Fertility Glossary

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Abortion

A premature ending of a pregnancy that is either induced or spontaneous (i.e., a miscarriage).

Adhesion

Scar tissue that develops on the site of an infection, inflammation, or surgical incision and that can prevent normal egg or sperm passage and/or interfere with zygote implantation.

Amenorrhea

The absence of menstruation.

Anaerobic Bacteria

A type of bacteria that can survive in an oxygen-poor environment. In the genital tract, some kinds of anaerobic bacteria can cause infections that may lead to infertility.

Androgen

Hormone that stimulates the activity of the accessory male sex organs and encourages development of male sex characteristics. Also produced in low quantities in females.

Artificial Insemination (AI)

The insertion of a sperm sample inside the female genital tract by artificial means. Donor insemination (AID) refers to sperm from a man other than the woman’s partner.

Aspermia

The complete absence of semen.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART)

A variety of procedures used to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IVF, and GIFT.

Asthenospermia

Low count of moving (motile) sperm.

Asymptomatic

Exhibiting no symptoms.

Azoospermia

The complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate.

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Bacteria
Single-celled living organisms, some of which can trigger infections in the reproductive system.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
The lowest body temperature during the day (usually early morning). For a woman, the BBT has a pattern of being lower than normal prior to ovulation and higher than normal after ovulation.

Biopsy
A small sample of body tissue removed for microscopic examination.

Blastocyst transfer
A recent advance in infertility treatment, in which embryos develop for 4 or 5 days (until they reach blastocyst stage), rather than the usual 2 or 3 days in IVF.

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Cervical Mucus
A fluid of varying consistency produced by the cells in the cervical crypts. The secretion of cervical mucus is controlled by estrogen and progesterone.

Cervix
The tube-like lowermost portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina. “Cervicitis” refers to inflammation of the cervix.

Chemical Pregnancy
A positive pregnancy test as determined by the presence of hCG in blood or urine. HCG is the hormone produced by the embryo, but its presence does not guarantee that the pregnancy will continue to a stage of viability.

Chlamydia
A kind of bacteria that is responsible for infections of the genital tract, especially through sexual transmission.

Chlomiphene
A fertility drug (marketed as Clomid or Serophene) that stimulates ovulation.

Clinical Pregnancy
A pregnancy that has reached the point at which the fetus has a detectable heartbeat as determined by ultrasound.

Conception
The fertilization of a woman’s egg by a man’s sperm resulting in the formation of an embryo.

Contraception
The conscious use by sexually active people of chemicals (spermicides), drugs (hormones), devices (condoms, diaphragms, intrauterine devices), surgery, or withdrawal to prevent pregnancy.

Corpus luteum
A structure that forms at the site of an ovarian follicle after it releases an egg. The corpus luteum releases estrogen and progesterone, two hormones necessary for maintaining a pregnancy. If pregnancy occurs, the corpus luteum functions for five or six months. If pregnancy does not occur, it stops functioning.

Cryopreservation
Storage of organs or tissues at very low temperatures. Embryos that are not used in an ART cycle can be cryopreserved for future use.

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Diethylstilbestrol
A synthetic estrogen, taken by women in the past to prevent miscarriages, that has been associated with infertility and other reproductive health problems in some male and female offspring.

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)
An operation in which the cervix is stretched to permit scraping of the uterine lining.

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Ectopic Pregnancy
A pregnancy that takes place outside of its normal location, the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies most often occur in a fallopian tube.

Egg
The female reproductive cell, also called an “ovum” or “oocyte.”

Egg retrieval
A procedure used to obtain eggs from ovarian follicles for use in in vitro fertilisation. The procedure may be performed during laparoscopy or through the vagina by using a needle and ultrasound to locate the follicle in the ovary.

Ejaculatory Duct
Paired ducts in males that are located behind the bladder and within the prostate. The end of the vas deferens continues into the ejaculatory duct which transports sperm into the urethra.

Embryo
Term used to describe the early stages of fetal growth, from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy.

Embryo transfer
Placing an egg fertilised outside the womb into a woman’s uterus or fallopian tube.

Endocrinology
The study of the glands of the body: thymus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, testicles and ovaries.

Endometrium
The lining of the uterus that swells after ovulation to receive an egg and is sloughed off during menstruation if implantation doesn’t take place. “Endometritis” refers to inflammation of the endometrium. “Endometriosis” refers to growth of the endometrium outside the uterus, which can result in damage to the reproductive system and, possibly, infertility.

Epididymis
A thin, coiled, tube-like structure through which sperm travel from the testicles to the vas deferens. “Epididymitis” refers to inflammation of the epididymis.

Estrogen
Hormone that stimulates secondary female sexual characteristics and controls the course of the menstrual cycle. Also produced in low quantities in males.

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Fallopian tubes
Ducts through which eggs travel to the uterus once released from the follicle. Sperm normally meet the egg in the fallopian tube, the site at which fertilisation usually occurs.

Fertility specialist
Physician specializing in the practice of fertility. The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology certifies a subspecialty for OB-GYNs who receive extra training in reproductive endocrinology (the study of hormones) and infertility.

Fertility treatment
Any method or procedure used to enhance fertility or increase the likelihood of pregnancy, such as ovulation induction treatment, varicocele repair (repair of varicose veins in the scrotal sac), and microsurgery to repair damaged fallopian tubes. The goal of fertility treatment is to help couples have a child.

Fertilization
The combining of the genetic material carried by sperm and egg to create an embryo. Normally occurs inside the fallopian tube (in vivo) but may also occur in a Petri dish (in vitro). (See also In Vitro fertilization.)

Fetus
The unborn baby from its second month of development until its birth.

Fibroid tumor
Benign (not malignant or life-threatening) tumor of fibrous tissue that can occur in the uterine wall. May be totally without symptoms or may cause abnormal menstrual patterns or infertility.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
A pituitary hormone that stimulates follicular development and spermatogenesis (sperm development). In the woman, FSH stimulates the growth of the ovarian follicle. In the man, FSH stimulates the Sertoli cells in the testicles and supports sperm production. Elevated FSH levels are associated with gonadal failure in both men and women.

Follicles
Fluid-filled sacs in the ovary, which contain the eggs released at ovulation. Each month an egg develops inside the ovary in a follicle.

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Gamete
A reproductive cell. Sperm in men, the egg in women.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)
After egg retrieval, the eggs are mixed with sperm and then placed, using a minor surgical procedure (laparoscopy), into the woman’s fallopian tubes for in vivo fertilization.

Gestation
The period of development of the new organism from conception to the end of pregnancy and birth.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH)
A substance secreted every ninety minutes or so by a part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This hormone enables the pituitary to secrete LH and FSH, which stimulate the gonads.

Gonadotropins
Hormones that control reproductive function: Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone.

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Hormone
A chemical produced by an endocrine gland that circulates through the blood and has a widespread affect throughout the body.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)
The hormone produced in early pregnancy that keeps the corpus luteum producing progesterone. Also used via injection to trigger ovulation after some fertility treatments, and used in men to stimulate testosterone production.

Hypogonadism
Inadequate ovarian or testicular function as shown by low sperm production or lack of follicle production, as well as low or absent levels of FSH and LH.

Hysterosalpingogram
An X-ray examination of the uterus and the fallopian tubes.

Hysteroscopy
A visual examination of the uterus using an instrument called a hysteroscope, which enables the doctor to see into the organ without making a large incision.

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Implantation (Embryo)
The embedding of the embryo into tissue so it can establish contact with the mother’s blood supply for nourishment. Implantation usually occurs in the lining of the uterus however, in an ectopic pregnancy it may occur elsewhere in the body.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Eggs produced by administering fertility drugs are retrieved from the woman’s body and fertilized by sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are transferred by catheter to the uterus.

In Vitro Maturation (IVM)
A revolutionary fertility treatment IVM, was developed as a safer and more affordable alternative to conventional IVF. IVM treatment collects immature eggs from unstimulated or minimally stimulated ovaries under ultrasound scan guidance after a shortened hormone treatment. These immature eggs are then matured in the laboratory for 24-48 hours using culture medium and small quantities of hormones. Finally, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used for fertilization of the matured eggs. The resulting embryos are then finally transferred to a women’s womb. IVM benefits: patients with PCOS due to increased risk of OHSS budget conscious younger women with normal menstrual cycles females diagnosed with cancer prior to chemotherapy or radiotherapy salvaging immature eggs collected during a standard IVF/ICSI.

Infertility
The inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
A micromanipulation (occurring under the microscope) procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to enable fertilization with very low sperm counts or with non-motile sperm (sperm that don’t swim effectively toward the egg). The embryo is then transferred to the uterus.

Intratubal Insemination (ITI)
Artificial insemination in which the sperm are placed into the fallopian tubes instead of the vagina (the most common target of artificial insemination).

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
A procedure in which a doctor places sperm directly into the uterus through the cervix using a catheter.

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Karyotyping
A test that analyzes chromosomes to determine if there is a genetic basis for repeated miscarriages.

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Laparoscopy
Examination of the pelvic region by using a small telescope called a laparoscope.

Luteal Phase
The postovulation phase of the menstrual cycle. “Luteal phase defect” refers to the inadequate production of hormones during this phase to support a pregnancy.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
A pituitary hormone that stimulates the gonads. In the man, LH is necessary for spermatogenesis and for the production of testosterone. In the woman, LH is necessary for the production of estrogen.

Luteinizing Hormone Surge (LH SURGE)
The release of luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes release of a mature egg from the follicle.

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Menarche
The time when a woman has her first menstruation.

Menopause
The time when a woman ceases to menstruate for natural, age-related reasons.

Menstrual Cycle
The entire cycle of physical changes from the beginning of one menstruation to the beginning of the next. During this period, hormones produced by the ovaries cause the endometrium to shed and develop anew.

Menstruation (Menses)
The cyclic discharge of the lining of the endometrium (menstrual blood, cellular debris, and mucus) that occurs about two weeks after ovulation if the woman is not pregnant. (Also called menses or period).

Micromanipulation
A variety of techniques that can be performed in a laboratory under a microscope. Anembryologist manipulates egg and sperm to improve the chances of pregnancy. (See Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, ICSI.)

Microsurgery
Surgery performed on the genital tract using microscopic instruments under magnification.

Miscarriage
Spontaneous loss of a viable embryo or fetus in the womb.

Morphology
The size and shape of sperm.

Motility
The movement of sperm within the semen.

Mycoplasma
A type of bacteria that can cause infections in the genital tract.

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Non-obstructive azoospermia
Azoospermia that is due to absence or marked reduction of sperm production by the testes.

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Obstructive Azoospermia
Azoospermia that is due to a blockage in the sperm duct system.

Oligospermia
A low sperm count.

Ovarian Failure
The failure of the ovary to respond to FSH stimulation from the pituitary because of damage to or malformation of the ovary, or a chronic disease such as autoimmune disease. Diagnosed by elevated FSH in the blood.

Ovary
The female gonad (there are two ovaries in the female genital tract) that produces eggs and hormones. “Oophoritis” refers to inflammation of the ovary.

Ovulation
The release of the egg (ovum) from the ovarian follicle.

Ovulation Induction
Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation.

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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
An infection occurring in the female reproductive system, of which vaginitis, cervicitis, salpingitis, and oophoritis are subsets.

Pergonal
A fertility drug used to induce ovulation.

Postcoital Test
A test performed on cervical mucus a few hours after intercourse to determine the number and motility of sperm.

Progesterone
The hormone produced by the corpus luteum during the second half of a woman’s cycle. It thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare it to accept implantation of a fertilised egg.

Prostate
A small gland about the size of a walnut, located below the bladder. It produces some of the sperm-carrying fluid for the semen.

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Recombinant DNA
DNA that has been modified so that it contains genes from two different sources. Recombinant technology is often used to produce highly pure therapeutic drugs.

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Scrotum
The pouch of skin that hangs from the lower abdominal region below the penis.

Semen
Fluid containing the sperm and nourishing secretions that is expelled from the male reproductive system by means of ejaculation.

Semen Analysis
A test performed on freshly ejaculated sperm to determine the count, shape, size, and ability of the sperm to move.

Seminiferous tubules
Specialized microscopic ducts located within the testes. Immature sperm begin to mature in these tubules.

Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)
A reproductive health problem attributable to an infectious agent passed from one partner to another during sexual intercourse.

Sperm
The microscopic cell that carries the male’s genetic information to the female’s egg the male reproductive cell the male gamete.

Sperm Count
The number of sperm in an ejaculate. Also called sperm concentration and given as the number of sperm per milliliter.

Sperm motility
The ability of sperm to swim. Poor motility means the sperm have a difficult time swimming toward the egg.

Split-Ejaculate
Seminal fluid with an enhanced concentration of sperm created by splitting an ejaculated semen sample (the first half of the ejaculate contains most of the sperm).

Sterility
An irreversible condition that prevents conception.

Superovulation
The production of multiple eggs during a single menstrual cycle stimulated by fertility drugs.

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Teratospermia
Condition characterized by the presence of malformed spermatozoa in semen.

Testicles
The male gonad (there are two testicles in the male genital tract) that produces sperm and hormones.

Testosterone
The male hormone responsible for the formation of secondary sex characteristics and for supporting the sex drive. Testosterone is also necessary for spermatogenesis (sperm development).

TFNA (Testicular Fine Needle Aspiration)
Minimally invasive technique to recover sperm where the testis are punctured for sperm aspiration.

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Ultrasound
A test used instead of X-rays to visualise the reproductive organs for example, to monitor follicular development.

Ureaplasma
The smallest known member of the mycoplasma family.

Urethra
The tube that carries the urine from the bladder and the semen from the prostate and ejaculatory ducts out through the tip of the penis. It is the final passageway for both urine and sperm to leave the body.

Uterus
The womb.

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Vagina
The “birth canal” leading from the vulva to the cervix. “Vaginitis” refers to inflammation of the vagina.

Varicocele
An enlarged vein in the scrotum that can lead to infertility.

Varicocele
A varicose vein of the testicles that causes the testes to heat up and may lead to a decrease in sperm production with resulting male infertility.

Varicocelectomy (microscopic)
Most common operation to repair varioceceles.

Vas Deferens
The tube through which sperm pass from the epididymis to the urethra. “Vasectomy” refers to a surgical sterilization of this tube.

Vasectomy
The accidental or elective surgical separation of the vasa deferential a procedure used for birth control.

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Zona Pellucida
The protective surface layer of the egg.

Zygote
A fertilized egg that has not yet divided.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
In vitro fertilization that involves creating a zygote outside the body and then placing it into the fallopian tube.