Deciphering infertility acronyms: IUI, IFV, ICSI, PICSI, TTC… what do they all mean?

When you step into the world of infertility and IVF, the amount of new things and terms you have to learn may make your head spin. So let’s go through some of the major acronyms that tend to come up when you meet your doctor or turn to Dr Google. 


IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is a fertility treatment in which your partner’s or donated sperm is being directly placed inside your uterus to facilitate fertilization. Sperms are “washed” to find the strongest ones and then injected through a catheter up through the cervix directly into the uterus,This is a cheaper and less invasive procedure in comparison to IVF. Sometimes ovulation is induced by medications such as Clomid or Letrozole, sometimes its done in a natural cycle. 


Invitro fertilization, commonly abbreviated as IVF, is a widely known technique to help people with infertility problems. At the simplest level it entails an egg being combined with sperm ‘in vitro’, i.e. ‘in glass’ (or today more accurately in a ‘plastic Petri dish’) outside of the body. For this to happen you take hormonal medications to stimulate follicle growth so that several eggs can be retrieved to be fertilised. 


A frozen embryo transfer, often abbreviated as FET, is a part of an IVF treatment referring to when a frozen embryo is transferred into your uterus. The embryo can come from a previous IVF cycle or donor egg cycle when it was frozen and to be thawed and transferred in a future cycle. (The alternative is a fresh transfer when an embryo is transferred in the same cycle as the egg retrieval.)


ICSI is an abbreviation for intracytoplasmic sperm injection, which is one of the IVF techniques used to improve chances in case of male infertility issues. A live single sperm, chosen by your embryologist, is directly injected into the center of your egg to be fertilized and then hopefully grown into an embryo that can be transferred to your uterus. (The alternative is to just place several sperm with the egg and let one find its way just like when fertilisation happens inside a woman’s body.)   


Physiological intracytoplasmic sperm injection (PICSI) is essentially ICSI with an extra step. It involves adding a special enzyme to the sperm to enhance insemination chances during an IVF treatment where there are  male infertility issues. The enzyme is called hyaluronan and is a natural compound in the body that attracts healthy strong sperm. The sperm binds with hyaluronan and then isolated to be used for ICSI.


TTC stands for trying to conceive is an abbreviation used on social media and fertility forums basically referring to people who are trying to get pregnant. 


Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise or PUPO is a common slang used on social media and fertility forums that describes your status after undergoing IVF and an embryo has been transferred to your uterus. Technically you are considered pregnant but this is not confirmed until the implantation has successfully happened. 


The two-week-wait (2WW) is the time (approx 14 days) between your ovulation and your next expected period.The term is very common between women who are trying to get pregnant (trying to conceive, TTC), especially those undergoing IVF, so it actually rather refers to the time between your ovulation and when you can take a pregnancy test.


Evangelia Elenis, MD, PhD.

This text is fact checked by Evangelia Elenis, MD, PhD. Dr. Elenis is a chief physician in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and a subspecialist in Reproductive Medicine. She is a PhD and affiliated researcher at Uppsala University with postdoctoral studies at Harvard Medical School.

A mental health app for your fertility journey

Evidence-based self-care tools and facts. Supportive community. Treatment tracking.

Get on App StoreGet on Play Store

By using our site you agree to the use of cookies to enhance your experience. Read more about how we use cookies.