There are a lot of specific terms and acronyms used in the field of infertility. Having knowledge of these terms can play a vital role in helping patients better understand their treatment and increase their ability to effectively communicate with their provider. To that end we have compiled this glossary to help explain these terms in a clear and straightforward manner.
Adhesions – Bands of scar tissue attached to organ surfaces and capable of connecting, covering, or distorting organs, such as tubes, ovaries or uterus. Can also occur inside uterine cavity; increased risk with history of multiple miscarriages, D & Cs and C-sections.
AID (Artificial Insemination by Donor) – A procedure introducing sperm from an anonymous donor into a woman’s uterus in order to achieve a pregnancy.
AIH (Artificial Insemination by Husband or homologous) – A special insemination procedure used to introduce sperm collected from a woman’s partner into the woman’s uterus. Also referred to as intrauterine insemination (IUI).
Amenorrhea – Absence of menstruation in a woman of reproductive age.
Androgens – Male sex hormones.
Andrologist – Specialist in male reproduction.
Andrology – The study of male infertility.
Anovulation – A condition defined by the lack of ovulation, however menstruation may still occur.
Antisperm antibodies – Antibodies that may be produced by either a female or male which may damage sperm or cause them to adhere to each other, thus limiting their fertility potential.
ART – Assisted Reproductive Techniques used to treat infertility. They include IVF, IUI, ICSI, PGD/PGS, PGT-A and more.
Asherman’s Syndrome – A condition where the walls of the uterus stick together, often due to scarring or adhesions.
Aspiration – A surgical technique of acquiring eggs or sperm.
Asthenozoospermia – Abnormal sperm motility (low % of motile sperm).
Azoospermia – The absence of sperm in the ejaculate.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – BBT is a measurement of body temperature at rest. It is supposed to be taken each morning as soon as you wake up and recorded/tracked on a chart (BBT chart). The temperatures can be used to help ID ovulation, which often triggers a rise in BBT.
Bicornuate Uterus – A condition of the uterus where the upper portion is duplicated. This can affect the ability of a woman to carry a baby to term bold. Treatment often calls for a surgical intervention.
Bio Chemical Pregnancy – A biological pregnancy, as measured by a positive pregnancy test (hCG test), that fails to develop into a clinical pregnancy. hCG levels rise high enough to be considered positive then stop rising and fall back to negative levels.
Blastocyst – The stage of embryo development where cell differentiation starts to occur. The Blastocyst contains a trophectoderm (outer layer or cells) which will become the placenta, and an inner cell mass which will become the fetus. This stage occurs around day five to seven of development.
Blastocyst Transfer – An IVF cycle where only blastocyst stage (day 5-7) embryos are transferred back in the uterus. This has become the new standard in IVF at Overlake Reproductive Health.
Body Mass Index (BMI) – A standard measurement that looks at the ratio of height to body weight. Most clinics have an upper limit for BMI for certain procedure types.
Cancelled Cycle – An halted IVF or IUI cycle, usually due to poor response to medication, no eggs found during retrieval, or failed fertilization.
Cervical Mucus – Mucus produced by the cervix which changes in thickness and quantity at the time of ovulation.
Cervix – The lower section of the uterus which protrudes into the vagina and serves as a passageway for sperm into the uterus.
Clinical Pregnancy – A pregnancy in which the gestational sac can now be verified by ultrasound. The gestational sac is usually checked during week four of embryo development.
Clomid (Clomiphene Citrate) – A brand name for Clomiphene Citrate. A common medication used to stimulate production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
Clomid Challenge Test (CCCT) – A very common fertility diagnostic testing procedure that helps to assess ovarian reserve. The format of a CCCT is as follows: first the women gets a blood draw on day 2/3 of her cycle to measure her baseline hormones, followed by taking Clomid for several days per instructions from her doctors, finally, she will come back in for another blood draw on her day 10 to recheck her hormones.
Coitus – Sexual intercourse.
Complete Blood Count (CBC) – A routine blood draw that evaluates for infection, anemia, and leukemia.
Conception – The fertilization of the female’s egg by the male’s sperm. Often used to start the beginning of pregnancy.
Congenital – A characteristic or defect present at birth. This can refer to both hereditary conditions and those acquired during pregnancy.
Corpus Luteum – The remainder of the follicle in the ovary that develops after the egg is released, which secretes progesterone.
Cycle – The period of time during which a single course of infertility treatment occurs. This is tied directly to a woman’s menstrual cycle, although, depending on the type of treatment, the menstrual cycle itself may be naturally occurring or manipulated by the clinic.
Cryopreservation – The preservation of sperm, embryos or eggs by freezing, usually by immersion in liquid nitrogen.
D & C – Dilation and curettage. This is a surgical procedure where the cervix is expanded so that the cervical canal and or uterus can be scraped with a spoon-shaped device called a curette to remove abnormal tissues.
Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) – A condition where a woman’s ovarian reserve is reduced to the point that it makes conceiving difficult. DOR is a primary cause of infertility. The condition naturally occurs with age as a woman approaches menopause, but can also happen prematurely at a much younger age.
Dysmenorrhea – Abnormally painful menstruation.
Dyspareunia – Painful intercourse.
Ectopic Pregnancy – A dangerous pregnancy where the fertilized egg has implanted outside the uterine cavity. This usually occurs in the fallopian tube. Generally requires surgical intervention.
Egg Donation – The process where an egg donor gives her eggs to another woman. This process can be both known (where the egg donor is known) or anonymous.
Egg Donor – A woman who donates her eggs to another woman. Anonymous egg donors often undergo rigorous medical and psychological screening before being approved to donate their eggs.
Egg Retrieval – A surgical procedure during which a doctor collects the woman’s eggs. This is done by aspirating the ovarian follicles with a large needle inserted through the vaginal wall.
Embryo – A fertilized egg.
Embryo Transfer – Placing a fertilized egg (embryo) into the uterus so it can implant and lead to a pregnancy.
Embryologists – Highly trained professionals that specialize in the care and handling of eggs and embryos. They are intimately involved in the every step of the process from egg retrieval, egg fertilization, maturing of the embryo, and preservation of eggs and embryos.
Endometriosis – The presence of endometrial tissue in abnormal locations, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries and abdominal cavity. The condition frequently causes pain and discomfort during menstruation, or intercourse, or even chronic pelvic pain. May also cause infertility.
Endocrine System – A key regulatory system of the body, sometime referred to as the hormonal system. Hormones regulate so many of the important processes in the body, but are especially critical in the reproductive system. Most doctors that specialize in fertility are Reproductive Endocrinologists.
Endometrial Biopsy – The extraction of a small amount of tissue from the endometrium.
Endometrium – The inner lining of the uterus.
Epididymis – A male organ located above and behind the testicles that is involved in the storage and maturation of sperm, a process that takes several months.
Estrogen -The primary female hormone produced mainly by the ovaries from puberty to menopause.
Fallopian tube – The tube that connects the uterus and ovary. It allows the egg to pass from the ovary to the uterus and the spermatozoa from the uterus toward the ovary.
Fertility Preservation – Procedures designed to help safeguard a person’s future fertility or ability to have a baby including sperm Cryopreservation for men, and egg freezing for Women.
Fertilization – The fusion of genetic material from both parents that occurs when the sperm penetrates the egg.
Fetus – The developing baby from the ninth week of development to the moment of birth.
Fetal Reduction – A medical procedure to reduce the number of fetuses in a pregnancy.
Fibroids – Also known as leiomyoma, Pl. Leiomyomata. Smooth muscle tumors of the muscular wall of the uterus which are almost always benign but may cause infertility or recurrent miscarriages, or gynecologic symptoms such as painful/heavy menses, pelvic “heaviness” or pain.
Follicle – A cystic structure in the ovary which contains and nurtures the ovum (egg). It enlarges to a diameter of 18 – 28 mm (3/4 – 1 inch) before ovulation, at which point it releases the egg.
Follicular Phase – The part of a menstrual cycle, generally the first 14 days after menstruation begins, where follicle development takes place in the ovaries.
Follistim – The brand name of a new recombinant FSH used to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles. Gonal-F is the brand name of another recombinant FSH on the market.
Frozen Embryo – A cryopreserved embryo that can be warmed and used in an embryo transfer during a frozen embryo cycle.
Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) – An IVF treatment cycle in which an already frozen embryo is thawed and transferred.
FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) – A hormone that recruits and then stimulates growth of the follicle in the ovary, as well as the formation of spermatozoa in the testes.
Gamete – A sperm or egg.
Gamete Intra-Fallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT) – A procedure where the sperm and egg are transferred into the fallopian tubes so natural fertilization can occur. This is an older form of ART treatment and is not commonly done anymore.
Gestation – The period of development of the fetus in the uterus from conception to birth, generally 40 weeks or eight months.
Gestational Carrier – A woman who carries the pregnancy to term bold but is not the biological parent of the baby.
Ganirelix – A GnRH antagonist that can be used to prevent premature ovulation in IVF cycles.
Gonadotropin – A hormone (FSH, LH, hMG, hCG) which stimulates the gonads (ovaries or testes).
Gonads – Reproductive glands that make produce gametes and “sex” hormones. In females these are the ovaries, which make eggs, and estrogen. In males these are the testicles, which make sperm and testosterone.
Gonadotropin – A hormone that can stimulate the gonads to produce either sperm (male) or eggs (female).
GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) – A small hormone produced by the brain which causes the pituitary gland to manufacture and release FSH and LH.
GnRH agonist (Lupron) – Differs from GnRH at 2 amino-acid positions. Used to stop production of FSH and LH from the pituitary gland. Can also be used to trigger ovulation in specifically designed protocols. Also used to treat endometriosis and fibroids.
Gonal-F – The brand name of a recombinant FSH used to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles. Follistim is the brand name of another recombinant FSH on the market.
Hirsutism – A condition characterized by excessive body hair. Generally related to the overproduction of androgens.
hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) – A hormone produced by the placenta. Detection of its presence in urine or blood is the basis of the pregnancy test. Also used to trigger final maturation and ovulation of the egg.
hMG (human menopausal gonadotropin) – A hormone (Menopur) used to stimulate follicle production. Equal parts of FSH and LH activity are present.
Hydrocele – A fluid-filled swelling of the scrotum.
Hysterectomy – The surgical removal of the uterus.
Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – A diagnostic procedure primarily used to assess the health of the fallopian tubes, can also be used to identify abnormalities in the uterus.
Hysteroscopy – An endoscopic (fiber-optic tube) procedure used primarily to visualize the interior of the uterus.
Implantation – The embedding of the embryo in the uterine wall.
Implantation Rate – The percentage of embryos that are transferred back into the uterus that implant.
Infertility – The inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy or to carry a baby to term.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – An embryology procedure where fertilization is carried out by individually injecting sperm into each egg.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – A medical procedure where the sperm is washed and injected directly into the uterus. IUI can be done with partner sperm or donor sperm.
Immunobead Test – A diagnostic test that evaluates sperm for antisperm antibodies.
In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – A procedure in which an egg is removed from a ripe follicle and fertilized with sperm outside the body. The resulting embryo is inserted into the woman’s uterus.
Laminaria – A small cervical dilator. Often used to expand the cervix before surgery.
Laparoscopy – An abdominal surgical procedure using an endoscopic instrument (fiber-optic tube) to view the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, and other abdominal structures. The laparoscope may also be used to perform surgical procedures, employing the use of lasers and other specialized equipment.
LH (luteinizing hormone) – A hormone produced and released by the pituitary gland. In the female, it is responsible for maturation and then the release of the ovum. In the male, it stimulates testosterone production.
LH Surge – The large increase in LH during a woman’s menstrual cycle that corresponds with the ovulation.
Luteal Phase – The period of a menstrual cycle from ovulation to menses, generally 12-14 days long.
Lutrepulse – The trade name for a gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) used to induce ovulation in some patients. It is administered through an infusion pump in a pulsatile fashion.
MAR Screen – A screening test that evaluates a sperm sample for antisperm antibodies. If sample is found to be positive then a more accurate test (Immunobead Test) is generally ordered.
Menstruation (cycle, period) – A recurring cycle where the endometrial lining of the uterus prepares for pregnancy. If a pregnancy did not occur during the cycle, then the lining is shed.
Metrorrhagia – Menstrual bleeding during the middle of a cycle.
Micromanipulation – Any procedures that are carried out directly with an egg or embryo during IVF. These include ICSI, assisted hatching, and embryo biopsies for PDG/PGS.
Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) – A surgical method of retrieving sperm from the epididymis.
Miscarriage – A pregnancy that ends before the fetus can survive outside the uterus.
Mittelschmerz – Lower Abdomen discomfort or pain that occurs during ovulation.
Morphology – The study of the size and shape of sperm. There are several different classification scales commonly used. A sperm sample that exhibits abnormal morphology is said to be “teratozoospermic”.
Motility – A measurement of the percentage of sperm that are moving in a semen sample.
Multiple Birth -The birth of two or more offspring at one time.
Multiple Gestation or Multiple Pregnancy – A pregnancy with more than one fetus in the same woman.
Myomectomy – The surgical removal of fibroids from the wall of the uterus. Depending on the size of the fibroid, this can be done either hysteroscopically or as an exploratory laparotomy.
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Oligospermia – The presence of a low number of sperm in the ejaculate.
Oocyte – The egg cell that is produced in the ovaries. Also known as an ovum or gamete.
Oocyte Donation – See egg donation.
Oocyte Retrieval – See egg Retrieval.
Ovarian Cyst – A fluid filled sac inside the ovary. These kinds of cysts may be found in conjunction with ovulation disorders, or endometriosis.
Ovarian Failure – The failure of the ovary to respond to FSH stimulation. This is diagnosed by elevated FSH levels.
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) – A possible side effect of IVF, characterized by swollen, painful ovaries, and in some cases, the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and chest.
Ovarian Reserve – A term that combines a woman’s egg supply (how many eggs she has remaining) and her egg quality (the amount of genetically normal eggs). Both factors are closely tied with a woman’s age, and decrease as a woman gets older.
Ovary, Ovaries – The female gonads. They make eggs and estrogen.
Ovulation – The release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary.
Ovulation Failure – The failure to ovulate. Also called anovulation.
Ovulation Induction – Therapeutically causing ovulation through the use of medication/hormones.
Ovulation Test – A test or method to determine if ovulation has occurred.
Ovum – The egg cell (gamete) produced in a woman’s ovaries during each menstrual cycle.
PAP Smear – A “Papanicolaou Smear” is a screening test to evaluate the cells of the cervix to determ boldine if they are normal. The cells are gently removed and smeared onto a dish or slide to be examined by a laboratory.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – An inflammatory condition of the pelvis that can lead to infertility. Often caused by infection.
PGD – Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis is a genetic screening test used with IVF to screen for specific gene abnormalities.
PGS – Preimplantation Genetic Screening is a genetic screening test used with IVF that looks for general chromosomal abnormalities.
PGT – Preimplantation Genetic Testing is a newer term that includes both PGD and PGS.
PGT-A – Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidies identifies embryos with the correct number of chromosomes, so your care team can select the embryo with the best chance of leading to IVF success.
Pituitary gland – A gland at the base of the brain which produces many hormones, including FSH and LH.
Placenta – The part of the embryo that implants in the uterine wall and provides the means for nutrient exchange with the mother.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – An endocrine condition found in woman in which their hormones are out of balance. This can lead to abnormal periods and problems getting pregnant. The condition is named after the tendency for most women with PCOS to grow small cysts on their ovaries.
Polyps – Small, mostly benign growths protruding from the lining of the endometrium or endocervix. More common in patients with irregular menses or PCOS. Polyps can cause irregular or heavy bleeding and, in some cases, can cause infertility.
Post Coital Test (PCT) – A test where the cervical mucus is examined after intercourse that looks for motile sperm. Also known as the Sims-Huhner Test.
Primary Infertility – Infertility in woman who have never conceived, and/or, woman who have never had a live birth.
Prolactin – A hormone produced in the pituitary. It is used to screen for hypothalamic-pituitary disorders that may hinder ovulation.
Progesterone – A hormone produced and released during the second half of a woman’s ovulatory cycle. It is necessary in the preparation of the uterine lining for implantation of the fertilized egg.
Recurrent Miscarriage (recurrent loss) – Two or more miscarriages. There are a variety of tests that can be done to determine the cause of loss. Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause.
Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) – Physicians trained in obstetrics and gynecology that receive further specialized training in treating infertility with surgical procedures and assisted reproductive techniques (ART) such as IUI and IVF.
Reproductive Surgeon – A surgeon who specializes in the surgical correction of anatomical disorders that affect reproductive function.
Resistant Ovary – An ovary that is not responsive to follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).
Retrograde Ejaculation – A male condition in which the sperm is sent into the bladder instead being ejaculated. Can be diagnosed with a Retrograde ejaculation test, which examines the urine for sperm.
Retroverted Uterus – A uterus that is tilted back towards the rectum.
RH Factor – Blood antibodies present in most people that are passed down genetically and capable of producing severe immunologic reactions.
Rubella – German measles, a viral disease that can cause severe birth defects. Commonly screened as part of a fertility workup as women who are not immune may be advised to get a vaccination before attempting pregnancy.
Salpingectomy – Surgical removal of the fallopian tubes, can be partial (one side / unilateral) or complete (both sides / bilateral).
Salpingitis – inflammation of the fallopian tubes, can be unilateral or bilateral.
Secondary Infertility – The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy after having one or more live births.
Sims-Huhner Test – Another name for a Post Coital Test.
Sonogram – A diagnostic imaging test; see Ultrasound.
Semen – The sperm and seminal secretions ejaculated by the male during orgasm.
Semen Analysis – A screening test that looks at the male’s semen for a variety of different characteristics such as count, motility, morphology and more.
Sperm – Male reproductive cells contained in the seminal fluid.
Sperm Count – A measurement of how many sperm are contained in the ejaculate; part of a semen analysis.
Sperm Motility – A measurement of the percentage of moving (motile) sperm in a semen sample; part of a semen analysis.
Sperm Morphology – A measurement of the percentage of normal shaped sperm in a semen sample using a specific criteria; part of a semen analysis.
Sperm Wash – The laboratory procedure used to isolate the sperm out of the ejaculate and prepare it for either insemination (IUI) or fertilization (IVF).
Sperm Cryo – A male fertility preservation procedure in which sperm is frozen for future use.
Sterility – The complete inability to reproduce, different from infertility.
Stimulation – Using hormones to induce increased ovarian follicle growth.
Swim-up Test – A technique that separates motile sperm from non-motile sperm and other debris in a semen sample. No longer regularly used.
Suction morcellator – The newest hysteroscopic technology to remove intrauterine polyps, fibroids, and adhesions. Allows more complete removal of larger, more technically demanding fibroids than was previously possible.
Teratozoospermia – A condition where the male’s sperm exhibit abnormal morphology or shape.
Testicles – The male (sexual glands) gonads located in the scrotum. They are involved in the production of testosterone and sperm.
Testicular Biopsy – A procedure where a small piece of testicular tissue is removed in order to determine the testicle’s ability to produce sperm.
Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) – A procedure where sperm are obtained directly from testicles through either an aspiration or incision of the testicles.
Testosterone – The most potent male sex hormone, produced in the testes.
Tubal Ligation – A female sterilization procedure that blocks the fallopian tubes so that eggs can no longer be fertilized by sperm. The tubes are generally cut and either tied off, or cauterized.
Tubal Ligation Reversal – A reversal of a tubal ligation procedure. The effectiveness can vary depending on what surgical technique was used in the original ligation procedure.
Ultrasound – A diagnostic imagining test that visualizes internal structures and organs through the use of sound waves.
Unicornuate Uterus – An abnormality in the shape of the uterus where it is smaller, and “one-sided”.
Uterus – The reproductive organ which protects and nourishes the developing embryo/fetus. It is a hollow, muscular structure that is part of the female reproductive tract, and it is the source of a woman’s menses.
Vagina – A tubular passageway in the female which connects the external sex organs with the cervix and uterus.
Varicocele – A collection of varicose veins in the scrotum. Varicocele can interfere with male fertility but can be treated through an surgical intervention.
Vas Deferens – A pair of tubes that lead from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct. This is what is cut or cauterized during male sterilization.
Zygote – An embryo in the early stages of development.
Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) – The surgical transfer of a embryo (zygote) into a fallopian tube one day after fertilization. Not commonly done anymore.