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Bust a Myth about Fertility Treatment
Fertility treatment is a general term that refers to the methods to achieve pregnancy when couples are experiencing infertility. There are many ways a couple can be assisted, including:
- fertility drugs;
- reproductive surgery;
- intrauterine insemination (IUI);
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization (IVF); or
ART refers to all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled, such as IVF, a procedure that involves surgically removing eggs from a woman’s ovaries, combining them with sperm in the laboratory and returning them to a woman’s uterus. In addition to IVF, there are other advanced treatments such as ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) and egg donation. However, the majority of patients who have been diagnosed with infertility find that they can successfully achieve with the help of fertility medications or reproductive surgery — only a small percentage (approximately 5 percent) require advanced treatments.
According to Centers for Disease Control’s 2008 ART Success Rates Report, 148,055 ART cycles were performed at 436 reporting clinics in the United States during 2008, resulting in 46,326 live births (deliveries of one or more living infants) and 61,426 infants — a success rate of over 31 percent. The CDC estimates that ART accounts for slightly more than 1 percent of total U.S. births.
Patients may also be hesitant to try IVF because of the risk of becoming pregnant with twins, triplets or higher order multiples. But with medical advances, ART has come a long way from the early days of transferring six embryos in the hopes of getting just one to implant. “One of the biggest misconceptions about in vitro fertilization is that twins are the desired outcome,” says Eric Levens, M.D., a fertility doctor with Shady Grove Fertility Center in Annapolis, Maryland. “In many circumstances, the risk of twins can be greatly reduced by performing a single embryo transfer.”
Newer techniques such as blastocyst stage culture and transfer are maximizing pregnancy rates and minimizing the risk of a multiple pregnancy. By growing embryos for five days in the laboratory and enabling them to reach the blastocyst stage of development, fertility doctors can better determine which embryos have the greatest likelihood of implantation.
Research has shown that success rates for single embryo transfer vs. double embryo transfer are similar in certain circumstances. "In a favorable patient who is having a blastocyst (Day 5 embryo) transfer, one blastocyst is an equivalent pregnancy rate to two," says R. Stan Williams, MD, president of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART), and professor and chair of the Department of OB-GYN at the University of Florida.