Glossary of Terms

Adhesions:
Scar tissue in or around the pelvic organs that may or may not interfere with fertility.

Artificial Insemination:
A technique in which semen is injected directly into a woman’s cervix or uterus during her most fertile time of the month.  (See also Intrauterine Insemination)

Assisted Hatching:
Assisted hatching (AH) is a procedure in which the zona pellucida (outer covering) of the embryo is partially opened, usually by application of an acid or laser, to facilitate embryo implantation and pregnancy

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART):
Technologically advanced methods of medical intervention which are intended to help an individual or couple conceive a healthy pregnancy.  These include but are not limited to; in vitro fertilization (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), assisted hatching (AH), embryo biopsy, pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS), and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Blastocyst:
An embryo that is about five days old and which clearly displays an inner cell mass and trophectoderm layer upon visual observation.

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Clinical Embryologist:
A laboratory technologist who is specially trained to handle and practice micromanipulation procedures on human eggs, sperm and embryos.

Cryopreservation:
A drastic reduction of temperature in which metabolic reactions (such  those that occur in human cells) cease completely.  Because there are no metabolic reactions occurring, cryopreserved tissue is essentially suspended in animation.  Storage under these conditions can maintain the integrity of the cells until the patient is ready to use the tissue at a much later date (years or decades in the future).  There are several types of cryopreservation protocols, including traditional slow-cooling methods as well as vitrification methods.

Egg donation:

Extraction of healthy eggs from a third party for subsequent use in IVF.
Egg-retrieval surgery:
A surgical technique in which eggs are aspirated from the ovaries in preparation for IVF or a related procedure.

Egg retrieval

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egg:

A female reproductive cell prior to fertilization . Also called ovum or gamete. See also oocyte.

Embryo:
A fertilized egg from initial cell division through the first six to eight weeks of gestation. Thereafter, it is known as a fetus.

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Endocrinology:
The study of the body’s hormone-secreting glands.

Endometrium (endometrial lining):
The lining of the uterus, which grows each month and is sloughed off during the menstrual period or remains intact to nurture an embryo if conception and implantation takes place.

Endometrial lining

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endometriosis:
A cause of infertility, in which the lining of the uterus migrates to other regions of the body, usually in the pelvic region, causing scarring and sometimes damaging the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Endoscopy:
A diagnostic surgical procedure to view the pelvic organs (laparoscopy) or inside of the uterus (hysteroscopy) via a small fiber-optic telescope. Therapeutic surgery may be performed during this procedure.

Estrogen:
A group of female hormones vital for sexual development and reproduction; secreted primarily by the ovaries but also by the adrenal glands and, during pregnancy, by the placenta.

Fallopian tubes:
Narrow, four-inch-long ducts that carry eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.

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Fertility drugs:
Medication used to manipulate the menstrual cycle, often in an attempt to recover a larger number of oocytes (eggs) for treatment than would be available without medication.  These types of medication can have side effects and are best prescribed by a Reproductive Endocrinologist who specializes in their use.  Reproductive Endocrinologists must complete a fellowship after their OB/GYN residency and must pass a board exam to be certified.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH):
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates egg maturation in the ovaries.

Gamete:
Medical term used to describe both eggs and sperm.

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT):
The injection of one or more eggs mixed with washed sperm into the fallopian tube(s) in the hope that fertilization will occur.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH):
A reproductive hormone secreted by the hypothalamus, which stimulates the pituitary to secrete FSH and LH.


Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG):

Medication used to manipulate the menstrual cycle, often in an attempt to recover a larger number of oocytes (eggs) for treatment than would be available without medication.  These types of medication can have side effects and are best prescribed by a Reproductive Endocrinologist who specializes in their use.  Reproductive Endocrinologists must complete a fellowship after their OB/GYN residency and must pass a board exam to be certified.

Hypothalamus:
A small region of the brain that coordinates the function of the nervous and endocrine systems.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG):
An x-ray that allows the physician to view the size and shape of the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes; also known as the tubal dye test.

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Hysteroscopy:

An endoscopic procedure in which a doctor views the interior of the uterus.

In vitro fertilization (IVF):
A technique in which eggs are harvested from the ovaries and mixed with sperm in a petri dish and allowed to fertilize. Fertilized eggs or embryos can be cultured for up to 6 days in the laboratory. At that point, embryos or blastocysts are transferred to the uterus. IVF is also known as “test-tube” fertilization; sometimes used as a general term for GIFT, ZIFT, and other types of advanced reproductive technology.

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Infertility:
The inability to become pregnant, or to make a woman pregnant, after one year of trying; or the inability to sustain a pregnancy naturally.

Infertility specialist:
A medical doctor with advanced training in infertility or reproductive endocrinology.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI):
A type of artificial insemination in which washed semen is injected into the uterus. (See also Artificial Insemination)

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI):
A micromanipulation procedure whereby a single sperm is captured in a thin glass needle and injected directly into the egg. ICSI assists fertilization in cases of severe sperm dysfunction.

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Laparoscopy:
A surgical procedure in which a rigid tube is inserted into the abdomen, usually through the navel, to allow the doctor to view or treat the reproductive organs.

Luteinizing hormone (LH):
A hormone produced by the pituitary to help stimulate the ovary to mature and release an egg.

Male factor:
A general term used to describe infertility caused by problems with sperm or its production, such as insufficient numbers, poor motility, odd shape, etc.

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Micromanipulation:
A variety of mechanical procedures which are performed by trained Clinical Embryologists at a specially equipped microscope in order to perform microsurgery on single cells or embryos.

Motility:
Term used to describe mobility, or swimming movements, of sperm.

Ovaries:
Two 3-4 cm spherical structures located in the female pelvis, adjacent to the ends of the fallopian tubes, which release eggs and secrete hormones into the bloodstream.

Oocyte:
The female reproductive cell prior to fertilization. See also Egg.

Ovulation induction:
The stimulation of the ovaries by fertility drugs to release one or more eggs.

Pituitary:
Known as the “master gland,” the pituitary is located in the base of the brain and is responsible for controlling other endocrine glands, which secrete a variety of hormones, including those involved in reproduction.

Progesterone:
A female sex hormone secreted by the ovaries after ovulation to aid implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus and to continue pregnancy.

Sperm washing:
Laboratory procedures that isolate normally shaped, motile sperm from the semen.

Varicocele:
A varicose vein which impedes blood flow out of the testes. If left untreated the testes may overheat which may impair sperm production.

Vitrification:
A method of cryopreservation where cells are barely dehydrated and temperature change is extremely rapid which improves the cells ability to survive the process and regain metabolic activity upon thawing.

Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT):
An ART in which eggs are inseminated in a petri dish and any resultant embryos are transferred to the fallopian tubes.