Glossary

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

Amenorrhea: A condition in which a woman doesn’t have menstrual periods.

Anovulation: A condition in which a woman doesn’t ovulate or ovulates rarely.

Artificial Insemination (Better known as Intrauterine Insemination or IUI): A procedure in which sperm are inserted directly into a woman’s uterus.

Aspiration: Removal of fluid and cells by suction through a needle. This technique applies to many procedures in reproductive medicine, such as an egg retrieval.

Assisted Hatching: Placing a small opening in the “shell” (zona pellucida) that surrounds every embryo. This assists the embryo in breaking out of this shell to implant in the endometrium.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): The general term for in vitro procedures (involving handling of eggs and sperm or embryos for the purpose of establishing pregnancy).

Azoospermia: When a man has no sperm present in his semen.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT): The body temperature at rest taken in the morning before arising from bed that can be used to help identify the time or presence of ovulation.

Blastocyst: The embryonic stage approximately five to six days after fertilization.

Cervix: The lower section of the uterus which protrudes into the vagina and serves as a reservoir for sperm. Its anatomical functions include being 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 (β hCG) too low for ultrasound documentation of a pregnancy. Typically this definition includes pregnancies that have low hCG levels that spontaneously decline without further development.

Cleavage Stage Embryo: Typically a day 3 embryo that contains ideally 6-10 cells.

Clinical Pregnancy: A pregnancy in which a fetal heartbeat is visualized on ultrasound.

Clomiphene Citrate: A oral medication given to women to induce ovulation.

Corpus Luteum: An ovarian structure that forms from the ruptured follicle after ovulation. It produces progesterone to prepare the uterine lining for implantation and supports the early pregnancy until the placenta becomes fully functional.

Cumulus: The cloud-like collection of supportive follicular cells that surround the oocyte (egg).

Cryopreservation: A special freezing technique used to preserve oocytes, sperm and embryos for future use.

Cyst: A fluid filled structure. Cysts may be found many places throughout the body, but in reproductive medicine they are primarily visualized on pelvic ultrasound and are in or near the ovaries. Ovarian cysts may be normal or abnormal depending on their ultrasound appearance and size. Often they are just growing or resolving follicles from current or past menstrual cycles. Cysts are very common in both natural and stimulated cycles.

Donor Egg Cycle: The use of donated eggs from an anonymous or known egg donor. An ultrasound guided egg retrieval is performed on the donor after ovarian stimulation. Oocytes (eggs) may then be cryopreserved or fertilized with partner or donor sperm. Embryos are transferred into the recipient’s uterine cavity in a fresh or frozen transfer cycle.

Donor Insemination: Intrauterine insemination using sperm from a known or anonymous donor to achieve a pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy: An abnormal pregnancy in which an embryo implants outside of the uterine cavity.

Egg Retrieval: The surgical procedure used to retrieve oocytes (eggs) from stimulated ovaries during an ART cycle.

Embryo: A fertilized gamete.

Embryo Transfer: A procedure in which an embryo or embryos are transferred into the uterine cavity during an ART cycle.

Endocrinology: The study of the medical aspects of hormones, including diseases and conditions associated with hormonal imbalance, damage to the glands that make hormones, or the use of synthetic or natural hormonal drugs.

Endometrial Biopsy: A procedure to extract a small piece of tissue from the endometrium (lining of the uterus) for microscopic examination.

Endometrial Cavity: The uterine cavity, lined by the endometrium.

Endometriosis: A painful medical condition in which endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus in places such as the ovaries or bowel.

Endometrium: The cellular layers lining the inside of the uterus that respond to hormones and prepare for embryo attachment and implantation.

Endometrial Polyp: An overgrowth of the glandular surface of the endometrium which can cause irregular bleeding and impede implantation.

Epididymis: A structure of each testis where sperm is stored prior to ejaculation.

Estrogen (Estradiol): A hormone that is produced primarily from a woman’s ovaries and plays a role in regulating ovulation and endometrial development.

Fallopian Tubes: Tubes protruding from each side of the uterus that allow the egg to travel from the ovary to meet sperm for fertilization, and the embryo to travel to the uterus for implantation.

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

Fetus: A term used to describe the unborn offspring that has developed the major anatomical structures.

Follicle: A fluid-filled cavity in the ovary where the egg grows before it is released during ovulation.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): An endogenous hormone released from the brain that causes follicles in the ovaries to grow.

Follicular Phase: The first phase of the menstrual cycle, from onset of menses to ovulation, in which ovarian follicular growth occurs, in response to endogenous hormones. This phase is variable in length in women, but on average lasts approximately 14 days.

Gametes: Oocytes (eggs) and spermatozoa (sperm).

Gestation: Pregnancy

Gestational Carrier: A woman who carries a pregnancy and delivers a baby for another woman or couple.

Gonadotropin: Hormones (FSH and LH) that stimulate the ovary.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH): A glycoprotein hormone released from the hypothalamic area of brain that controls gonadotropin production in the pituitary.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): Hormone that is secreted once pregnancy is established.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An X-ray in which dye is injected through the cervix and into the uterus to determine if the fallopian tubes are patent (open) and if the uterine cavity is normal.

Hysteroscopy: A surgical procedure in which a thin, telescope-like instrument is inserted through the cervix into the uterus, in order to allow the physician to visualize the uterine cavity.

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

Infertility: Typically defined as an inability to get pregnant after 12 months of unprotected intercourse.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A laboratory procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into a single egg.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): A technique in which sperm are placed directly into a woman’s uterus.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): An assisted reproductive technique that involves removing sperm and eggs, fertilizing them outside of the body, then placing the embryo(s) inside the uterus.

Laparoscopy: A minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves insertion of a narrow, telescope-like instrument called a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen and/or pelvis.

Leuprolide Acetate: A synthetic form of GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) used to suppress ovarian function during an IVF cycle or mimic an LH surge.

Luteal Phase: The second phase of the menstrual cycle beginning from ovulation until the onset of menses. It is associated with progesterone production from the corpus luteum that facilitates implantation of the embryo(s) and supports early pregnancy. This phase is typically 12-14 days in all patients.

Luteinizing Hormone: A hormone released from the brain that triggers ovulation.

Miscarriage: Spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before twenty weeks of gestation.

Morphology: A term that refers to the structure and appearance of sperm.

Motility: A term that refers to the ability of sperm to move.

Oligospermia: The condition in which fewer than fifteen million sperm per mL are present in one ejaculate.

Oocyte: The female gamete, also referred to as egg or ovum.

Ovary: An endocrine pelvic organ responsible for the release of eggs.

Ovulation: When the ovaries release a mature egg that is ready for fertilization.

Ovulation Induction: A procedure in which oral or injectable medications are used to assist the ovaries in releasing egg(s) for fertilization.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A common hormonal condition in which an imbalance of hormones can cause irregular menstrual cycles, elevated androgen levels and infertility.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): A technique for identifying specific genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in an embryo prior to transferring them into the uterus. PGD can be employed to identify embryos that carry a genetic disease that affects or is carried by the parents, such as Cystic Fibrosis. It can also be used to screen the embryo for aneuploidy (referred to as PGS or PGD-AS) in order to detect an imbalance or abnormal number of chromosomes, like with Trisomy 21.

Primary Ovarian Insufficiency: (Previously known as premature ovarian failure) A condition in which a woman enters menopause before age 40 (presenting as absent menstrual cycles and significantly elevated FSH).

Primary Infertility: Infertility in a woman who has never been pregnant.

Progesterone: A hormone that is produced by a woman’s ovaries or taken exogenously that prepares the uterine lining for implantation.

Retrograde Ejaculation: A condition in which semen enters the bladder during ejaculation instead of leaving the penis.

Secondary Infertility: Infertility in a woman who has had one or more pregnancies.

Semen Analysis: A standard test of a man’s semen to check for normal parameters.

Sperm: The male gamete.

Sperm Washing: A procedure used to remove components other than sperm from a semen sample prior to being used for intrauterine insemination.

Ultrasound: A procedure in which sound waves are used to create an image of the internal structures and organs.

Unexplained Infertility: Infertility for which the cause cannot be determined with currently available diagnostic techniques.

Uterine Fibroids: Abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growths of muscle within the wall of a woman’s uterus.

Uterus: The female reproductive organ that carries a pregnancy.

Varicocele: A varicose vein in the scrotum that may, albeit controversial, affect the quality and the production of sperm.

Vas Deferens: The long, narrow tube through which sperm pass on their way from the testes to the seminal vesicles.

Vitrification: An ultra-rapid cryopreservation technique for eggs, sperm, and embryos in order to minimize damage and ice crystal formation.

Zona Pellucida: The outer protein layer (shell) of an egg, which must be penetrated by sperm for fertilization to take place.

Zygote: A cell formed by fertilization of sperm and egg, prior to the first division.

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