In Vitro Fertilization

in vitro fertilization (vē´trō, vĬ´trō) (IVF), technique for conception of a human embryo outside the mother's body. Several ova, or eggs, are removed from the mother's body and placed in special laboratory culture dishes (Petri dishes); sperm from the father are then added, or in many cases a sperm is injected directly into an ovum, a process known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection. If fertilization is successful, a fertilized ovum (or several fertilized ova), after undergoing several cell divisions, is either transferred to the mother's or a surrogate mother's body for normal development in the uterus, or frozen for later implantation. Eggs also can be frozen and fertilized later. In vitro maturation is when the ova are extracted and then matured in a laboratory (instead of in the mother's body) before they are fertilized.

First developed by Patrick C. Steptoe and Robert G. Edwards of Great Britain (where the first "test-tube baby" was born under their care in 1978), IVF was devised for use in cases of infertility when the woman's fallopian tubes are damaged or the man's sperm count is low. It is also used to enable prospective parents with other reproductive problems (e.g., inability to produce eggs, poor sperm quality, or endometriosis) to bear a child, and can be used in conjunction with embryo screening to enable parents to have a child who is free of some inheritable defects or diseases. Embryo screening procedures have also been used to identify embryos that are generally free of abnormalities and are not likely to result in a miscarriage after implantation, thus improving the likely success of IVF. In embryo donation (also called embryo adoption), frozen embryos that are not needed by the mother are donated for implantation to a woman or couple who are infertile but wish to have, and are capable of bearing, children. By 2012 the use of in vitro fertilization had resulted in the birth of more than 5 million babies worldwide. Nevertheless, the technique has raised legal, ethical, and religious issues, including concerns regarding legal custody of frozen embryos following divorce and questions regarding the appropriateness of the procedure posed by the Roman Catholic Church and other institutions.

See also artificial insemination; fertilization; reproductive system; surrogate mother.

See L. Andrews, The Clone Age (1999); R. M. Henig, Pandora's Baby (2004).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Encyclopedia of Reproductive Technologies
Annette Burfoot.
Westview Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Thirty-Seven "In Vitro Fertilization Overview," Chap. Thirty-Eight "In Vitro Fertilization-Historical Development"
Family Values and the New Society: Dilemmas of the 21st Century
George P. Smith II.
Praeger, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Assisted Reproductive Technologies: Artficial Insemination, Surrogation, and In Vitro Fertilization"
Rehabilitating Bioethics: Recontextualizing in Vitro Fertilization outside Contractual Autonomy
Lin, Olivia.
Duke Law Journal, Vol. 54, No. 2, November 2004
Tort Law and in Vitro Fertilization: The Need for Legal Recognition of "Procreative Injury"
Kleinfeld, Joshua.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 115, No. 1, October 2005
Embodied Progress: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception
Sarah Franklin.
Routledge, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The 'Obstacle Course': The Reproductive Work of IVF," Chap. 4 "'It Just Takes Over': IVF as a 'Way of Life,'" and Chap. 5 "'Having to Try' and 'Having to Choose': How IVF 'Makes Sense'"
Body/Politics: Studies in Reproduction, Production, and (Re)Construction
Thomas C. Shevory.
Praeger, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "In Vitro: A History of Controversy" begins on p. 78
Feminist Approaches to Bioethics: Theoretical Reflections and Practical Applications
Rosemarie Tong.
Westview Press, 1997
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Nonfeminist and Feminist Perspectives on Artificial Insemination and In-Vitro Fertilization"
Technologies of Procreation: Kinship in the Age of Assisted Conception
Jeanette Edwards; Sarah Franklin; Eric Hirsch; Frances Price; Marilyn Strathern.
Routledge, 1999 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Beyond Expectation: Clinical Practices and Clinical Concerns"
Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller.
Brunner-Routledge, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Egg Donation: The Mission to Have a Child"
Ectogenesis: Artificial Womb Technology and the Future of Human Reproduction
Robert Ginsberg; John R. Shook.
Rodopi, 2006
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Twelve "The Artificial Womb and Human Subject Research"
The Elusive Embryo: How Women and Men Approach New Reproductive Technologies
Gey Becker.
University of California Press, 2000
The Infertility Handbook: A Guide to Making Babies
Jacqueline Tomlins.
Allen & Unwin, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of in vitro fertilisation begins on p. 101
Key Issues in Bioethics: A Guide for Teachers
Ralph Levinson; Michael J. Reiss.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Part III "In Vitro Fertilisation"
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