Test-tube infertility treatments getting better

After 30 years, a procedure that gave birth to the world's first "test-tube baby" has become commonplace and leads the way
May 24, 2010


After 30 years, a procedure that gave birth to the world's first "test-tube baby" has become commonplace and leads the way for better pregnancy treatments.

The first test-tube baby was conceived using the in vitro fertilization technique, which removes eggs from the female and sperm from the male.

The two are allowed to mix together in a test tube and lead to the formation of an embryo, or early form of a fetus.

The procedure was a gateway for other technologies, allowing infertile people to have children, said Dr. Brian Printy, general obstetrician and gynecologist with Sandusky-based Northern Ohio MedicalSpecialists.

"You're still dealing with a population of people that have had infertility -- they haven't naturally been able to have a baby," Printy said. "That population hasn't changed much.

"What has changed is what we can offer to them."

Intracytoplasmic sperm injec-tion is one of the newest procedures and the most successful, said Dr. Khalid Ataya, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injec-tion is similar to in vitro fertilization, but doctors take the sperm and inject it -- under a microscope -- into the egg. Once the egg is fertile, it will be implanted into the woman's uterus, Ataya said.

Each fertility procedure offers several benefits, but includes risks and drawbacks.

Many Ohio insurance companies do not cover the procedures, which can cost about $13,000 in some cases, Ataya said.

Hormone treatments are a common fertility treatment, but can lead to multiple and premature births, Ataya said.

The success rate of the procedure is dependent on the woman's age.

For a woman in her 20s, the success rate is about 65 percent, while a woman in her 40s has a 5-10 percent success rate, Ataya said.

"If a woman wants to get pregnant, they have to do it in a timely fashion," Ataya said. "The end point is when she becomes 40 -- for fertility purposes, she's at the end of her ability to conceive."

Although the biological clock is hard to delay, Ataya said embryos can be frozen and later thawed and implanted in the woman's uterus if she decides to wait to conceive.

Preimplantation genetic diagnosis focuses on avoiding genetically affected embryos, Ataya said.

For instance, a couple who has a family history of Down syndrome could choose to eliminate an embryo that carries a genetic marker for the syndrome.

The diagnosis is considered a controversial issue, Ataya said.

While fertilization techniques require time and money, the end result is worth it for some couples, Printy said.

"With new technology, they haven't found the magic bullet yet," Printy said.

"Every couple presents their unique challenges, but everybody who gives birth to their own children, they're thankful for that."

Although NOMS can provide certain fertility medications, the nearest hospitals that perform ICSI and IVF are in Cleveland and Toledo.