Fertility Glossary

If you’re new to the world of assisted fertility, you might be overwhelmed by the alphabet soup of terms and acronyms used in the process. Here’s a glossary of terms we thought you might find useful:

Adhesion

Scar tissue attaches to internal organs, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, uterus, or other internal organs. Adhesions can wrap up or distort these organs, which can cause infertility and pain.

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 lining (or outer shell) surrounding every embryo. The intention is to help the embryo in breaking out of this shell and implant in the uterus. Embryologists do this in the laboratory before embryo transfer in IVF cycles.

Beta HCG

See Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG).

Canceled cycle

This was when the ovarian stimulation portion of an IUI or IVF  cycle was completed, but the cycle was stopped before eggs were retrieved (or in the case of frozen embryo cycles, before embryos were transferred). The reasons a cycle may have been canceled due to undeveloped eggs, the patient became ill, or the patient chose to stop treatment.

Cervix

The lower section of the uterus which opens into the vagina.

Chemical Pregnancy

A positive pregnancy test, but the pregnancy hormone levels (beta hCG) are unfortunately too low for an ultrasound documentation of a pregnancy, and the numbers do not increase as they should.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid TM or Serophene TM)

An oral medication used to stimulate the ovaries or synchronize follicle development.

Concentration of motile sperm

A measurement of the sperm that can readily swim to fertilize the egg. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there should be approximately a minimum of 10 million motile sperm per milliliter of semen.

Corpus Luteum

A special gland that forms from the ovulated follicle in the ovary. It produces progesterone during the second half of a menstrual cycle, which is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation.

Cryopreservation

The process of freezing eggs or embryos.

Cyst

A fluid-filled structure. Cysts may be found anywhere in the body, but we primarily refer to them in the ovaries in reproductive medicine. Ovarian cysts may be normal or abnormal, depending on the circumstances.

Diminished Ovarian Reserve

A diagnosed condition that means the ovary’s ability to produce eggs is reduced. The reasons may be congenital, medical, surgical causes, or advanced maternal age (older than 40).

Donor egg cycle

An embryo is formed from the egg donation of one woman (the donor) and then transferred to another woman who is unable to use her eggs (the recipient) or a gestational carrier (a surrogate). The donor relinquishes all parental rights.

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 embryo

An embryo donated by a couple who previously underwent an IVF cycle and had extra embryos available.  The donor couple relinquishes all parental rights.

Donor Insemination

The introduction of sperm from an anonymous donor to achieve a pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy

A pregnancy that is implanted outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube.

Egg retrieval (also called oocyte retrieval)

This procedure is done either during an egg freezing or IVF cycle where the oocytes (eggs) are retrieved through a minimally-invasive surgical procedure under light anesthesia.

Egg

A female reproductive cell, also called an oocyte or ovum.

Embryo transfer

The procedure of placing an embryo into a woman’s uterus through the cervix after in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Embryo

An egg that a sperm has fertilized.

Endometrial biopsy

The extraction of a small piece of tissue from the endometrium (which is the uterus’s lining) to be analyzed.

Endometriosis

The presence of endometrial tissue (tissue that normally lines the uterus) in abnormal locations such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and abdominal cavity. This disease can cause painful periods and cause infertility issues.

Endometrium

The lining of the uterus. This lining, when correctly 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 testes where sperm maturation is partially accomplished. Receives sperm from the testis and continues as the ductus (vas) deferens.

eSET

is a strategy to decrease your chances of having even twins. If Dr. Wilcox transfers only a single embryo into your womb during IVF, the chances of having twins are reduced to almost zero, which typically means a safer pregnancy.

Estradiol

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

Fallopian Tube

The anatomic and physiologic connection between the uterus and the ovary serves to transport the oocyte (egg) and sperm.

Fertilization

The penetration of the egg by the sperm and the resulting combining of genetic material that develops into an embryo.

Fetus

The unborn offspring from the eighth week after conception to the moment of birth.

Fibroids

An overgrowth of the muscular tissue of the uterus. Fibroids are typically benign and noncancerous but can impact your fertility.

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.

Follicle

A fluid-filled pocket in the ovary that stores a growing egg. Each ovary has many follicles within it. Follicles start extremely small and then grow more significantly under the influence of hormones (and the medications that replicate these hormones).

Follicular Phase

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

Frozen Embryo Cycle (FET)

Frozen (cryopreserved) embryos are thawed and transferred to the woman or gestational carrier.

Gamete

A reproductive cell, either a sperm or an egg.

Gestational carrier (also called a gestational surrogate)

A woman who carries an embryo with no genetic relation. The gestational carrier usually has a legal obligation to return the baby to its intended parents.

Gestational sac

A fluid-filled structure that develops within the uterus early in pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy, a gestational sac contains a developing fetus.

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH)

A hormone produced by the brain’s hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete gonadotropins.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)

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

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)

An x-ray procedure to examine whether the fallopian tubes are open or not. This test helps determine if the tubes are blocked. Special x-ray dye is slowly 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 tiny telescopic camera, much like a laparoscope, is placed through the cervical canal into the uterine cavity. This allows the endometrium’s direct visualization, 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 removing any impediments to implantation, such as polyps or fibroids in the uterine cavity.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)

A procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg; this procedure is most commonly used to overcome male infertility problems.

Implantation

The attachment and embedding of an embryo into the lining of the uterus.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF entails stimulating your ovaries to develop multiple follicles. This is achieved with injectable medications. IVF aims to produce a large number of growing follicles, then retrieve the eggs inside the follicles. The eggs are then inseminated with sperm in the laboratory, sometimes using ICSI, to create embryos that can then be transferred back to the patient’s uterus or gestational carrier in the hopes that it will implant.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

This is the placement of a single sperm into a single egg by penetrating the egg’s outer coatings. 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.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

is a technique that transfers sperm directly into the uterus. It bypasses the vaginal and cervix and allows better sperm delivery to the fallopian tubes. This allows the sperm and egg to interact nearby. It is a prevalent treatment for mild and moderate deficits in the semen analysis.

Laparoscopic Surgery

In this minimally invasive procedure, the laparoscope is placed through the belly-button 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 and reopen a blocked fallopian tube, amongst many other indications.

Live birth

The delivery of one or more babies.

LupronTM

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

Luteal Phase Deficiency (LPD)

The menstrual cycle is divided 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.

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 essential in the production of sperm cells.

Male factor

Any cause of infertility due to low sperm count or problems with sperm function makes it difficult for a sperm to fertilize an egg under normal conditions.

Miscarriage

A pregnancy ending in the spontaneous loss of the embryo or fetus before 20 weeks of gestation.

Multi-fetal pregnancy reduction

This procedure is also known as selective reduction. A procedure used to decrease the number of fetuses a woman carries and improve the chances of remaining fetuses will develop into healthy infants. Multi-fetal reductions that occur naturally are referred to as spontaneous reductions.

Multiple factors, female and male

A diagnostic category used when one or more female/male infertility causes are diagnosed together.

Oocyte

The female reproductive cell, also called an egg.

Other causes of infertility

These include immunological problems, chromosomal abnormalities, cancer, chemotherapy, and serious illnesses.

Ovarian monitoring

The use of ultrasound or blood or urine tests to monitor follicle development and hormone production.

Ovarian reserve

Refers to a woman’s fertility potential in the absence of problems in her reproductive tract (fallopian tubes, uterus, or vagina).

Ovarian stimulation

The use of medications to stimulate the ovaries to develop follicles and eggs.

Ovary

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

Ovulation

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

Ovulatory dysfunction

A diagnostic category used when a woman’s ovaries are not producing eggs typically. It includes polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and multiple ovarian cysts.

Ovum (ova or egg)

Mature oocytes.

Pituitary Gland

A small organ at the brain’s base that secretes many hormones, including LH and FSH, responds to signals from the hypothalamus.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

A common endocrinological condition that causes hormonal imbalances in women of reproductive age. It can lead to dysfunctional ovulation, infertility, weight gain, pre-diabetes, and increased male hormone testosterone.

Polyp

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

Pregnancy (clinical)

A pregnancy documented by ultrasound that shows a gestational sac in the uterus.

Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic

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. PGT-M can be employed to identify embryos that carry a genetic disease. PGT-M looks for specific inherited abnormalities and can be performed either for inherited genetic disorders or inherited chromosome rearrangements. Conditions like Tay-Sachs, Cystic Fibrosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Fragile X, etc. When you employ PGT-M testing with your IVF, it dramatically reduces your child’s chances of having the disease you have a high genetic risk for. Since PGT-M looks for specific (“Mono” as in one or single) gene defects, it is Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Monogenic (PGT-M).

Preimplantation Genetic Testing for Aneuploidies

PGT-A involves checking the embryos’ chromosomes conceived by IVF or ICSI for common abnormalities. Chromosomal abnormalities are a significant cause of the failure of embryos to implant and of miscarriages. PGT-A looks for “aneuploidies,” which is the presence of an abnormal number of chromosomes in an embryo.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

POF (sometimes called primary ovarian insufficiency) is the loss of your ovaries’ normal function before age 40. Women with POF have symptoms of early menopause, including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, and painful intercourse, along with a lack of regular menstrual cycles in their teens, 20’s or 30’s.

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL)

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), Recurrent Pregnancy loss is defined as two or more pregnancy losses. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines it as having three or more. If you fall anywhere between two or three, a thorough physical exam is highly recommended. A miscarriage is considered the loss of a pregnancy within the first 20 weeks.

Semen Analysis

Semen analysis is an integral part of the fertility assessment process. It will review three main factors: Sperm Count, Morphology (which is the shape of the sperm), and Motility (how well the sperm swims).

Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART)

Regulatory and consultative organization of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine responsible for assisted reproduction. This organization works with the CDC to publicly post fertility rates of all IVF centers in the USA.

Sperm motility

The sperm’s ability to readily swim forward to fertilize the egg. They are also referred to as sperm mobility.

Sperm

The male reproductive cell.

Stillbirth

Fetal death that occurs after 20 weeks gestation.

Stimulated cycle

An ART cycle in which a woman receives oral or injected fertility drugs to stimulate her ovaries to produce more follicles.

Testicular/Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA)

The surgical removal of sperm directly from the testes 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).

Thawed embryo cycle

Same as frozen embryo cycle.

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 standard IVF has replaced.

Transvaginal

Through the vagina (i.e., A Transvaginal sonogram)

Tubal factor

A diagnostic category used when the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged, making it difficult for the egg to be fertilized or for an embryo to travel to the uterus.

Ultrasound

High-frequency sound waves that can be used painlessly, safely, and without radiation to view the internal portions of the body. Ultrasound is beneficial for visualizing the female reproductive organs, the follicles in the ovaries, the gestational sac, or the fetus.

Unexplained cause of infertility

A diagnostic category used when no cause of infertility is found in either the woman or the man.

Unstimulated cycle

A cycle in which the woman does not receive drugs to stimulate her ovaries to produce more follicles. Instead, follicles develop naturally.

Uterine factor

A structural or functional disorder of the uterus that results in reduced fertility.

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 this reproductive organ’s body.

Varicocele

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

Zygote

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