Some words and expressions used in IVF are unclear, confusing or misleading. It’s always a good idea to ask,

What does that mean?


Definition: To put into action or service. To utilize or consume.

Example. “The treatment yielded 6 embryos; we used 2, and we held on to the rest in case we wanted another child.”

IVF relegates embryonic human beings to biological agents, something needed to produce an effect (i.e., pregnancy). But pregnancy exists to support the young human being, not the other way around. The embryo already has infinite value simply based on what (or rather, who) it is, not on how it can be used.


Some people mistakenly hold that removing an embryo from storage without intended uterine transfer results in the embryo’s natural death, and no one can be said to have killed the embryo (i.e., young human being).

Consider: If someone intentionally left an infant outside on a -0 degree night, would that child’s death also be “natural?”


Also known as Gender Selection. In conjunction with IVF, sex can be selected by utilizing genetic screening or testing. Once the test results are known, only the embryo(s) of the desired sex are transferred to the patient’s uterus.

Consider: What happens to the embryos not selected?


Common use: a “fertilized ovum up to 14 days old, before it becomes implanted in the uterus.” (The American Heritage Dictionary)

Consider: “The partisans of the nonhumanity of the most extreme youth strove to use a meaningless neologism, the term pre-embryo. Meaningless scientifically, because before the embryo there can be only the egg and the sperm.” From The Concentration Can. Jerome Lejeune, MD, PhD.)


Common use: the cell resulting from union of a male and a female gamete.

Consider: “Referring to the product of sperm-egg fusion as a “fertilized egg” is misleading; once an egg is fertilized, it ceases to be an egg.” From “When Does Human Life Begin?” Maureen Condic, PhD.


Common use: a disposition option for remaining cryopreserved embryos when a person/couple has decided not to undergo further assisted reproductive technology (e.g., IVF) cycles. The embryos are removed from cryostorage, “allowed to thaw,” and disposed of as medical waste.

Consider: The critical detail to often omitted in explanations of “thaw and discard” is that a cryopreserved embryo could very well keep living. Intentionally thawing an embryo without the intent of uterine transfer is a conscious decision to kill him or her.

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