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By Robin von Halle and Maryellen McLaughlin

Many specialized terms are associated with infertility, egg donation and surrogacy, and a lot of them are either long or abbreviated and often unpronounceable. It can make understanding the lingo another one of the challenges in a process that can be overwhelming for intended parents, potential surrogates and egg donors.

To provide a guide for your journey, we compiled a list of terms we hope you’ll find helpful.

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): An internationally recognized leader for multidisciplinary information, education, advocacy and standards in the field of reproductive medicine. 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.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): A general term referring to the methods used to help achieve pregnancy through artificial or semi-artificial means.

Bio-psycho-social evaluation: A structured interview designed to elicit information about the donor’s present medical condition, family history of medical problems, mental illness and/or substance abuse. The donor is encouraged to discuss her potential adjustment to the egg donation or surrogacy process in her general and psychological status.

Donor registry: A record of individuals who are registered either as a sperm or egg donor.

Egg donation: The act of donating eggs to someone else for use in attempting pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.

Egg donor: A woman who contracts to donate eggs to an infertile couple for in vitro fertilization.

Gestational surrogacy: When an embryo with no genetic ties to the women who is carrying the child is placed into her uterus by in vitro fertilization for purposes of another individual or couple parenting the resulting child.

Intended Parent(s): The individual or individuals who will parent the child born of assisted reproductive technology.

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI): One of the most frequently used personality tests in mental health. Its objective is to assess the major personality characteristics that affect personal and social adjustments.

Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART): An organization of professionals who are dedicated to the practice of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the United States.

Traditional surrogacy: When the woman bearing the child for a set of Intended Parents is also providing the gamete for that child.

Medical Terms
Corpus Luteum: The corpus luteum is essential for establishing and maintaining pregnancy in females because it secretes estrogens and progesterone, which thicken the lining of the uterus.

Embryologist: a person that studies the development of an embryo.

Embryo transfer: refers to a step in the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF) whereby one or several embryos are placed into the uterus of the female with the intent to establish a pregnancy.

Estrogen: Primary female sex hormone.

FSH (follicle stimulating hormone): a hormone that initiates and regulates the growth and development of the follicle that holds the egg.

Gonadotropins: natural hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The two principle Gonadotropins are LH and FSH.

hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) hormone: the pregnancy hormone. When used as an injection, this hormone helps complete the maturation process of the embryo by preventing the disintegration of the corpus luteum of the ovary.

Implantation: the embryo attaches itself to the wall of the uterus, occurs early on in the pregnancy.

In vitro fertilization: sperm outside the female womb fertilizes an egg.

LH (luteinizing hormone): a hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle and egg production.

LH surge: the surge of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which causes the follicle that has been holding the egg and maturing it to burst open and release the egg into the fallopian tube, beginning ovulation.

Lupron: a hormone that dramatically lowers estrogen levels by lowering production of FSH and LH, used to treat medical conditions such endometriosis and fibroid tumors.

Oocyte (egg) retrieval: the retrieval of an egg from a woman’s body in order to conduct in vitro fertilization.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): a condition caused by complications from fertility medication. Most cases are mild but a few can become severe.

Ovarian stimulation: a regimen of fertility medications to stimulate development of multiple follicles and eggs to increase pregnancy rates.

Progesterone: a hormone produced in the ovaries, placenta (when pregnant) and the adrenal glands. Progesterone levels will rise during the second half of the menstrual cycle, following the release of the egg.

Reproductive endocrinologist or surgeon: physicians who specialize in reproductive medicine/surgical procedures.

Secondary infertility: a woman that experiences issues of infertility after successfully carrying to term one or more child.

Selective reduction: the process of removing a fetus or fetuses in a multifetal pregnancy.

Selected Relevant Illinois Statutes
Illinois Family Building Act: For individuals protected under the act, this law requires insurance policies that cover more than 25 people and provide pregnancy-related benefits to cover costs of the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. It defines infertility as the inability to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

Illinois Gestational Surrogacy Act: This law, which took effect January 1, 2005, allows qualified intended parents of a child to have complete custody of the child immediately after birth, without a court proceeding or donor/adoption proceedings like most surrogacy cases. If the act is followed, (including the requirement that one intended parent provides the gametes for the resulting child) the law recognizes the intended parents as the child’s legal parents and allows that the birth certificate can be issued recognizing parentage through administrative proceeding and not at court proceedings.

Robin von Halle is president of Alternative Reproductive Resources (ARR –; Maryellen McLaughlin is a partner. Both can be reached at


By: Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D.

Part 2 of 2

If you’ve decided to share your children’s origins with them, you’ll likely wonder: When? How? To date, very little formal research data is available to guide us to answers. Most of the data is either anecdotal or based on generalizations made from adoption research. But mental health professionals can help, based on this research and our knowledge of child development.

You might choose to start sharing while they are young babies rocking in your arms. While this might sound crazy, given an infant’s inability to understand any language, it gives you the opportunity to rehearse how you want to communicate this information. It might not easily roll off your tongue the first few times you say it out loud. It might take a while to find the specific words and ideas you like to use. It will make the conversation more comfortable once they can understand. It also helps create an open emotional atmosphere in your family from early on.

You might instead choose to wait until your children are able to understand some of what you are telling them. As young as three years old, they are forming an identity, and will ask questions about themselves, their family members and how you became a family. But they will not be able to fully comprehend their donor origins, in all its complexities, until they reach adolescence. But if you wait this long, you risk confusing and shocking them, possibly feeling betrayed, with the trust between you disrupted.

Some parents might choose to begin sharing with children at 5 to 7 years old, when they can begin to understand a bit about “the birds and the bees” aspects of the story. Others prefer waiting until a child is a bit older, to avoid the likelihood of public disclosure. The desire for privacy should be weighed against children’s need to know. Unfortunately, waiting much later than this to begin sharing increases the chances that they’ll remember the day you sat them down to tell them, and question why you didn’t tell them sooner.

You want to accomplish broad goals in talking to your children about their origins. You want to convey how special (especially to you) and how normal they are. Just like every other child in the world thus far, they were created with an egg and sperm being brought together and carried in a woman’s uterus.

If communicated simply, matter-of-factly and comfortably, your young children will likely take for granted what (for you) might be mired in emotion. Try to keep in mind that while for you this story may be about infertility, disappointment, delays and being different, for your children, the story is about how they came to be. While the library is still quite small, thankfully there are a growing number of parent guides and children’s books available to help you share your children’s origins with them. Good luck to you!

Jan Elman Stout, Psy.D is a clinical psychologist in private practice who works with ARR clientele and numerous prospective surrogates, egg donors and parents to assess their emotional readiness for alternative paths to family building.

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About Us

Conception Connections is a blog about alternative paths to family creation. It is maintained by Alternative Reproductive Resources. Contributors include intended parents, egg donors and gestational surrogates in addition to ARR staff. Our goal is to facilitate conversations about trends, issues, current events, technology and personal stories surrounding infertility, egg donation and gestational surrogacy. If you'd like to contribute, please e-mail We also welcome your comments and suggestions. Note: Comments are moderated and posted on approval.


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