IVF, Test Tube Babies, and Sperm Donation

By admin on October 07, 2015
Here’s one of my pet peeves: when people use the term​s “test tube babies” and “IVF” when talking about any type of assisted reproductive technology — particularly, methodologies that do not usually involve the use of IVF at all, such as sperm donation.

Both U.S. and international media and surprisingly, physicians from all over the world, too often confuse In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) with the general use of donor sperm via ICI or IUI: intra-cervical or intra-uterine insemination that happens inside the body, not in a petri dish. The term IVF is too often used as if it applies to ​all ​who utilize donor sperm, and sometimes children born from donor sperm are all referred to as “test-tube babies.”

IVF is the process of fertilization by first stimulating the ovaries to produce multiple eggs at a time, removing the eggs from the ovaries (egg retrieval), manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish, and then transferring the embryo to the uterus. Most women who get pregnant via donor conception do not need to use IVF. 

While IVF is necessary with egg donation, it is only used in a minority of donor sperm inseminations​, where the woman has infertility issues​. In our 2009 survey of 1700 sperm donor recipients, 83% of women used IUI or ICI (placing sperm internally), with only 16% using IVF (using an external petri dish) to conceive.

So for the more than four-fifths of us who used donor sperm to build our families, we did not need the use of a petri dish, only a turkey-baster type of medical device, and therefore we just don’t have “test tube babies.”