ART Definitions

What is Assisted Reproduction? The American Society for Reproductive Medicine defines “assisted reproduction” as all treatments that involve handling egg and sperm and/or embryos outside the body.

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): The ASRM is a non-profit, multi-disciplinary organization whose members must demonstrate the high ethical principles of the medical profession, evince an interest in infertility, reproductive medicine and biology, and adhere to the objectives of the Society. The goal of the ASRM is to be the nationally and internationally recognized leader for multidisciplinary information, education, advocacy and standards in the field of reproductive medicine. Its peer-review journal, Fertility and Sterility ® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, mental health professionals, nurses, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders. The journal publishes juried original scientific articles in clinical and laboratory research relevant to medical and psychological aspects of infertility and fertility treatment. The Legal Professional Group of the ASRM is comprised of attorneys and others interested in the legal aspects of this field. 

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): includes all fertility treatments in which both eggs and sperm are handled extra-corporally (outside the body). This definition excludes treatments in which only sperm are handled (i.e., intrauterine—or artificial—insemination) or procedures in which a woman takes medicine to stimulate egg production without the intention of having eggs retrieved. However, for purposes of general discussion, sperm donation is often included as an ART process.

Cryobank: a facility for freezing and preserving semen at low temperatures (usually -196.5C), and holdings for future use. Operations, policies and procedures of cryobanks (also known as sperm banks) are regulated at the state level, as semen banks and/or tissue banks or laboratories by the governing state department in each state. The American Association of Tissue Banks is the professional organization that provides guidelines and policy recommendations for tissue banks.

Donate and donor: Gamete or embryo donors provide genetic material/embryos with no intention of being a parent. When they donate the gametes or embryos, they waive their rights to them. Best practice is for donors to be independently represented, with a negotiated, written agreement that memorializes the intentions of the parties and the donor’s informed and voluntary waivers.

Egg Bank: a facility that preserves and stores human eggs for future use. Typically, when this term is used, it is referring to a facility that stores and provides donated eggs for reproductive use by someone other than the genetic donor.

Egg Donor: a woman who provides an egg or eggs to be used in the conception of an embryo for the Intended Parent(s.) The donor undergoes a surgical egg retrieval after medically induced stimulation of egg production and maturation. Any donor is not a parent and donates her genetic materials with no intention of becoming a parent from the use of those eggs.

Egg retrieval: the medical process by which the mature egg(s) is surgically removed from the ovary. The surgical retrieval is preceded by a period of medically-induced stimulation of the ovaries and concomitant monitoring through hormone assay and ultra-sound examination.

Embryo: the fertilized Ovum or Ova through week seven or eight after fertilization. The term is commonly used without distinction to include not only an Embryo, but also a pre-embryo and a blastocyst. (The pre-embryo is the fertilized Egg after three days of growing and dividing in vitro. The blastocyst is the fertilized Egg after five days of growing and dividing in vitro. Once transferred to the uterus, a pre-embryo or blastocyst that successfully implants and grows in the endometrium becomes an Embryo. The embryo develops into a fetus).

Embryo transfer: the placement of the embryo(s) into the uterus. The embryo transfer may be referred to as “ET”.

Gamete: reproductive cells containing genetic material. The cells unite during sexual reproduction or in-vitro during assisted reproduction. Male gametes are sperm and female gametes are ova (eggs). Each is haploid, meaning that each contains only one set of chromosomes. When the haploid male and female gametes unite in fertilization, they form a zygote. The zygote is diploid and contains two sets of chromosomes.

Gestational Carrier (sometimes called a ‘gestational surrogate’): the woman who will receive embryos through the embryo transfer process, those embryos being the product of fertilization of the Intended Mother’s eggs (or the eggs of a donor) and Intended Father’s sperm (or the sperm of a donor), or an embryo created with donor egg and donor sperm, or a donated embryo. The intention is for the gestational carrier to gestate the pregnancy, deliver the child of the Intended Parent(s) and at birth, the Intended Parent(s) will assume custody of, and parental responsibility for, the child. There is no intention that the gestational carrier will be a parent of any child born from the IVF/embryo transfer procedure.

Informed Consent: meant to be a collaborative process between provider and patient, in which the treatment proposed by the clinician, its risks, benefits and alternatives are discussed and the patient has full opportunity to ask questions. Importantly, consents may be unilaterally withdrawn for any reason with no penalty, unlike a contract. In ART arrangements, the fertility center’s informed consent document may address the storage of embryos and their ultimate disposition.

Intended Father: the man providing the sperm used to create embryos, or who utilizes donor sperm or donor embryos for his own reproductive purposes. This definition also includes an Intended Father who commissions a gestational carrier to carry the pregnancy, conceived with his own sperm, with donor sperm or with donor embryo. The intention is for the Intended Father to be recognized as the legal father.

Intended Mother: the woman who provides the eggs used to create embryos, or who utilizes donor eggs or donor embryos for her own reproductive purposes. This definition also includes an Intended Mother who commissions a gestational carrier to carry the pregnancy, conceived with Intended Mother’s own eggs, with donor eggs or with donor embryo. The intention is for the Intended Mother to be recognized as the legal mother.

Intended Parent(s): the person or persons who will be the legal parent(s) of any Child born from the assisted reproductive technology arrangement.

In vitro fertilization (IVF): the process by which a female gamete is fertilized by a male gamete outside of the body in order to create an Embryo for subsequent transfer into the uterus.

Parentage Order: an order of court, issued either pre-birth or post-birth, declaring that the intended parent(s) is/are the legal parent(s). Generally, these may be issued in gestational carrier cases, and should also declare that the gestational carrier, and her spouse/partner, are not parents. In most states, the parties all join in the petition and an affidavit of the IVF physician, describing the medical procedure and the doctor’s opinion as to the genetic parentage of the child, must be supplied. 

REI: reproductive endocrinology and infertility. Use of this term usually refers to the physician who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility: the fertility doctor.

Sperm Donor: the man who donates his sperm to another for reproductive purposes with no intention of being a parent of any resultant child.

Traditional surrogate: a woman who is inseminated with the sperm of the Intended Father, or sperm donated to the Intended Father for reproductive purposes, with the agreement that she will carry any resultant pregnancy and upon delivery, place the child with the Intended Father and, if applicable, his partner or spouse. Because the surrogate is the genetic mother and a parent