In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is a process by which an egg is fertilised by sperm outside the body: in vitro.
IVF is a major treatment for infertility when other methods of assisted reproductive technology have failed.
The process involves monitoring and stimulating a woman's ovulatory process, removing ovum or ova (egg or eggs) from the woman's ovaries and letting sperm fertilise them in a fluid medium in a laboratory.
The fertilised egg (zygote) cultured for 2-6 days in a growth medium and is then transferred to the mother's uterus with the intention of establishing a successful pregnancy.
The first successful birth of a "test tube baby,"
Louise Brown, occurred in 1978.
Louise Brown was born as a result of natural cycle IVF where no stimulation was made.
Edwards, the physiologist who developed the treatment, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010.
The term in vitro, from the Latin meaning in glass, is used, because early biological experiments involving cultivation of tissues outside the living organism from which they came, were carried out in glass containers such as beakers, test tubes, or petri dishes.
Today, the term in vitro is used to refer to any biological procedure that is performed outside the organism it would normally be occurring in, to distinguish it from an in vivo procedure, where the tissue remains inside the living organism within which it is normally found.
A colloquial term for babies conceived as the result of IVF, "test tube babies," refers to the tube-shaped containers of glass or plastic resin, called test tubes, that are commonly used in chemistry labs and biology labs.
However, in vitro fertilisation is usually performed in the shallower containers called Petri dishes.
One IVF method, autologous endometrial coculture, is actually performed on organic material, but is still considered in vitro.