The exact translation is: fertilizing the egg outside the body. The process has evolved a lot since it was first started about 40 years ago. The process in short, entails getting eggs out, take them to the lab, put sperm with them and make sure they get fertilized. When we have a good fertilized egg (now embryo) we transfer it back to the uterus. While this seems simple, it has many components that need to be balanced very well.
To get enough eggs to make it worth the while trying, we need to use FSH medications (see Medication) to recruit enough eggs. Ultrasound and blood tests are done to make sure an adequate number of eggs are growing. When they reach the proper size, we arrange a trigger medication.
Then, based on the medication used for trigger, you will be asked to come at certain time in the morning for the pickup. Ovum pickup is done in an OR, and you are either sedated (usually) or put to sleep (rarely). It is a short procedure that most people tolerate well. You have to bring someone with you on that day. You cannot drive for 24 hours after the procedure.
The eggs and the sperm are prepared and then mixed together and observed every 24 hours. When they reach a predetermined stage, they are ready for the next step.