos can be tested for known and common genetic syndromes such as Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis etc. this increases chances of delivering a healthy baby.
3. Allow control over time: Assisted reproductive technology helps people to plan and time their pregnancy according to their will. Using cryopreservation, they can also store their eggs or embryos for the future.
Besides its set of benefits, assisted reproductive technology has sparked a lot of debate amongst various religious and ethical groups. What is Assisted Reproductive Technology Act and Surrogacy Act? To formally address this issue in India, the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy Act was released in Jan 2022 to regulate assisted reproductive technology services across the country.
So, are you a couple seeking to achieve a successful pregnancy? Or a single woman who wishes to have his own child without a partner? Consult a specialist and learn more about assisted reproductive technology that caters to your needs the best.