IVF versus ICSI: Which is right for you?

Fertility treatment involves many adjustments, not least of which is getting used to all the new terms used. It can be quite bewildering.

In 2017, researchers tried to bring some consistency by creating an international glossary of terms relating to infertility and infertility care. Among the 283 (!) terms they identified were the two we’re focused on here: IVF and ICSI.

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) involves creating an embryo in a laboratory and then implanting it into the uterus in the hope of establishing a pregnancy. 

It involves several steps, including stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs and then harvesting them. The chosen egg is placed in a culture dish with numerous sperm, which swim towards the egg and penetrate it, resulting in an embryo. After a few days, this is transferred into the uterus.

The world’s first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born in the UK in 1978. By 2023, researchers estimated that 12 million babies had been born through IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs).

IVF may used to help a range of people who would otherwise struggle to have a baby, including:

  • Heterosexual couples who have been unable to conceive naturally
  • Single people
  • Same-sex couples.

What is ICSI?

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a specialised form of IVF. Instead of placing the egg and sperm together in the culture dish, researchers inject a single sperm directly into the egg to achieve fertilisation.

Each sperm is attempting quite a difficult task in natural conception. The sperm first has to swim towards the egg. Then, the head of the sperm must attach to the outside of the egg and finally push through its outer layer to reach the inside, where fertilisation happens.

Sometimes, the task proves too much. Maybe the sperm can’t swim to the egg, or maybe it’s unable to penetrate the egg’s outer layer.

ICSI aims to overcome that difficulty by injecting a single sperm directly into the egg. ICSI may be recommended when infertility is thought to be due to male factor infertility or when previous IVF cycles have failed.

Comparing IVF and ICSI

Whether you’re using IVF or ICSI, the timeframe doesn’t really change. Each cycle will take a few weeks.

The question of whether to use standard IVF or ICSI is best answered in consultation with your fertility doctors. The decision needs to take several factors into account, including the cause of your infertility and your personal preferences.

Of course, the key question for most patients is which technique is most likely to result in a healthy baby. Again, this requires personalised advice from your fertility doctor. Success rates for both IVF and ICSI depend on numerous factors, including your age, egg and sperm quality and overall health.

How can Demeter Fertility help?

Demeter Fertility has helped to create families for many different patients. We welcome everyone from single people to LGBTQI+ couples and set no upper age or weight limit for our patients. We approach each case on its own merits, advising you on whether standard IVF or ICSI best suits your needs. 

If you’re ready to chat, please contact us today.


All information is general and not intended as a substitute for professional advice.