Fertility Glossary

5th December 2016

On your journey to fertility treatment, you will hear numerous scientific terms, phrases, and acronyms that can often be overwhelming, unfamiliar, and confusing. Here at Shady Grove Fertility, we have prepared this fertility glossary to explain some of these terms in simple language to help you better understand. If you have any questions about this terminology, please contact us and we would be happy to provide you with additional information.

a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

A

ACTH

A hormone produced within the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands; excessive levels of this hormone may lead to fertility complications.

Abortion, Habitual

A term referring to a condition where a woman has had three or more miscarriages.

Abortion, Missed

An abortion where the fetus dies within the uterus but there is no bleeding or cramping. A D&C will need to take place in order to remove the fetal remains and prevent any further complications.

Amenorrhea

Refers to the absence of a period.

Androgen

Male sex hormone.

Andrologist

A scientist who specialises in the study of male reproduction and performs laboratory evaluation of male fertility.

Aneuploidy

Refers to a condition in which an abnormal number of chromosomes are found.

Anovulation

A condition in which a woman does not release mature eggs on a regular basis for fertilisation.

Artificial Insemination (also known as Intrauterine Insemination ‘IUI’)

A procedure in which sperm is introduced into a woman’s uterus through clinical means as oppose through sexual intercourse. The purpose of this is to increase the likelihood that the sperm will reach and fertilise an egg.

Asherman’s Syndrome

A condition where the uterine wall adhere to one another; usually this syndrome is caused by uterine inflammation.

Assisted Hatching

An in vitro procedure by which the zona pellucida (a protective outer shell) of an embryo is a perforated by chemical, mechanical or laser assisted method to assist separation of the blastocyst from the zona pellucida.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ARTs)

The collective name for medical treatments aimed at assisting couples with fertility obstacles.

Asthenospermia

Decreased sperm motility.

Azoospermia

The absence of sperm in the seminal fluid, typically caused by a blockage or an impairment of sperm production.

B

Basal Body Temperature

The body temperature of a woman upon awakening or before an activity. When an increase in temperature is present this may be evidence of ovulation; a drop in temperature may be evidence of the onset of menses or a miscarriage.

Beta hCG Test (BhCG)

A blood test that determines pregnancy, a positive reading occurs when human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is present.

Bicornuate Uterus

A congenital (present at birth) malformation of the uterus where the upper portion (also known as the horn) is duplicated.

Blastocyst

An embryo with a fluid-filled blastocele cavity that has successfully developed for 5 to 6 days after fertilisation.

Blastocyst transfer

The process of transferring an embryo that has developed for 5 to 6 days after fertilisation.

Blighed Ovum

A fertilised egg that implants within the uterus but does not develop further and consequently dies.

Bromocriptine

An oral medication used to decrease the level of hormone prolactin when it is is inappropriately elevated.

C

Cervical Cerclage

A procedure in which a stitch is put around the cervix to prevent its opening until the pregnancy is at full term.

Cervical Mucus

Secretions produced by the cervix; the thickness of the mucus varies according to the phase of the menstrual cycle.

Cervical Stenosis

A blockage of the cervical canal from a congenital (present at birth) defect or from surgical procedure complications.

Cervix

The lower section and opening of the uterus that protrudes into the vagina. Sperm passes through the cervix into the uterus following intercourse. During labour the cervix dilates allowing the passage of the infant.

Cervix, Incompetent

A weakened cervix which open up prematurely during pregnancy; can cause loss of the fetus if not treated.

Chromosome

The structures within the cell that carry the genetic material (genes), the genetic messengers of inheritance.

Clomiphene Caitrate also known as Clomid, Serophene

A fertility medication commonly used for the treatment of females with ovulation disorders, reflected by infrequent or irregular menstrual cycles.

Controlled Ovarian Hyperstimulation (COH)

Medical treatment to induce the development of multiple ovarian follicles to obtain multiple oocytes at follicular aspiration.

Cryopreservation

A procedure used to preserve, freeze and store embryos, eggs, or sperm.

D

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)

A procedure used to dilate the cervical and scare out the lining and contents of the uterus.

Donor

An individual who consents in allowing their gametes or embryos to be used for the treatment of others or for research purposes.

Donor Egg Treatment

A process where a woman uses another woman’s eggs. This form of treatment is commonly used for women who are unable to use their own eggs but are still able to carry in their uterus, women with decreased ovarian function, genetic abnormalities and ovarian failure, and by same-sex male couples

Donor Insemination (DI)

Artificial insemination with donor sperm. A fresh donor semen specimen or a thawed frozen specimen is injected next to the woman’s cervix.

Donor Sperm

Used to help heterosexual couples with male infertility, same-sex female couples and single women.

E

Ectopic Pregnancy

A pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside the uterine cavity; usually in the fallopian tube, the ovary or the abdominal cavity. May require surgical intervention therapy.

Egg Donor

The process by which a fertile woman provides one or several eggs to an infertile woman. Donated eggs will be fertilised and implanted in the uterus of the infertile woman.

Egg Retrieval (ER)

An attempt is made to obtain eggs from the ovary.

Elective Single Embryo Transfer (eSET)

A process whereby a woman undergoing IVF chooses to have one or two embryos transferred when multiple are available. The primary reason is often to decrease the risk of a multiple pregnancy.

Embryo

The earliest stages of development, the undifferentiated beginnings of a baby from the point of conception to the eighth week of pregnancy.

Embryo Freezing

A process whereby a woman's unused embryos (either after treatment or first cycle) are frozen for later treatment cycles or are to be donated to other individuals seeking treatment.

Embryo Transfer (ET)

A process when embryos are transferred into the uterus.

Embryologists

Scientists trained in advanced laboratory techniques, who prepare and provide the necessary conditions for the fertilisation of eggs; they also facilitate the growth development, maturation and preservation of embryos, eggs, and sperm.

Endocrine System

The endocrine system refers to the vast collection of glands that secrete a variety of hormones into the human circulatory system.

Endometriosis

The presence of endometrial tissue (the uterine lining) in areas outside of the uterus such as the tubes, ovaries and peritoneal cavity; this condition often causes infertility and painful menstruation.

Endometrium

The tissue lining the uterus responds to the cyclic production of ovarian hormones and permits implantation of the placenta during pregnancy.

Epididymis

A coiled organ attached to and lying on the testicle; within this organ, the developing sperm complete their maturation and develop their swimming capabilities.

Estradiol Level (E2 Level)

The amount of estradiol (a form of estrogen) within the blood.

Estrogen

A group of female hormones responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics during puberty; estrogen is produced in the ovaries from the onset of puberty until menopause.

F

Fallopian Tubes

Also known as the uterine tube that carries an egg from the ovary to the uterus.

Fertilisation

The combining of the genetic material carried by sperm and egg to create an embryo; usually occurs inside the Fallopian tube but may also occur outside the body in a laboratory.

Fertility Specialist

A physician specialising in the practice of fertility.

Fetus

A term used to refer to a baby during the period of gestation between 8 weeks and full term pregnancy.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

A hormone that is produced in the pituitary gland that is essential to pubertal development and the function of a female's ovaries and a male’s testes.

Follicles

Fluid-filled sacs in the ovary that contain the eggs released at ovulation.

Follicular Phase

The pre-ovulatory portion of a woman’s cycle during which a follicle grows and high levels of estrogen cause the lining of the uterus to proliferate; usually takes between 12 and 14 days.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

Individuals can go undergo a FET cycle whenever they have frozen their embryos and wish to use them; for some this may be after the delivery of a child to grow your family or for others this could be after an unsuccessful IVF cycle. The FET typically takes 6 to 8 weeks, starting with daily birth control pills to suppress the normal ovarian cycle.

G

Gamete

Sex cells that contain half of a person's genetic information. Male gametes are called sperm and female gametes are called eggs.

Gene

The unit of inheritance; all individuals inherit two copies of each gene.

Gestational Carrier (also known as Gestational surrogacy)

A woman in whom a pregnancy resulted from fertilisation with third-party sperm and oocytes; the gestational carrier carries the pregnancy with the agreement that the offspring will be parented by one or both of the persons that produced the gametes.

Gestational Sac

A fluid-filled structure containing an embryo that develops early in pregnancy usually within the uterus.

Gonadotropin (GnRH)

A hormone that is released from the hypothalamus and plays an important role in male sperm production; coordinates the release of other hormones involved in the production of sperm.

Gonadotropins

Potent fertility drugs that provide the patient with FSH and LH or FSH alone.

H

Hormone

A chemical substance produced by a organ in the body that regulates the activity of another organ.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

A hormone that supports the development of an egg within the woman's ovary, and stimulates the release of the egg throughout ovulation. HCG is used to cause ovulation, treat infertility, and to increase sperm count in men.

Hysterosaipingoram (HSG)

An x-ray procedure that is used to determine whether the Fallopian tubes are open; this procedure can reveal information such as the configuration of the uterus, any irregularities, and the presence of fibroids.

Hysteroscopy

A surgical procedure in which a telescope-like device is inserted through the cervix to view the inside of the uterus.

I

Implantation

The embedding of the embryo into the tissue so it can establish contact with the mother’s blood supply for nourishment; implantation usually occurs within the lining of the uterus.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

A procedure whereby a physician will remove one or more eggs from a mature follicle in order to fertilise with sperm outside the human body.

Infertility

The inability to conceive or to achieve pregnancy over a considerable period of time (usually after 1 year for a female under the age of 35 or after 6 months for a female over the age of 35) despite attempts of intercourse without the use of contraception.

Initiated cycles

Medication initiated to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles.

Insemination

The placement of sperm in the female reproductive tract by artificial means; can be performed using either freshly ejaculated sperm or sperm that has previously been frozen.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

A simpler, low tech treatment for individuals who have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, mild male factor infertility, a cervical factor or absent ovulation. A process whereby the physician will place a concentrated specimen of sperm within the uterus.

K

Karyotyping

A test performed to analyse chromosomes for the presence of genetic defects.

L

Laparoscopy

Any procedure using a laparoscope, where a tool with an attached camera enables the physician to see inside the body.

Luteal Phase

The days of a menstrual cycle following ovulation and ending with menses; usually lasts between 12 and 14 days.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

A hormone produced and released by cells in the pituitary gland that causes the ovary to produce estrogen and to release a mature egg (ovulation). Within the male, LH stimulates testosterone production.

M

Miscarriage

Loss of a clinical pregnancy prior to 20 weeks gestation.

Motility

The percentage of all moving sperm in a semen sample.

Multiple Gestation/Pregnancy

The conception of two or more fetuses within the same women at the same time.

O

Oocyte

The egg cell produced in the ovaries (also known as the ovum or gamete).

Ovarian Failure

The failure of the ovary in responding to FSH stimulation from the pituitary because of damage to or malformation of the ovary.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)

A possible side effect of medically induced ovulation.

Ovaries

Female sex organ that releases mature eggs and produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovulation

Release of a mature egg from a follicle at the surface of the ovary.

Ovulation Induction

A treatment for women who are not ovulating regularly; the main goal of ovulation induction is to mature and ovulate an egg.

P

Partial Surrogacy

The involvement of sperm from the intended father and an egg from the surrogate mother.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

An infection of the pelvic organs that causes severe illness.

Pituitary Gland

The gland that is stimulated by the hypothalamus and controls all hormonal functions throughout the body.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO)

A condition present in women who do not ovulate regularly.

Pregnancy Rate

The number of pregnancies achieved from every 100 treatment cycles commenced.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

A genetic test of embryos for yourself and your partner if either of you are known to carry genetic disorders. PGD is also recommended for patients with infertility related to chromosome abnormalities such as recurrent pregnancy losses or unsuccessful IVF cycles.

Preimplantation genetic screening (PGS)

Screening of cells that detect any abnormalities in chromosomes of genetics.

Productive Male Problems

Productive male problems can stem from congenital (present at birth) problems such as abnormalities with the testicles, hormone-related issues, environmental exposures, cancer and varicose veins.

R

Recipient

Refers to the woman who is receiving an oocyte or an embryo from another woman.

S

Secondary Fertility

Inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy after having conceived and carried one or more pregnancies before.

Semen

The fluid portion of the ejaculate consisting of secretions from the prostate gland and several other glands within male reproduction.

Shared Egg Donors

These donors will be matched as a shared egg donor, with two or three recipients; provide each recipient with an equal chance of success in pregnancy along with the opportunity to share financial responsibility.

Sonogram

The use of high-frequency sound waves to create an image of internal body parts.

Sperm

Male sex cell (also known as gamete) that fertilise eggs; sperm cells also provide genetic information that determines the embryo's gender.

Surrogacy

The process of a woman carrying a pregnancy for another person. Full surrogacy involves the implantation of an embryo created using either the eggs and sperm of the intended parents, a donated egg fertilised with sperm from the intended father, or an embryo created using donor eggs and sperm.

T

Testicles

The two male sexual glands found in the scrotum; testicles produce the male hormone testosterone and produce male reproductive cells.

Testicular Biopsy

A small excision of testicular tissue to determine the ability of the cells to produce normal sperm.

Testosterone

A male hormone that is responsible for stimulating the production of sperm as well as the development of the male reproductive tissues such as prostate and testes.

Thyroid Gland

The endocrine gland in the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones to regulate the body’s metabolism.

Timed Intercourse

One of the simplest treatment options for infertility; usually involves a two step process whereby the first step requires the recruitment of a follicle, usually containing an egg to be ovulated. The second part will address insemination of the ovulated egg through the strategic timing of intercourse.

Traditional, Non-Shared Egg Donors

The recipient would be matched with the donor and would be the sole recipient for that specific egg donation.

U

Uterus

The muscular structure that carries and protects a growing fetus.

V

Vagina

The canal leading from the cervix to the outside of the woman’s body.

Z

Zygote

A fertilised egg or embryo in its early stages of development.

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