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Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT): Definition & Procedure

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We will look at one of the newer options for fertility treatments known as GIFT. You will gain an understanding of what it is and how it is performed.

GIFT

There are many occasions in which we give and receive gifts in life. They happen during the holidays, anniversaries, and of course, on birthdays. Having a birth day doesn't happen as easily for some people as it does for others. There are times when assistance is needed in order to give the gift of life. Several options exist to help with this process.

GIFT can help give the gift of life
Picture of a gift box

One option is to use what is known as gamete intrafallopian transfer, or GIFT for short. You can tell what this is by breaking the name of it down. The first term is gamete, which refer to the sex cells used to reproduce. In other words, we are talking about sperm and eggs. The term intrafallopian means 'within the fallopian tubes.' Transfer means what it always means: To move from one place to another. Putting this together lets you know that GIFT means the transfer of sperm and eggs to the inside of the fallopian tubes.

Procedure

Since this procedure uses both sperm and eggs, it must involve both the soon-to-be mother and father. Let's look at John and Jane as they go through this procedure. The part of the procedure for John is rather simple: He has to provide a semen specimen or, in some cases, multiple semen samples depending on the sperm count per specimen.

Jane has some prep work to do before she is ready to provide the eggs. The first step is to take medications that will make her ovaries produce many eggs at one time as opposed to the usual one egg at a time. This ovary stimulating medication may be started up to about a month prior to the date when fertilization will take place. The goal is for Jane to produce about 10 to 15 eggs that are ready for fertilization.

Once the desired amount of mature eggs is reached, the eggs will then be removed from Jane's ovaries. This is done using a transvaginal ultrasound, which is an ultrasound that is taken by inserting a wand into the vagina. This will allow Jane's doctor to see her ovaries along with the eggs. The eggs are removed through a needle that acts similar to a straw.

The next part happens within minutes of when the eggs are removed. John's sperm and about 4 to 5 eggs are combined together inside of a hollow tube known as a catheter. Then, it's time for what we have been waiting for now, to insert the sperm and egg mixture into Jane's fallopian tubes.

The eggs are inserted through laparoscopic surgery
Diagram of laparoscopic surgery

The catheter that holds the sperm and eggs will be inserted laparoscopically, meaning through Jane's abdomen, to her fallopian tubes. The mixture will be released into the fallopian tubes. This procedure can be done in one or both of Jane's fallopian tubes at a time.

The last thing that has to happen is to confirm that everything went as planned and that we have fertilization. With this procedure, the fertilization will most likely take place in the fallopian tubes, which is where it occurs naturally. This is a lot of the reason why some people, like John and Jane, prefer this method of fertility assistance over other options.

Fertilization is when the sperm and egg join to become one cell
Micrograph of sperm fertilizing egg

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