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Assisted Reproduction Technologies Bring Hope to Thousands of Couples Around the World

Many people do not know that over 15% of the couples in the world cannot conceive naturally. This situation can cause a lot of sorrow and feelings of loss. Just a century ago, science could not help these couples, however, medical science has evolved over the last few decades, offering new hope for those who cannot have babies.

By the 20th century scientists understood that a woman usually produces one mature egg every month, but as the woman's body ages, she produces fewer eggs. Women stop producing eggs around the age of 40, or in some cases earlier or later. It all depends on when the woman starts menopause (the ceasing of menstruation).

By 1921 doctors were inseminating women with donor sperm. Originally this caused a lot of controversy as many people believed this practice was a form of adultery, but it is commonly accepted today. In vitro fertilization (IVF) is another alternative offered to non-fertile couples. This treatment works by removing a mature egg from the mother and mixing it with the father’s sperm in a lab dish. Scientists let the zygote (fertilized egg) grow for a couple of days and then they return it to the mother’s uterus where it has the opportunity to develop into a fetus.

Other options are fertility injection and freezing the eggs for later use. These methods are part of a treatment called assisted reproduction technology (ART). A woman using ART might rely on injections of various fertility hormones to get the process going, and can be effective for 10-14 days. The shots are used to enable production of new eggs that can later be fertilized either through intercourse, in utero fertilization (IUF) or in the lab. Freezing the excess eggs can be used along with the fertility hormone injections. If used with hormone injections, the process of freezing eggs is typically as follows: women take hormone injections to increase their egg count, then the eggs are retrieved from the woman's uterus and frozen for later use.

It is ironic how many people in society today want fewer kids either due to people not wanting to bring children into a world plagued by overpopulation and environmental issues or people not feeling stable enough to provide a good life for a child. However at the same time there is an increasing number of people who are unable to have children naturally when they want to. As one of the multitude of changes happening in the world, the advancement of medical technologies has given hope to many such couples who feel strongly about bringing their own child into the world.

[Source: Science News]

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