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Infertility Glossary

Glossary of Terms

Abortion: Pregnancy loss by any cause before 20 weeks of gestation.

Adhesion: Scar tissue attaching abnormally connecting, covering or distorting organs, such as the tubes, ovaries or other internal organs, limiting their movement and possibly causing infertility and pain.

American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): (formerly the American Fertility Society or AFS) Large multidisciplinary organization serving as a platform for new ideas, education and advocacy in fertility and reproductive medicine issues.

Amniocentesis: Sampling a small quantity of the fluid that surrounds the fetus that permits detection of certain abnormalities.

AntagonTM: A fertility drug used for inhibiting premature luteinizing hormone (LH) surges in women undergoing ART treatment. This prevents eggs from being released prematurely.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid and cells by suction through a needle.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies(ART): A group of therapies that employ manipulation of the egg and/or sperm and/or early conceptus in order to establish a pregnancy.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT): The body temperature at rest. It is taken orally each morning immediately upon awakening and recorded on a calendar chart. The readings are studied to help identify the time of ovulation.

Blastocyst: A fertilized egg which has developed to a ball of numerous cells after 5 days in culture.

Bravelle®: (urofollitropin for injection, purified) A preparation of human follicle stimulating hormone (hFSH). FSH is one of the hormones necessary for human reproduction. The FSH in Bravelle is extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women and is purified using state-of-the-art technology. It contains 75 IU hFSH with up to 2% luteinizing hormone (LH). Bravelle is usually used together with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), and is indicated for ovulation induction and in vitro fertilization following pituitary suppression.

Capacitation: A process the sperm must undergo that enables fertilization.

Catheter: Small tube used for inseminations or transfer of embryos.

Cervical Factor: Infertility due to previous surgery or structural abnormality of the cervix. Also applied when there are factors associated with the cervix which inhibit sperm function.

Cervical Mucus: The secretion of the cervix which changes in volume and consistency throughout the menstrual cycle. Its quality is a reflection of hormonal stimulation.

Cervix: The lower section of the uterus which protrudes into the vagina and serves as a reservoir for sperm.

Chemical Pregnancy: A positive pregnancy test, but with levels of pregnancy hormone too low for ultrasound documentation of a pregnancy.

Cleavage: Division of one cell into 2, 2 into 4, 4 into 8, etc.

Clinical Pregnancy: A pregnancy in which the beating fetal heart has been identified by ultrasound.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid TM or Serophene TM): An oral medication used to stimulate the ovary and/or synchronize an ovarian follicle development.

Co-culture: A technique consisting in growing the embryos over a layer of “feeder” cells that may provide them some extra nutrients.

Congenital Anomaly: A non-hereditary characteristic, or defect, developing before birth.

Corpus Luteum: A special gland that forms on the surface of the ovary at the site of ovulation. It produces progesterone during the second half of the cycle which is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation.

Cumulus: The cloud-like collection of supportive follicle cells that surround the oocyte.

Cryopreservation: Controlled freezing and storage.

Cyst: A fluid filled structure. May be normal or abnormal depending on circumstances.

Donor Embryo Transfer: The transfer of a fertilized egg from a volunteer (may be paid or unpaid) donor to an otherwise infertile recipient.

Donor Insemination: The introduction of sperm from a volunteer donor into a women’s vagina, cervix, or uterine cavity, in order to achieve a pregnancy.

Ductus Deferens (vas): A thick walled tubular structure running from each testis into the ejaculatory duct. These structures carry sperm from the epididymis to the penis.

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy implanted outside the uterus; most often in the Fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy).

Egg Retrieval: Outpatient procedure by which the eggs are harvested from the female’s ovaries under heavy sedation utilizing transvaginal ultrasound.

Embryo: The term used to describe the early stages of fetal growth. Strictly defined from the second to the ninth week of pregnancy but often used to designate any time after conception.

Embryo Transfer: Procedure in which the embryos are loaded into a catheter, and placed into the uterus.

Endocrinology: The study of hormones, their function, the organs that produce them and how they are produced.

Endometrial Biopsy: The extraction of a small piece of tissue from the endometrium (lining of the uterus) for microscopic examination.

Endometriosis: The presence of endometrial tissue (tissue that normally lines the uterus) in abnormal locations such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and abdominal cavity.

Endometrium: The inner lining of the uterus. The area of initial attachment of the conceptus. A portion of this lining is shed each month with menstruation.

Epididymis: Portion of the male genital tract next to the testis where sperm maturation is partially accomplished. Receives sperm from the testis and continues as the ductus deferens.

Estradiol: The principal hormone produced by the growing ovarian follicle.

Fertilization: Union of a sperm with an oocyte.

Fimbria: The finger like extensions from the end of the uterine tube that aid in gathering the oocyte at ovulation.

Follicle: A functioning ovarian “cyst” containing a wall of granulosa cells which produce estrogen and nourish the oocyte (egg). Each Follicle contains a single oocyte.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland which cause the ovarian follicles to grow.

Follistim®: A medication containing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) that is used for the development and stimulation of multiple follicles in the ovulatory women participating in ART procedures. It is also used to induce ovulation in infertile women who, as a result of aging or hormonal imbalances, do not ovulate.

Gestation: Pregnancy.

Gonadotropin: Hormone that stimulates the ovary.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH): Hormone produced by the brain that stimulates the pituitary to secrete gonadotropins.

Gonal-f®: Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which is released from the pituitary gland in the brain, is the hormone primarily responsible for stimulating the development of egg-containing follicles in women and sperm in men.

Gonal-f® Multi-Dose (follitropin alfa for injection): A highly pure human FSH manufactured by recombinant human DNA technology, is prescribed to supplement or replace naturally occurring FSH.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): A hormone of early pregnancy that can be monitored to determine the age and viability of the gestation. This hormone is also used as an injection in ovarian stimulation regimens to cause the final maturation of the oocyte (egg) and its follicle and eventually cause ovulation.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (HMG): A purified extract of LH and FSH, hormones secreted from the pituitary gland which stimulate the ovary. It is a commercial preparation used by injection to facilitate development of multiple follicles.

Hypothalamus: A portion of the brain that acts as a “pacemaker” controlling the production and periodic release of hormones from the pituitary gland.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An x-ray procedure in which a special dye is injected into the uterus to illustrate the inner contour of the uterus and degree of openness (patency) of the uterine tubes.

Hysteroscope: A telescopic device, much like the laparoscope, that enables examination of the uterine cavity.

Implantation: The embedding of the conceptus (embryo) into the lining of the uterus.

Insemination: Transfer of semen or sperm for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): Placement of a single sperm into an oocyte (egg) using a small glass needle to penetrate the outer coatings of the egg.

Intrauterine Insemination: After washing the sperm, an enriched sample is placed high in the uterine cavity at the time of ovulation.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): A method of assisted reproduction that involves surgically removing an egg from the ovary, combining it with prepared sperm in the laboratory to permit fertilization.

Laparoscope: A thin, lighted viewing instrument with a telescopic lens through which a surgeon views the exterior surfaces of a female’s reproductive organs and abdominal cavity.

LupronTM: A synthetic form of gonadotropin (luteinizing hormone) releasing hormone used to suppress ovarian function.

Luteal Phase: The last fourteen days of an ovulatory cycle, associated with progesterone production from the corpus luteum.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A hormone produced and released by the pituitary gland. In the female it is responsible for ovulation and the maintenance of the corpus luteum. In the male it stimulates testosterone production and is important in the production of sperm cells.

Maternal Serum: After separating the red blood cells, the patient’s own serum can be utilized as a protein source to grow embryos.

MESA (Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration): In males with obstruction of their genital tract, a sperm sample is obtained from an area next to the testes and used for IVF.

Media: Fluid containing nutritive growth substances enabling cells to survive in an artificial environment.

Menses: A period. Cyclic (monthly) flow of blood (menstruation) signifying ovulation, but failure to achieve pregnancy. Onset of bleeding is considered cycle day 1.

Micromanipulation: A method of assisted reproduction when the process is manually performed under the guidance of the microscope.

Multi-cellular Embryo: Embryos that have several cells, usually 6 to 8, three days after egg retrieval.

Oocyte: The female germ cell often called an egg.

Ovary: The female sex gland with both a reproductive function (releasing oocytes) and a hormonal function (production of estrogen and progesterone).

Ovridel®: The first and only recombinant human chorionic gonadotropin (r-hCG) approved in the world. Now Ovridel® is available in a ready to inject pre-filled syringe, making obsolete the need for reconstituting the hCG medication. It is used in infertility treatment cycles to help follicles mature and to trigger the actual release of mature eggs from a woman’s ovaries following treatment with products containing human follicle stimulating hormone.

Ovum (ova or egg): Mature oocytes.

Pap test: A screening test to determine the presence of cervical cancer. It is done by gently touching a cotton swab on the cervix and then wiping the swab on a slide which is treated and examined under a microscope. Another type of pap test, ThinPrep, replaces the conventional method by rinsing the cells into a vial filled with a solution that preserves them – a process that improves the quality and is believed to lead to more effective cervical cancer diagnosis and reduction in repeat testing.

Pituitary Gland: A small organ at the base of the brain that both controls and is controlled by production of hormones from the various endocrine glands including the ovary.

Polyspermy: Abnormal condition where the oocyte is fertilized by more than 1 sperm.

Post-Coital Test (PCT): The microscopic analysis of a sample of vaginal and cervical secretions that has been collected after sexual intercourse.

Progesterone: A hormone produced by the ovary which prepares the uterus for implantation and supports the early pregnancy.

Pronucleus: A specialized stage of the oocyte or sperm nucleus before their union. After this union the conceptus is referred to as a zygote.

Pronuclear Stage Tubal Transfer (PROST or ZIFT): Oocytes are aspirated, allowed to fertilize in vitro and the conceptus transferred before cell division (cleavage).

Repronex® (menotropins for injection, USP): A preparation of gonadatropins – the natural hormones necessary for human reproduction – carefully extracted from the purified urine of postmenopausal women. It contains equal amounts of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Repronex is usually used together with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).

Semen Analysis: The microscopic examination of the ejaculate to determine the number of sperm, their shapes (morphology), and their ability to move (motility).

Sonohysterography (Saline ultrasound): A test to evaluate the uterine cavity using ultrasound plus a saline infusion.

Sperm Antibody Test: In some couples blood, semen and/or cervical mucus contain substances which hinder sperm action through an allergic or immune reaction.

Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA): Test used to check the DNA of the sperm for normal structure to determine its fertility potential.

Sperm DNA decondensation test (SDD): Test used to assess the ability of sperm to fertilize an egg.

Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART): Voluntary regulatory and consultative organization of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine responsible for assisted reproduction.

Testicular/Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA): The removal of sperm directly from the testis or the epididymis using a needle for aspiration. Usually associated with sperm injection into the oocyte (ICSI).

Transvaginal: Through the vagina.

Tubal Patency: Lack of obstruction of the Fallopian tubes.

Ultrasound: High frequency sound waves that can be used painlessly, safely, and without radiation, to view the internal portions of the body.

Unexplained Infertility: Inability to conceive where no cause has been found despite routine testing of semen, ovulation, and pelvic anatomy by laparoscopy.

Uterus: Womb. The reproductive organ that houses, protects and nourishes the developing embryo and fetus.

Uterine Tube (Fallopian): The anatomic and physiologic connection between the uterus and the ovary which serves to transport the egg and sperm, as the site of fertilization and support and transport the conceptus in route to the uterus.

Varicocele: A varicose vein around the ductus deferens and the testes. This may be a cause of male infertility.

Zygote: A conceptus in which the egg and sperm genetic material (pronuclei) have united.

Sources:: The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services and RESOLVE