Center for Reproductive Medicine

Glossary of Terms

Abortion, Spontaneous: Pregnancy loss by any cause before 22 weeks of gestation.

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

American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): (formerly the American Fertility Society or AFS) Large multidisciplinary patient and physician organization for new ideas, education and advocacy in fertility and reproductive medicine issues. ASRM is a leading advocate for patient care, research and education.

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.

Antimullarian Hormone (AMH): A substance produced by the granulosa cells. This blood test is used to measure ovarian (egg) reserve.

Aneuploidy: An abnormal number of chromosomes in a cell. The majority of embryos with aneuploidies are not compatible with life.

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 implanting in the endometrium. This is done by 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.

Azoospermia: The absence of sperm in the ejaculate.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT): The body temperature at rest taken in the morning before arising from bed. An ovulation predictor kit (OPK) can be used instead of daily temperature readings.

Beta HCG: blood test to measure the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin.

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 from previous surgery on the cervix (such as a LEEP or cone procedures) that leaves the cervical canal scarred or closed (stenosis). Cervical factor infertility can usually be overcome using inseminations (IUI) 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. It’s 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.

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 ® or Serophene ®): An oral medication used to stimulate the ovaries and/or synchronize follicle development.

Congenital Anomaly: A non-hereditary characteristic, or defect, developed before birth.

Congenital Absence of the Vas Deferens (CAVD): The absence at birth of the duct system that connect the testes to the urethra and may be associated with cystic fibrosis. Although the testes usually develop and function normally, men present with no sperm in the ejaculate (azoospermia). The condition can be unilateral (one side) or bilateral (both sides) of the testes.

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.

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).

Cyst: A fluid filled structure on the ovaries. Ovarian cysts may be normal or abnormal depending on the circumstances.

Donor Egg Cycle: The use of donated eggs from an anonymous or known donor.

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 (TDI – Therapeutic 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. 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.

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy implanted outside the uterus; most often in the fallopian tube. This is also termed a tubal pregnancy. Left undiagnosed and untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can have serious medical consequences.

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 of a patient during an IVF cycle. It occurs on the third, fifth or sixth day after an egg retrieval.

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 inside the uterus that consists of an inner lining which responds to female hormones during the menstrual and treatment cycles. This lining forms the area of attachment and implantation of the embryo.

Endometriosis: The presence of endometrial tissue (tissue that normally lines the uterus) in abnormal locations (outside the uterus) such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes and abdominal cavity.

Endometrium: The inner lining of the uterus that responds to female hormones during the menstrual cycle and treatment cycles. 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.

Erectile Dysfunction: Inability to have and/or sustain an erection sufficient for intercourse.

Estradiol: The principal hormone produced by the growing ovarian follicle.

Euploid: The condition in which a cell has chromosomes in an exact multiple of both parents. A normal cell has 23 chromosomes from the mother and 23 from the father making 46 chromosomes in a cell and all in the normal location of the chromosome.

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.

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

Fibroids: Overgrowth of the muscular tissue of the uterus. Fibroids are typically knotty masses of benign muscle tissue that can distort the shape and function of the uterus and/or the cavity of the uterus.

Fimbria: The soft 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 Follicle contains a single oocyte (egg) or some follicles may not contain an oocyte. This is a normal occurrence in the human ovary.

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.

Follistim®: Commercially produced injectable recombinant FSH.

Fecundity: the ability to have a live birth.

Gamete(s): a mature haploid male or female germ cell that is able to unite with another of the opposite sex in sexual reproduction to form a zygote.

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.

Gestation: Pregnancy.

Gonadotropin: Hormones that stimulate the ovary.

Gestational Carrier (GC): A woman who carries a pregnancy with an agreement that she will give the offspring to the intended parents.

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

Gonal F ®: Commercially produced injectable recombinant FSH.

Hamster Test: see Sperm Penetration Assay

Haploid: having a single set (23) of unpaired chromosomes

Heterotopic Pregnancy: pregnancy where one implantation is inside the uterus and one implantation occurs outside of the uterus simultaneously.

High Order Multiples (HOM): A pregnancy where 3 or more embryos or fetuses.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) Novarel®, Pregnyl®: 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.

Hypothalamus: A portion of the brain that stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete LH and FSH in order to stimulate ovarian follicle development.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An x-ray procedure to examine whether the fallopian tubes are patent (open) or not. Special x-ray dye is gently injected through the uterus and then x-ray pictures are taken.

Hysteroscope/Hysteroscopic surgery: Minimally invasive surgery in which a small telescopic camera is placed through the cervical canal into the uterine cavity. This allows direct visualization of the endometrium and the lining of the uterine cavity where pregnancies implant.

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

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): 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.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): A 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.
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

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

Luteal Phase: The luteal phase refers to the second half of the cycle, usually the last fourteen days of an ovulatory cycle. It begins from the time of ovulation to the onset of menses.

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

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.

Media: Fluid used in the laboratory containing nutritive growth substances enabling cells to survive in an artificial environment.

Menopur ®: Commercially manufactured. It is a urinary LH injectable medication with some FSH availability as well used in IVF stimulation cycles

Menses: A “period”. Cyclic (monthly) flow of blood (menstruation) signifying ovulation, but failure to achieve pregnancy. Onset of bleeding is considered cycle day 1.

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

Oligospermia: Low concentration of sperm in the ejaculate.

Oocyte: The female germ cell often called an egg.

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

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): An exaggerated systemic response to ovarian stimulation characterized by a wide spectrum of clinical and lab manifestations. May be mild, moderate or severe depending on the degree of abdominal distention, ovarian enlargement and other systemic complications.

Ovarian Reserve: A term generally used to indicate the number and/or quality of oocytes reflecting the ability to reproduce.

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

Ovum (ova or egg): Mature oocytes.

Pap test: A screening test to determine the presence of cervical cancer

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA): A surgical procedure in which a needle is introduced through the skin around the peritoneum of the male into the epididymis to obtain sperm.

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.

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.

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.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A technique for identifying genetic or chromosomal information about embryos before transferring them back to a patient’s uterus.

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

Pronucleus: A specialized stage of the oocyte and sperm nucleus before they join to create a genetically unique embryo.

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL): This is defined as greater than 3 spontaneous losses in succession.

RESOLVE: is a non-profit organization with an established, nationwide network of chapters mandated to promote reproductive health and to ensure equal access to all family building options for men and women experiencing infertility or other reproductive disorders. www.resolve.org

Salpingectomy: The surgical removal of an entire fallopian tube. Can be one side (unilateral) or both sides (bilateral).

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).

Single Embryo Transfer (SET) or Elective Single Embryos Transfer (eSET ): Is transferring a single embryo at the culmination of an IVF cycle. This will be discussed with you by your physician during your consultation.

Spermatogenesis: The production of a sperm cell.

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

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

Spontaneous Abortion or Miscarriage (SAB): The spontaneous loss of an intra-uterine pregnancy prior to 22 completed weeks of gestation.

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. www.cdc.gov.

Testicular/Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (TESA): The surgical removal of sperm directly from the testis or the epididymis using a needle for aspiration.

Transvaginal: Through the vagina.

Tubal Patency: Lack of obstruction or open Fallopian tubes.

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.

Uterus: 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.

Y Chromosome Microdeletion: Missing segments of the genetic material on the y chromosome that is associated with abnormal spermatogenesis.

Zygote: Genetic material (pronuclei) of the egg and sperm have united.