Assisted reproductive technology basics

Assisted reproductive technology, or ART, is a term for many different forms of technology that help women and families conceive. This ART umbrella of acronyms includes IVF, IUI, GIFT, ZIFT, and FET. Working through this alphabet soup might seem daunting, but these can all be great ways to help grow a family.


IVF is the most well-known form of assisted reproductive technology, and stands for in vitro fertilization. Basically, the IVF process combines semen and a mature egg to form an embryo, which is then implanted into the uterus. IVF requires hormone injections to boost follicle and egg production in the female. A cycle of IVF takes about two weeks and starts at around $15,000, though additions like freezing embryos or doing genetic testing will increase the cost. Some US states also mandate that IVF is covered by health insurance.

IVF is one of the most effective types of assisted reproductive technology, but the rates of success vary based on factors like age, lifestyle, cause of infertility, and reproductive history. The chances that a young woman with healthy eggs would conceive through IVF are about 40% per cycle, so many people have multiple embryos implanted to increase the odds of success. This is why IVF sometimes produces multiples.


IUI stands for intrauterine insemination, where sperm is injected directly into a woman’s uterus. Of the several different kinds of insemination (cervical, vaginal), IUI places sperm closest to the egg and is therefore more likely to result in fertilization.

IUI won’t fertilize the egg for you like IVF, but it does help with fertility issues that stem from a low sperm count or low sperm motility. It’s also been used to help with scarring in the cervix or simply to inject sperm from a donor. The typical cost of an IUI cycle is between $300-$800, and the success rate is about 15-20% per cycle.


GIFT is the easiest ART acronym to make puns with (the GIFT of life!), but really it just stands for gamete intrafallopian transfer. Because you have to do many of the same hormonal treatments as with IVF to make sure eggs are fully mature, GIFT also takes four to six weeks before fertilization.

GIFT works by taking sperm and mature eggs and injecting them into the fallopian tubes through a small incision in the abdomen. Because the fertilization happens in the fallopian tubes and not outside the body, many religious organizations who don’t approve of IVF will accept GIFT. The success rate of GIFT is the same as it is for IVF, though factors like age still have an impact.


ZIFT stands for zygote intrafallopian transfer and is similar to GIFT in many ways. Where GIFT places eggs and sperm into the fallopian tubes at the same time and allows fertilization to happen inside the body, ZIFT places an already fertilized egg into the fallopian tubes. Both procedures require an incision in the abdomen to reach the fallopian tubes.

While GIFT will inject the sperm and egg almost immediately after extraction, ZIFT places the fertilized egg into the fallopian tubes within 24 hours. The ZIFT success rates are similar to those of GIFT and IVF, and both procedures cost between $15,000-$20,000.


FET stands for frozen embryo transfer, which is sort of a companion to IVF. Many women choose to freeze extra embryos from their IVF cycles to use at a later date. The thawing and implantation of those embryos is a frozen embryo transfer.

Similarly to IVF, FET requires hormone injections two to three weeks before implantation. Women don’t need to go to as many doctor’s appointments or take as many hormones for FET. You already have the eggs, so now you’re just preparing your uterine lining. For young women, the success rate of FET is about 50%, and the procedure costs around $5,000.

The bottom line

There are many different assisted reproductive technologies available for those who need some help in their road to conception. You should work with your healthcare provider to determine which might be best for you.

  • “What is assisted reproductive technology?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. November 14, 2014. Web.
  • “Assisted reproductive technologies.” Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology. Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology. 2016. Web.
  • “Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).” National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. National Institute of Health. July 2, 2013. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “In vitro fertilization (IVF).” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. June 16, 2016. Web.
  • “IUI Success Rates – Success with Intrauterine Insemination.” Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. 2016. Web.
  • Gilson, Hilary. “Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT).” The Embryo Project Encyclopedia. Arizona State University. September 26, 2016.
  • USC Fertility. “Why ZIFT may work when standard IVF fails.” USC Fertility. Keck School of Medicine of USC. March 23, 2009. Web.
  • Sherbahn, Richard. “Frozen embryo transfer, FET cycles after IVF.” Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago. 2016. Web.
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