In the UK, around one in six couples may struggle to conceive naturally. Fertility treatment, therefore, is often a lifeline.
The range of fertility options available to couples is enormous and growing all the time. In this article, we’re going to take a look at two varieties of fertility treatment that appear similar but are, in fact, quite different: IVF and ICSI.
Before we look at the difference between these two types of treatment and you start making any big decisions, you need to be sure that fertility treatment is something that you need.
Between 80 and 90 per cent of couples get pregnant within a year of trying. Usually, people only consider fertility treatment if pregnancy doesn’t occur after two years – long enough to rule out bad luck as the reason that conception did not take place.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 24 months but haven’t had any luck, then the time may have come to investigate your fertility options more thoroughly.
IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. In IVF, medical professionals combine sperm and eggs from the parents in a petri dish and then wait for nature to take its course. Sperm will naturally swim up to the egg and attempt to fertilise it, seeding it with the genetic information to create a human child. At no point does a clinician inject the egg with a sperm.
ICSI or Intracytoplasmic sperm injection is different. Here a sperm is injected directly into the egg, bypassing the egg wall.
Neither IVF nor ICSi is the same as intrauterine insemination. In IUI, sperm is injected into the uterus at the most fertile point in the month – the day after ovulation – and mimics the conclusion of sexual intercourse.
IUI is considered less invasive than either ICSI or IVF, but also less effective. It is the most common route of conception for single women and same-sex couples.
The type of fertility treatment that you choose depends heavily on the reason for your infertility. If infertility is sperm-related, ICSI is a popular choice. Sperm may have difficulty penetrating the egg without assistance. In ICSI treatment, the doctor artificially inserts the sperm into the egg, providing it with the extra impetus that it needs.
You’re much more likely to be considered for ICSI if you have low sperm count or your sperm doesn’t move as vigorously as they should when examined under a microscope. Doctors will also recommend ICSI if you have had a vasectomy.
IVF is a more general procedure designed to encourage the sperm to fertilise eggs. It’s approved for women under the age of 37 who are not obese and have good ovarian health. The reason for these guidelines is to make the IVF as safe and effective for women as possible.
Knowing which type of fertility treatment to use can be a challenge, so it is something that you’ll need to decide after extensive consultation with your doctor.