Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
If you are having difficulties becoming pregnant, then you may already have investigated or tried a number of different fertility treatments. Assisted reproductive technology can often help couples to conceive. However, it may take many treatment attempts before pregnancy is achieved. If you have experienced a number of failed treatment cycles, zygote intrafallopian transfer may be the procedure for you. The ZIFT procedure has a number of advantages over other fertility treatments and is associated with fairly high success rates.
What is Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer?
Zygote intrafallopian transfer, or ZIFT, is a form of assisted reproductive technology. It combines IVF with gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) in order to produce a pregnancy. During ZIFT, your eggs are fertilized with your partner’s sperm in a laboratory. Once these eggs have been fertilized, they are transplanted into your fallopian tubes through laparoscopic surgery. Here, the fertilized egg, or zygote, can move down the fallopian tube and into your uterus, where it can implant.
How Common Is Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer?
Unfortunately, ZIFT is not that common a procedure in the United States. ZIFT is considered to be one of the most invasive types of fertility treatments available to infertile couples. As a result, ZIFT accounts for only 1% of all ART procedures. However, the availability of ZIFT is increasing, and last year more than 280 ZIFT babies were born in the United States.
Who Can Benefit from Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer?
Because ZIFT is a fairly invasive procedure, only certain couples are advised to try it out. You may be a candidate for ZIFT if:
- You have ovulation problems
- Your partner has a low sperm count
- You have been unable to achieve pregnancy after a year of trying
- You have had 5 or more failed cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI)
- Your fallopian tubes are unblocked
Who Isn’t Suitable for Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer?
Certain couples aren’t suitable for the ZIFT procedure. If you suffer from any of the following complications, ZIFT may not work for you:
- blocked fallopian tubes
- severely damaged fallopian tubes
- uterine abnormalities (such as uterine adhesions or a malformed uterus)
The Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer Procedure
The ZIFT procedure takes about four to six weeks to complete. It is sometimes necessary to go through more than one cycle to achieve a pregnancy. ZIFT generally takes place as follows:
- You will be given fertility drugs to help stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple eggs
- Once your eggs have matured, they will be removed through egg retrieval
- In your clinic’s laboratory, your eggs will be combined with your partner’s sperm and monitored for fertilization.
- After one day, your fertilized egg will become ready to divide. At this stage the embryo is referred to as a zygote.
- 1 to 4 zygotes will be placed inside your fallopian tubes through laparoscopic surgery. Your surgeon will make a small incision in your abdomen. She will then inject the zygotes into your fallopian tubes.
- You will be monitored for implantation and pregnancy over the next few days.
The success of ZIFT really depends upon your age as well as your specific fertility issues. Younger women tend to have higher success rates while older women tend to have lower success rates. On average, 36% of ZIFT recipients become pregnant during a cycle. 29% of these pregnancies are carried to term.
Advantages of ZIFT
Though invasive, ZIFT does offer some advantages that other fertility treatments do not. During ZIFT, your reproductive endocrinologist can make sure that your eggs are fertilized before they are implanted in your fallopian tubes. With GIFT, it is only a mixture of sperm and eggs that is implanted, not a fertilized egg. With ZIFT, your embryo also has the opportunity to travel through the fallopian tube and into the uterus on its own. Some couples feel that this is a more natural way of conceiving a child.
Disadvantages of ZIFT
ZIFT does come along with some disadvantages. ZIFT is a highly invasive surgery that requires two separate surgical procedures: one to remove your eggs and another to implant your zygotes. ZIFT is also very expensive, costing upwards of about $13,000 per cycle. Additionally, ZIFT can increase your chances of having a multiple pregnancy. 35% of ZIFT pregnancies are, in fact, multiples. Carrying multiple fetuses can increase your risk of miscarriage and preterm labor.
ZIFT or GIFT?
If you are trying to decide on a fertility treatment, you may be thinking about both ZIFT and GIFT as alternatives. It is generally recommended that you try GIFT first. GIFT is less expensive and carries less risk of ectopic pregnancy and multiple births. If GIFT is unsuccessful, then you may wish to pursue ZIFT. However, if you have had continued difficulties becoming pregnant, you may want to proceed straight to ZIFT. Discuss your treatment options with your reproductive endocrinologist.