If you are thinking about using in vitro fertilization (IVF) to start your family, it won’t be long before you come across the term ICSI (pronounced Ick-See). Don’t let that ugly name turn you off, because the results could be beautiful: It could help you and your partner have a baby.
To help you understand the alphabet soup of IVF treatment, you should know that ICSI is an acronym for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. ICSI boosts chances of fertilization for couples trying to conceive by literally hand-delivering the sperm to the egg. It’s a technique by which an IVF technician manually injects a sperm into the middle of an egg to start the process of fertilization.
ICSI can bypass or improve many male infertility factors. If you are a man with very few sperm, motionless or weak-swimming sperm, or sperm missing attachment proteins (receptors), you’re now in luck. ICSI gives you a chance to become a biological dad, where once men with these conditions were considered sterile.
For instance, men with a condition called CBAVD, or congenital bilateral absence of the vas deference, can now father children. CBAVD is a birth defect in which the tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm from each testicle to the outside of the body never form. Men with this condition may be able to produce sperm, but the sperm remain in the body and never make their way to the ejaculate during intercourse. The sperm tend to be immature with no to poor swimming ability. With ICSI, the embryologist can take sperm from the testicles and facilitate fertilization in the lab.
ICSI can address female fertility problems, too. Normally when a sperm enters the egg, the egg throws up a barrier to prevent additional sperm penetration. But some women’s eggs don’t do this and allow multiple sperm to enter, preventing normal fertilization. To overcome this problem, ICSI ensures that only one sperm enters the egg.
Since the first ICSI baby was reported in 1992, the use of this technique has exploded. Despite the less than melodious name, this technique has helped many couples build the family they want.