IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation. In vitro literally means ‘in glass’ and with this form of assisted conception, fertilisation takes place in a glass (or more commonly, plastic) dish in the laboratory. (At one early stage, scientists used test tubes for fertilisation, hence the term “test tube baby”.) Any assisted conception procedure where fertilisation takes place outside the body is a form of IVF.
IVF was originally devised to overcome infertility caused by blocked or absent fallopian tubes. Today, IVF is used to treat many more reproductive problems, including irregular ovulation, low sperm count or motility, and unexplained infertility.