Glossary of Terms

This glossary is meant to be a resource for patients who want a greater understanding of their medical conditions, or a better grasp of the topic of infertility (in general). Please consult with our doctors to obtain further information. We want our patients to fully understand the “lingo” as they undertake their fertility journey.

Adhesion: Scar tissue that abnormally attaches to internal organs, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, uterus or other internal organs. Adhesions can wrap up or distort these organs, limiting their movement, function and cause infertility and pain.

Abnormal uterine bleeding: May be caused by pregnancy, polyps, fibroids, hormonal imbalance, and to a lesser extent thyroid problems, infection of the cervix or uterine cancer.

Advanced laparoscopic surgery: A modern and minimally invasive surgery (MIS) technique allowing operations to be performed through small incisions vs. traditional open surgical procedures.

Amenorrhea: A woman who has never had a period.

Amniocentesis: A procedure done in the second trimester of pregnancy that can detect many fetal abnormalities. It is performed by sampling a small quantity of the amniotic fluid that surrounds the fetus with a needle under ultrasound guidance.

Androgens (adrenal androgens): Male sex hormones.

Andrologist: A medical doctor or Ph.D. who specializes in the study of male reproduction.

Andrology: A specialty that focuses on male infertility.

Anovulation: A condition in which a woman does not ovulate (produce and release eggs). Menses may still occur.

Artificial insemination (AI): Placing sperm into the vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes through artificial means instead of by coitus. The sperm is usually injected through a catheter or cannula after being washed. This technique is used to overcome sexual performance problems, to circumvent sperm-mucus interaction problems, to maximize the potential for poor semen, and for using donor sperm. See also IUI.

Asherman’s Syndrome: A condition in which the walls of the uterus adhere together to an extent where the uterine cavity itself is diminished. It is defined by uterine inflammation, adhesions, and scarring.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid and cells by suction through a needle. This technique applies to many procedures in reproductive medicine.

Assisted Hatching (AH): Placing a small opening in the “shell” that surrounds every embryo. This assists the embryo in breaking out of this shell and extruding itself to implant in the endometrium. This is done my embryologists in the laboratory prior to embryo transfer in IVF cycles.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies(ART): A group of fertility therapies that employ manipulations of the oocyte (egg) and sperm in the laboratory in order to establish a pregnancy. These include IVF, ICSI, donor egg cycles, assisted hatching, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and others.

Asthenozoospermia: Low sperm motility.

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

Basal Body Temperature (BBT): The body temperature at rest taken in the morning before arising from bed. Successive BBT’s can be measured orally each morning and recorded on a calendar chart. These charts can be studied to help identify the time of ovulation, or even if a patient is ovulating at all. Menstrual calendar information is also an important part of a BBT chart. An ovulation predictor kit (OPK) can be used instead of daily temperature readings.

beta HCG: see Human Chrorionic Gonadotropin (hCG).

Bicornuate uterus: A congenital malformation of the uterus where the upper portion (horn) is duplicated.

Blastocyst: An embryo that has developed for approximately five days after fertilization. At this point the embryo has two different cell types and a central cavity. The surface cells (trophectoderm) will become the placenta, and the inner cell mass will become the fetus.

Blastocyst culture: Embryos are typically cultured for three to five days before being transferred into the uterus (see Blastocyst transfer).

Blastocyst transfer: Allowing IVF embryos to reach blastocyst stage, before transferring the embryos into the uterus.

Blighted ovum (egg): A fertilized egg that implants in the uterus, but does not develop further and dies.

Body Mass Index (BMI): A measure of the weight of an individual scaled according to their height. It can be calculated from the formula BMI = weight/(height^2) where weight is in kilograms and height is in meters, or from the equivalent formula BMI = 703* weight/(height^2) where weight is in pounds and height is in inches.

Cancelled cycle: Discontinuation of an ART cycle, usually prompted by poor response to hormone therapy, no egg recovery, or failed fertilization.

Capacitation: The process that sperm must undergo in order to fertilize an oocyte (egg).

Cervical factor: Infertility due to a structural or hormonal abnormality of the cervix. This can be induced by previous surgery on the cervix (such as a LEEP or cone procedures) that leaves the cervical canal scarred or closed, termed stenosis. Also applied when there are factors associated with the cervix which inhibit sperm function such as thickened mucus which prevents the sperm from traveling through the cervix into the female reproductive tract. Cervical factor infertility can usually be overcome using inseminations of sperm past the cervix in to the uterus.

Cervical mucus: Normal secretions of the cervix which change 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. Its anatomical functions include being a natural barrier to the inner uterus, and also keeping pregnancies from delivering prematurely.

Chemical pregnancy: A positive pregnancy test, but with levels of pregnancy hormone (beta hCG) too low for ultrasound documentation of a pregnancy. Typically this definition includes pregnancies that have low beta hCG levels that spontaneously decline without any further development.

Chocolate cyst: An ovarian cyst filled with old blood that occurs when endometriosis invades the ovary causing it to swell. If the cyst ruptures or the ovary containing the cyst twists, emergency surgery may be necessary.

Cleavage: Division of one cell into 2, 2 into 4, 4 into 8, etc. This is measured in the embryology laboratory during IVF cycles.

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 ovaries and/or synchronize follicle development.

Coitus: Intercourse.

Colposcopy: Use of a scope to examine the cervix for abnormal cells.

Complete blood count (CBC): A routine preoperative blood test that gives information regarding infection and anemia.

Conception: The fertilization of an egg by sperm that leads to the creation of an embryo. Also used to describe the start of pregnancy, it is marked by the implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining.

Congenital anomaly: A non-hereditary characteristic, or defect, developed before birth. These can include very minor irregularities, such as curvature of the second toe so it overlaps the third toe, or can be a more major anomaly such as a heart defect.

Controlled Ovarian Stimulation with IUI – Intrauterine Insemination: The use of the same medications prescribed for anovulation to induce ovulation and stimulate development of multiple mature follicles and eggs.

Corpus Luteum: A special gland that forms from the ovulated follicle in the ovary. It produces progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle which is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation. It also supports early pregnancies by secreting the necessary hormones until the placenta becomes fully functional between 8-10 weeks of gestation.

Cryopreservation: A procedure used to preserve and store embryos or sperm by deep freezing. The embryos or sperm can be thawed at a later date and used in infertility treatments.

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

Cryopreservation: Controlled freezing and storage. This may be employed for sperm, embryos and oocytes (eggs).

Cycle: The period of time, about one month, when an infertility treatment is initiated and continuing until the treatment is halted or completed.

Cyst: A fluid filled structure. Cysts may be found anywhere in the body, but in reproductive medicine we primarily refer to them in the ovaries. Ovarian cysts may be normal or abnormal depending on the circumstances. Often they are just follicles that have not been fully reabsorbed from previous menstrual or treatment cycles. They are very common in both natural and stimulated cycles.

da Vinci Robotic Assisted Advanced Laparoscopic Minimally Invasive Surgery: Minimally invasive surgical treatment options featuring a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny wristed instruments that bend and rotate to allow surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control.

D & C – Dilation and curettage: This is a surgical procedure in which the cervix is expanded (dilated) so that the cervical canal and uterine lining can be scraped with a spoon-shaped instrument called a curette.

Donor Egg Cycle: The use of donated eggs from an anonymous or known donor. These eggs are harvested via an IVF cycle performed on the donor. The resultant eggs are inseminated with sperm and then form embryos which are transferred into the womb of the intended parent.

Donor embryo transfer: The transfer of embryos resulting from the oocyte (egg) and sperm of another patient, who may be anonymous or known, to an otherwise infertile recipient

Donor insemination: The introduction of sperm from an anonymous volunteer donor into the 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 testicles to the epididymis to the penis for ejaculation. The vas deferens can be scarred or damaged by surgery, trauma or infection to the point where it does not allow sperm to pass through.

Dysmenorrhea: Painful menstruation.

Dyspareunia: Painful coitus.

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy implanted outside the uterus; most often in the fallopian tube. This is also termed a tubal pregnancy. This can usually be diagnosed in its early stages by following the pregnancy hormone, beta HCG, very closely during the early part of pregnancy. Left undiagnosed and untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can have serious medical consequences.

Egg donation: The process in which eggs, removed from the ovaries of one woman, are donated for use by another.

Egg freezing: Eggs are frozen after retrieval, and then thawed, fertilized and transferred to the uterus as embryos. This procedure is 1.) a social indication for fertility potential and 2.) a method for egg preservation in cancer patients before undergoing chemotherapy, radiation therapy or other surgeries that can impact fertility.

Egg retrieval: The procedure during an IVF cycle where the oocytes (eggs) are harvested through a minimally-invasive surgical procedure. This is done under light anesthesia so that patients are sleeping during the entire process. Typically takes about 30 minutes total.

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: The procedure of transferring embryos back in to the endometrial cavity (womb) of a patient during an IVF cycle. It occurs on the third or fifth day after an egg retrieval.

Embryo freezing: Cryopreserving embryos by freezing them in liquid nitrogen at a temperature of –196 C, which allows them to remain in a state of suspended animation for years.

Embryologist: A professional trained in advanced laboratory techniques, who prepares and provides the necessary conditions egg fertilization and also facilitates the growth, development, maturation, and preservation of embryos.

Endocrine system: One of the major regulatory systems of the body, the endocrine system works by secreting special “messenger chemicals” called hormones. The hypothalamus area of the brain instructs the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that control many other glands. These glands in turn regulate critical functions such as metabolism and reproduction. Because the endocrine system regulates reproductive processes it is important in many aspects of fertility.

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.

Endometrial cavity: The space in side the uterus that is created by the inner lining of the uterus that responds to female hormones during the menstrual and treatment cycles. This lining, when properly prepared, forms the area of attachment and implantation of the embryo. Commonly referred to as the womb.

Endometriosis: The presence of endometrial tissue (tissue that normally lines the uterus) in abnormal locations such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and abdominal cavity. These lesions lead to local irritation and inflammation that can cause scarring to occur which can bind-up pelvic organs to the point of dysfunction and pain. Click here for more in depth information.

Endometrium: The inner lining of the uterus that responds to female hormones during the menstrual cycle and treatment cycles. This lining, when properly prepared, forms the area of attachment and implantation of the embryo. 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 (vas) deferens.

Estradiol: The principal hormone produced by the growing ovarian follicle. It is frequently measured in the blood to gauge the strength and development of your follicles during treatment cycles.

Estradiol level (E2 level): The amount of estradiol, a form of estrogen, in the blood. The E2 level, measured before ovulation, reveals how mature the follicles are. Women on injectable fertility drugs have routine E2 monitoring.

Fallopian tube: The anatomic and physiologic connection between the uterus and the ovary which serves to transport the oocyte (egg) and sperm. It is also the site of fertilization and supports and transports the conceptus in route to the uterus.

Female infertility evaluation and treatment: multiple exams and tests performed to determine the cause of infertility.

Fertility drugs: A class of medications used in infertility treatments. Most fertility drugs are known by their brand names. The primary drug companies and their brands are: ABBOTT LABS (Lupron), FERRING (Repronex, Lutrepulse), HOECHST (Clomid), NOVARIS, formerly SANDOZ (Parlodel), ORGANON (Humegon, Follistim), SERONO (Gonal-F, Pergonal, Serophene)

Fertilization: Union of a sperm with an oocyte (egg) to facilitate creation of a genetically unique embryo.

Fertility preservation: The cryopreservation (freezing) of human reproductive tissue (embryos) to be used later for in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapies or intra uterine insemination (IUI). Eggs are harvested from ovaries, fertilized through in vitro fertilization (IVF), frozen and stored.

Fetal reduction: A medical procedure to decrease the number of fetuses in a multiple gestation.

Fetus: The developing baby after the embryo stage, from the ninth week of pregnancy to the moment of birth.

Fibroids (uterine fibroids, myomas): Overgrowth of the muscular tissue of the uterus typically classified in to three categories: sub-mucosal, intramural and serosal. Fibroids are typically knotty masses of benign muscle tissue that can distort the shape and function of the uterus.

Fimbria: The soft and supple finger-like extensions of the fallopian tube that aid in gathering in the oocyte (egg) at ovulation.

Follicle: A fluid-filled pocket in the ovary that houses the microscopic egg. Each ovary has many follicles within it. Follicles start out extremely small and then grow larger under the influence of hormones (and the medications that mimic these hormones). Follicles are lined with 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 in the brain that stimulates the ovarian follicles to grow and develop. FSH is measured in the blood at specialized times during the menstrual cycle to help measure ovarian reserve.

Follicular phase: The menstrual cycle is divided up into two main parts- the follicular phase and the luteal phase. The follicular phase refers to the first half of the cycle, from onset of menses to ovulation, and lasts approximately 14 days. It is associated with developing follicles that produce estradiol.

Frozen embryo: An embryo that has been preserved and stored by deep freezing. The embryo can be thawed at a later date and used in infertility treatments.

Frozen embryo transfer (FET): The use of a frozen embryo in an IVF procedure.

FSH: A hormone produced by the pituitary gland which causes the ovarian follicles to grow, or stimulates the ovary to ripen a follicle.

Gamete: A sperm or an egg.

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT): An older method of assisted fertilization that involves surgically removing an egg from the ovary, combining it with sperm, and immediately surgically placing the egg and sperm into the fallopian tube. Fertilization takes place inside the fallopian tube.

Gestation: Pregnancy. Gonadotropin: Hormones that stimulate the ovary.

Gestational carrier: A woman who carries the pregnancy to term but is not the genetic parent of the baby.

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

Gonads: The glands that make reproductive cells and “sex” hormones. In the male these are the testicles, which make sperm and testosterone. In the female these are the ovaries, which make eggs (ova) and estrogen.

Gonadotropin: A hormone that can stimulate the testicles to produce sperm or the ovaries to produce an egg.

Gynecologist (GYN, OB GYN, OBGYN, OB/GYN): A doctor who specializes in the diseases and the routine physical care of the reproductive system of women. A fertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist) is a gynecologist with additional specialization in infertility and assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI, ICSI, IVF, Egg Donor and more.

Hamster Test: see Sperm Penetration Assay

Hirsutism: Excessive body hair associated with the production of excess androgens.

Hormonal Assay: Also known as hormone tests. These include tests for levels of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), DHEA-S (dehydroepiandresterone), prolactin, and progesterone.

Hormone:A chemical substance produced by one organ in the body that regulates the activity of another organ. See also Endocrine System.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): A hormone of early pregnancy that is monitored to determine viability of the gestation. This hormone is also used as an injection to induce ovulation and maturation of the oocyte (egg) in ovarian stimulation protocols.

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

Humegon(TM): see human menopausal gonadotropin

Hydrocele: A fluid-filled swelling in the scrotum.

Hypothalamus: A portion of the brain that stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete LH and FSH in order to stimulate ovarian follicle development. The hypothalamus acts as the “pacemaker” for many important hormone-driven processes, controlling the production and periodic release of hormones from the pituitary gland.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An x-ray procedure to examine whether the fallopian tubes are patent (open) or not. This test helps determine if the tubes are blocking sperm from reaching the ovulated eggs through the fallopian tubes. Special x-ray dye is gently injected through the uterus and then x-ray pictures are taken to see where the dye travels.

Hysteroscope/Hysteroscopic surgery: Minimally invasive surgery in which a small telescopic camera, much like a laparoscope, is placed through the cervical canal into the uterine cavity. This allows direct visualization of the endometrium, the lining of the uterine cavity (the womb) – where pregnancies implant. This surgical technique is minimally-invasive, well-tolerated and performed in a day-surgery center. It allows removal of any impediments to implantation such as polyps or fibroids in the uterine cavity.

Idiopathic infertility (unexplained infertility): The term used when no reason can be found to explain the cause of a couple’s infertility.

Immunological response: Condition when either partner produces sperm antibodies, which can cause infertility.

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

Infertility: The inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy after one year of regular unprotected sexual relations, or the inability of a woman to carry a pregnancy to live birth.

Insemination: Transfer of sperm for the purpose of establishing a pregnancy. Inseminations are performed by placing a small, soft catheter through the cervix into the uterine cavity and depositing the concentrated and activated sperm.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A specialised form of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) that is used for the treatment of severe cases of male-factor infertility involving the injection of a single sperm directly into a mature egg, as opposed to conventional in vitro fertilisation (IVF) in which fertilization takes place in a dish after many sperm are placed near an egg.

Insulin: A hormone used by the body to control blood sugar (glucose). Over-production of insulin in relation to glucose is called Insulin Resistance and can lead to weight gain and ovulation difficulties.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): Placement of a single sperm into a single oocyte (egg) by penetrating the outer coatings of the egg. This technique is used in cases where there are very low sperm numbers, motility or morphology. ICSI is also used for patients who have had previous IVF cycles with failed fertilization.

Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI): is a technique that transfers sperm directly in to the uterus. It bypasses the vaginal and cervical defense mechanisms of the female reproductive tract and allows better sperm delivery to the fallopian tubes. This allows the sperm and egg to interact in close proximity. It is a very common treatment for mild and moderate deficits in the semen analysis. IUI is typically used in conjunction with medications that increase the number of eggs per cycle and triggering of ovulation. The goal is to have more ÒtargetsÓ for the sperm (eggs), perfect timing and better sperm delivery.

Invasive surgery: A form of traditional surgery involving making incision in the patient’s body (skin, mucous membranes and/or connective tissue) in order to insert instruments and other medical devices.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): A powerful procedure to help patients conceive pregnancies. IVF entails stimulating your ovaries to develop multiple follicles. This is achieved with injectable medications. The goal of IVF is to produce a large number of growing follicles, then harvest the eggs inside the follicles through a short surgical procedure performed in our office. The eggs are then inseminated with sperm in the laboratory, sometimes using ICSI, in order to create embryos that can then be transferred back to the endometrial cavity (the womb) of the patient. The name in vitro fertilization refers to the fact that the oocyte is fertilized by the sperm in the laboratory, rather than inside the female reproductive tract.

In Vitro Maturation: An emerging practice especially beneficial to women with PCOS that triggers ovulation and involves the immediate collection and fertilization of mature eggs, and the collection of immature eggs that can be matured and fertilized in a laboratory.

IVF success rate: A measure of the success of the IVF procedure. Success can be defined in several ways, but is usually given as the percent of IVF cycles that result in live births. Most fertility clinics in the United States officially report their success rates to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the CDC published these numbers to the public.

Laparoscope/laparoscopic surgery: 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. In this minimally invasive procedure, the laparoscope is placed through the belly-button in order to view and operate on the abdominal cavity and reproductive organs. This surgical technique is minimally-invasive, well-tolerated and performed in a day-surgery center. It allows your physician to diagnose and remove endometriosis, as well as re-open a blocked fallopian tube, amongst many other indications.

LH surge – A spontaneous release of large amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) during a woman’s menstrual cycle. This normally results in the release of a mature egg from a follicle (ovulation).

LupronTM: A synthetic form of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone- secreted by the hypothalamus) used to suppress ovarian function.

Luteal Phase: The menstrual cycle is divided up into two main parts — the follicular phase and the luteal phase. This refers to the second half of the cycle, usually the last fourteen days of an ovulatory. It begins from the time of ovulation to the onset of menses, but is prolonged during pregnancy cycles. It is associated with progesterone production from the corpus luteum that facilitates implantation of embryos and supports early pregnancies.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A hormone produced and released by the pituitary gland that 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.

Luteal Phase Deficiency (LPD): Also called luteal phase defect. A deficiency of progesterone in the second half of the menstrual cycle when a pregnancy begins. Treatment involves supplementation with progesterone and other measures.

Male factor infertility evaluation and treatment: Testing to identify potentially correctable conditions as well as irreversible conditions that may be addressed with assisted reproductive techniques.

MetrodinTM: Human FSH prepared in an injectible form for ovarian stimulation.

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. The purpose of a natural menstrual cycle is to produce one follicle and ovulation per month, each and every month that pregnancy is not achieved.

Menstruation (menstrual cycle, period): A recurring cycle (beginning at menarche and ending at menopause) in which the endometrial lining of the uterus prepares for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur the lining is shed in response to stimulation from estrogen and progesterone. The “average” menstrual cycle is 28 days, but can vary significantly from women to women. Irregular periods do not usually affect fertility, but unusually long periods or no periods may indicate a fertility problem.

Metrorrhagia: Menstrual spotting during the middle of the cycle.

Microinsemination: A laboratory technique in which sperm are injected next to the egg cell surface to increase the likelihood of fertilization.

Micromanipulation: The name of a group of laboratory techniques that allow sperm, eggs and embryos to be performed under the guidance of the microscope.

Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA): A procedure in which sperm are obtained from the empididymis by aspiration or surgical incision.

Miscarriage: A pregnancy that ends before the fetus (growing baby) can survive outside of the uterus.

Mittelschmerz: Discomfort felt on one side of the lower abdomen at the time of ovulation.

Monogamous: An exclusive sexual relationship between two individuals.

Motility: The percentage of all moving sperm in a semen sample. Normally, 50% or more sperm in a sample move rapidly.

Multiple birth: The birth of two or more offspring produced in the same gestational period.

Multiple gestation or multiple pregnancy: The conception of two or more fetuses in the same woman at the same time, whether or not they result in live births.

Myomectomy: The surgical removal of non-cancerous fibroid tumors from the wall of the uterus.

Oligo-ovulation: Irregular ovulation.

Oligomenorrhea: Infrequent menstrual periods.

Oligospermia: A condition in which the number of sperm in a semen sample is abnormally low.

Oocyte: The female germ cell often called an egg.

Oocyte cryopreservation: An egg freezing process in which a woman’s eggs (oocytes) are extracted, frozen and stored, then later thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.

Oocyte donation: The process in which eggs, removed from the ovaries of one woman, are donated for use by another.

Oocyte retrieval: A surgical procedure, usually under sedation, to collect the eggs contained with the ovarian follicles. The physician inserts a needle into the follicle, draws out the follicle’s fluid and egg through the needle, and then places the fluid and egg into a dish for further processing.

Ovarian cyst: A fluid-filled sac inside the ovary. An ovarian cyst may be found in conjunction with ovulation disorders, tumors of the ovary, and endometriosis.

Ovarian failure: The failure of the ovary to respond to FSH stimulation from the pituitary because of damage to, malformation or age of the ovary. Diagnosed by elevated FSH in the blood.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS): A possible side effect of medically induced ovulation, characterized by swollen, painful ovaries and, in some cases, the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen and chest.

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

Ovulation: The release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary.

Ovulation calendar: Any method which plots a woman’s cycle with the object of finding her most fertile days. Several parameters can be plotted including temperature, cervical mucus thickness and cervical position. Used to increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Ovulation dysfunction (Ovulatory Dysfunction): A problem existing in the ovary where either something is abnormal in the process of developing the follicle or the egg is not released from the follicle.

Ovulation failure: The failure to ovulate. Also called Anovulation.

Ovulation induction: The therapeutic use of female hormones to stimulate egg development and release. Useful hormones and hormone-based medications include clomiphene citrate, Pergonal, Humegon, Metrodin, and hCG.

Ovulation test: Any method which can detect ovulation. Many tests are based on the detection of Luteinizing hormone (LH) which is always present in the body in low concentration but is produced in higher concentrations around the middle of the menstrual cycle when it is released by the pituitary gland.

Ovum (ova or egg): Mature oocytes.

PAP Smear (Pap Test, Papanicolaou Smear): A screening test to evaluate the cells of the cervix to determine whether they are normal. The physician or nurse removes some cells from the cervical canal with a brush or spatula (usually a painless process, then smears them onto a glass plate). A pathologist examines the cells under a microscope.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Inflammatory disease of the pelvis, often caused by infection, that can lead to infertility.

PergonalTM: A commercially prepared purified extract of LH and FSH hormones secreted from the pituitary gland which stimulate the ovary. It is administered by injection to facilitate development of multiple follicles in reproductive treatment cycles.

Pituitary Gland: A small organ at the base of the brain that secretes many hormones, including LH and FSH in response to signals from the hypothalamus.

Placenta: The embryonic tissue that implants in the uterine wall and provides a mechanism for exchanging the baby’s carbon dioxide and waste products for the mother’s nutrients and oxygen. The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS): A common endocrinologic condition that causes hormonal imbalances in women of reproductive age. It can lead to dysfunctional ovulation, infertility, weight gain, pre-diabetes and an increase in the male hormone, testosterone. Click here for more detailed information.

Polyp: An overgrowth of the glandular surface of the endometrium. Polyps are often removed by hysteroscopic surgery to remove any impediments to implantation.

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. This test allows your physician to see if sperm survive in your reproductive tract. It has largely been superceded by the semen analysis, but there are still some clinical indications for the PCT.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A technique for identifying genetic or chromosomal information about embryos before transferring them back to a patient’s endometrial cavity (the womb). It entails taking a biopsy of the embryo on day three after egg retrieval. PGD can be employed to identify embryos that carry a genetic disease that may be asymptomatically carried by the parents, or it may be used to identify explanations for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and improve pregnancy outcomes in selected patients.

Premature ovarian failure (POF): The cessation of menses associated with high levels of gonadotropins and low levels of estrogen before age 40. The ovary may intermittently produce mature follicles.

Primary infertility (PI) – Infertility in women who have never conceived. Sometimes extended to include those who have conceived but not had a live birth.

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

Prolactin: A hormone produced by the pituitary. The level of prolactin in the blood can reveal hypothalamic-pituitary disorders that may hinder ovulation.

Prolactinomas: A benign tumor of the pituitary gland that produces the hormone prolactin, which is responsible for lactation in women.

Pronucleus: A specialized stage of the oocyte and sperm nucleus before they join to create a genetically unique embryo. After this union the conceptus is referred to as a zygote.

Pronuclear Stage Tubal Transfer (PROST or ZIFT): An older procedure in which oocytes are harvested and inseminated in the laboratory before surgically transferring these very early zygotes into the fallopian tubes. This procedure has been replaced by standard IVF.

Prostate Gland – A gland encircling the male urethra that produces some of the fluid in semen, including a chemical that liquefies the coagulated semen twenty minutes to one hour after entering the vagina.

Pyospermia: The presence of white blood cells in the semen that may indicate infection and/or inflammation.

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) or Recurrent Miscarriage: A condition when a woman has 2 or more clinical pregnancy losses (miscarriages) before the pregnancies reach 20 weeks

Reproductive endocrinologists (RE): Physicians trained in obstetrics and gynecology who further specialize in treating infertility with surgical procedures and assisted reproductive technologies such as IUI, ICSI, IVF, Egg Donor and more.

Reproductive immunologist (RI): A medical specialty combining obstetrics and gynecology with immunology to treat reproductive disorders that are related to immune problems.

Reproductive surgeon: A surgeon who specializes in the surgical correction of anatomical disorders that affect reproductive function.

Resistant ovary: An ovary that cannot respond to the follicle- stimulating message sent by FSH.

Regtrograde ejaculation: A male fertility problem where sperm travels into the bladder instead of out of the penis due to a failure in the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder.

Retroverted uterus: A uterus that is tilted back toward the rectum.

RH Factor – Genetically determined antigens present in the red blood cells of most people and capable of inducing intense immunologic reactions.

Rubella Titer: A blood test that determines if the patient is immune to rubella (German measles), (a viral disease that can cause severe birth defects). If a woman is not immune to rubella, she may be advised to have a rubella vaccination, wait three months before attempting pregnancy, and then re-test for immunity.

Salpingectomy: Surgical removal of the fallopian tubes.

Salpingitis: An inflammation of one or both fallopian tubes.

Secondary infertility: The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy after having conceived and carried one or more pregnancies.

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. The semen provides nourishment and protection for the sperm and a medium in which the sperm can travel to the woman’s vagina. Semen may also refer to the entire ejaculate, including the sperm.

Semen Analysis: Examination of the male ejaculate under the microscope to determine the number of sperm, their ability to move forward (motility) and their shapes (morphology). The semen analysis is a cornerstone of the evaluation of couples experiencing infertility. The sperm counts, motility and morphology all provide important information about how the sperm will perform in treatment cycles.

Single Embryo Transfer (SET) or Elective Single Embryos Transfer (eSET) – is a specific definition of only transferring a single embryo at the culmination of an IVF cycle as opposed to the conventional practice of transferring more than one embryo.

Sims-Huhner Test: See Post-Coital Test.

Sonogram: See Ultrasound.

Sperm: The microscopic cell that carries the male’s genetic information to the female’s egg; the male reproductive cell; the male gamete. When ejaculation occurs the sperm are discharged in a fluid called semen.

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

Sperm Bank: A place where sperm are kept frozen in liquid nitrogen for later use in artificial insemination.

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

Sperm Donation: Providing a sample of sperm for use in assisted reproductive treatments. The sperm is stored in a sperm bank until needed. The person providing the sperm is called a sperm donor.

Sperm maturation (sperm maturity): A process during which the sperm grow and gain their ability to swim. Sperm take about ninety days to reach maturity.

Sperm morphology: A semen analysis factor that indicates the number or percentage of sperm in the sample that appear to have been formed normally. Abnormal morphology includes sperm with kinked, doubled, or coiled tails. The higher the percentage of misshapen sperm, the less likely fertilization can take place.

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

Sperm Penetration Assay (SPA): A test where sperm are incubated with non-viable hamster eggs to determine the capacity of the sperm to fertilize.

Sperm wash: A technique for separating sperm from seminal fluid.

Split ejaculate: A method of collecting a semen specimen so that the first portion of the ejaculate is caught in one container and the rest in a second container. In most men the first specimen will contain the vast majority of the sperm.

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

Sterility: The total inability to reproduce. Not to be confused with infertility.

Stimulation: Administration of hormones that induce development of multiple ovarian follicles.

Swim-Up Test: A technique that separates motile sperm from non- motile sperm and cellular debris in a semen sample. The most motile sperm will “swim up” and are more easily separated for insemination.

Testicles: The two male sexual glands contained in the scrotum. They produce the male hormone testosterone and produce the male reproductive cells, the sperm.

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

Testicular/Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA): The surgical removal of sperm directly from the testis or the epididymis using a needle for aspiration. This procedure is used for men who have no sperm in their ejaculates or have had vasectomies in the past. Sperm obtained through TESE requires ICSI to ensure fertilization of the oocyte (egg).

Testosterone: The most potent male sex hormone; produced in the testes.

Therapeutic insemination (TI): A procedure in which sperm from a male partner or from a donor (Therapeutic Donor Insemination-TDI) is placed into a woman’s vagina or cervix. Also called artificial insemination, but distinct from Intrauterine Insemination.

Trans-tubal Embryo Transfer (TET): Replacement of a cleaving conceptus into the uterine tube rather than into the uterus. This is an older procedure that ha sbeen replaced by standard IVF

Transvaginal: Through the vagina.

Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET): A surgical procedure in which a fertilized and divided egg is transferred to the fallopian tubes.

Tubal Ligation: Female sterilization performed by surgically blocking the fallopian tubes.

Tubal Patency: Lack of obstruction of the Fallopian tubes.

Tubal Reversal, Tubal Ligation Reversal: Special surgery to reverse sterilization caused by tubal ligation.

Ultrasound: High frequency sound waves that can be used painlessly, safely, and without radiation, to view the internal portions of the body. Ultrasound is especially useful for visualizing the female reproductive organs and pregnancies.

Unexplained Infertility: Inability to identify the cause of infertility despite a complete evaluation of semen, ovarian reserve, ovulation, endocrinologic disorders and pelvic anatomy.

Unicornuate Uterus: An abnormality in which the uterus is “one-sided” and smaller than usual.

Uterus: Womb, the reproductive organ that houses protects and nourishes the developing embryo and fetus. It consists of the cervix, the endometrium and the muscular layer that comprises the body of this reproductive organ.

Varicocele: A varicose vein around the ductus (vas) deferens and the testes. This may be a cause of low sperm counts, motility and morphology and lead to male infertility.

Vasectomy: A form of contraception and male sterilization involving the surgical cutting and blocking (sealing) part of each vas deferens so that sperm is unable to travel from the testicles to the penis.

Vasectomy Reversal: Typically an outpatient surgical procedure that reconnects the male reproductive tract after after vasectomy. Vasovasostomy (vas deferens to vas deferens connection) and vasoepididymostomy (epididymis to vas deferens connection) are two types of vasectomy reversal.

Vas Deferens: A pair of thick-walled tubes about 45cm long in the male that lead from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct in the prostate. During ejaculation, the ducts make wave-like contractions to propel sperm forward.

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

Zygote Intra-fallopian tube Transfer (ZIFT): Oocytes (eggs) are aspirated, are fertilized in the laboratory and surgically transferred into the fallopian tubes before cell division. This procedure has largely been replaced by standard IVF.