Fertility Glossary


Abortion (Clinical)

An abortion of a clinical pregnancy which takes place between the diagnosis of pregnancy and 20 completed weeks’ gestational age.

Abortion (Habitual)

A term referring to a condition where a woman has had three or more miscarriages.

Abortion (Incomplete)

An abortion after which some tissue remains inside the uterus. A D&C must be performed to remove the tissue and prevent complications.

Abortion (Missed)

An abortion where the fetus dies in the uterus but there is no bleeding or cramping. A D&C will be needed to remove the fetal remains and prevent complications.

Abortion (Spontaneous)

A pregnancy loss during the first twenty weeks of gestation.


A hormone produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands. Excessive levels may lead to fertility problems.


Scar tissue occurring in the abdominal cavity, fallopian tubes, or inside the uterus. Adhesions can interfere with transport of the egg and implantation of the embryo in the uterus.

Adrenal Androgens

Male hormones produced by the adrenal gland which, when found in excess, may lead to fertility problems in both men and women. Excess androgens in the woman may lead to the formation of male secondary sex characteristics and the suppression of LH and FSH production by the pituitary gland. Elevated levels of androgens may be found in women with polycystic ovaries, or with a tumor in the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or ovary.


Refers to a woman who has never had a period.

Amenorrhea (Secondary)

A term describing a woman who has menstruated at one time, but who has not had a period for six months or more


Male sex hormones


The branch of medicine concerned with men’s health, particularly male infertility and sexual dysfunction. Andrology is literally the study of man

Anorexia Nervosa

A life-threatening eating disorder; self-imposed starvation. Severe weight loss and malnutrition from this disorder cause anovulation.


The failure to ovulate; ovulatory failure.


Chemicals made by the body to fight or attack foreign substances entering the body. Normally they prevent infection; however, when they attack the sperm or fetus, they cause infertility. Sperm antibodies may be made by either the man or the woman.

Antisperm Antibodies

Antibodies are produced by the immune system to fight off foreign substances,like bacteria. Antisperm antibodies attach themselves to sperm and inhibit movement and their ability to fertilize.

Artificial Insemination (AI)

The depositing of sperm in the vagina near the cervix or directly into the uterus, with the use of a syringe instead of by coitus. This technique is used to overcome sexual performance problems, to circumvent sperm-mucus interaction problems, to maximize the potential for poor semen, and for using donor sperm. See also Artificial Insemination Donor; Artificial Insemination Homologous.

Artificial Spermatocoele

An artificial, surgically created pouch used to collect sperm from men with irreversible tubal blockage.

Aspiration Cycle

An initiated ART cycle in which one or more follicles are punctured and aspirated irrespective of whether or not oocytes are retrieved.

Assisted Hatching

An in vitro procedure in which the zona pellucida of an embryo (usually at eight-cell stage or a blastocyst) is perforated by chemical, mechanical, or laser-assisted methods to assist separation of the blastocyst from the zona pellucida.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Several procedures employed to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IUI, GIFT and ZIFT.


Low sperm motility.


Semen containing no sperm, either because the testicles cannot make sperm or because of blockage in the reproductive tract.

Bacterial Vaginosis Infection

A vaginal infection that causes a burning sensation and a gray, malodorous discharge. May interfere with fertility.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

Your body temperature when taken at its lowest point, usually in the morning before getting out of bed. Charting BBT is used to predict ovulation.

Beta hCG Test

A blood test used to detect very early pregnancies and to evaluate embryonic development.


A Day 5 embryo

Cancelled Cycle

During fertility treatment, if not enough follicles grow or if you’re at risk for severe ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, your treatment cycle may be cancelled. If treatment is canceled because your ovaries didn’t respond well to the medications, your doctor may recommend different medications to be tried on the next cycle. While not common, a cycle may also be canceled if ovulation occurs before retrieval can take place. Once the eggs ovulate on their own, they can’t be retrieved. Cancellation happens in 10 to 20% of IVF treatment cycles. The chance of cancellation rises with age, with those older than age 35 more likely to experience treatment cancellation


More commonly known as a yeast infection. A fungal infection that may be uncomfortable and itchy and may impair fertility.


A process that sperm undergo as they travel through the woman’s reproductive tract. Capacitation enables the sperm to penetrate the egg.


The opening between the uterus and the vagina. The cervical mucus plugs the cervical canal and normally prevents foreign materials from entering the reproductive tract. The cervix remains closed during pregnancy and dilates during labor and delivery to allow the baby to be born.


The structures in the cell that carry the genetic material (genes); the genetic messengers of inheritance. The human has forty-six chromosomes, twenty-three coming from the egg and twenty-three coming from the sperm.


Tiny hairlike projections lining the inside surface of the fallopian tubes. The waving action of these “hairs” sweeps the egg toward the uterus.

Clinical Pregnancy

Evidence of pregnancy by clinical or ultrasound parameters (ultrasound visualization of a gestational sac). It includes ectopic pregnancy. Multiple gestational sacs in one patient are counted as one clinical pregnancy.


The small erectile sex organ of the female which contains large numbers of sensory nerves; the female counterpart of the penis.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid)

A fertility drug that stimulates ovulation through the release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland.


A congenital condition characterized by elevated androgens which suppress the pituitary gland and interfere with spermatogenesis or ovulation. Women may have ambiguous genitalia from the excess production of male hormone.

Contraceptive, Oral

A medication that prevents ovulation and pregnancy. Up to 3 percent of women taking the Pill will become anovulatory when they stop taking it. The regulatory effects of the Pill can also disguise symptoms of fertility problems– for example, an irregular cycle or endometriosis. May be used to control the symptoms and development of endometriosis.

Corpus Luteum

The yellow-pigmented glandular structure that forms from the ovarian follicle following ovulation. The gland produces progesterone, which is responsible for preparing and supporting the uterine lining for implantation. Progesterone also causes the half-degree basal temperature elevation noted at midcycle during an ovulatory cycle. If the corpus luteum functions poorly, the uterine lining may not support a pregnancy. If the egg is fertilized, a corpus luteum of pregnancy forms to maintain the endometrial bed and support the implanted embryo


The process where cells or whole tissues are preserved by cooling to low sub-zero temperatures

Cumulus Oophorus

The protective layer of cells surrounding the egg.

D&C (Dilation and Curettage)

A procedure used to dilate the cervical canal and scrape out the lining and contents of the uterus. The procedure can be used to diagnose or treat the cause of abnormal bleeding and to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Danazol (danocrine)

A medication used to treat endometriosis. Suppresses LH and FSH production by the pituitary and causes a state of amenorrhea during which the endometrial implants waste away. Many women experience oily skin, acne, weight gain, abnormal hair growth, deepening of the voice and muscle cramps with this medication.


An antibiotic that inhibits many of the microorganisms infecting the reproductive tract. Often used for treating ureaplasma infections. Many physicians find routine treatment with this antibiotic more cost-effective than performing multiple cultures on both the husband and wife looking for infection.


Painful menstruation.


Painful coitus for either the man or the woman.

Early Neoneonatal Death

A death occurring within the first seven days after delivery.

Ectopic Pregnancy

A pregnancy outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Such a pregnancy can rarely be sustained, and often leads to decreased or complete loss of function in the affected tube. Methotrexate is now used to dissolve the pregnancy without causing major damage to the tube.

Egg Donation

The process by which a woman provides one or several (usually 10-15) eggs for purposes of assisted reproduction. Egg donation involves the process of in vitro fertilization as the eggs are fertilized in the laboratory. After the eggs have been obtained, the role of the egg donor is complete. The fertilized eggs are then transferred to the egg recipient

Egg Retrieval

During IVF treatment, retrieval refers to the removal of the eggs from the ovaries. The woman is put under light sedation, while the eggs are typically retrieved via a transvaginal ultrasound-guided needle. The needle goes through the back wall of the vagina (up to the ovaries), where the eggs are gently aspirated or sucked in through the needle.


The semen and sperm expelled during ejaculation.


The physiological process by which the semen is propelled from the testicles, through the reproductive tract, and out the opening of the penis.


Once a sperm fertilizes an egg cell, the result is a cell called the zygote that has half of the DNA of each of two parents. The zygote will begin to divide by mitosis to produce a multi-cellular organism. The result of this process is an embryo.

Embryo Donation

The transfer of an embryo resulting from gametes that did not originate from the recipient or her partner.

Embryo Transfer

Placing an egg fertilized outside the womb into a woman’s uterus or fallopian tube.

Embryo Transfer Cycle

An ART cycle in which one or more embryos are transferred into the uterus or fallopian tube.

Endometrial Biopsy

A test to check for Luteal Phase Defect. A procedure during which a sample of the uterine lining is collected for microscopic analysis. The biopsy results will confirm ovulation and the proper preparation of the endometrium by estrogen and progesterone stimulation

Endometrial Biopsy

A condition where endometrial tissue is located outside the womb. The tissue may attach itself to the reproductive organs or to other organs in the abdominal cavity. Each month the endometrial tissue inbreeds with the onset of menses. The resultant irritation causes adhesions in the abdominal cavity and in the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis may also interfere with ovulation and with the implantation of the embryo.


The lining of the uterus which grows and sheds in response to estrogen and progesterone stimulation; the bed of tissue designed to nourish the implanted embryo.


A coiled, tubular organ attached to and lying on the testicle. Within this organ the developing sperm complete their maturation and develop their powerful swimming capabilities. The matured sperm leave the epididymis through the vas deferens.


The process during which the erectile tissue of the penis becomes engorged with blood, causing the penis to swell and become rigid.


The female hormone produced in the ovary. Responsible for formation of the female secondary sex characteristics such as large breasts; supports the growth of the follicle and the development of the uterine lining. At midcycle the peak estrogen level triggers the release of the LH spike from the pituitary gland. The LH spike is necessary for the release of the ovum from the follicle. Fat cells in both obese men and women can also manufacture estrogen from androgens and interfere with fertility.


Female sex hormone.

Fallopian Tubes

Ducts through which eggs travel to the uterus once released from the follicle. Sperm normally meet the egg in the fallopian tube, the site at which fertilization usually occurs.

Fertility Specialist

A physician specializing in the practice of fertility. The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology certifies a subspecialty for OB-GYNs who receive extra training in endocrinology (the study of hormones) and infertility.

Fertility Treatment

Any method or procedure used to enhance fertility or increase the likelihood of pregnancy, such as ovulation induction treatment, varicocoele repair, and microsurgery to repair damaged fallopian tubes. The goal of fertility treatment is to help couples have a child.

Fertility Workup

The initial medical examinations and tests performed to diagnose or narrow down the cause of fertility problems.


The combining of the genetic material carried by sperm and egg to create an embryo. Normally occurs inside the fallopian tube (in vivo) but may also occur in a petri dish (in vitro).


A term used to refer to a baby during the period of gestation between eight weeks and term.

Fibroid (Myoma)

A benign tumor of the uterine muscle and connective tissue.


The opening of the fallopian tube near the ovary. When stimulated by the follicular fluid released during ovulation, the fingerlike ends grasp the ovary and coax the egg into the tube.


Fluid-filled sacs in the ovary which contain the eggs released at ovulation. Each month an egg develops inside the ovary in a fluid-filled pocket called a follicle. This follicle is one inch in size and is about ready to ovulate.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

A pituitary hormone that stimulates spermatogenesis and follicular development. In the man FSH stimulates the Sertoli cells in the testicles and supports sperm production. In the woman FSH stimulates the growth of the ovarian follicle. Elevated FSH levels are indicative of gonadal failure in both men and woman.

Follicular Fluid

The fluid inside the follicle that cushions and nourishes the ovum. When released during ovulation, the fluid stimulates the fimbria to grasp the ovary and coax the egg into the fallopian tube.

Follicular Monitoring

During IUI and IVF cycles, while the woman is on medication for ovulation induction, it is important that the follicular growth be monitored. This helps in monitoring the number and size of the follicles, determining the day of the trigger injection and the day of the egg retrieval.

Follicular Phase

The pre-ovulatory portion of a woman’s cycle during which a follicle grows and high levels of estrogen cause the lining of the uterus to proliferate. Normally takes between 12 and 14 days.

Full-term Birth

A birth that takes place at 37 or more completed weeks of gestational age. This includes both live births and stillbirths.


A reproductive cell:Sperm in men, the egg in women.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

A technique that may be used in lieu of in vitro fertilization for women with patent tubes. After egg retrieval the eggs are mixed with the husband’s sperm and then injected through the fimbria into the woman’s fallopian tubes for in vivo fertilization.


The external sex organs, as the labia and clitoris in the woman and the penis and testicles in the man. Also called genitalia.

Germ Cell

In the male the testicular cell that divides to produce the immature sperm cells; in the woman the ovarian cell that divides to form the egg (ovum). The male germ cell remains intact throughout the man’s reproductive life; the woman uses up her germ cells at the rate of about one thousand per menstrual cycle, although usually only one egg matures each cycle.

Gestational Carrier

The age of an embryo or fetus calculated by adding 14 days (2 weeks) to the number of completed weeks since fertilization.

Gestational Sac

A fluid-filled structure containing an embryo that develops early in pregnancy usually within the uterus.


Hormones which control reproductive function: Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenizing Hormone.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH)

A substance secreted by the hypothalamus every ninety minutes or so. This hormone enables the pituitary to secrete LH and FSH, which stimulate the gonads.


The gland that makes reproductive cells and “sex” hormones, as the testicles, which make sperm and testosterone, and the ovaries, which make eggs (ova) and estrogen.


An infection that is usually asymptomatic, but that may cause a bad-smelling yellowish vaginal discharge and red and swollen vaginal walls. If it reaches the fallopian tubes, the woman will suffer pain, develop a high fever, and possibly develop tubal blockage. The responsible organism may also impair sperm and prevent pregnancy. In the man gonorrhea seldom leads to damage, but it may cause a painful infection.


The process that precedes implantation by which an embryo at the blastocyst stage separates from the zona pellucida.

Hostile Mucus

Cervical mucus that impedes the natural progress of sperm through the cervical canal.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG)

The hormone produced in early pregnancy which keeps the corpus luteum producing progesterone. Also known as the “trigger shot” in fertility treatment which induces ovulation. Sometimes used in men to stimulate testosterone production.


A distally blocked fallopian tube filled with serous or clear fluid. The blocked tube may become substantially distended giving the tube a characteristic sausage-like or retort-like shape. The condition is often bilateral and the affected tubes may reach several centimeters in diameter. The blocked tubes cause infertility.


A condition in which the pituitary gland secretes too much prolactin. Prolactin can suppress LH and FSH production, reduce sex drive in the man, and directly suppress ovarian function in the woman.

Hyperstimulation (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, OHSS)

A potentially life-threatening side effect of ovulation induction treatment. Arises when too many follicles develop and hCG is given to release the eggs. May be prevented by withholding the hCG injection when ultrasound monitoring indicates that too many follicles have matured.


Overproduction of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. The resulting increased metabolism “burns up” estrogen too rapidly and interferes with ovulation.


Having lower than normal levels of estrogen.

Hypogonadotropic Hypopituitarism

A spectrum of diseases resulting in low pituitary gland output of LH and FSH. Men with this disorder have low sperm counts and may lose their virility; women do not ovulate and may lose their secondary sex characteristics.


Low sperm production.


A part of the brain, the hormonal regulation center, located adjacent to and above the pituitary gland. In both the man and the woman this tissue secretes GnRH every ninety minutes or so. The pulsatile GnRH enables the pituitary gland to secrete LH and FSH, which stimulate the gonads. See also FSH; LH; Ovary; Pituitary Gland; Testicle.


A condition in which the thyroid gland produces an insufficient amount of thyroid hormone. The resulting lowered metabolism interferes with the normal breakdown of “old” hormones and causes lethargy. Men will suffer from a lower sex drive and elevated prolactin and women will suffer from elevated prolactin and estrogen, both of which will interfere with fertility.


An x-ray of the pelvic organs in which a radio-opaque dye is injected through the cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes. This test checks for malformations of the uterus and blockage of the fallopian tubes.


A procedure in which the doctor checks for uterine abnormalities by inserting a fiber-optic device. Minor surgical repairs can be executed during the procedure.

Immature Sperm (Germinal Cell)

A sperm that has not matured and gained the ability to swim. In the presence of illness or infection such sperm may appear in the semen in large numbers.

Implantation (Embryo)

The embedding of the embryo into tissue so it can establish contact with the mother’s blood supply for nourishment. Implantation usually occurs in the lining of the uterus; however, in an ectopic pregnancy it may occur elsewhere in the body.


The inability of the man to have an erection and to ejaculate.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

A micromanipulation procedure where a single sperm is injected into the egg to enable fertilization with very low sperm counts or with non-motile sperm.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Fertilization takes place outside the body.


The inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

IUD (Intrauterine Device)

A device placed into the uterus to prevent pregnancy. IUD insertion has been associated with an increased incidence of infection, which may damage the fallopian tubes, and is therefore not recommended for women with multiple sexual partners.


A test performed to analyze chromosomes for the presence of genetic defects.

Klinefelter’s Syndrome

A genetic abnormality characterized by having one Y (male) and two X (female) chromosomes. May cause a fertility problem.


A small telescope that can be inserted into a hole in the abdominal wall for viewing the internal organs; the instrument used to perform a laparoscopy. Used to diagnose and treat a number of fertility problems including endometriosis, abdominal adhesions, and polycystic ovaries. Also used in egg retrieval for in vitro fertilization.


Examination of the pelvic region by using a small telescope called a laparoscope.


Major abdominal surgery where reproductive organ abnormalities can be corrected and fertility restored, such as tubal repairs and the removal of adhesions.

Live Birth

A birth in which a fetus is delivered with signs of life after complete expulsion or extraction from its mother, beyond 20 completed weeks of gestational age. Live births are counted as birth events (e.g., a twin or triplet live birth is counted as one birth event).

Live Birth Delivery Rate

The number of live birth deliveries expressed per 100 initiated cycles, aspiration cycles, or embryo transfer cycles. When delivery rates are given, the denominator (initiated, aspirated, or embryo transfer cycles) must be specified. It includes deliveries that resulted in at least one live birth. Note: The delivery of a singleton, twin, or other multiple birth is registered as one delivery.

Luteal Phase

Post-ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which causes the uterine lining to thicken to support the implantation and growth of the embryo.

Luteal Phase Defect (LPD)

A condition that occurs when the uterine lining does not develop adequately because of inadequate progesterone stimulation; or because of the inability of the uterine lining to respond to progesterone stimulation. LPD may prevent embryonic implantation or cause an early abortion.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)

A pituitary hormone that stimulates the gonads. In the man LH is necessary for spermatogenesis (Sertoli cell function) and for the production of testosterone (Leydig cell function). In the woman LH is necessary for the production of estrogen. When estrogen reaches a critical peak, the pituitary releases a surge of LH (the LH spike), which releases the egg from the follicle.

LH Surge

The release of luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes release of a mature egg from the follicle. Ovulation test kits detect the sudden increase of LH, signaling that ovulation is about to occur (usually within 24-36 hours).


A technique used to collect semen for analysis and for artificial insemination; manual stimulation of the penis leading to ejaculation.


The cell division, peculiar to reproductive cells, which allows genetic material to divide in half. Each new cell will contain twenty-three chromosomes. The spermatids (immature sperm) and ova (eggs) each contain twenty-three chromosomes, so when they combine (fertilize), the baby will have a normal complement of forty-six.


Heavy or prolonged menstrual flow.


The cyclical shedding of the uterine lining in response to stimulation from estrogen and progesterone.

Metrodin (Pure FSH)

An injectable form of Follicle Stimulating Hormone used to stimulate ovulation.


Menstrual spotting during the middle of the cycle.

Micromanipulation (assisted fertilization)

The use of special micromanipulative technology that allows operative procedures to be performed on the oocyte, sperm, or embryo.

Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA)

A procedure in which spermatozoa are obtained from the epididymis by either aspiration or surgical excision.


Spontaneous loss of an embryo or fetus from the womb.


The division of a cell into two identical cells in which all forty-six human chromosomes are duplicated; the first division of the germ cell.


Surgery performed to remove fibroid tumors.


Infrequent menstrual periods.

Oligospermia, Oligozoospermia

A sperm count below 20 million; a low sperm count; a sperm count low enough to cause a fertility problem.

Oocyte Donation

An ART procedure performed with third-party oocytes.

Ovarian Cyst

A fluid-filled sac inside the ovary. An ovarian cyst may be found in conjunction with ovulation disorders, tumors of the ovary, and endometriosis. See also Chocolate Cyst.

Ovarian Failure

The failure of the ovary to respond to FSH stimulation from the pituitary because of damage to or malformation of the ovary. Diagnosed by elevated FSH in the blood.


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

Ovulation Induction

Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation.


The egg; the reproductive cell from the ovary; the female gamete; the sex cell that contains the woman’s genetic information.


Complete pituitary gland failure.


The condition of being open, as with tubes that form part of the reproductive organs.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)

An infection of the pelvic organs that causes severe illness, high fever, and extreme pain. PID may lead to tubal blockage and pelvic adhesions.


The male organ that becomes enlarged and erect for the purpose of depositing semen in the woman’s vagina.

Pituitary Gland

The master gland; the gland that is stimulated by the hypothalamus and controls all hormonal functions. Located at the base of the brain just below the hypothalamus, this gland controls many major hormonal factories throughout the body including the gonads, the adrenal glands, and the thyroid gland.


The embryonic tissue that invades the uterine wall and provides a mechanism for exchanging the baby’s waste products for the mother’s nutrients and oxygen. The baby is connected to the placenta by the umbilical cord.

Polar Body

The discarded genetic material resulting from female germ cell division. See also Meiosis.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

A condition found in women who don’t ovulate, characterized by excessive production of androgens (male sex hormones) and the presence of cysts in the ovaries. Though PCOS can be without symptoms, some include excessive weight gain, acne and excessive hair growth.

Preclinical Pregnancy (biochemical pregnancy)

Evidence of conception based only on biochemical data in serum or urine before ultrasound evidence of a gestational sac.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

Screening of cells from preimplantation embryos for the detection of genetic and/or chromosomal disorders before embryo transfer.

Preterm Birth

A birth that takes place after at least 20, but less than 37, completed weeks of gestation. This includes both live births and stillbirths. Births are counted as birth events (e.g., a twin or triplet live birth is counted as one birth event).

Post Coital Test (PCT)

A microscopic examination of the cervical mucus best performed twelve or more hours after intercourse to determine compatibility between the woman’s mucus and the man’s semen; a test used to detect sperm-mucus interaction problems, the presence of sperm antibodies, and the quality of the cervical mucus.

Posttesticular System

The ducts that store and deliver the sperm to the opening of the penis; also includes the glands that produce seminal fluids.

Premature Ovarian Failure

A condition where the ovary runs out of follicles before the normal age associated with menopause.

Pretesticular System

The male hormonal system responsible for stimulating sperm production and the development of male secondary sex characteristics.


The hormone produced by the corpus luteum during the second half of a woman’s cycle. It thickens the lining of the uterus to prepare it to accept implantation of a fertilized egg.

Progesterone Withdrawal

A diagnostic procedure used to analyze menstrual irregularity and amenorrhea; uterine “bleeding” that occurs within two weeks after taking progesterone; a procedure used to demonstrate the presence or absence of estrogen and to demonstrate the ability of the uterus and reproductive tract to “bleed.” Prior to ovulation induction therapy, progesterone withdrawal may be used to induce a menstrual period.


The hormone that stimulates the production of milk in breastfeeding women. Excessive prolactin levels when not breastfeeding may result in infertility.


A hormone secreted by the uterine lining. It is hypothesized that prostaglandins secreted by active, young endometrial implants may interfere with the reproductive organs by causing muscular contractions or spasms.

Prostate Gland

A gland in the male reproductive system that produces a portion of the semen including a chemical that liquefies the coagulated semen twenty minutes to go one hour after entering the vagina.


The time of life when the body begins making adult levels of sex hormones – (estrogen or testosterone) and the youngster takes on adult body characteristics: developing breasts, growing a beard, pubic hair, and auxiliary hair; attaining sexual maturity.


In an ART cycle, refers to the woman who receives an embryo from another woman.

Resistant Ovary

An ovary that cannot respond to the follicle-stimulating message sent by FSH. Primitive germ cells will be present in the ovary; however, they will not respond to FSH stimulation.

Retrograde Ejaculation

A male fertility problem that allows the sperm to travel into the bladder instead of out the opening of the penis due to a failure in the sphincter muscle at the base of the bladder.

Saline Infused Sonogram (SIS)

Is a procedure in which fluid is instilled into the uterine cavity transcervically to provide enhanced endometrial visualization during transvaginal ultrasound examination. The technique improves sonographic detection of endometrial pathology, such as polyps, hyperplasia, cancer, leiomyomas, and adhesions. In addition, it can help avoid invasive diagnostic procedures in some patients as well as optimize the preoperative triage process for those women who require therapeutic intervention.


Surgical removal of the fallopian tube.


Surgery performed to remove adhesions that restrict the movement and function of reproductive organs.


Surgical repair made to the fallopian tubes


The bag of skin and thin muscle surrounding the man’s testicles.

Secondary Infertility

The inability of a couple which has successfully achieved pregnancy to achieve another. This strict medical definition includes couples for whom the pregnancy did not go to term. The common vernacular, however, refers to a couple which has one biological child but is unable to conceive another.

Secondary Sex Characteristics

The physical qualities that distinguish man and woman, such as beard, large breasts, and deep voice. Formed under the stimulation of the sex hormones (testosterone or estrogen), these characteristics also identify those people who have gone through puberty (sexual maturity).


The fluid portion of the ejaculate consisting of secretions from the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and several other glands in the male reproductive tract. The semen provides nourishment and protection for the sperm and a medium in which the sperm can travel to the woman’s vagina. Semen may also refer to the entire ejaculate, including the sperm.

Semen Analysis

A laboratory test used to assess semen quality: sperm quantity, concentration, morphology (form), and motility. In addition, it measures semen (fluid) volume and whether or not white blood cells are present, indicating an infection.

Semen Viscosity

The liquid flow or consistency of the semen.

Seminal Vesicles

Glands in the male reproductive system which produce much of the semen volume, including fructose (sugar) for nourishing the sperm and a chemical that causes the semen to coagulate on entering the vagina.

Seminiferous Tubes

The testicular tubules in which the sperm mature and move toward the epididymis.

Septated uterus

A uterus divided into right and left halves by a wall of tissue (septum). Women with a septate uterus have an increased chance of early pregnancy loss.

Short Luted Phase

A condition in which the corpus luteum deteriorates prematurely, causing the menstrual period to begin approximately ten days (instead of fourteen) after ovulation. Frequently found with women undergoing ovulation induction treatment.

Sonogram (Ultrasound)

Use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts. Used to detect and count follicle growth (and disappearance) in many fertility treatments. Also used to detect and monitor pregnancy.


The microscopic cell that carries the male’s genetic information to the female’s egg; the male reproductive cell; the male gamete.

Sperm Donation

Is the provision by a man of his sperm with the intention that it be used to impregnate a woman who is not usually the man’s sexual partner, in order to produce a child.

Sperm Washing

The process in which individual sperms are separated from the seminal fluid. The sperms are then used in intrauterine insemination or in vitro fertilization.

Sperm Bank

A place where sperm are kept frozen in liquid nitrogen for later use in artificial insemination.

Sperm Count

The number of sperm in ejaculate. Also called sperm concentration and given as the number of sperm per milliliter.

Sperm Maturation

A process during which the sperm grow and gain their ability to swim. Sperm take about ninety days to reach maturity.

Sperm Morphology

A semen analysis factor that indicates the number or percentage of sperm in the sample that appear to have been formed normally. Abnormal morphology includes sperm with kinked, doubled, or coiled tails.

Sperm Motility

The ability of sperm to swim. Poor motility means the sperm have a difficult time swimming toward their goal—the egg.

Sperm Penetration

The ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg so it can deposit the genetic material during fertilization.


Sperm production in the testicles.


An irreversible condition that prevents conception.

Stimulation Start

The day a woman begins taking stimulation medication for fertility treatment


Stimulation of multiple ovulation with fertility drugs; also known as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH).


A woman who is artificially inseminated and carries to term a baby which will be raised by its genetic father and his partner.

Testicular Biopsy

A minor surgical procedure used to take a small sample of testicular tissue for microscopic examination; a test used to diagnose male fertility problems when no other means is available (this is because the biopsy procedure itself may cause testicular damage).

Testicular Failure, Primary

A congenital, developmental, or genetic error resulting in a testicular malformation that prevents sperm production.

Testicular Failure, Secondary

Acquired testicular damage – for example, from drugs, prolonged exposure to toxic substances, or a varicocoele.

Testicular Function

The ability of the testicles to produce sperm and testosterone.

Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA)

A procedure in which spermatozoa are obtained directly from the testicle by either aspiration or surgical excision of testicular tissue.

Testicular Stress Pattern

A semen analysis result showing depressed sperm production, poor sperm motility, and poor sperm morphology. The pattern is consistent with secondary testicular failure or illness.


The male hormone responsible for the formation of secondary sex characteristics and for supporting the sex drive. Testosterone is also necessary for spermatogenesis.

Thyroid Gland

The endocrine gland in the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones to regulate the body’s metabolism.

Trigger Shot

Triggering the oocytes to go through the last stage of maturation, before they can be retrieved. This last growth is triggered with an hCG shot. Timing this shot is vital. If it’s given too early, the eggs will not have matured enough. If given too late, the eggs may be “too old” and won’t fertilize properly. The daily ultrasounds at the end of the last step are meant to time this trigger shot just right. Usually, the hCG injection is given when four or more follicles have grown to be 18 to 20mm in size and your estradiol levels are greater than 2,000pg/ML. This shot is typically a one-time injection. The timing of the shot will be based both on your ultrasounds and blood work and when your clinic schedules your retrieval

Tubal Ligation

Is a surgical procedure for sterilization in which a woman’s fallopian tubes are clamped and blocked, or severed and sealed, either method of which prevents eggs from reaching the uterus for fertilization. Tubal ligation is considered a permanent method of sterilization and birth control.


A test used instead of X rays to visualize the reproductive organs; for example, to monitor follicular development and to examine the tubes and uterus. The instrument works by bouncing sound waves off the organs. A picture displayed on a TV screen shows the internal organs.


The tube that allows urine to pass between the bladder and the outside of the body. In the man this tube also carries semen from the area of the prostate to the outside.


A physician specializing in the genitourinary tract.


The hollow, muscular organ that houses and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy.


The canal leading from the cervix to the outside of the woman’s body; the birth passage.


Yeast, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomonas infections of the vagina. Frequent vaginitis may indicate the presence of pelvic adhesions and tubal blockage from other infections, such as chlamydia. Vaginitis may interfere with sperm penetration of the cervical mucus, and the symptoms may even interfere with the ability and desire to have intercourse.


A dilation of the veins that carry blood out of the scrotum. The resulting swollen vessels surrounding the testicles create a pool of stagnant blood, which elevates the scrotal temperature. A major cause of male infertility.

Vas Deferens

One of the tubes through which the sperm move from the testicles (epididymis) toward the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. These tubes are severed during a vasectomy performed for birth control.


The accidental or elective surgical separation of the vasa deferential a procedure used for birth control.

Venereal Disease

Any infection that can be sexually transmitted, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, ureaplasma, and syphilis. Many of these diseases will interfere with fertility and some will cause severe illness. See also PID.


Having male characteristics; being able to perform sexually.

X Chromosome

The congenital, developmental, or genetic information in the cell that transmits the information necessary to make a female. All eggs contain one X chromosome, and half of all sperm carry an X chromosome. When two X chromosomes combine, the baby will be a girl.

Y Chromosome

The genetic material that transmits the information necessary to make a male. The Y chromosome can be found in one-half of the man’s sperm cells. When an X and a Y chromosome combine, the baby will be a boy.


A fertilized egg that has not yet divided

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

An ART in which eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries, fertilized with the man’s sperm in a lab dish, and the resulting embryos are transferred into the woman’s fallopian tubes during a minor surgical procedure.