Female Infertility

ICSI


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ICSI

What is Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)?
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  • Download a PDF of this fact sheet here
  • Before a man’s sperm can fertilize a woman’s egg, the head of the sperm must attach to the outside of the egg.
  • Once attached, the sperm pushes through the outer layer to the inside of the egg (cytoplasm), where fertilization takes place.

Sometimes the sperm cannot penetrate the outer layer, for a variety of reasons. The egg’s outer layer may be thick or hard to penetrate or the sperm may be unable to swim. In these cases, a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) can be done along with in vitro fertilization (IVF) to help fertilize the egg. During ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into the cytoplasm the egg.

How does ICSI work?

There are two ways that an egg may be fertilized by IVF: traditional and ICSI. In traditional IVF, 50,000 or more swimming sperm are placed next to the egg in a laboratory dish. Fertilization occurs when one of the sperm enters into the cytoplasm of the egg. In the ICSI process, a tiny needle, called a micropipette, is used to inject a single sperm into the center of the egg. With either traditional IVF or ICSI, once fertilization occurs, the fertilized egg (now called an embryo) grows in a laboratory for 1 to 5 days before it is transferred to the woman’s uterus (womb).

Why would I need ICSI?

ICSI helps to overcome fertility problems, such as:

  • The male partner produces too few sperm to do artificial insemination (intrauterine insemination [IUI]) or IVF.
  • The sperm may not move in a normal fashion.
  • The sperm may have trouble attaching to the egg.
  • A blockage in the male reproductive tract may keep sperm from getting out.
  • Eggs have not fertilized by traditional IVF, regardless of the condition of the sperm.
  • In vitro matured eggs are being used.
  • Previously frozen eggs are being used.

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