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ICSI - Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

The ICSI process is similar to IVF.  The key difference between the IVF and ICSI is how the egg becomes fertilised.  ICSI gives a helping hand to sperm that might not otherwise be able to swim toward, or infiltrate the egg.

What is ICSI?

ICSI stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.  ICSI is used when there are concerns that IVF will not succeed.  This can be due to poor sperm quantity or quality, sperm mobility or abnormally shaped sperm.  ICSI is also an option when there is a history of poor or failed fertilisation previously.

What’s the difference between IVF and ICSI procedures?

With IVF, the embryologist uses a prepared quantity of sperm and adds this to the egg(s) retrieved from the female, and ready for fertilisation.  The aim is that out of the many sperm placed in with the egg, one sperm will enter and fertilise the egg. 

With ICSI, the embryologist carefully selects a single sperm, based on size, shape and motility.  This single sperm is then injected directly into the egg.

While ICSI sounds pretty simple, it’s one of the most technically challenging roles for an embryologist.

How does ICSI work?

IVF and ICSI treatment is not a single event but rather a series of stages that each need to be completed before tackling the next. This can make it an emotional process for patients.

Dr Flynn will create a plan of how your IVF/ICSI cycle will be done. It will usually include the medications you will be taking, instructions on how to take them, when you will need to have ultrasounds and blood tests and the procedures you need to follow throughout the cycle.

Up until egg fertilisation, the IVF steps and procedures are the same for  ICSI.  Both treatment processes involve:

  • Ovarian stimulation and monitoring.  
  • Triggering the eggs ready for ovulation. 
  • Egg retrieval, also known as ‘egg pickup’
  • A process called ‘sperm washing’ which is processing the sperm to select the strongest, most active sperm.

The actual fertilisation process differs at this stage. 

With ICSI, a single sperm is selected by the embryologist and placed directly into the cytoplasm (the centre) of the egg – hence the name intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection.

The resulting cell is called a zygote. The zygote contains all of the genetic information (DNA) necessary to become a child.

If the sperm fertilises the egg, it becomes an embryo. The embryo is kept in the fertility laboratory in a special incubator where the conditions for growth and development are carefully monitored.  Dr Flynn has daily updates from the embryologist on the progress of your egg, sperm and embryo development.

The next step in the process is the embryo (referred to as a blastocyst) is transferred using a catheter through the cervix and into your uterus.

We know it will feel like a long wait, but about 2 weeks after your embryo transfer you’ll have a blood test to measure the levels of the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).  Higher levels of hCG indicate a pregnancy.

Ask your GP for a referral to Dr Michael Flynn - print this Referral Request and hand it to your GP.

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