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What is Assisted Reproductive Technology?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 July 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Assisted reproductive technology is a large group of techniques and procedures which are designed to assist people with infertility who wish to have children. This field exploded in the 1970s, with the development of in vitro fertilization, and it becomes increasingly advanced with each year. Many people experience infertility when they want to have children, especially in the case of older parents who choose to wait, and such technology is designed to help them realize their dreams of having children.

A wide spectrum of procedures can fall under the umbrella of assisted reproductive technology. Some of the simpler interventions involve the administration of medications which are designed to increase fertility, making it easier to conceive naturally. Others fall on the more artificial end of the spectrum, such as using a gestational surrogate to carry a baby to term for a mother who is unable to complete a pregnancy.

Many medical interventions for fertility involve the direct handling of sperm or eggs. Artificial insemination, for example, uses collected samples of sperm to impregnate women, while in vitro fertilization involves the collection of sperm and eggs so that the eggs can be fertilized in a laboratory before being implanted in the mother or in a gestational surrogate.

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Such services are usually provided by a fertility clinic, a facility which specializes in assisted reproductive technology, high risk pregnancies, and associated issues. The clinic staff include obstetricians, gynecologists, and fertility specialists who can provide a range of services, from tests to determine the cause of infertility to the collection of eggs from cancer patients who are about to undergo radiation and would like to preserve a chance of having children.

Infertility can be very emotionally upsetting for both women and men, since many people feel a strong biological imperative to have children. Treatments for infertility can also get extremely expensive, especially when parents have to undergo multiple cycles of treatment, a not uncommon occurrence. Many researchers are working on fertility issues and new developments in assisted reproductive technology with the goal of addressing infertility, and increasing numbers of researchers have recognized that infertility can cause very real psychological problems.

There are a number of ethical issues which surround assisted reproductive technology, and these issues have been brought to the forefront as the use of this technology increases. For example, many members of the pro-life movement have expressed concerns about frozen embryos saved by fertility clinics. Some fertility doctors have also been accused of being unscrupulous and promising things which are not possible, or putting women at risk with dangerous procedures and medical decisions, such as the implantation of large numbers of embryos to ensure pregnancy.

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