A drawing of a sperm meeting an egg.
Unassisted pregnancy
Evolution's Plan A: From its first home in the ovary, an egg finds its way to the fallopian tube, meeting several sperm. An egg is fertilized when one sperm breaks through the egg's outer membrane. Five days later—and about 100 cells larger—the embryo, now a blastocyst, implants itself to the uterus. Barring any interruption, a healthy baby will be born approximately 40 weeks—or about nine to 10 months—later.
Cis-gender opposite-sex couple with healthy gametes (eggs and sperm).
A drawing of three eggs next to one another.
Ovulation induction, or superovulation
$800 to $4,000
Hormone medication predictably regulates eggs’ maturation and journey down the fallopian tubes. This assists in the timing for the egg and sperm.
Opposite-sex couples that have experienced infertility for a short time (medically defined as having unprotected sex for a year without getting pregnant), especially if the person with ovaries is under 38 and likely has healthy eggs.
There's no partner, or neither partner has ovaries.
An illustration of a syringe with donor sperm.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
$300 to $1,000
Two months on average
An embryologist injects sperm from a partner or donor directly into the uterus during ovulation.
Couples where a partner has unmotile or unviable sperm, or single women with healthy eggs, or same-sex couples who can carry the fetus to term and/or have a surrogate able to carry the fetus.
Doctors have concerns about the health of the eggs, or no partner has ovaries and eggs.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

All paths through IVF start the same way: egg retrieval. First, extra hormone medication helps the ovaries produce many mature eggs, instead of just one. Then the person undergoing retrieval takes a trigger shot of hormones to cue ovulation. Three days later, they’ll go to their fertility clinic, where, under sedation, the eggs are retrieved through the reproductive tract with a device called an aspirator. The eggs can be immediately fertilized in the lab by healthy sperm from a partner or donor, or flash-frozen with a process called vitrification for a later date.

A drawing of an egg frozen in a block of ice. Note: this is not what happens when one freezes their eggs.
Freezing eggs
Eggs are frozen and stored for use at a date of donor's choosing.
Adults with ovaries who are younger than 38; individuals looking for flexibility of timing their pregnancy, or pregnancy via a surrogate.
Cost is an issue. Eggs are unavailable.
An illustration of a syringe injecting a sperm into an egg.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
$13,000 (includes IVF)
Next step after IUI has failed, or traditional IVF
An embryologist injects a single sperm into a single healthy egg outside of the body in a lab. The fertilized egg is left to develop into a blastocyst.
Couples with viable eggs, but a low number of sperm, or sperm with motility issues. Couples for whom IUI has failed.
Both egg and sperm are healthy—no need to spend the extra money on the procedure.
An image of an egg implanted along the uterine wall.
Fertilized embryo implantation
Included in IVF using fresh embryo; $3,000 to $5,000 if using frozen
Three to five days after embryos are created in a lab, or an additional ovulatory cycle
Embryos are implanted into the uterus. In two weeks, a pregnancy test can tell whether the embryo implanted successfully. Reciprocal IVF is intended for couples in which both partners have eggs and/or a uterus; an egg from one person can be implanted into the uterus of the other.
A line up of fertilized embryos where one has its DNA called out
Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT)
Three to five days while embryos are cultured, plus two weeks for testing
Lab-fertilized embryos are genetically tested for chromosomal abnormalities or specific recessive health traits that could be passed down from both parents. A clinician selects and implants only healthy embryos in order to avoid multiple rounds of IVF.
Individuals who have experienced repeated miscarriages, so long as there are several embryos available. Couples who are known carriers of a serious health condition.
Cost is a factor, or if there aren’t many eggs left to work with. Not all embryos can survive the testing. It requires removing 10 or so cells from the blastocyst.
A silhouette of a person with a heart drawn on their chest.
Sperm/egg donor
May take additional time to legally establish parenthood
Egg, sperm, and embryo donation varies greatly depending on the country. The ability to choose the donor's traits, the protections of the donor's privacy, and the costs associated are up to local governments.
Single people, same-sex couples who lack one of the necessary gametes, or any couple where eggs or sperm aren’t viable. Allow extra time for legal fees to ensure that all non-biological parents are granted full legal rights to their children.
A profile of a pregnant womb.
A person with a uterus carries an embryo selected by parents or an individual. Laws vary depending on the country. Some US states allow surrogates to be compensated. Some countries in Europe, like Ireland, Denmark, and Belgium, allow surrogates to be paid reasonable expenses; other countries, like Germany and Italy, prohibit all forms of surrogacy.
Couples or individuals who cannot carry a child, either because they were not born with uteruses, or because the uterus isn’t healthy enough to carry a child.