What is ICSI and how does it differ from IVF?


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What is ICSI?

A question that I had following my initial infertility diagnosis was what is ICSI? When I got the bad news, the doctor continued to explain potential fertility treatments but the initial shock meant that nothing was registering. It was like in one of those war movies when a bomb goes off and the protagonist walks around and can hear nothing but a high-pitched ringing in his ears. This is despite the fact that there are guns shooting and bombs exploding all around him. The doctor was talking to me and I could see her lips moving clearly but I could not hear what she was saying. If the bomb of male infertility was just dropped on you then you are probably asking yourself what is ICSI?

ICSI is is an assisted reproduction method that is used to give infertile couples the chance of having children. It usually used when the fertility issue lies with the quality of the man’s sperm. My wife and I have been through three ICSI treatments and are lucky enough to have twins as a result. The first two failed ICSI treatments were really difficult for us and put a lot of strain on our relationship. Our third ICSI treatment was a miracle and we are so happy that the stars aligned the procedure was a success. If you are having fertility issues then this post should help you to see if ICSI is right for you or not.

What is ICSI? How does it differ from IVF?

Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a modification of in vitro fertilisation (IVF). With ICSI the fertility doctor will select a single sperm and inject directly into an egg. This is different than IVF. With IVF, sperm is placed near an egg and with the hope of fertilisation. My wife and I went through three ICSI treatments as I had issues with the motility and morphology of my sperm.

How do you know if ICSI is right for you?

Your fertility doctor should be able to tell you if ICSI is right for you or not. In many cases of male infertility, ICSI is the preferred method. The fertility doctor will select the strongest sperm and inject it directly into to the egg.

In what cases is ICSI used?

  • Low sperm count is an issue
  • Sperm morphology(shape) issues or poor sperm motility(movement)
  • Low fertilisation rates from previous IVF treatments
  • Sperm must be collected surgically
  • You’ve had a vasectomy
  • Ejaculation is an issue
  • Low sperm production is a problem
  • Frozen sperm(of lower quality) is being used
  • Embryos are being tested.
  • There is a low yield of eggs at retrieval.

What is the ICSI procedure?

What is ICSI

  1. Fertility drugs are taken to stimulate the Ovaries to encourage the development and maturity of the eggs
  2. Progress will be monitored through an ultrasound and blood tests
  3. Through a small surgery, the mature eggs are collected
  4. The male sperm sample is given
  5. A holding pipette is used to hold the egg
  6. A single sperm is collected using a sharp, delicate and hollow needle
  7. The needle is then inserted into the egg
  8. The Sperm is then injected into the egg and the needle is removed
  9. The next day, the eggs are checked to see if there is evidence of normal fertilisation.
  10. The eggs are left to fertilise for 3-5 days
  11. After 3-5 days the embryos are placed inside the womb.
  12. 14 days later a pregnancy scan will show if the embryos have begun, to develop in the womb.

For couples that go through an ICSI treatment cycle, the procedure is more or less the same as conventional IVF. The difference between IVF and ICSI lays in how the eggs are fertilised outside of the body.

If you are going through ICSI or IVF then I wish you luck. It is a very trying time but the potential rewards way outweigh the risks. Having been through three treatments, I know how hard it is. I also know how amazing it is to have to babies as a result of ICSI. Stay strong positive and work hard on the treatment and your relationship and you can become an ICSI success story. Please sign up for a newsletter for further tips and tricks on how to get through IVF/ICSI.

Further Reading:




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