etting Pregnant and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
One type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) that individuals are also turning to when fertility problems are causing difficulty in getting pregnant is zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT). ZIFT is a type of ART procedure that can be used to treat a variety of fertility problems, including female infertility and male infertility. But what exactly is ZIFT and what does this ART procedure involve? What are some of the benefits and risks associated with ZIFT and what is the cost of this infertility treatment?
What is ZIFT?
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) is an assisted reproduction procedure that is very similar in nature to gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT). ZIFT represents less than one percent of all ART methods.
In ZIFT, a woman is given fertility drugs near the beginning of her menstrual cycle in order to stimulate the onset of ovulation. This produces several mature eggs for fertilisation as opposed to the usual single mature egg that is produced during a woman’s monthly cycle. In some cases, a woman is given synthetic hormones in order to stimulate ovulation.
A visit to the doctor will ensure that a woman’s eggs are indeed mature; an ultrasound or blood test will be used to check a woman’s hormone levels to ensure that her eggs are indeed mature.
When the eggs are mature, a doctor will administer an anaesthetic and remove the eggs from the ovaries with the insertion of a needle through the vaginal wall. An ultrasound will be used in order to locate the eggs.
The doctor will then combine the mature eggs with the male’s sperm in a dish in a laboratory; the eggs and sperm will be monitored closely for fertilisation.
Approximately one day later, each of the fertilised eggs will have transformed into a developing embryo (zygote) and take on the appearance of a cluster of cells.
Minor surgery will be performed in order to insert between one and four zygotes into the fallopian tubes by creating a small incision in the abdomen. This procedure is performed using a thin tube called a laparoscope. Any zygotes not utilized during the operation can be frozen for future use.
If the procedure is successful, the zygote will travel through the fallopian tube and implant itself along the uterine wall, resulting in pregnancy.
A pregnancy test will be taken two weeks after surgery in order to determine whether pregnancy has occurred.
One cycle of ZIFT will last from between four to six weeks.
Types of Fertility Problems ZIFT Helps to Treat
There are a variety of fertility problems that ZIFT can help treat including both female infertility and male infertility. Such infertility factors include:
- if the fallopian tubes are unblocked and undamaged and other types of ART have been unsuccessful
- ovulation problems
- low sperm count
However, in cases when the male partner’s sperm count is extremely low, ZIFT is used in conjunction with in vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Pregnancy Success Rates of ZIFT
The rate of pregnancy success associated with zygote intrafallopian transfer depends greatly on a woman’s reproductive health and her age; generally, the younger a woman and the healthier her eggs are, the higher her chance of successfully getting pregnant using ZIFT.
On average, there is a 26% chance of ZIFT resulting in a live birth per cycle.
Risks and Benefits Associated with ZIFT
One of the benefits of ZIFT is that, compared with GIFT, a doctor can confirm whether fertilisation has occurred prior to inserting the eggs into the fallopian tubes. In addition, the embryo travels into the uterus on its own, which means that ZIFT is considered to be a more natural option.
However, 35% of ZIFT pregnancies are multiple pregnancies, which occurs when more than one of the embryo implants itself to the uterine wall. Multiple pregnancies in turn are associated with a higher risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Also, ZIFT requires invasive surgery and the costs of fertilising the eggs in a laboratory can be quite high. In addition, many fertility clinics do not offer ZIFT as an alternative fertility treatment.
In some cases, women who must take synthetic hormones in order to stimulate ovulation develop ovarian hyperstimulation (OHSS), a condition that causes bloating, pelvic pain, nausea and dizziness. In rare instances, OHSS can be serious, and may require hospitalization.
The Cost of ZIFT
Zygote intrafallopian transfer is an expensive ART procedure. On average, ZIFT costs between $15 000 and $20 000 per cycle. If your insurance company does not cover ZIFT, you will be required to pay this amount in full before beginning treatment.