Glossary of Infertility Terms

A
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 protein secreted by small follicles of the ovary, which is an indicator of the number of eggs remaining in the ovary.

Antisperm Antibody Testing
Is done to determine if a man's sperm or a woman's blood harbors substances that cause his sperm to clump together, lose motility, or lose the ability to fertilize an egg.

Assisted Hatching
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 an impairment of sperm production.
B
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.

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

Blocking Antibodies
Substances produced by a pregnant woman to prevent her body from recognizing the developing embryo as a foreign agent and manufacturing antibodies against the fetus.

Bromocriptine (Parlodel)
An oral medication used to lower prolactin levels.
C
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)
This is 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
This is 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.
D
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 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.
E
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 peritoneal cavity.

Endometrial Biopsy
A small sample of tissue removed from the lining of the uterus for microscopic examination to determine the presence or absence of progesterone stimulation. This diagnostic test, which can be performed in a doctor's office, helps to determine whether a woman ovulates or has hormonal imbalances.

Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
This test indicates if a latent infection exists in the body.

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.
F
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 the treatment 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.
G
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.

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.
H
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.

Hydrocele
A swelling in the scrotum containing fluid.

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.
I
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.
L
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.
M
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.
N
Nidation
See Implantation.
O
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.
P
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.

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. 
R
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.
S
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 induce development of multiple ovarian follicles. See ovulation induction.
T
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 tha ovaries.

TDI
Therapeutic or artificial 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.
U
Ultrasound
Technique for visualizing the follicles in the ovaries or the fetus in the uterus.
V
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.
Z
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 before dividing the day after fertilization via laparoscopy.