Infertility Glossary

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Anejaculation A condition in which no semen is expelled from the penis during sexual arousal
Anorexia Nervosa An eating disorder associated with a distorted body image that is caused by a mental disorder. Inadequate calorie intake results in severe weight loss.
Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART) Procedures in which pregnancy is attempted through gamete manipulation outside of the body, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) or gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)
Azospermia A cause of male infertility in which no sperm are present in the semen.
Biological Father The man whose sperm fertilized the ovum from which a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child.
Biological Mother The woman from whose ovum a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child.
Bulimia Bulimia is an illness characterized by uncontrolled episodes of overeating usually followed by self-induced vomiting.
Cervix The lower, narrow end, or neck, of the uterus, which opens into the vagina.
Chlamydia A sexually transmitted infection caused by the microorganism chlamydia trachomatis, which if left untreated in a woman may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pelvic adhesions, and tubal blockage.
Cryopreservation A special freezing technique used to preserve embryos and sperm for future use in an ART procedure.
Cryptorchidism A cause of male infertility in which one or both testes have not descended into the scrotum after the first year of life.
Dilatation and Curettage (D&C) A procedure in which the cervix is gradually widened and the lining of the uterus is gently removed by scraping or suction.
Disease A disease is defined as any deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of any part, organ, or system, or combination thereof, of the body that is manifested by a characteristic set of symptoms or signs. Dorland’s Medical Dictionary 1988: 481.
Dyspareunia A condition in women in which intercourse is uncomfortable or painful due to a medical problem or emotional issues.
Ectopic Pregnancy A pregnancy in which the fertilized ovum has implanted in a location other than inside the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube.
Embryo The fertilized ovum after it has begun the process of cell division.
Endometriosis A condition in which tissue resembling the lining of the inside of a woman’s uterus is found elsewhere in the body (usually in the pelvis).
Endometrium The tissue lining the inside of a woman’s uterus, in which a fertilized egg implants at conception.
Epididymis A structure that covers part of each testis and is the storage place for mature sperm cells.
Estrogen (Estradiol) A hormone that is produced in a woman’s ovaries and plays a role in regulating ovulation and endometrial development.
Fallopian Tubes The two narrow, hollow structures located on either side of a woman’s uterus in the lower abdomen, extending to an ovary on each side.
Fetus In medical terms, an embryo becomes a fetus at about the end of the seventh week of pregnancy, after major structures (head, torso, limbs, etc.) have formed.
Follicle A structure within the ovary containing the egg that is extruded at ovulation.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) A variation of ART in which unfertilized eggs and sperm are placed together in the woman’s fallopian tubes, with fertilization taking place in the tube instead of a laboratory dish.
Germ cells (Gametes) The sex cells—oocytes (eggs) and spermatozoa.
Gestational Mother In a surrogacy arrangement, the woman who carries a pregnancy to term and delivers a baby, which may or may not be genetically related to her.
Gonorrhea A sexually transmitted infection caused by the microorganism Neisseria gonorrhea, which if left untreated in a woman may cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), pelvic adhesions, and tubal blockage.
Hypothalamus A structure located at the base of the brain that secretes hormones that regulate the pituitary gland which in turn regulates various bodily functions, including ovulation in women and sperm production in men.
Implantation Bleeding Light bleeding or spotting that sometimes occurs when a fertilized egg (embryo) implants in the uterus.
Impotence A condition in which a man cannot achieve or sustain an erection long enough to ejaculate inside a woman’s vagina.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) A form of assisted reproduction in which an egg and sperm are combined in a laboratory dish and the resulting embryo (sometimes called a preembryo) is subsequently transferred into a woman’s fallopian tube.
Incompetent Cervix A condition in which a pregnant woman’s cervix begins to dilate too soon, causing miscarriage.
Infertility The absence of conception after at least one year of regular unprotected intercourse.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) A technique in which a single sperm cell is injected through a microsurgical needle directly into the cytoplasm of an egg to facilitate fertilization.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI) A technique in which sperm are introduced directly into a woman’s cervix or uterus to produce pregnancy, with or without ovarian stimulation to produce multiple ova.
Luteal Phase The second half of the menstrual cycle, beginning at ovulation (day 14 in an average 28-day cycle) and ending with menstruation
Miscarriage Spontaneous loss of a pregnancy before twenty weeks of gestation.
Motility In a semen analysis, the degree to which sperm cells are able to spontaneously propel themselves.
Oligospermia A cause of male infertility in which fewer than forty million sperm are present in the semen from one ejaculation.
Oocyte An ovum; the egg before it is released at ovulation.
Ova The female sex cells, or eggs, which are produced in the ovaries.
Ovaries Two small organs on either side of a woman’s lower pelvis which produce ova, or eggs, and hormones.
Ovulation Induction A procedure in which medication is used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple mature follicles and ova.
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) Inflammation of the female upper reproductive tract (uterus, tubes, and ovaries) usually resulting from infection with chlamydia and/or gonorrhea.
Penis The male reproductive organ, through which semen exits during ejaculation.
Perinatologist An obstetrician/gynecologist specializing in the care of pregnant women and their babies during pregnancy.
Pituitary A gland located at the base of the brain that is stimluated by hormones released from the hypothalamus to secrete hormones that regulate various bodily functions, including ovulation in women and sperm production in men.
Placenta The thick pad of tissue inside a pregnant woman’s uterus that provides nourishment to and disposes of waste from the growing fetus.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) A condition in which an excess number of multiple small cysts form on both ovaries. Women with this condition don’t ovulate on a regular basis.
Postcoital Test A test used to evaluate the interaction between a man’s sperm and a woman’s cervical mucus.
Premature ejaculation A condition in which ejaculation occurs before the penis enters a woman’s vagina.
Premature ovarian failure A condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop producing estrogen and cease ovulation before the age of 40.
Primary Infertility Infertility in a woman who has never had a pregnancy.
Progesterone A hormone that is produced in a woman’s ovaries and that stimulates the endometrium to thicken in preparation for possible pregnancy during the latter part of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase).
Prostate Gland A gland that is located just below a man’s bladder and secretes fluid that helps sperm pass through the urethra.
Reproductive Endocrinologist An obstetrician/gynecologist who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility.
Scrotum A saclike pouch containing the testes at the base of the penis.
Secondary Infertility Infertility in a woman who has had one or more pregnancies.
Seminal vesicle A small gland that is located just behind the bladder in the male and stores sperm prior to ejaculation.
Sexually transmitted infection (STI) An infection that is spread by sexual contact. Also called a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Sperm cells The male sex cells (spermatozoa), which are produced in the testes.
Sperm count An assessment of the number of sperm present in each milliliter of semen.
Sperm penetration assay A test examining the ability of sperm to penetrate and fertilize a modified hamster egg.
Sperm washing A procedure used to remove components other than sperm from a semen sample prior to being used for intrauterine insemination.
Testes Two small organs that are located at the base of the male’s penis and in which sperm are produced.
Testosterone A hormone that is produced by a man’s testes and helps to maintain the production of sperm.
Thyroid A gland located at the base of the neck, which secretes hormones influencing metabolism.
Tubal Ligation A type of female sterilization in which the fallopian tubes are cut, clipped, or tied in order to prevent pregnancy.
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.
Urethra A narrow, tube like structure through which urine passes on its way from the bladder to the outside of the body in both sexes. In males, it is also a passageway for sperm.
Uterine fibroids Abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growths of muscle within the wall of a woman’s uterus.
Uterine polyps Abnormal, benign (noncancerous) growths attached to a short stalk that protrudes from the inner surface of a woman’s uterus.
Uterus The hollow, muscular organ in a woman’s lower abdomen, in which a developing fetus grows during pregnancy.
Vagina The elastic, muscular passageway leading from the cervix to the outside of a woman’s body.
Varicele A cause of male infertility in which varicose veins are present in the blood vessels above the testes.
Vas deferens The long, narrow tube through which sperm pass on their way from the testes to the seminal vesicles.
Vasectomy A procedure for male sterilization, in which a small segment of each vas deferens is surgically removed to prevent sperm from entering the ejaculate.
Zona pellucida The outer protein coat (shell) of an ovum, which must be penetrated by a sperm cell for fertilization to take place.