IVF is an acronym for in vitro fertilization (‘in vitro‘ meaning ‘in glass’). This is often used when a male partner’s sperm is put into the female’s eggs in a laboratory to produce embryos.

The woman’s hormone production is temporarily switched off using medication, to enable the control of egg production and release. The ovaries are then stimulated with hormone injections to produce eggs – monitored using ultrasound scans. When the follicles reach the right size (usually after 12-14 days), and the uterus lining is of the correct thickness, the eggs are collected.

The eggs and sperm (produced by the partner on the day of egg collection) are placed together in a laboratory dish to allow fertilisation and embryo growth to occur. The embryo is placed in the female’s uterus – usually on the second, third or the fifth day after egg collection when the fertilised egg has divided and contains four, eight or reached the blastocyst stage (day 5).