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In vitro fertilization is the joining of a woman’s egg and a man’s sperm outside the body. After fertilization has taken place an embryo is formed. Embryo growth begins with cell division of initially one “parent“cell.
Growing embryos can be cultured in the laboratory up to 120 hours following fertilization. After this the outer cell mass, which will later give rise to the placenta, break through the protective layer -“shell“ of the embryo and the cells spread into the surrounding space and endometrium. At that stage the embryo must be inside the uterus as it starts to adhere to and penetrate the uterine lining (endometrium) – a process known as nidation. The pregnancy hormone (hCG) starts to be produced, is released into the blood stream, then it gets into the urine where it can be detected by a pregnancy test.
In vitro fertilization can be performed using own reproductive cells (oocytes and sperm) of a couple, or donor cells.