What is ICSI treatment? – Learn how it works step by step
Many people go through fertility treatment on their way to parenthood. For single women and lesbian couples, fertility treatment is an inevitable part of their way to parenthood. But for heterosexual couples experiencing infertility, fertility treatment is an unwanted part of the journey. Either way, there will most likely be many new words and abbreviations to learn. In this blog post, we try to explain what ICSI treatment is, what happens during the treatment, and when to consider this type of fertility treatment.
What is ICSI treatment?
ICSI treatment is short for intracytoplasmic sperm injection and is a method of artificial insemination like IVF treatment. In ICSI treatment, the doctor injects one single sperm cell directly into the egg. After the injection, the egg is placed in an incubator where it develops into an embryo. If the development of the embryo is successful, it is transferred to the woman´s uterus where a pregnancy hopefully occurs.
Because of the sperm being injected directly into the egg and therefore having the optimal chances of creating an embryo, ICSI treatment is recommended in cases where low sperm motility is causing infertility problems.
What is the process of ICSI treatment?
Step 1: Hormone stimulation
Just like IVF treatment, the first step of ICSI treatment is for the woman to take reproductive hormones. The hormones are needed to stimulate the production of eggs in the ovaries. Under normal circumstances, only one egg will mature. But with the help of reproductive hormones, several eggs mature.
Step 2: Egg retrieval
When the eggs have matured, they are removed from the woman’s ovaries with a small needle. The procedure is performed by a fertility doctor while the woman is sedated. The woman is also required to take a trigger shot 36 hours before the procedure to ensure ovulation which will release the eggs. Because of the sedation, no pain is felt during the egg retrieval, but some women experience discomfort in the area around the uterus in the following days.
Step 3: Sperm retrieval
Just like the eggs are retrieved from the woman, the sperm cells can be retrieved from the man if his ejaculate contains no healthy sperm cells. There are two ways of retrieving the sperm cells, either by surgery, or by inserting a narrow tube in the scrotum, where the sperm cells are stored and matured (epididymis).
Step 4: Fertilization of eggs in the laboratory
In the laboratory, the best sperm cells from the male partner or from a sperm donor are selected. After the selection, one single sperm cell is injected into each egg. The procedure is carried out with a fine needle that places the sperm cell inside the egg.
Step 5: Development of eggs in an incubator
After the fertilization, the eggs are placed in an incubator. With help from the incubator, the egg and sperm cells hopefully develop into an embryo during a couple of days.
Step 6: Fertilized eggs are transferred to the uterus
When the embryos are successfully developed, an embryologist will transfer one or more embryos from the incubator to the uterus, where a pregnancy hopefully occurs. If more than one embryo develops sufficiently, the excess embryos can be frozen and stored for another attempt or future siblings.
The difference between ICSI treatment and other types of fertility treatment
Just like IVF treatment, ICSI treatment is a more thorough and complex type of fertility treatment. In ICI and IUI treatment, the sperm is injected into the uterus or cervix with a thin plastic tube, so the woman does not feel any pain. This type of treatment lasts about 15 minutes, and the woman can go home after the treatment is done.
In IVF and ICSI, the treatment lasts a bit longer, as these types of assisted reproduction require egg retrieval, and for ICSI treatment a sperm retrieval is required as well. There is a big difference between the two types of fertility treatment, both in terms of time spent at the fertility clinic and the effects they have on the woman´s body.
The difference between IVF and ICSI treatment
The difference between IVF and ICSI treatment is the method used to fertilize the egg. In ICSI treatment a single sperm cell is injected into the egg to give it the best chances of an embryo developing. In IVF treatment, the sperm cells are placed in a petri dish and must find and fertilize the egg on its own. Because a sperm cell is injected into the egg, ICSI treatment is recommended for couples experiencing problems with male infertility, like low sperm motility.
When is ICSI treatment a good option?
ICSI treatment is recommended if the man has low sperm motility or quality – for example due to a genetic condition. This type of treatment is designed to help the sperm cells as much as possible, because the cells are extracted from the man and injected directly into the egg, which increases the chances of an embryo developing and, in the end, a successful pregnancy. In some cases, ICSI treatment can be recommended as an alternative to IVF treatment, but only in cases where the woman has healthy eggs. If the woman has poor egg quality, ICSI treatment would not be recommended.
The possibility of having twins with ICSI treatment
It is standard procedure to transfer two or more embryos to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. The transfer of multiple embryos also increases the chances of having twins. The number of embryos transferred will typically be decided between you, your partner (if you have one), and a fertility doctor. It is important to talk about this before going into ICSI treatment, because a twin pregnancy has a higher risk of causing complications than a single baby pregnancy.
How to increase chances in ICSI treatment
Because ICSI treatment is designed to help couples experiencing male infertility, it is important for both the man and woman to have a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise. It is also important to avoid supplements that may have a negative effect on your fertility, such as alcohol and smoking. It is also very important for the man to avoid heat sources such as saunas, hot tubs, and solariums since heat has a negative impact on sperm quality.
Follow the link to read more about improving sperm quality.
Success rates using ICSI treatment
According to studies, ICSI treatment has a pregnancy success rate of 24%. But it is important to remember that the beforementioned success rate is an average of many different procedures involving many different women and men. Your success rate in ICSI treatment depends a lot on your general lifestyle, age when receiving fertility treatment, and whether you or your partner has any genetic diseases regarding fertility.
What does ICSI treatment cost?
The cost of an ICSI treatment varies a lot from one fertility clinic to another. But ICSI treatment is generally one of the most expensive types of fertility treatment, because of the egg and sperm retrieval, as well as the need for placing the egg and sperm cells in an incubator before transferring them.
Before you consult any fertility clinics, we recommend that you research your country’s rules and regulations regarding fertility treatment. In some countries it is possible to receive help and compensation during fertility treatment. If you need any help researching, contact our Customer Care Team.
Moving forward with fertility treatment
Experiencing infertility is normal. In fact, 15% of all couples who are trying to conceive will experience infertility. You are not alone and a lot of couples experiencing infertility find a way to overcome it, either by continuing in fertility treatment or by using donor gametes.
ICSI treatment with donor sperm may be an option if a woman at earlier attempts has had few eggs fertilized or if there are only a few eggs to fertilize and the partner has no healthy sperm cells. If you are looking into the possibility of using ICSI treatment with donor sperm, we can recommend that you look at our free Sperm Donor Search.
Another possibility is to get pregnant using egg donation. If the woman has poor egg quality, we can recommend looking into egg donation as an option. If you want to read more about the possibility of becoming pregnant by using an egg donor, follow the link to learn more on the subject.