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Glossary of Fertility Terminology

A

Adoption: The legal process in which a couple adopt a child and become its legal parents.

Annovulatory: Absence of ovulation.

Antral Follicles: Smaller follicles which develop as a result of FSH stimulation but are then re-absorbed by the body.

Assisted Hatching: The thinning of the shell or creation of a small hole in the zona of an embryo.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART):  Procedures that help unite an egg and sperm outside the body in the laboratory.

Asthenozoospermia: Sperm with poor motility

Antisperm Antibodies: Sticky proteins on sperm causing immobilisation.

Azoospermia: Complete absence of sperm in the ejaculate.

B

Blastocyst: The early stage of an embryo that is 4-5 days old and is a hollow ball of cells whose wall is comprised of a single layer of cells; the blastocyst is the liquid-filled sphere that implants in the wall of the uterus during implantation

Blastocyst Transfer: An embryo that has developed to five days and is transferred into the uterus.

C

Cervix: The opening to the uterus.

Cervical Mucous: A fluid that enhances the transport of the sperm into the endometrial cavity.

Clomiphene Citrate: A fertility drug used to stimulate ovulation that may result in multiple births.

Clomiphene Challenge Test: An exam that can determine the egg reserves in the ovaries.

Corpus Luteum: A ruptured follicle. The corpus luteum releases Oestrogen and progesterone.  Progesterone continues to be released if fertilisation has occurred.  If pregnancy does not occur, the Corpus Luteum stops producing Progesterone and the female will have a menstrual bleed.

Cryopreservation: The process of freezing commonly used for embryos or sperm. Cryopreservation of oocytes is a relatively recent development and is called vitrification.

D

Dysmenorrhea: Pain with menstrual bleeding.

E

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy in which a fertilised egg begins to develop outside the uterus normally used in reference to a pregnancy that develops in the fallopian tube.

Egg Collection: A procedure performed to collect the eggs produced from an IVF/ICSI cycle. This can be performed under sedation or a General Anaesthetic.

Egg Donation: A woman donates eggs through IVF/IVCSI treatment, to another woman (recipient).

Electro-ejulation: The use of electrical stimulation to aid production of a semen sample in impotent or paralysed men.

Embryo: An organism in its early development stage. Formative stages of development from fertilisation to 8 weeks.

Embryo transfer: A procedure following IVF/ICSI in which the embryos are replaced back into the uterus.

Endometriosis: A condition in which the lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside of the uterine cavity.  Often, this tissue is found in the pelvic cavity attached to the ovary or fallopian tubes.  It can be a cause of infertility in women.

Endometrium: The lining of the uterus which is shed.  The lining of the uterus that grows throughout the menstrual cycle and is shed in the monthly menstrual cycle if an embryo does not implant.

Epididymis: Coiled tubing outside the testicles which store sperm.

Estradiol: A hormone secreted by the ovaries.

Estrogen: A female hormone secreted chiefly by the ovaries that stimulates the development of female secondary sex characteristics and promotes the growth and maintenance of the female reproductive system.

F

Fallopian tubes: Tubes connected to the uterus and positioned near the ovaries.  It is here that fertilisation of the egg and sperm occurs.

Fertilisation: Sperm penetrating the egg which can lead to pregnancy.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates the growth of the egg-containing follicles in the ovary.  In males it contributes to the production of sperm.

Follicles: A fluid filled sac in the ovary in which an egg grows and develops. Although the egg is microscopic, follicles can be visualized by ultrasound.

Follicular Loss: A progressive process that will deplete the number of egg reserves by menopause.

Follicular Tracking: Scanning a woman during a natural cycle for ovulation.

G

Gametes: Male sperm and female eggs.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT): A method of treating infertility by removing eggs from a woman's ovaries, combining them with sperm from her partner or a donor in the laboratory, and placing the eggs and sperm together in one of her fallopian tubes, where fertilisation can occur.

Gonadotropins: Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH): Produced by the Hypothalamus, it enables the production of LH and FSH.

Gonadotropins: the hormones produced by the pituitary gland that control reproductive function. They are part of the reproductive cycle, i.e. FSH and LH.

H

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG): A hormone that is produced by the body in the early stages of pregnancy.  It enables the corpus luteum to continue producing Progesterone.  In assisted conception HCG is used 36 hours prior to egg retrieval to mature the eggs ready for the egg collection procedure.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): A drug that helps to mature eggs and stimulate ovulation.

Hydrosalpinx: Fluid in the fallopian tube.

Hypothalamus: A specialised gland in the brain that orchestrates the body's hormonal changes.

Hypospadias: Congenital abnormality, affecting male offspring, in which the opening of the urethra is misplaced or malformed.

Hystero Contrast Sonography (Hycosy): Procedure which checks the patency of the fallopian tubes using ultrasound waves.

Hysteo-Salpingpgram (HSG): Procedure which checks the patency of the fallopian tubes and the uterus under X-ray conditions.

Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which the uterine cavity is visualised by a surgeon.  Can help in the diagnosis of fibroids or polyps.

I

Implantation: For a pregnancy to continue developing the embryo needs to implant into the lining of the womb, the endometrium.

In vitro Fertilisation (IVF): A procedure that involves removing eggs from a woman's ovaries and fertilising them in the laboratory outside the body.  The resulting embryos are then replaced back into the woman's womb through the cervix.

Infertility: The inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A procedure in which a single sperm is injected into a mature egg.  Normally offered to couples where the male sperm count is low or there is poor motility.  It can also be offered to couples who have experienced failed fertilisation following IVF.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): A procedure in which sperm is washed and prepared and then passed directly into the uterus via a fine catheter to enhance the chances of fertilisation.

K

Klinefelter's Syndrome: A genetic condition in which men have an extra X chromosome.

L

Laparoscopy: A camera procedure in which the surgeon passes a small, lighted instrument by making a small incision under the belly button to explore the internal structure of the pelvis, in particular the ovaries, fallopian tube the uterus.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH): A hormone which is produced by the Pituitary gland.  In females it is essential for the production of Oestrogen.  In males it is necessary for the process of sperm production and testosterone secretion.

M

Menstrual Cycle: Normally a 28 day cycle in which ovulation occurs around day 14 and if fertilisation does not occur, results in a bleed around day 28.

Menorrhagia: Heavy menstrual bleeding.

Miscarriage: Spontaneous loss of a viable embryo or fetus in the womb.

Microsurgical Tubal Reanastomosis: A procedure used to reverse tubal sterilisation.

Motile Forms: Sperm with a heightened ability to swim.

Myomas: Benign (non cancerous), smooth muscle tumors found in the female genital tract.

O

Oestrogen: A hormone that aids the thickening of the endometrium lining.  It is also produced in small quantities in the male.

Oligozoospermia: Low numbers of sperm in the ejaculate.

Oligo-asthenoteratozoospermia (OATS): Low numbers, reduced motility and abnormality of the sperm shape in the ejaculated sample.

Open Approach (Abdominal Myomectomy): A surgical procedure in which only fibroids, but not the uterus, are removed.  This preserves childbearing potential.  Myomectomy can be performed in different ways depending on the location of fibroids within the uterus.  The most common approach is abdominal myomectomy, which allows the surgeon to directly visualise the uterus and fibroids through an abdominal incision.

Ovarian Cysts: Sacs filled with fluid or semisolid material that develops on or within the ovary during the time of ovulation.  Most cysts are benign and disappear spontaneously without treatment.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS):  Excessive stimulation of the ovaries by fertility medications.

Ovary: The female reproductive organs that produce eggs and estrogen on a monthly basis under hormonal influence from pituitary gland.

Ovarian drilling: Surgical procedure offered to women with PCOS.  Small holes are drilled into the ovary to reduce the number of cysts present in an attempt to regulate the menstrual cycle and aid conception.

Ovulation: The release of the egg (ovum) from the ovarian follicle.

Ovulation Induction: Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation.

P

Pelvic Adhesions: Abnormal bands of scar tissue that form in the pelvis and cause organs to stick or bind to one another.

PESA: Percutaneous Epidymal Sperm Aspiration.  A procedure involving sperm being retrieved directly from the epididymis using a needle.

PGD: Pre-Genetic Implantation Diagnosis. The analysis of a cell, under laboratory conditions, from an embryo to check for genetic disease.

PID: Pelvic Inflammatory disease.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome: An endocrine disorder affecting the function of the ovaries.

PMT: Premenstrual Tension.  These are symptoms arising from hormonal changes, normally occurring a week before menstrual bleed. They can include irritability, tearfulness and mood swings.

Premature Ovarian failure: Indicated by an elevated FSH.  The ovaries are no longer producing follicles, this can be due to congenital, genetic, chromosomal or damage caused by toxic drugs, such as chemotherapy.

Progesterone: A female hormone secreted by the corpus luteum in the ovaries during the second half of a woman's cycle.  It thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare for the implantation of a fertilised egg.

Pronuculate egg: Fertilised egg.

S

Seminiferous tubules: Sperm is developed and grows in the tubules.

Shared Egg Donation: A woman who needs IVF/ICSI treatment shares her yield of eggs with another couple.

Sperm: The gamete that contains the genetic material of the male.

Sperm count: One of the parameter's that is checked in a semen sample i.e. the number of sperm present in the ejaculate.

Sperm Donation: Donation of sperm, from another person, to help couples conceive.

Spermatogenesis: The production of sperm.

Sperm motility: Another parameter that it checked in the semen sample.  It is the ability of the sperm to swim to the egg that enables fertilisation to occur.

STD: Sexually transmitted disease, such as Chlamydia.

Surrogacy: A woman carries a pregnancy for a couple.

T

Teratazoospermia: High numbers of abnormal sperm in ejaculate.

Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA): A needle biopsy of the testicle used to obtain and aspirate small amounts of sperm directly from the testes.  A small incision is made in the scrotal skin and a spring loaded needle is fired through the testicle.

TeSE: Testicular Sperm Extraction, involving sperm being retrieved from a biopsy of testicular tissue.

Testes: The body part where sperm is manufactured.

Testosterone: This hormone aids the production of sperm.  It is also found in smaller quantities in women.

U

Uterus: The organ where the embryo attaches and develops.

V

Vagina: The birth canal leading to the uterus

Vaginal Ultrasound: Internal scan which enables clear images the reproductive organs in a female.  This will be used to assess follicular development during treatment.

Vas deferens: Tubes which carry sperm from the epididymis to the urethra.

Vasectomy: A surgical procedure which cuts the passages that transport the sperm.

Z

Zona: Shell surrounding the egg/embryo.