Assisted Reproductive Technology

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a general term referring to the third party techniques or medical methods used to achieve pregnancy without insemination by sexual intercourse. The technology is used for reproductive purposes primarily in couples with infertility issues, fertile couples with genetic issues and by same sex couples. The term is used in medical and legal fields and encompasses a number of different subjects and processes. Another term commonly seen in relation to ART is “REI” which is an abbreviation for reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracks ART success rates annually in the United States and defines assisted reproductive technology to encompass “all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled.” There is some dispute and no true consensus among professionals as to a strict definition of ART – for instance, the CDC does not include artificial insemination (intrauterine) in its definition. However, for our purposes, we use the term broadly to deal with any artificial reproductive process using third parties, including sperm donors.

For any prospective parent, the jargon can be overwhelming, being inundated with unusual abbreviations and complex terminology. To be able to better understand the legal implications and responsibilities in donor agreements and surrogacy contracts, it is important to have a basic understanding of some of the more common terms and procedures.

ART may be as simple as the use of fertility medications to stimulate development of the follicles in the ovaries, among which gonadotropin is quite common. These medications typically accompany other ART procedures including:

*Artificial Insemination (AI) – sperm is introduced into a female's uterus (intrauterine) or cervix (intracervical) using artificial means rather than by natural intercourse. This is typically in situations where a woman does not have a partner with functional sperm, so a donor is used.

*In vitro fertilization (IVF) - sperm and egg are combined outside of the body in a clinical process to create embryos.

There are multiple types of IVF, with each technique having a specialized process and abbreviation. Some common abbreviations prospective parents or donors will see include: OCR, AZH, ICSI and ZIFT. REI doctors will determine which method is appropriate for each patient or carrier.

*Embryo transfer is the process in which one or more embryos are implanted into the uterus of the intended mother or the gestational surrogate with the intent to achieve pregnancy.

In some situations, an intended mother will not be able to produce eggs for a number of reasons including poor egg quality, age, genetic issues, prior surgeries, or chemotherapy. However, she may be able to successfully carry a pregnancy to term. In those circumstances, an intended mother may choose to use eggs supplied by an egg donor. For more about egg donation services, please visit our page under the Surrogacy Practice heading.

*Cryopreservation – a process in which eggs, sperm and reproductive tissue can be preserved for later IVF. This technique has been pioneered for intended parents who are facing cancer treatment or surgery which could result in infertility.

*Surrogacy – a medical and legal arrangement in which a woman agrees to become pregnant to deliver a child for a contracted party. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. Our firm does not draft contracts or surrogacy arrangements for traditional surrogacy, in which the carrier is also the biological mother of the child.

*Gestational Carrier – a woman who carries a transferred embryo to term for intended parent(s). The embryo is not created from the carrier’s eggs and the carrier is not the biological mother.

Other terms commonly used in fertility treatments and ART:

*Surgical sperm retrieval (SSR) - sperm is surgically obtained from the male donor via an outpatient procedure.

* Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) - a genetic screening process to identify genetically abnormal embryos prior to embryo transfer and implantation.

* In gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) - eggs and sperm are mixed and inserted directly into a woman’s fallopian tubes during a laparoscopic procedure.

Harden Jackson Law can assist you with consultation, preparation, negotiation and review of any consents, contracts, arrangements or parentage documents related to ART processes and surrogacy.

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