IVF is only one of the assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments. Here are some of the others:
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)
This method is very similar to IVF, but the fertilization process takes place in the woman's fallopian tubes. The downsides are that it requires laparoscopic surgery and fertilization can't be visually confirmed like it is in IVF. Women with damaged fallopian tubes can't use this procedure, so they usually go with IVF. GIFT accounts for about 2 percent of all ART procedures in the United States [source: American Society for Reproductive Medicine].
Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)
ZIFT procedures comprise a mere 1 percent of all ART cases in the United States [source: ASRM]. Fertilization takes place in the laboratory, and the embryo is transferred to the fallopian tube (not the uterus) using laparoscopy.
While neither GIFT nor ZIFT is as successful as IVF, they may be the first option for women who have tried other methods but whose infertility problems are not yet considered severe. Couples can try GIFT and ZIFT after six unsuccessful intrauterine insemination cycles. One advantage of GIFT is that the embryo isn't developed in the lab. This eliminates the moral dilemma of choosing how many embryos to transfer and how many to destroy. But ZIFT has a higher success rate because the egg is fertilized before being placed in the fallopian tube.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
ICSI is an adjunctive treatment used in more than 40 percent of all ART procedures [source: ASRM]. The use of ICSI is indicated when fertilization rates are expected to be lower than normal, usually because of problems with the sperm. ICSI is a micromanipulation technique -- doctors inject a single sperm into the egg to ensure fertilization.
This process involves the freezing embryos for future use in IVF. Frozen embryos can be stored for many years, which allows couples to skip steps in future cycles, saving them money and cutting down on invasive procedures.
For more information about infertility and in vitro fertilization, take a look at the links on the next page.