IVF has helped millions of people across the world to start a family. However, it can be a hugely confusing and intimidating journey to get your head around at first. With lots of complex medical language and jargon to learn and remember, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. But it doesn’t need to feel scary. At Verso, we believe that knowledge is power and we want to ensure that all women understand their bodies during this journey.
By understanding some of the commonly used language and IVF terminology, you’ll begin to feel more comfortable and empowered to ask the right questions and immerse yourself in the conversations around your treatment. As such, we’ve compiled an A-Z list of the terms you’re likely to encounter and what they could mean for you and your journey.
ART (Assisted Reproductive Technology): IVF is one type of assisted reproductive technology that helps couples conceive a child. There are other fertility treatments that come under this umbrella depending on the help you need.
Blastocyst: A blastocyst is an embryo that has developed for about five days after fertilisation. In IVF, embryos are cultured in the lab for 3-6 days before being transferred to the uterus. Blastocyst transfers are becoming more common as it’s believed to have a higher success rate when compared to transferring embryos earlier.
Donor: No two IVF journeys are alike, and some couples may need to use a donor for either eggs or sperm depending on their circumstances. For example, donor eggs and sperm may be used for same-sex couples or single parents.
Embryo: An embryo is a fertilised egg that has started to divide. During IVF, embryos are created in the lab by fertilising the woman’s eggs with the man’s sperm.
Fertilisation: There are two main methods of fertilisation used in IVF: conventional insemination, where sperm is placed directly in the dish with the eggs, and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected directly into the egg.
Fertility drugs: Fertility drugs are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. These drugs are usually given by injection and are an essential part of the IVF process.
Gametes: Gametes are reproductive cells, such as eggs and sperm.
Hormones: From stimulating the ovaries to produce more eggs to preparing the uterus for implantation, hormones play multiple roles in the IVF process.
Implantation: After the embryos have been transferred to the uterus, they need to be implanted into the uterine lining in order for pregnancy to occur. Implantation usually occurs about six to ten days after ovulation.
Karyotyping: This is a genetic test that checks for abnormalities within the structure of chromosomes. It may be recommended for couples who have had multiple miscarriages or failed IVF cycles.
Laparoscopy: Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure that is sometimes used during IVF to check for abnormalities in the reproductive organs or to remove scar tissue that might be preventing pregnancy.
Multiple pregnancies: In order to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy, two embryos may be placed into the uterus which increases the likelihood of multiple pregnancies. Due to the risks associated with multiple pregnancies, this treatment is only offered in rare circumstances. If multiple pregnancies do occur, it can pose certain risks, but your doctor will discuss these risks and options with you before the embryo transfer.
Needles: Fertility drugs are mostly delivered via injection, so there are a lot of needles involved in the IVF process. You will however be taught how to administer any injections at home but your clinic nurse.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): OHSS is a rare but potentially serious side effect of fertility drugs and occurs when the ovaries become swollen and painful. Your doctor will monitor you closely for signs of OHSS throughout your journey.
Ovarian Reserve: This refers to the number and quality of a woman’s remaining eggs.
Quality Control: As IVF is a scientific process, laboratories must adhere to strict quality control standards to ensure the safety and efficacy of your treatment.
Risks and Complications: As with any medical procedure, IVF carries risks and potential complications, all of which will be explained to you by your doctor and closely monitored.
Vitrification: This fast-freezing technique allows eggs, sperm, or embryos to be frozen and stored until you’re ready to use them.
While seeing all of these terms may feel overwhelming, it’s important to remember that the right doctor or fertility clinician will always take the time to explain things thoroughly to you, and if there’s something that doesn’t make sense, never be embarrassed to ask.
If you want to talk to somebody about your IVF journey, get in touch today.