Wondering what ICSI is? Don’t worry, we understand that it can seem like alphabet soup out there in the world of fertility treatment. We’re here to help clear up terms like IVF vs ICSI and what they might mean for you. By empowering you with the knowledge you need, we hope you’ll be in a better position to make the right decision for you. Here to explain all about what ICSI is, it’s our fertility specialist Prof. Scott Nelson.
What is ICSI?
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI as it’s thankfully shortened to, is a treatment that can be performed as part of IVF. It is specifically designed to help couples who are having trouble conceiving due to issues with sperm, such as slow moving sperm, low sperm count or abnormally shaped sperm. The treatment works by injecting a single sperm directly into the egg, thus removing any problems the sperm might have had getting inside it. As a result, the chances of successful fertilisation are much higher.
The HFEA estimates that for around half of couples struggling to conceive, the cause of infertility is sperm-related. ICSI is the most common and successful treatment for couples with male-factor infertility. This treatment offers men the chance of having their own genetic child with their partner. It is also an option for patients using frozen sperm, or who have had a previous failed cycle due to low fertilisation.
How does ICSI compare to IVF?
Treatment with ICSI and IVF is almost identical, in terms of the process. At the beginning, the female patient will take fertility drugs to stimulate her ovaries, ready for collection. Once the retrieved eggs are in the lab, then the difference begins. In IVF approximately 50,000 sperm mix with each egg and remain overnight to allow fertilisation. Conversely in ICSI an embryologist injects a single sperm into each egg. In most cases, they inject each egg with a single sperm, so that more than one embryo is available for transfer or freezing. As with IVF, the embryologist monitors the embryos in an incubator for up to five days. Then the embryos assessed to be most likely to implant are chosen for transfer into the patient’s womb.
In terms of success rates, patients undergoing ICSI and IVF have roughly the same likelihood to conceive. This is why the HFEA doesn’t report the statistics separately.
Is ICSI more expensive than IVF?
Performing ICSI requires a great amount of skill by a highly-qualified embryologist, who takes time in the laboratory to complete the sperm injection. Furthermore, the micro-manipulation equipment involved is also very expensive. These costs are usually passed on to patients, with costs for ICSI generally around 25% more than IVF. For all our programmes, we have IVF and ICSI versions to suit your needs.
Is ICSI safe?
ICSI is among the most popular fertility treatments in the world. As with all IVF treatment, ICSI carries some risk. Given that ICSI is more invasive, involving the cleaning and injecting of the egg, there is a greater risk of damage to the egg in the process. However, any damage of eggs is closely monitored by laboratories, as this may not be solely due to the ICSI process but may also identify abnormalities with the eggs.
You can learn more on the HFEA website and you should always discuss your treatment with your doctor.
Can I use Access Fertility for my ICSI treatment?
Yes, we offer all our programmes to patients undergoing ICSI as part of their IVF treatment, at an additional cost. For more information about the cost of your treatment through Access Fertility, contact our patient advisors, who would be happy to chat through your options.