What is ICSI?

If you’ve recently been told that your partner’s sperm was playing a factor in your infertility, then your doctor probably spoke to you about Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, or ICSI.

And you might have left the doctor’s office scratching your head. Truth is, ICSI is less complicated than it sounds: ICSI is the process in which a single sperm is injected into an egg during IVF. A breakthrough procedure in the early 1990s, ICSI has become the most common form of fertilization for IVF around the world.

Prior to ICSI, eggs were fertilized by placing many sperm on top of a group of eggs in a dish, in hopes that they would fertilize. It was later discovered that in cases of low sperm count, low sperm motility, and abnormal sperm shape, there was an even better way to help the egg under the fertilization process, and this procedure eventually evolved into the procedure we now call ICSI.  ICSI is also commonly used for certain kinds of embryo testing.

Now that you know how ICSI works, what can you expect during treatment?

During an IVF cycle, you will take medication to stimulate the production of eggs in your ovaries. Once those eggs are mature, they will be retrieved during a simple procedure. On the same day of the retrieval, your partner will give a semen sample, and an experienced embryologist will perform ICSI by injecting a single sperm into the center of the egg.

A day later, once the egg is fertilized, it will begin its growth as an embryo, and, once it reaches the blastocyst stage (about one week later) of growth, it can be biopsied for CCS testing and then frozen for future transfer.