Fertility Terminology and Abbreviations

Adhesions

Scar tissue that attaches to the surfaces of organs.

Androgens

Sex hormones which are present in much higher concentrations in men than women.

Andrologist

An M.D./Ph.D. who specializes in the study of male reproduction.

Anovulation

The total absence of ovulation. Menses may still occur.

Antimullerian Hormone (AMH)

A hormone that indicates the number of eggs remaining in the ovary.

Antisperm Antibody Testing

A test performed to determine if a man's sperm or a woman's blood harbors substances that cause the sperm to clump together, lose motility, or impair the ability to fertilize an egg.

Assisted Hatching

The process of making a small hole in the zona pellucida (gel-like covering of embryo) to facilitate implantation of the developing embryo in the uterine wall.

Azoospermia

The absence of sperm in the seminal fluid. This may be due to a blockage or to an impairment of sperm production.

Basal Body Temperature

The body temperature of a person recorded immediately upon awakening, before any activity is undertaken. The temperature can be taken orally or rectally. The temperature is recorded daily on a graph, which can show evidence of ovulation when the temperature rises slightly.

Beta HCG (hCG)

A hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin, produced by a pregnancy. Measurement of beta hCG is the blood test used to confirm a pregnancy and to follow its progression.

Biochemical Pregnancy

See Chemical Pregnancy.

Blastocyst

An embryo that is 5-6 days old and is made up of hundreds of cells.

Blighted Ovum (Egg)

A general term used to describe the situation when a fertilized egg that fails to survive after implantation in the uterus.

Bromocriptine (Parlodel)

An oral medication used to lower prolactin levels.

Capacitation

The change that sperm cells undergo as they travel through the woman's reproductive tract and that enables the sperm to penetrate the egg.

CBC (Complete Blood Count)

A routine preoperative blood test. This test gives information regarding infection and anemia.

Cervical Mucus

Secretions produced by the cervix which vary in viscosity according to the phase of the menstrual cycle, and become penetrable by sperm in the days preceding ovulation.

Chemical Pregnancy

A positive hCG level in the blood that fails to continue to rise and does not lead to a clinical pregnancy.

Chlamydia

A microorganism that may be transmitted by sexual contact. Chlamydia can exist in the reproductive tract without symptoms and cause infertility. If present, both partners must be treated. The test for chlamydia involves obtaining a sample of cervical cells (like a pap smear).

Clinical Pregnancy

Clinical evidence of pregnancy including increasing hCG levels and either an ultrasound examination showing an intrauterine gestational sac or in cases of abnormal pregnancies, examination of tissue confirming an ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid/Serophene)

A synthetic drug used to stimulate the body's own production of FSH and LH.

Corpus Luteum

The special gland that forms on the ovary at the site of the released egg and produces the hormone progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle. If pregnancy occurs, the corpus luteum persists and produces the progesterone necessary to support pregnancy.

Cryopreservation

The freezing of excess eggs or embryos from an IVF cycle. The eggs and/ or embryos are preserved for future transfer by storing them at very low temperatures.

Danazol

A medication used to treat endometriosis by suppressing the cyclic production of FSH/LH to "calm down" the disease.

Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS)

An androgen hormone produced by the adrenal gland in both sexes.

Donor Egg(s), Donor Oocyte(s)

Eggs that are removed from the ovaries of one woman for use by another.

Donor Embryo

An embryo created previously in an IVF cycle which has been donated, either anonymously or in a directed manner, so that other couples with infertility may attempt pregnancy using that embryo. 

Donor Insemination

See TDI.

Donor Sperm

Sperm that are collected from a man who is not the woman's spouse to be used to artificially inseminate her. Usually this sperm is obtained in a frozen state from a commercial sperm bank.

Ectopic Pregnancy

An embryo implanting and developing outside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, on an ovary, or in the abdominal area.

Embryo

The term used to describe the early stages of fetal growth.

Embryo Transfer

A procedure during which a fertilized egg is placed either into the uterus, as during IVF, or into the fallopian tube, as during ZIFT, with the goal of implantation and pregnancy.

Endometriosis

The presence of endometrial-like tissue (the normal uterine lining) in abnormal locations, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries and abdominal cavity.

Endometrial Biopsy

A small sample of tissue removed from the lining of the uterus for microscopic examination. 

Estrace  

A form of estrogen that is identical to the estrogen produced by the ovaries. 

Estrogen

The primary steroid hormone produced by the ovaries from puberty to menopause.

Estradiol Level (E-2 Level)

The principal form of estrogen in reproductive age women. Its level is measured in the blood to determine follicular maturation prior to ovulation.

Fallopian Tube

Either of a pair of tubes that conduct eggs from the ovary to the uterus. Normal fertilization takes place within this structure.

Fertilization

Penetration of an egg by a sperm.

Fetus

The developing human organism after the embryo stage from the ninth week of pregnancy to the moment of birth.

Fibroid

A non-cancerous smooth muscle tumor found within the wall of the uterus. Also known as a myoma.

Follicle

Fluid-filled structure on the ovary which contains the ripening egg and from which the egg is released at ovulation or retrieved during an IVF cycle. The follicle also produces estradiol.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

A hormone produced in the pituitary gland that stimulates the ovary to ripen a follicle for ovulation. In the male, FSH stimulates sperm production.

Follicular Phase

The portion of the menstrual cycle when ovarian follicle development takes place.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)  

Transfer of an embryo or embryos, that were previously created and subsequently thawed in the IVF laboratory, into a woman's uterus.

Gamete

A sperm or an egg.

Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer (GIFT)

A procedure similar to IVF except that the sperm and eggs are placed inside a catheter, separated by an air bubble, and then transferred inside a woman's fallopian tube, where fertilization takes place. This can be done only in women with at least one normal tube and requires a laparoscopy.

Gestational Carrier

A woman who has agreed to carry a pregnancy for another party, either because the intended mother has medical or uterine factors that preclude her from safely and effectively carrying a pregnancy, or because the intended parents are a gay male couple.

Gonadotropin Release Hormone (GnRH)

A hormone released from the hypothalamus that controls the synthesis and release of the pituitary hormones FSH and LH.

Gonadotropin

A hormone capable of stimulating the testicles or the ovaries to produce sperm or an egg, respectively. FSH and LH are gonadotropins. Drugs which are gonadotropins include Gonal-F, Follistim, Bravelle, Menopur, Luveris, Repronex, Pergonal, Humegon, Metrodin and Fertinex.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) Antibodies

Test done on the blood of both the husband and wife to screen for previous exposure to the AIDS virus.

Hormonal Assay

Also known as hormone tests. These include FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), DHEAS (dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate), Prolactin, Estradiol, Testosterone, and Progesterone. A hormone is a substance that is released from special tissues in the body, carried in the blood and has special roles that it exerts upon the body.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

A hormone secreted by the placenta during pregnancy. This hormone is also the basis of most pregnancy tests.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (HMG)

A natural product containing both human FSH and LH. The hormones are extracted from the urine of postmenopausal women. The drug is used to treat both male and female infertility and to stimulate the development of multiple oocytes.

Humegon

see Human Menopausal Gonadotropin.

Hydrocoele

A swelling in the scrotum containing fluid.

Hyperstimulation  

The constellation of symptoms that may result from overproduction of follicles and hormones from the ovaries, usually as a result of stimulation with oral and injectable fertility medications; symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain,shortness of breath, and dehydration.  

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG, Hysterogram)

An x-ray procedure during which dye is introduced into the uterus through the cervix and passed through the tubes to determine if they are open. This also shows the configuration of the uterus (any irregularities, fibroids, etc).

Hysteroscopy

Fiberoptic visualization of the inside of the uterus through the cervix with a telescope-like device. This procedure is performed to evaluate and treat abnormalities inside the uterine cavity. This procedure can be performed in the office or in conjunction with a laparoscopy.

ICSI

See Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.

Idiopathic Infertility (Unexplained Infertility)

The term used when no reason can be found to explain the cause of a couple's infertility.

Implantation

The embedding of the fertilized egg, or embryo, in the lining of the uterus.

Infertility

The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after one year of regular, unprotected intercourse.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

Injection of a single sperm into the center of an egg with a very sharp glass needle. This technique of micromanipulation is very useful for cases of male factor infertility.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

The introduction of specially prepared sperm directly into the uterus through the cervix by means of a catheter.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

The procedure during which an egg is removed from a mature follicle and fertilized by a sperm outside the human body.

Laparoscopy

A surgical procedure where a telescope-like device is inserted through a small incision near the navel in order to visualize the pelvic cavity, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus.

LH Surge

A spontaneous release of large amounts of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) that preceds ovulation.

Leuprolide Acetate (Lupron)

A drug which functions like GnRH. It is used to suppress a woman's secretion of FSH and LH so that her ovaries will respond approiately to fertility drugs.

Lupron "Flares"

This stimulation takes advantage of the initial rise or "flare" of gonadotropins (LH and FSH) which occurs 24 hours after the start of Lupron administration.

Lupron "Down-Regulation"

A treatment cycle in which Lupron is used to suppress a woman's internal hormone secretion before injection of gonadotropins to stimulate follicular development (see Lupron "Flare", Lupron).

Luteal Phase

The days of a menstrual cycle following ovulation and ending with menstruation. During this 12 to 16 day period, the hormone progesterone is produced.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

A hormone produced and released by the pituitary gland. It is responsible for triggering ovulation; in the male, LH stimulates testosterone production.

Metformin

An oral medication used to treat patients with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, or diabetes.  It is frequently used in patients with polycystic ovary syndrome. 

Micromanipulation

Microscopic procedures, such as ICSI or assisted hatching, involving the eggs, sperm, or embryos.

Myoma

A common benign tumor of the muscle of the uterus. This is sometimes called a fibroid.

Myomectomy

The surgical removal of fibroid tumors from the wall of the uterus.

Nidation

See Implantation.

Oligospermia

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

Oligo-Ovulation

Irregular ovulation.

Oocyte

The egg cell produced in the ovaries. Also called the ovum or female gamete.

Ovulation

Release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary.

Ovulation Induction

The use of hormone therapy (Clomiphene Citrate, letrozole, injectable gonadotropins) to stimulate oocyte development and release.

Papanicolaou Smear (Pap Test)

This is a screening test to evaluate the cells of the cervix to determine if they are normal. It is done by gently touching the cervix with a cotton swab, a wooden spatula or a special small brush and then examining the cells under a microscope.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

A condition where ovulation is either abnormal or absent, and androgen (male hormone) levels are elevated.  PCOS is associated with subfertility as well as an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Postcoital Test (PCT)

Microscopic study of samples of vaginal and cervical secretions taken several hours after sexual relations and examined for live, moving sperm. Also known as the Sims-Huhner Test.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

The process of sampling cells from a blastocyst and then analyzing those cells to determine if the embryo is a carrier of a certain genetic disease (i.e. Cystic Fibrosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Sickle Cell Disease)  

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

The process of sampling cells from a blastocyst and then analyzing those cells to determine if the embryo has the appropriate number of chromosomes.

Progesterone (P4)

A hormone produced and released by the corpus luteum of the ovary during the second half of an ovulatory cycle. Progesterone is necessary to prepare the lining of the uterus for the implantation of the fertilized egg. During pregnancy, it is produced by the placenta. Supplemental support can be provided by injection or in vaginal or oral forms when indicated.

Prolactin

A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that, when elevated, can inhibit normal ovulation.

Robotic Surgery

A form of laparoscopic surgery which incorporates the use of the DaVinci surgical system.  This allows for major abdominal surgery to be performed through small abdominal incisions.  This results in faster recovery and decreased pain for patients in most situations.   Not all patients are candidates for robotic surgery.

Rubella Titer

A blood test that determines if the patient is immune to rubella (German measles). If immunity is not present, the patient may be advised to have a rubella vaccination and wait one month before attempting pregnancy.

Saline Infusion Sonohysterogram (SIS)

Injection of sterile saline into the uterine cavity during an ultrasound examination to assess for any irregularities of the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scarring, etc.)

Secondary Infertility

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

Semen Analysis (SA)

Freshly ejaculated semen is evaluated under a microscope to count the number of sperm (count), the percentage of moving sperm (motility), and to assess the size and shape of the sperm (morphology).

Sperm Antibodies

Antibodies against sperm cells which may attack and destroy them. These antibodies can be produced either by men against their own sperm or by women.

Sperm Wash

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. The first portion can then be used to inseminate the eggs.

Sterility

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

Stimulation

Administration of hormones which induces development of multiple ovarian follicles. See ovulation induction.

Surrogate

This is the historic term for a gestational carrier.

Testicle

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 surgical excision of testicular tissue to determine the presence of normal sperm.

Testosterone

The most potent male sex hormone. It is produced in the testes, and to lesser amounts, in the ovaries.

TDI

Therapeutic donor insemination. During this procedure, sperm from a donor is placed into a woman's cervix. Also known as AID - artificial insemination by donor, or donor IUI.

Ultrasound

Technique for visualizing the follicles in the ovaries or the fetus in the uterus.

Vaginal Ultrasound

Visualization of pelvic structures by projecting sound waves through a probe that is inserted into the vagina. A baseline ultrasound shows the ovaries in their unstimulated state. A follicular ultrasound shows egg follicle maturation. A pregnancy ultrasound shows if a pregnancy is intrauterine or tubal and measures growth of the fetus.

Varicocele

A collection of varicose veins in the scrotum. Blood flows in an abnormal direction in these veins towards the testicles.

Zygote

An embryo in the early stages of development.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

The ovum is fertilized in vitro and transferred to the fallopian tube.

Abbreviation Definition
AH Assisted Hatching
ART Assisted Reproductive Technology
BBT Basal Body Temperature
BCP Birth Control Pills
BMI Body Mass Index
CCCT Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test
CD Cycle Day
CF Cystic Fibrosis
CM Cervical Mucus
CMV Cytomegalovirus
D&C Dilatation & Curettage
DES Diethylstilbestrol (a synthetic estrogen)
DI Donor Insemination
DOR Diminished Ovary Syndrome
DPO Days Post-ovulation
DPT Days Post-transfer
Dx Diagnosis
E2 Estradiol
ET Embryo Transfer
FAQ Frequently Asked Questions
FET Frozen Embryo Transfer
GIFT Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer
HA Hypothalamic Amenorrhea
HPT Home Pregnancy Test
HSG Hysterosalpingogram
ICSI Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
IUI Intrauterine Insemination
IVF In Vitro Fertilization
LPD Luteal Phase Defect
M/C Miscarriage
M/S Morning Sickness
OHSS Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
OPK Ovulation Predictor Kit
P4 Progesterone
PCT Post-coital Test
PCO Polycystic Ovaries
PCOS Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
PID Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
PG Pregnant
PGD Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
PGS Preimplantation Genetic Screening
PMS Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
RE Reproductive Endocrinologist
Rx Prescription
SA Semen Analysis
SIS Saline Infusion Sonogram
SO Significant Other
STD Sexually Transmitted Disease
TTC Trying to Conceive
Tx Treatment
U/S Ultrasound
UPT Urine Pregnancy Test
UTI Urinary Tract Infection

 

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