Tech

What is assisted reproductive technology?

In 2019, 2.1% of all babies born in the US were conceived using ART.
article cover

Maskot/Getty Images

· less than 3 min read

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

Welcome to ART class! No, not that kind of art. Today, we’re learning about ART, or assisted reproductive technology.

In the simplest terms, ART is technology that helps a person get pregnant, said Michael Thomas, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. The CDC defines ART as “all fertility treatments in which either eggs or embryos are handled,” but the term does not include treatments in which only sperm are handled, like artificial insemination.

The most common ART form is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves an egg being taken out of ovaries, fertilized with sperm in a laboratory, and then placed into a uterus.

ART was born (haha, get it?) in 1978, when the first successful human IVF pregnancy took place in England. By 2019, 2.1% of all babies born in the US and Puerto Rico were conceived using this medical technology.

Though IVF is the most common form of ART, it’s not cheap. The average cost of a single cycle of IVF treatment in the US is $12,400, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a nonprofit whose mission is to advance “the science and practice of reproductive medicine.” However, insurance usually doesn’t cover fertility services.

The field of ART is “definitely underfunded,” said Thomas, who is also the current president of the ASRM. But, he added that the sector has made some big advances.

Up until the last seven or eight years, multiple embryos were transferred into a uterus during IVF to increase the chances that at least one would stick and develop into a fetus. However, that raises the risk of multiple pregnancy, which increases the odds of a preterm birth, said Thomas.

These days, scientists can biopsy cells from an embryo to do genetic testing to decrease the odds of a miscarriage, so only one embryo needs to be transferred during IVF, said Thomas.

“The advances in the laboratory, and the advances with our understanding of genetics, has helped increase the chances that people can have a successful, healthy pregnancy,” he said.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.