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Fertility & Infertility Glossary
Adhesion: A type of scar tissue often found in the pelvic cavity. This is usually as a result of infection, endometriosis, injury or surgery.
Anovulation: Absence of ovulation
Artificial Insemination (Intrauterine Insemination IUI or Therapeutic Donor Insemination TDI): Placing of sperm in the vagina near cervix or into the uterus, often used in combination with ovulation drugs to improve timing and conditions.
Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): A generic term for procedures involving pregnancy attempts involving work with sperm and eggs.
Azospermia: Complete absence of sperm in the semen. May be a result of blockage or lack of sperm production
Baseline Ultrasound: An ultrasound done first few days of menses to assess ovaries and uterus.
Biochemical pregnancy: Early pregnancy loss with low hormonal levels.
Blastocyst transfer: Transfer of embryos in the blastocyst stage after an IVF cycle. Usually done 4-5 days after egg retrieval
Cervical mucous: A somewhat sticky fluid covering the cervix that changes in consistency throughout the woman's menstrual cycle. During ovulation thick mucus becomes more watery and stringy, allowing passage of sperm.
Cervix: Lower part of the uterus. Sperm passes through this to get to the uterus.
Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH): Stimulation of the ovaries with fertility drugs to produce several eggs
Corpus luteum: A structure formed from the burst follicular cyst upon ovulation. Responsible for releasing progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle and to prepare the womb for implantation.
Cryopreservation: Storage of sperm and embryos at low temperatures for extended time periods.
Dysmenorrhea: Pain and cramping during menstruation
Ectopic or (tubal) pregnancy: Pregnancy that is outside the uterus
Egg retrieval (ER): A procedure used to remove eggs from the ovary after stimulation with fertility drugs.
Ejaculate: Passing of the seminal fluid and sperm. Also the name of the fluid.
Endometriosis: A condition where growth of endometrial tissue occurs in areas outside the uterus causing irritation, pain, adhesions, infertility and other pelvic abnormalities.
Endometrium: Lining of the uterus
Embryo: Fertilized egg
Embryo transfer: Placing fertilized eggs (embryos) back into the woman's uterus or fallopian tube
Estradiol: The female hormone produced by the ovary
Fallopian tubes: Eggs travel through these to the uterus after being fertilized by the sperm in the tube
Fertilization: When sperm and egg meet to create an embryo.
Fibroid tumor: Benign tumor of the uterine muscle. Also called a Myoma.
Frimbria: The opening of the fallopian tube near the ovary. During ovulation, the finger-like ends grasp the ovary and coax the egg into the tube.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A pituitary hormone that stimulates growth of the ovarian follicle. Elevated FSH levels are indicative of a decreased chance of pregnancy and/or ovarian failure.
Follicles: Each month an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid filled pocket called a follicle. These increase in size as the egg matures.
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 thicken. This stage normally takes between 12 and 14 days.
Galactorrhea: A clear or milky discharge from the breasts associated with elevated prolactin
Gonadotropins: Hormones which control reproductive function: Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenizing Hormone.
Hirsutism: The overabundance of body hair, such as a mustache or pubic hair growing upward toward the navel, found in women with excess androgens.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG): The hormone produced in early pregnancy which 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
Hydrosalpinx: Dilated and fluid filled fallopian tubes. They are often blocked also.
Hyperstimulation (OHSS): Condition when the ovaries are over stimulated by fertility medications causing them to enlarge. Symptoms can include sudden weight gain, bloating, shortness of breath, decreased urine output and pain.
Hyperthyroidism: Overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. The resulting increased metabolism "burns up" estrogen too rapidly and interferes with ovulation.
Hypothalmus: The gland in the brain that controls release of hormones from the pituitary glands.
Hypothyroidism: A condition in which the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone interfering with fertility.
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An x-ray where dye is injected into the uterus. This test checks for malformations of the uterus and blockage of the fallopian tubes.
Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which the doctor checks for uterine abnormalities by inserting a fiber-optic device. Minor surgical repairs can be executed during the procedure.
Idiopathic infertility: Term used when the cause of infertility is unexplained.
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.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A micromanipulation procedure where a single sperm is injected into the egg to enable fertilization with very low sperm counts or with non-motile sperm
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Procedure where multiple eggs are produced with the use of fertility drugs and retrieved from the ovaries. These eggs are fertilized by sperm in a laboratory. The resulting embryos are placed into the uterus.
Infertility: The inability to become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.
Intramuscular Injection (IM): An injection given deep into the muscle, usually in the upper buttock area.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Procedure where sperm is placed through the cervix into the uterus using a catheter.
Karyotyping: A test performed to analyze chromosomes for the presence of genetic defects
Laparoscopy: Examination of the pelvic region by using a small telescope called a laparoscope
Luteal phase: Post-ovulatory phase of a woman's cycle. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which cause the uterine lining to thicken to support the implantation and growth of the embryo.
Luteal Phase Defect (or deficiency) (LPD): A condition that occurs when the uterine lining does not develop adequately because of inadequate progesterone stimulation; or because of the inability of the uterine lining to respond to progesterone stimulation. LPD may prevent embryonic implantation or cause an early abortion
Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A pituitary hormone that stimulates the gonads. When estrogen reaches a critical peak, the pituitary releases a surge of LH (the LH spike), which releases the egg from the follicle
Luteinizing Hormone Surge (LH SURGE): The release of luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes release of a mature egg from the follicle. Ovulation test kits detect the sudden increase of LH, signaling that ovulation is about to occur (usually within 24-36 hours
Menorrhagia: Heavy or prolonged menstrual flow
Menstruation (menses, period): The cyclical shedding of the uterine lining in response to stimulation from estrogen and progesterone.
Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion): Spontaneous loss of an embryo or fetus from the womb.
Morphology: The form and structure of sperm cells.
Motility: In a semen analysis, the degree to which sperm cells are able to spontaneously propel themselves.
Myomectomy: Surgery performed to remove fibroid tumors
Oligo-ovualtion: Infrequent ovulation
Oligomenorrhea: Infrequent menstrual periods
Oligospermia: Low number of sperm in the ejaculate
Oocyte: The egg
Ovarian cyst: A fluid-filled sac inside the ovary. An ovarian cyst may be found in conjunction with ovulation disorders, tumors of the ovary, endometriosis or as a result of fertility medications
Ovarian failure: The failure of the ovary to respond to FSH stimulation from the pituitary because of damage to or malformation of the ovary. Diagnosed by elevated FSH in the blood.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): Condition when the ovaries are over stimulated by fertility medications causing them to enlarge. Symptoms can include sudden weight gain, bloating, shortness of breath, decreased urine output and pain
Ovaries: Two small organs on either side of a woman’s lower pelvis which produce ova, or eggs, and hormones
Ovulation: The release of the egg (ovum) from the ovarian follicle.
Ovulation induction: Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation
Ovulatory dysfunction: When eggs are not produced, matured or released from the ovary.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID): An infection of the pelvic organs that causes severe illness, high fever, and extreme pain. PID may lead to tubal blockage and pelvic adhesions.
Perinatologist: An obstetrician/gynecologist specializing in the care of pregnant women and their babies during pregnancy.
Pituitary gland: The gland that is stimulated by the hypothalamus and controls many hormonal functions that regulate fertility, and normal growth and development of the body.
Polycystic Ovaries (PCOS): A condition found in women who don't ovulate, characterized by excessive production of androgens (male sex hormones) and the presence of cysts in the ovaries. Though PCO can be without symptoms, some include excessive weight gain, acne and excessive hair growth.
Post Coital Test: An examination of cervical mucous after intercourse to determine if sperm are moving.
Premature Ovarian Failure: A condition where the ovary runs out of follicles before the normal age associated with menopause
Primary infertility: Infertility in a woman who has never had a pregnancy.
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 fertilized egg.
Prolactin: The hormone that stimulates the production of milk in breastfeeding women. Excessive prolactin levels when not breastfeeding may result in infertility
Reproductive endocrinologist: An obstetrician-gynecologist with advanced education, research and skills in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Retrograde ejaculation: A male fertility problem that allows the sperm to travel into the bladder instead of out the opening of the penis due to a failure in the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder
Salpingectomy: Surgical removal of the fallopian tube.
Salpingostomy/Fimbrioplasty: Surgical repair made to the fallopian tubes; a procedure used to open the fimbria.
Secondary infertility: The inability of a couple that has successfully achieved pregnancy to achieve another
Semen: The fluid portion of the ejaculate consisting of secretions from the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and several other glands in the male reproductive tract.
Semen analysis: A laboratory test used to assess semen quality: sperm quantity, concentration, morphology (form), and motility. In addition, it measures semen (fluid) volume and whether or not white blood cells are present, indicating an infection.
Semen viscosity: The liquid flow or consistency of the semen
Septate uterus: A uterus divided into right and left halves by a wall of tissue (septum). Women with a septate uterus have an increased chance of early pregnancy loss.
Sonogram (ultrasound): Use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts. Used to detect and count follicle growth (and disappearance) in many fertility treatments. Also used to detect and monitor pregnancy.
Sperm: The microscopic cell that carries the male's genetic material. The male reproductive cell.
Sperm agglutination: Sperm clumping caused by antibody reactions or by infection
Sperm count: The number of sperm in ejaculate and given as the number of sperm per milliliter
Sperm washing: A procedure used to remove components other than sperm from a semen sample prior to being used for intrauterine insemination
Spermatogenesis: Sperm production
Subcutaneous injection (SC): Injection given just under the skin, into the fatty tissue using a small needle
Testes: Two small organs that are located at the base of the male's penis and in which sperm are produced.
Testicular biopsy: A minor surgical procedure used to take a small sample of testicular tissue for microscopic examination to diagnose fertility problems or use in an invitro fertilization cycle.
Testicular failure: A congenital, developmental, or genetic error resulting in a testicular malformation that prevents sperm production. Can also be an acquired testicular damage - for example, from drugs, prolonged exposure to toxic substances, or a varicocoele.
Testosterone: The male hormone responsible for the formation of sperm secondary sex characteristics and for supporting the sex drive.
Torsion: Twisting and cutting off blood supply to the ovary is a rare but possible complication of hyperstimulation.
Tubal or ectopic pregnancy: Pregnancy in the fallopian tube
Ultrasound: A test used instead of X rays to view the reproductive organs. Can be performed vaginally or abdominally.
Unexplained infertility: Infertility for which the cause cannot be determined with currently available diagnostic techniques.
Unicornuate uterus: An abnormality in which the uterus is "one sided" and smaller than usual.
Uterine fibroids: Abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growths of muscle within the wall of a woman’s uterus.
Uterine polyps: Abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growths attached to a short stalk that protrudes from the inner surface of a woman's uterus.
Uterus: The hollow, muscular organ that houses and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy
Vagina: The canal leading from the cervix to the outside of the woman's body; the birth passage
Varicocoele: Varicose veins in the testicle that can be a cause of male infertility
Vas deferens: One of the tubes through which the sperm move from the testicles (epididymis) toward the seminal vesicles and prostate gland.