If you and your partner have been unable to conceive naturally, Dr. Sonja Kristiansen and our team can use assisted reproductive technologies, or ART, to improve your chances of becoming pregnant. We provide sophisticated treatments, such as IVF, or in vitro fertilization, to help patients who suffer from male infertility, female infertility, or both. To date, more than five million babies have been born as a result of this safe, effective treatment. If you opt for IVF treatment, Dr. Kristiansen and our fertility specialists will work closely with you throughout this process, customizing your care to suit your needs and preferences. In the following blog post, we explain the IVF and ICSI treatment options offered at our Houston fertility practice.
What Is IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)?
During the IVF process, Dr. Kristiansen and our team stimulate the growth of eggs. Once harvested, we combine the eggs with the male patient’s sperm sample in our lab. After a few days, we insert healthy, fertilized embryos into the woman’s uterus, where they may implant, resulting in pregnancy. Generally, IVF treatment involves six basic steps:
- Ovarian stimulation, during which we will provide individualized hormone treatments to the female patient to increase egg production.
- Semen collection and processing.
- Egg retrieval. Dr. Kristiansen will insert a thin needle through the vaginal wall or abdomen and use gentle suction to remove eggs. We will then combine the collected eggs and sperm in our lab.
- Fertilization assessment. After about one day, our embryologist will examine your samples to determine if fertilization has occurred and analyze the quality of the embryos. Some of these may also be cryopreserved for later use, as needed.
- AH, or assisted hatching. This is an additional procedure we can perform to optimize your chances for conception with IVF. During AH, our embryologist will subtly adjust the outer membrane of the embryo so that it is more likely to attach to the uterine lining.
- Embryo transfer. In this final stage of treatment, Dr. Kristiansen will use a thin tube to insert matured embryos into the woman’s uterus, where they may implant.
Who Is a Candidate?
IVF can help a wide range of patients and couples. You and your partner may be eligible for this procedure if:
- You have had unprotected sex for a year or longer without conceiving (or six months, if the female partner is over 35 years old).
- You are both in good general health.
- One or both of you suffer from conditions that affect your fertility.
- You need to use donated eggs or sperm, or a gestational carrier (also called a surrogate).
- You have realistic expectations about the process and results of IVF. This treatment can be extremely rewarding, but it is somewhat lengthy and can be physically, emotionally, and financially taxing. Dr. Kristiansen can detail the procedure for you and help you understand potential side effects at your initial consultation.
What Is ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection)?
ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, is an enhancement to IVF that can further improve your chances of conception. ICSI affects steps two and three of the IVF process. If the male partner is unable to deliver a sperm sample using the traditional method, our specialists can use one of two techniques to harvest it:
- During MESA, or Microscopic Epididymal Sperm Aspiration, we will create a small opening in the patient’s scrotum and use tiny instruments to aspirate sperm from the epididymis, a testicular duct.
- If MESA is not an option due to an obstruction in the testicles or very low sperm count, we can use the TESA (Testicular Sperm Aspiration or Extraction) method, which involves removing a small amount of testicular tissue, then collecting any sperm contained within this sample.
At step three of the IVF process, our fertility specialists can use the harvested sperm to perform ICSI. Rather than simply combining the egg and sperm, our embryologist will use microscopic instruments to inject sperm directly into an egg.
Who Is a Candidate?
You may qualify for ICSI if:
- You have had one or more previous unsuccessful IVF cycles.
- The male partner suffers from sperm issues, such as abnormal morphology, low sperm count, or poor motility.
- A blockage in the testes means that the male patient cannot provide a conventional sperm sample. Using ICSI helps to make sure the man will not need to undergo MESA or TESA more than once. (We may also recommend freezing collected sperm as a precautionary measure).
Dr. Kristiansen will review your records, conduct any necessary examinations, and discuss your concerns with you to determine if ICSI may be appropriate for your case.
Find Out More about IVF and ICSI
Dr. Kristiansen and our team are dedicated to helping patients achieve their family goals with advanced fertility treatments. To learn more about IVF and ICSI or discover how these treatments may benefit you, please contact the Houston Fertility Center today to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kristiansen.