For Patients

Glossary

Glossary Of Acronyms And Terms

ANDROGENS: Male sex hormones. An andrologist is a specialist who treats sperm problems.

ANTISPERM ANTIBODIES: Antibodies are produced by the immune system to fight off foreign substances, like bacteria. Antisperm antibodies attach themselves to sperm and inhibit their movement and ability to fertilize eggs.

ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION (AI): Placing sperm into the vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes through artificial means, usually injected through a catheter or cannula after the sperm has been washed. This procedure is used for both donor’s and husband’s sperm. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) gets the sperm closer to the egg than vaginal or cervical insemination. Used for low sperm counts, poor sperm motility and when the woman has hostile cervical mucus.

ASSISTED HATCHING: A technique whereby a small hole is created in the zona pellucida (eggshell) of the embryo in order to facilitate implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

ASSISTED REPRODUCTIVE TECHNOLOGY (ART): Several procedures employed to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IUI, IVF, and GIFT.

AZOOSPERMIA: Absence of any sperm in the ejaculate.

BASAL BODY TEMPERATURE (BBT): Your body temperature when taken at its lowest point, usually in the morning before getting out of bed.

BIOCHEMICAL PREGNANCY: A transient and unsustained rise in the pregnancy hormone hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).

BLASTOCYST: An embryo grown in culture medium for five to six days.

BLASTOCYST CULTURE: The practice of extending the in vitro growth of the embryo until the fifth or sixth day.

CLINICAL PREGNANCY: A gestational sac in the uterus is visualized by ultrasound.

CLOMIPHENE CITRATE : A fertility drug that stimulates ovulation through the release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland.

CORPUS LUTEUM: Literally translates to yellow body. Formed in the follicle after an egg is released. Produces progesterone, which causes the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to thicken, enabling a fertilized egg to burrow into the uterus. A deficiency in the amount of progesterone produced (or the length of time it is produced) by the corpus luteum can mean that the endometrium is unable to sustain a pregnancy. This is called luteal phase defect (LPD).

CRYOPRESERVATION: A process used to preserve embryos or sperm in liquid nitrogen for short or long-term storage.

CYCLE CANCELLATION: The IVF cycle is cancelled after fertility medications have been initiated but prior to the oocyte retrieval.

DILATION & CURETTAGE (D&C): an operation that scrapes out the uterine lining.

DONOR EGG CYCLE:  An IVF cycle in which a donor (known or anonymous) donates her eggs to be fertilized by either the husband’s sperm or donor sperm and the resulting embryos are transferred to the patient’s (recipient’s)  uterus.  Donor cycles can be either exlusive to one recipient, or shared by two recipients.

DONOR EGG BANK:  A place where egg donors’ vitrified (frozen) eggs are stored for future use by recipients.

DONOR INSEMINATION: Artificial insemination with donor sperm. (See ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION)

ECTOPIC PREGNANCY: A pregnancy outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Such a pregnancy can rarely be sustained and often leads to decreased or complete loss of function in the affected tube. Methotrexate may be used to dissolve the pregnancy without causing major damage to the tube.

EMBRYO TRANSFER: Placing an egg fertilized outside the womb into a woman’s uterus or fallopian tube.

ENDOMETRIAL BIOPSY: A test to check for luteal phase defect. A small tissue sample of the uterus is removed and analyzed for proper thickness to determine whether appropriate hormone levels are being produced.

ENDOMETRIOSIS: A disease in which uterine lining is found outside the uterus, usually on the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

ENDOMETRIUM: Medical term for lining of the uterus, which is built up to sustain pregnancy and shed through menstruation if pregnancy does not occur.

ESTRADIOL: The principal estrogen produced by the ovary. The blood test to monitor estradiol is E2 Rapid Assay. Women on gonadotropins or other fertility drugs have routine E2 monitoring.

ESTROGEN: Female sex hormone.

FALLOPIAN TUBES: Ducts through which eggs travel to the uterus once released from the follicle. Sperm normally meet the egg in the fallopian tube, the site at which fertilization usually occurs.

FIBROID (Myoma or Leiomyoma): A benign tumor of the uterus muscle and connective tissue.

FIMBRIA: The finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tube nearest the ovary. These projections capture the egg as it is released from the follicle and deliver it into the fallopian tube.

FOLLICLES: Fluid-filled sacs in the ovary that contain the egg released at ovulation.

FOLLICLE-STIMULATING HORMONE (FSH): The hormone that stimulates egg follicle growth in women and sperm formation in men.

FOLLICULAR PHASE: The pre-ovulatory portion of a woman’s cycle during which a follicle grows and high levels of estrogen cause the lining of the uterus to proliferate. Normally takes between 12 and 14 days.

GAMETE: A reproductive cell: sperm in men, the egg in women.

GAMETE INTRA-FALLOPIAN TRANSFER (GIFT): A technique whereby eggs and sperm are loaded in a catheter and transferred to the fallopian tube in order to achieve fertilization.

GONADOTROPINS: Hormones that controls reproductive function: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

GONADOTROPIN RELEASING HORMONE (GnRH): The hormone that controls the production and release of gonadotropins.

HAMSTER TEST (Also called sperm penetration assay, SPA): A diagnostic test of the ability of human sperm to penetrate a hamster egg that has been stripped of the zona pellucida (eggshell).

HOSTILE MUCUS: Cervical mucus that impedes the natural progress of sperm through the cervical canal.

HOST UTERUS (Also called a surrogate gestational mother): A couple’s embryo is transferred to another woman who carries the pregnancy to term and returns the baby to the genetic parents immediately after birth.

HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPIN (hCG): The hormone produced in early pregnancy that keeps the corpus luteum producing progesterone. Also used via injection to trigger ovulation after some fertility treatments and used in men to stimulate testosterone production.

HYPEROLACTINEMIA: Excessive prolactin hormone levels that may affect fertility.

HYPERSTIMULATION (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, OHSS): A reaction to gonadotropins in which a woman’s ovaries become enlarged and produce an overabundance of eggs. Blood hormone levels rise, fluid may collect in the lungs or abdominal cavity, and cysts on the ovaries may rupture, causing internal bleeding. Blood clots sometimes develop. Symptoms include sudden weight gain and abdominal pain. Cycles stimulated with gonadotropins must be carefully monitored with ultrasound scans to minimize the occurrence of OHSS.

HYSTEROSALPINGOGRAM (HSG): An x-ray of the pelvic organs in which a radio-opaque dye is injected through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This test checks for malformations of the uterus and blockage of the fallopian tubes.

HYSTEROSCOPY: A procedure in which the doctor checks for uterine abnormalities by inserting a fiber-optic device. Minor surgical repairs can be executed during the procedure.

INCOMPETENT CERVIX: The cervix opens up prematurely during pregnancy and can cause the loss of the fetus. A cervical cerclage is a procedure in which a stitch or two is put around the cervix in order to prevent its opening until removed when the pregnancy is at term.

INITIATED CYCLE: Fertility medication is started to stimulate the ovaries to produce many egg-containing follicles.

INTRACYTOPLASMIC SPERM INJECTION (ICSI): Microscopically injecting one spermatozoon into the cytoplasm of each mature oocyte to facilitate fertilization.

INTRAUTERINE INSEMINATION (IUI): A procedure whereby washed sperm are placed into the uterine cavity via a small catheter.

IN VITRO FERTILIZATION (IVF): Eggs and sperm are placed together in a petri dish in order to facilitate fertilization.

LAPAROSCOPY: Examination of the pelvic region using a small telescope called a laparoscope.

LUTEAL PHASE: Post-ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which causes the uterine lining to thicken in order to support the implantation and growth of an embryo.

LUTEAL PHASE DEFECT (or deficiency; LPD): Inadequate function of the corpus luteum that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus or may lead to early pregnancy loss.

LUTEINIZED UNRUPTURED FOLLICLE SYNDROME (LUFS): Failure of a follicle to release the egg even though a corpus luteum has formed.

LUTEINIZING HORMONE (LH): The pituitary hormone that causes the manufacture of sex hormones. The sudden LH surge causes ovulation.

LUTEINIZING HORMONE SURGE (LH surge): The release of luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes release of a mature egg from the follicle. Ovulation test kits detect the sudden increase of LH, signaling that ovulation is about to occur (usually within 24-36 hours).

MICROSURGICAL EPIDIDYMAL SPERM ASPIRATION (MESA): Process used to retrieve sperm from men if the problem is a blockage in, or absence of, the vas deferens.

MORPHOLOGY: A description of the shape and size of sperm. The lower the percentage of normal sperm, the less likely it is that fertilization will take place.

MOTILITY: The ability of sperm to swim. Poor motility means that the sperm have a difficult time swimming toward their destination, the egg.

OLIGOMENORRHEA: Infrequent menstrual periods.

OLIGOZOOSPERMIA: Low sperm count.

OOCYTE RETRIEVAL: Oocytes (eggs) are aspirated from the ovarian follicles using a minor surgical procedure.

PELVIC INFLAMATORY DISEASE (PID): An infection of any of the pelvic organs that, if left untreated, may result in infertility.

PREIMPLANTATION GENETIC DIAGNOSIS (PGD): Genetic profiling of embryos prior to implantation to identify embryos with genetic  conditions that could lead to disease.

PREIMPLANTATION GENETIC SCREENING (PGS):  Testing done prior to implantation,  for anatomical, physiological or genetic conditions.

POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS or “Stein-Leventhal Syndrome”): A condition found in women who don’t ovulate, characterized by excessive production of androgens (male sex hormones) and the presence of cysts in the ovaries. Though PCOS can be without symptoms, some symptoms may include excessive weight gain, acne and/or excessive hair growth.

POST-COITAL TEST (PCT): An examination of the woman’s cervical mucus performed between two and twelve hours after intercourse. Determines the number of sperm and if they are able to swim within the mucus.

PROGESTERONE: The hormone produced by the corpus luteum during the second half of a woman’s cycle. It thickens the lining of the uterus in order to prepare it to accept the implantation of a fertilized egg.

PROLACTIN: The hormone that stimulates the production of milk in breastfeeding women. Excessive prolactin levels when not breastfeeding may result in infertility.

SECONDARY INFERTILITY: The inability of a couple who has already successfully achieved at least one pregnancy to achieve another. The strict medical definition includes couples for whom the pregnancy did not go to term. The common vernacular, however, refers to a couple which has one biological child but is unable to conceive another.

SEPTATE UTERUS: An abnormality in which the uterus is divided by a piece of tissue.

SONOGRAM (Ultrasound): Use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts. Used to detect and count follicle growth (and disappearance) in many fertility treatments. Also used to detect and monitor pregnancy.

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 and given as the number of sperm per milliliter.

SUPEROVULATION: Stimulation of multiple ovulation with fertility drugs; also known as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH).

SURROGATE MOTHER: A mother who is artificially inseminated and carries to term a baby that will be raised by its genetic father and his partner.

TESTICULAR SPERM EXTRACTION (TESE): Process used to retrieve sperm from a man who produces only a few sperm in the testicles.

TESTOSTERONE: The primary male sex hormone.

THYROID GLAND: The endocrine gland in the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones to regulate the body’s metabolism.

ULTRASOUND (Sonogram): Use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts. Used to detect and count follicle growth (and disappearance) in many fertility treatments. Also used to detect and monitor pregnancy.

UNICORNUATE UTERUS: An abnormality in which the uterus is one-sided and smaller than usual.

VARICOCELE: A varicose vein in the testicle, often associated with male infertility.

VITRIFICATION:  A cryopreservation process which most IVF centers employ to freeze embryos.

ZYGOTE: A fertilized egg that has not yet divided.