We understand that fertility treatments involve a great deal of specialized language and terms that can be easily confused. In order to help, we’ve provided you with a list of common terms that may be encountered on your journey to growing your family.
Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a needle is passed into the gestational sac, and a small sample of the fluid surrounding a developing fetus is removed in order to test the pregnancy for certain medical problems including abnormal chromosome number (i.e., aneuploidy, such as Down’s Syndrome), specific gene disorders (i.e., cystic fibrosis), or infections. This is typically done after 16 weeks of gestation.
- Anembryonic Pregnancy (also called a blighted ovum)
A miscarriage that stops developing at a very early stage before a fetus has formed within the gestational sac.
An embryo with an abnormal chromosome number, such as Trisomy-21; 47, XY+21 ( i.e., Down’s Syndrome results in the offspring).
- Asherman’s Syndrome
Uterine scarring that can result in the partial or complete closure of the uterus.
- Assisted Hatching
An IVF laboratory procedure used on embryos to help improve implantation by softening the outer part of some embryos (i.e., older women, frozen embryos), often with a laser.
- Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
Treatments that require handling of oocytes in the laboratory, and often including eventual fertilization of the oocyte by sperm to produce embryos. ART is a broad term that includes IVF, ICSI, assisted hatching, etc.
Having slow moving sperm or problems with motility.
Having no sperm in an ejaculated semen specimen.
- Biochemical Pregnancy (also called a pregnancy of unknown/undetermined location)
A pregnancy that miscarries at a stage when it is only far enough along to detect pregnancy hormone levels in the blood, but no visible signs of pregnancy are viewed in the uterus by ultrasound examination.
An embryo that has developed to day-5 or 6 after fertilization and starts to specialize into fetal (inner cell mass) and placental (trophectoderm) cells.
- Chorionic Villous Sampling (CVS)
A procedure where a small biopsy is taken off the placenta to evaluate cells for chromosome errors, genetic mutations, or infections. The information gathered is similar to that obtained by an amniocentesis but done at an earlier stage of pregnancy, typically 12-16 weeks.
There are fewer physicians who are skilled at performing a CVS safely, so at times this procedure may be deferred until later in pregnancy when an amniocentesis can be done safely.
- Clinical Pregnancy
A pregnancy that is far enough along to be detectable on ultrasound evaluation with at least a gestational sac visible in the uterine cavity.
- Controlled ovarian stimulation (COS)
Treatment with clomiphene, human menopausal gonadotropin, or follicle-stimulating hormone injections to cause more than one egg to develop and release during ovulation.
- Ectopic Pregnancy
A pregnancy that occurs outside the uterine cavity and typically in a fallopian tube. However, it may occur in the cervix, abdomen, or other part of the uterus as well (i.e., cornua). This is a non-viable and potentially dangerous type of pregnancy that requires immediate medical and sometimes surgical attention.
A fertilized egg/oocyte that has divided into many cells that will increasingly specialize into different tissues.
- Embryonic Demise (also called missed abortion)
Loss of a pregnancy after it has developed to a stage where a fetal structure is detectable on ultrasound. Also called missed abortion.
The lining of the uterus that is shed each month during menstruation.
The process where endometrial tissue normally found in the uterus and forms its lining is transplanted to other areas, such as the fallopian tubes or ovaries. It can be diagnosed with laparoscopy.
A hormone produced by the ovaries during ovulation. Estrogen is responsible for stimulating the endometrium to thicken and prepare for pregnancy during the first half of the menstrual cycle. Women who don’t ovulate normally due to an ovulatory problem (e.g., PCOS) or menopause may not produce adequate levels of estrogen.
An embryo with a normal chromosome number. In humans, defined as 23 pairs – one chromosome pair from each parent – 46,XX (female) or 46,XY (male).
An excess growth of smooth muscle cells of the uterine muscle. This is common and occurs in at least 50 percent of women, but may interfere with achieving or maintaining a pregnancy depending on the size and location of the fibroid.
Egg, or sperm that is unfertilized.
- Gestational Sac
The outer fluid sac that contains the pregnancy.
- Human Menopausal Gonadotropin
A fertility injection used to induce ovulation, often of more than one egg, called controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) or superovulation.
Swelling of the fallopian tube due to a blockage and damage that prevents its drainage.
A Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is a radiographic imaging procedure whereby a small tube is passed through the cervix and dye is injected into the uterine cavity while x-rays are taken to determine if the dye passes through the fallopian tubes and if the uterus and tubes have normal structures.
A hysteroscopy is a surgical procedure whereby a small telescopic camera is passed through the cervix into the uterine cavity to see the inside of the uterus clearly. Correction of detected problems (i.e., polyp removal) can also be achieved with this technique.
The process in which an embryo communicates with the endometrial lining to attach itself to the wall.
The inability to conceive after one year of trying in couples younger than 35 years, and six months of trying in couples older than 35 years.
- Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
The delivery of semen into a syringed catheter and through the cervix into the uterine cavity to facilitate fertilization.
- ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection)
An Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) used to inject one sperm into the center (cytoplasm) of one egg. This assists fertilization in situations, such as male factor, use of frozen eggs, older eggs, and CCS/PGS or PGD.
- IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)
An ART process whereby sperm and eggs are placed in a culture dish to facilitate spontaneous fertilization and development into embryos.
A surgical procedure in which a thin camera is inserted into the abdomen through a small 5mm incision in the umbilicus to inspect internal organs (i.e., uterus, ovaries) for problems, such as endometriosis, fallopian tube damage, fibroids, or ovarian cysts. If problems are detected, then more incisions can be used to insert instruments to restore the pelvis to normal anatomy.
- LH Surge
The secretion, or surge, of large amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland. This surge is the stimulation for ovulation to occur.
- Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
The hormone that triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum to secrete progesterone.
Natural cessation of ovarian function and menstruation for at least one year. It can occur at any age, but naturally between the ages of 42 and 56 when the ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen levels decline. If it occurs before the age of 40, then it is considered early and referred to as “premature ovarian failure” or “premature menopause.”
- Miscarriage (also called spontaneous abortion or pregnancy loss)
The naturally occurring expulsion of a nonviable embryo or fetus and placenta from the uterus. Also known as spontaneous abortion or pregnancy loss.
The egg, gamete, or female sex cell of the ovary. Incidentally, the largest cell of our body.
- Ovarian Reserve
A woman’s fertility potential. Diminished ovarian reserve is associated with depletion in the number of eggs and, may be correlated with lower egg quality. Measures of a woman’s ovarian reserve other than age, include FSH, estradiol, and AMH hormone levels; as well as ultrasound evaluation of ovarian antral follicle count (AFC).
One of two female glands that contain eggs until menopause and produces estrogen and progesterone during reproductive years.
The release of a mature egg from the ovary, usually in a monthly cyclic pattern. Only mature eggs can be fertilized by sperm.
A clear tissue that lines the pelvic and abdominal cavity.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
A condition characterized by chronic anovulation, excessive ovarian production of testosterone and/or ovaries with many small cystic follicles. Symptoms may include irregular or absent menstrual periods, obesity, infertility, excessive hair growth, and/or acne.
- Premature ovarian failure (also called premature menopause)
When a woman enters menopause before 40 years of age. The cause may be unexplained, surgical, or chemically induced (i.e., cancer treatment).
A female hormone secreted during the second half of the menstrual cycle. It prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for implantation of a fertilized egg (i.e., embryo) and its withdrawal promotes shedding of the endometrium during menstruation. In the event of pregnancy, the progesterone level remains stable beginning a week or so after conception preventing the endometrium from shedding.
- Sperm Morphology
The form, structure, and shape of sperm. There are various standardized scoring systems to measure the morphology. Using the WHO criteria, at least 30% of the sperm in a semen sample should appear normal with oval heads and slightly curving tails. A more recent scoring system, Strict Kruger, identifies significant male factor infertility when <5% of sperm are normally shaped.
- Sperm Motility
The percentage of all moving sperm in a semen sample. Diminished motility may affect fertility. Most scoring systems determine a male factor when < 40% of sperm are motile, though other parameters on the sperm analysis also contribute to this significance.
Administration of fertility medications (such as clomid or gonadotropins) in order to achieve the development of two or more mature follicles within a menstrual cycle. Also called controlled ovarian stimulation (COS).
High frequency sound waves that produce an image of internal organs on a television-like monitor screen. Transvaginal pelvic ultrasound is a common tool to evaluate the ovaries and uterus during fertility evaluation and treatments.
- Uterus (womb)
The muscular organ in the pelvis where an embryo implants and grows during pregnancy. The lining of the uterus (endometrium) produces the monthly menstrual blood flow when there is no pregnancy.