LGBT Fertility Education: Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a microinsemination technique developed to improve the likelihood that an egg will be fertilized by a sperm.

ICSI is used in cases of male factor infertility in addition to other circumstances including the use of frozen eggs. Under a powerful microscope, an embryologist uses a pipette to pick up a single sperm and inject it directly into the cytoplasm of the egg. ICSI can help gay male couples with very low sperm counts or poor sperm quality to achieve fertilization. Pregnancy rates are equal to traditional IVF. Urological procedures can also help male factor infertility.

ICSI: The Technique
The power of ICSI is that it only requires one sperm to be effective. ICSI is a simple and elegant way to transfer one sperm directly into one egg. Using a microscope to see the sperm, an embryologist gently draws one sperm into a pipette. The tip of the pipette is then guided into the waiting egg. The egg is held steady at the end of another glass pipette. Now, with sperm and egg ready, the elegance of ICSI is revealed. With a steady and measured forward motion, the sharpened tip of the sperm-containing pipette is inserted into the egg. Reversing the process that pulled the sperm into the pipette, the embryologist now ejects the sperm into the egg. And finally, the sharpened tip of the empty pipette is removed from the egg.

Does ICSI damage the egg?
Thousands of ICSI procedures have been done successfully resulting in healthy offspring. This is not surprising to embryologists for several reasons. First, the egg is many times larger than the pipette that is used to penetrate its surface. Second, the human egg is encased in a tough, elastic membrane that doesn’t crack, shatter or crumble. And finally, and most importantly, the egg has the ability to rapidly repair the small hole in its membrane.

Are there any side effects?
Despite widespread use and acceptance, ICSI is a relatively new procedure. Children born as the result of ICSI are still very young and have not yet reached an age to reproduce. Currently there are no reports of increased birth defects or congenital abnormalities in babies born through ICSI. The technique is no longer considered experimental. It has received an endorsement from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and is among the routine services offered by fertility specialists at IVF New England.

This information is provided by IVF New England for general education purposes and is not intended to take the place of a discussion with your physician. If you have questions about any aspect of your health, you are advised to speak with your physician.

ICSI | Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used to improve the likelihood that sperm will fertilize an egg.