Young woman researches reproductive health terminology

Terms and Definitions

Below are the most popular terms used in reproductive medicine, along with their definitions.

Terms and Definitions

An ectopic (extrauterine) pregnancy that has implanted on structures in the abdomen other than the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It usually implants on tissue in the abdomen known as the omentum. 

A benign (non-cancerous) growth of cells that usually does not invade adjacent tissue. A pituitary adenoma can disrupt ovulation and menstruation and often is associated with excessive prolactin production.

A benign (non-cancerous) invasion of endometrial tissue into the muscular wall (myometrium) of the uterus; is associated with painful or heavy menstrual periods.

Bands of fibrous scar tissue that may bind the pelvic organs and/or loops of bowel together. Adhesions can result from previous infections, endometriosis, or previous surgeries.

Glands located above each kidney that secrete a large variety of hormones (cortisol, adrenaline, and others) that help the body withstand stress and regulate metabolism. Altered function of these glands can disrupt menstruation, cause inappropriate hair growth, and affect blood pressure.

An abnormal or unusual increase in the production of androgens by the adrenal glands. This disorder is the result of a genetic problem.

The complete absence or suppression of menstrual periods.

A nonprofit, professional medical organization of more than 9,000 health care specialists interested in reproductive medicine. Contact info: American Society for Reproductive Medicine, 1209 Montgomery Highway, Birmingham, AL 35216; (205) 978-5000;;

A procedure in which a small amount of amniotic fluid is removed through a needle from the fetal sac at about 16 weeks into a pregnancy. The fluid is studied for chromosomal abnormalities that may affect fetal development.

Thin membrane that expands to enclose a developing fetus. This membrane (sac) holds the amniotic fluid that protects the developing fetus.

In men, androgens are the “male” hormones produced by the testes which are responsible for encouraging masculine characteristics. In women, androgens are produced in small amounts by both the adrenal glands and ovaries. In women, excess amounts of androgens can lead to irregular menstrual periods, obesity, excessive growth of body hair (hirsutism), and infertility.

An androgenic hormone naturally made by the ovaries, testes, and adrenal glands. The body turns it into testosterone. Androstenedione sold as a “natural” supplement is made from plant chemicals and is not regulated by the FDA. It often is marketed as an enhancer of athletic performance and muscle strength, but its safety and effectiveness are controversial.

A reduction in the number of red blood cells, which carry oxygen in the body. Anemia is characterized by weakness or listlessness. It can be a consequence of abnormal bleeding.

Absent ovulation. Failure of the ovary to ovulate regularly.

A hormone which is often measured in a woman to help determine her egg supply, or "ovarian reserve". It is secreted by small, growing follicles.

The number of fluid-filled follicles observed using ultrasound.

A condition where the appendix (a tubular structure attached to the large colon) becomes infected and inflamed and can be associated with the formation of adhesions in the proximity of the fallopian tube.

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.

All treatments which include the handling of eggs and/or embryos. Some examples of ART are in vitro fertilization (IVF), gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), pronuclear stage tubal transfer (PROST), tubal embryo transfer (TET), and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT).

The natural process by which eggs age and degenerate.

A catheter usually retained in the bladder by a balloon inflated with air or liquid; also retained in the uterus to prevent scar tissue formation following uterine surgery.

When a woman's pregnancy test is initially positive but becomes negative before a gestational sac is visible on ultrasound.

The removal of a tissue sample for microscopic examination. The term also refers to the tissue removed.

Also known as oral contraceptives. They contain a mixture of synthetic estrogens and progesterone. Proper usage suppresses ovulation and decreases the ovarian secretion of hormones, including androgens.

An embryo that has formed a fluid-filled cavity and the cells have begun to form the early placenta and embryo, usually 5 days after ovulation or egg retrieval.

A drug used to suppress the production of prolactin by the pituitary gland. The brand name is Parlodel®.

Federal agency for protecting the health and safety of people at home and abroad, providing credible information to enhance health decisions, and promoting health through strong partnerships.

Placement of a nonabsorbable suture around an incompetent (weak) cervical opening in attempt to keep it closed and thus prevent miscarriage. Also known as a cervical stitch.

A disorder causing damage to one or more specific areas of the brain usually occurring during fetal development; before, during, or shortly after birth; or in infancy. Cerebral palsy is characterized by an inability to fully control motor function, particularly muscle control and coordination. Other problems that may arise are difficulties in feeding, bladder and bowel control, problems with breathing, skin disorders, and learning disabilities.

The passageway leading from the vagina into the uterus.

The substance in the cervix through which sperm must swim to enter the uterus.

The lower, narrow end of the uterus that connects the uterine cavity to the vagina.

A procedure in which a small sample of cells is taken from the placenta early in pregnancy for chromosomal testing.

Rod-shaped structures are located in a cell's nucleus containing hereditary (genetic) material. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes (46 total). Two of the 46 are the sex chromosomes, the X and Y chromosomes. Usually, females have two X chromosomes, and males have one X and one Y chromosome.

A pregnancy confirmed by an increasing level of hCG and the presence of a gestational sac detected by ultrasound.

A fertility pill used to promote ovulation, often of more than one egg.

An oral anti-estrogen drug used to induce ovulation in the female. It also sometimes is used to increase testosterone levels in the infertile male, which may, in turn, improve sperm production. The brand names are Clomid ® and Serophene®.

A test of ovarian reserve in which serum FSH is checked on days 3 and 10 of the menstrual cycle and clomiphene citrate is taken on days 5 through 9.

An x-ray imaging technique that creates a three-dimensional image of internal organs.

Existing as such at birth (birth defect).

Treatment with clomiphene, human menopausal gonadotropin, or follicle-stimulating hormone injections to cause more than one egg to develop and release during ovulation.

A “yellow body.” A mass of yellow tissue formed in the ovary from a mature follicle that has collapsed after releasing its egg at ovulation. The corpus luteum secretes estrogen and large quantities of progesterone, a hormone that prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to support a pregnancy.

A hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys in the area of the back near the waistline. Cortisol is responsible for maintaining the body’s energy supply, blood sugar, and control of the body’s reaction to stress.

Freezing at a very low temperature, such as in liquid nitrogen (-196°C) to keep embryos, eggs, or sperm viable.

A synthetic, weak male hormone that blocks ovulation and suppresses estrogen levels; used to treat endometriosis.

A hormone naturally made by the adrenal glands. The body turns it into other hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. DHEA sold as a “natural” supplement is made from plant chemicals and is not regulated by the FDA. It often is marketed as an antiaging medication, but its safety and effectiveness are controversial.

A condition due to abnormal production of insulin resulting in abnormally elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels.

The insertion of a long, thin, lighted telescope-like instrument, called a laparoscope, through the navel into the abdomen in order to look for abnormalities of the internal pelvic organs, such as the outside of the uterus.

A medication that is used to lower blood pressure.

A synthetic hormone formerly given during pregnancy to prevent miscarriage. Women born from treated pregnancies can have abnormalities of the reproductive system, including an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.

An outpatient surgical procedure during which the cervix is dilated, and the lining of the uterus is scraped out. The tissue often is used for microscopic examination for the presence of abnormality or pregnancy tissue.

Instruments used to enlarge a small opening.

An agent that increases the loss of water from the body.

Di - two; zygote - fertilized egg. Two separate eggs fertilized by separate sperm in a single pregnancy. Fraternal twins.

An egg from a fertile woman is donated to an infertile woman to be used in an assisted reproductive technology procedure such as IVF. The woman receiving the egg will not be biologically related to the child but will be the birth mother on record.

The sperm is donated by a fertile man who is not the recipient’s partner.

A genetic disorder caused by the presence of an extra chromosome 21 and characterized by mental retardation, abnormal facial features, and medical problems such as heart defects.

Abnormal uterine bleeding with no evidence of mechanical or structural cause. The most common cause of DUB is deficient or excessive estrogen and/or progesterone production.

Painful menstrual cramps.

Painful intercourse; sometimes a symptom of endometriosis.

Also called premature ovarian failure. Cessation of menstrual periods due to failure of the ovaries before age 40.

A pregnancy that implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. The tube may rupture or bleed as the pregnancy grows and create or result in a serious medical situation.

A hysteroscopic or non-hysteroscopic procedure used to remove, burn, or freeze most of the endometrium (uterine lining); sometimes used to treat abnormal uterine bleeding.

The removal of a small piece of tissue from the endometrium (uterus lining) for microscopic examination. The results may indicate whether or not the endometrium is at the appropriate stage for successfully implanting a fertilized egg (embryo) and/or if it is inflamed or diseased.

An inflammation of the endometrium caused by bacterial invasion.

The lining of the uterus is shed each month during the menstrual period. As the monthly cycle progresses, the endometrium thickens and thus provides a nourishing site for the implantation of a fertilized egg.

The female sex cell (ovum) produced by the ovary, which, when fertilized by a male's sperm, produces an embryo.

The process of fertilizing eggs from a donor and transferring the resulting embryos to the recipient’s uterus. The recipient will not be biologically related to the child, although she will be the birth mother on record.

The procedure in which eggs are obtained by inserting a needle into the ovarian follicle and removing the fluid and the egg by suction. Also called oocyte aspiration.

Procedure to cause ejaculation of sperm, performed by electrical stimulation of tissue in the region of the prostate.

The earliest stage of human development is after sperm fertilizes an egg.

Growth of the embryo in a laboratory (culture) dish.

Placement of an embryo into the uterus or, in the case of ZIFT and TET, into the fallopian tube.

A blood-filled “chocolate” cyst that can occur when endometriosis tissue develops in the ovary.

A disease in which tissue resembling endometrium (the lining of the uterus) grows outside the uterus. It is often associated with infertility.

The removal of a small sample of endometrium (lining of the uterus) for microscopic examination.

The lining of the uterus that is shed each month during menstruation.

The duct between testes and vas deferens is where sperm are stored and mature.

A chemical that inhibits enzymes that affect hair growth. Available in a facial cream to reduce the growth of unwanted facial hair.

A physician who specializes in endocrinology, which is the medical specialty concerned with hormonal secretions and their actions.

The predominant estrogen (hormone) is produced by the follicular cells of the ovary.

The female sex hormones produced by the ovaries that are responsible for the development of female sex characteristics. Estrogens largely are responsible for stimulating the uterine lining to thicken during the first half of the menstrual cycle in preparation for ovulation and possible pregnancy. They also are important for healthy bones and overall health. A small amount of these hormones also is produced in the male when testosterone is converted to estrogen.

Period of “watchful waiting” without active treatment. 

A pair of hollow tubes is attached one on each side of the uterus through which the egg travels from the ovary to the uterus. Fertilization usually occurs in the fallopian tube. The fallopian tube is the most common site of ectopic pregnancy.

Drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce and mature eggs so that they can be released at ovulation.

The fusion of sperm and egg.

An unborn child.

Benign (non-cancerous) tumors of the uterine muscle wall that can cause abnormal uterine bleeding. They are also known as leiomyomas or myomas.

The flared (finger-like) end of the fallopian tube sweeps over the ovary's surface and helps direct the egg into the tube. 

A medication that blocks the conversion of testosterone to more active androgens. May be prescribed for enlarged prostate in men and to reduce hair loss associated with male pattern baldness.

Flutamide is an antiandrogen medication that blocks androgen receptors, preventing the actions of androgens. Flutamide is used in the treatment of prostate cancer.

A tubular sheath that surrounds the lower part of the hair shaft, supplies the growing hair with nourishment, and gives life to new hairs.

A fluid-filled sphere located just beneath the surface of the ovary containing an egg (oocyte) and cells that produce hormones. The sphere increases in size and volume during the first half of the menstrual cycle and at ovulation the follicle matures and ruptures, releasing the egg. As the follicle matures, it can be visualized by ultrasound.

In women, FSH is the pituitary hormone responsible for stimulating follicular cells in the ovary to grow, stimulating egg development, and the production of the female hormone estrogen. In the male, FSH is the pituitary hormone that travels through the bloodstream to the testes and helps stimulate them to manufacture sperm.

The first half of the menstrual cycle (beginning on day one of bleeding) during which the dominant follicle secretes increasing amounts of estrogen.

The direct transfer of sperm and eggs into the fallopian tube. Fertilization takes place inside the tube.

Referring to inherited conditions, usually due to the genes located on the chromosomes.

A woman who agrees to have a couple’s fertilized egg (embryo) implanted in her uterus. The gestational carrier carries the pregnancy for the couple, who usually has to adopt the child. The carrier does not provide the egg and is therefore not biologically (genetically) related to the child.

Elevated blood sugar levels in the mother while she is pregnant. During pregnancy, the placenta normally produces hormones that antagonize insulin. With a multiple pregnancy, more of these hormones are produced and lead to a rise in the mother’s blood sugar.

The fluid-filled sac surrounding an embryo that develops within the uterine cavity. Ultrasound can detect the sac in the uterus at a very early stage of pregnancy.

A long-acting drug that blocks the release of hormones stops ovulation and decreases the body’s estrogen production. Prolonged use of GnRH analogs causes decreased hormone production and menopausal estrogen levels. The brand names are Lupron®, Depo Lupron®, Synarel®, and Zoladex®.

A GnRH analog that initially stimulates the pituitary gland to release LH and FSH, followed by a delayed suppressive effect. GnRH agonists are also used to help stimulate follicle growth when started at the beginning of an IVF cycle.

Synthetic hormones similar to the naturally occurring gonadotropin releasing hormone used to prevent premature ovulation. There are two types of GnRH analogs: GnRH agonists and GnRH antagonists.

Naturally occurring hormones include FSH (folliclestimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). In injection form, these gonadotropins can be used for ovulation induction and other fertility treatments. Other gonadotropins include hMG (human menopausal gonadotropin), hFSH (human follicle-stimulating hormone), and rFSH (recombinant folliclestimulating hormone).

Hormone secreted by the hypothalamus, a control center in the brain, which prompts the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH into the bloodstream.

A genetic disorder associated with very high circulating levels of insulin and androgens.

Localized collections of blood which seep from the blood vessels into tissue, like a large bruise.

Viruses that may be sexually transmitted, or transmitted by contact with blood and other bodily fluids, that can cause infection of the liver leading to jaundice and liver failure.

The growth of long, coarse hair on the face, chest, upper arms, and upper legs of women in a pattern similar to that of men. Hirsutism may be due to excess levels of androgens.

A substance secreted from organs of the body, such as the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or ovaries, that is carried by a bodily fluid such as blood to other organs or tissues where it exerts a specific action.

A hormone produced by the placenta; its detection is the basis for most pregnancy tests. Also refers to the medication used to induce ovulation during the final stages of egg maturation.

An ovulation drug that contains follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) derived from the urine of postmenopausal women. hMG is used to stimulate the growth of multiple follicles.

A blocked, dilated, fluid-filled fallopian tube.

A condition in which women have elevated levels of androgens (male hormones).

High levels of prolactin in the bloodstream.

A thumb-sized area in the brain that controls many functions of the body, regulates the pituitary gland, and releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

The surgical removal of the uterus. Hysterectomy may be performed through an abdominal incision (laparotomy), through the vagina (vaginal hysterectomy), through laparoscopy or robotic-assisted laparoscopy, or by laparoscopic-assisted vaginal hysterectomy (LAVH). Sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are removed.

An x-ray procedure in which a special iodine-containing dye is injected through the cervix into the uterine cavity to illustrate the inner shape of the uterus and the degree of openness (patency) of the fallopian tubes.

A thin, lighted telescope-like instrument is inserted through the vagina and cervix into the uterine cavity to allow viewing of the inside of the uterus.

The insertion of a long, thin, lighted telescope-like instrument, called a hysteroscope, through the cervix and into the uterus to examine the inside of the uterus. Hysteroscopy can be used to both diagnose and surgically treat uterine conditions.

The process whereby an embryo embeds in the uterine lining in order to obtain nutrition and oxygen. Sometimes, an embryo will implant in areas other than the uterus, such as in a fallopian tube. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy.

Small, flat patches of endometrial-like cells growing outside their normal location.

A method of assisted reproduction that involves combining an egg with sperm in a laboratory dish. If the egg fertilizes and begins cell division, the resulting embryo is transferred into the woman’s uterus, which hopefully will implant in the uterine lining and further develop. IVF bypasses the fallopian tubes and is usually the treatment choice for women with badly damaged or absent tubes.

A procedure in which eggs are fertilized in a laboratory and one or more embryo(s) are placed into the uterus.

Infertility results from a disease (an interruption, cessation, or disorder of body functions, systems, or organs) of the male or female reproductive tract that prevents the conception of a child or the ability to carry a pregnancy to delivery. The duration of unprotected intercourse with failure to conceive should be about 12 months before an infertility evaluation is undertaken unless medical history, age, or physical findings dictate earlier evaluation and treatment.

Placement of sperm via a syringe into a female’s uterus or cervix for the purpose of producing a pregnancy.

A micromanipulation procedure in which a single sperm is injected directly into an egg to attempt fertilization, used with male infertility or couples with prior IVF fertilization failure.

A contraceptive device placed within the uterus may also prevent scar tissue formation following uterine surgery.

An office procedure in which prepared sperm are placed into the uterus.

A special fluid into which sperm, eggs, and embryos are placed when outside the human body.

A thin, lighted, telescope-like viewing instrument that is usually inserted through the navel into the abdomen to examine the contents of the pelvic and abdominal cavities. Other small incisions may also be made, and additional instruments inserted to facilitate diagnosis and allow surgical correction of pelvic abnormalities. The laparoscope can be used as both a diagnostic and operative instrument.

A surgical procedure that allows viewing of the internal pelvic organs. During the procedure, a long, narrow, fiber optic instrument, called a laparoscope, is usually inserted through an incision in or below the woman's navel. One or more additional incisions may be made for inserting additional instruments.

Major abdominal surgery through an incision in the abdominal wall.

Growths or abnormalities of normal anatomy. Examples include scar tissue, polyps, and uterine fibroids.

Sexual drive and desire.

The secretion, or surge, of large amounts of luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland. This surge is the stimulus for ovulation to occur.

The second half of the ovarian cycle when the corpus luteum produces large amounts of progesterone. This progesterone is important in preparing the endometrium to receive a fertilized egg (embryo) for implantation.

A shorter than normal luteal phase or one with lesser progesterone secretion despite a normal duration.

In women, the pituitary hormone triggers ovulation and stimulates the corpus luteum of the ovary to secrete progesterone and other hormones during the second half of the menstrual cycle. In men, LH is the pituitary hormone that stimulates the testes to produce the male hormone testosterone.

A diagnostic procedure that absorbs energy from specific high-frequency radio waves. The picture produced by measuring these waves can be used to form precise images of internal organs without X-ray techniques. No radiation exposure occurs.

Infertility is caused by a problem in the male; for example, the inability to ejaculate or an insufficient number of sperm.

Cessation of ovarian function and menstruation usually occurs naturally but can also result from surgery. Menopause can occur between the ages of 42 and 56 but usually occurs around the age of 51 when the ovaries stop producing eggs and estrogen levels decline.

Regular but heavy menstrual bleeding is excessive in either amount (greater than 80 cc – approximately five tablespoons) or duration (greater than seven days).

The normal, cyclic shedding of the endometrial lining (lining of the uterus), which appears as a bloody discharge from the uterus.

A medication that destroys pregnancy-related tissue and hastens re-absorption of this tissue in a woman with an ectopic pregnancy.

A type of surgery that uses magnification, meticulous technique, and fine suture material to get precise surgical results. Microsurgery is essential for certain types of tubal surgery in the female and for vasectomy reversal in the male.

The naturally occurring expulsion of a nonviable fetus and placenta from the uterus; also known as spontaneous abortion or pregnancy loss.

Outpatient microsurgical procedure used to collect sperm in men with blockage of the male reproductive ducts such as prior vasectomy or absence of the vas deferens. Used in IVF-ICSI procedures.

The IVF laboratory process whereby the egg or embryo is held with special instruments and surgically altered by procedures such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), assisted hatching, or embryo biopsy.

A medication used to lower blood pressure that was also found to promote hair growth.

The form, structure, and shape of sperm. At least 30% of the sperm in a semen sample should have oval heads and slightly curving tails.


The percentage of all moving sperm in a semen sample. Usually 50% or more are moving rapidly.

Also known as selective reduction. A procedure to reduce the number of fetuses in the uterus. This procedure is sometimes performed on women who are pregnant with multiple fetuses and who are at an increased risk of late miscarriage or premature labor. These risks increase with the number of fetuses.

Benign (non-cancerous) tumors of the uterine muscle wall can cause abnormal uterine bleeding and miscarriage. Also, see fibroids.

The surgical removal of myomas (fibroids) from the uterus.

Penetrating knot-like collections of endometriosis.

An inherited disorder in which the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormone cortisol and overproduce androgens. Elevation of the hormone 17 alphahydroxyprogesterone is characteristic of NCAH. NCAH is a genetic disorder most commonly seen in certain ethnic groups, including Ashkenazi Jews, Eskimos, and French-Canadians.

Medical term for egg, the female gamete. Also called ovum (singular) or ova (plural).

Surgery, such as removal of adhesions or tumors, performed inside the uterus with a hysteroscope and other long, slender instruments.

Surgery, such as removal of adhesions or endometriosis, performed inside the abdomen with a laparoscope and other long, slender instruments.

Fluid-filled cysts on the ovaries.

A laparoscopic procedure, using laser or electrocautery, to destroy the androgen-producing tissue in the ovaries. This procedure is usually a last resort for ovulation induction in PCOS patients who have not responded to hormonal treatments.

A condition that may result from ovulation induction characterized by enlargement of the ovaries, fluid retention, and weight gain.

A woman’s fertility potential in the absence of specific pathophysiologic changes in her reproductive system. Diminished ovarian reserve is associated with depletion in the number of eggs and worsening of oocyte quality.

See Ovulation induction.

The two female sex glands in the pelvis located on each side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, and androgens.

The release of a mature egg from its developing follicle in the outer layer of the ovary. This usually occurs 14 days before the next menstrual period (the 14th day of a 28-day cycle).

The administration of hormone medications (ovulation drugs) that stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Sometimes called enhanced follicular recruitment or controlled ovarian hyperstimulation.

An operation in which the section of a fallopian tube containing an ectopic pregnancy is removed. This procedure attempts to preserve most of the tube for subsequent re-attachment using microsurgery in order to achieve future fertility.

A procedure to cause ejaculation of sperm, performed by vibratory stimulation of the penis.

A sperm aspiration procedure in which a needle is inserted into the epididymis (gland that carries sperm from testicle to vas deferens) in order to retrieve sperm for use in an IVF procedure.

A clear tissue that lines the pelvic and abdominal cavity.

An anti-seizure medication.

A small hormone-producing gland located just beneath the hypothalamus in the brain controls the ovaries, thyroid, and adrenal glands. Ovarian function is controlled through the secretion of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Disorders of this gland may lead to irregular or absent ovulation in the female and abnormal or absent sperm production in the male.

A disk-shaped vascular organ attached to the wall of the uterus and to the fetus by the umbilical cord. It provides nourishment to the fetus and carries away waste.

Lung inflammation.

A condition in which the ovaries contain many follicles that are associated with chronic anovulation and overproduction of androgens (male hormones). The cystic follicles exist presumably because the eggs are not expelled at ovulation. Symptoms may include irregular menstrual periods, obesity, excessive growth of central body hair (hirsutism), and infertility. PCOS can also be associated with heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes, or Stein-Leventhal syndrome.

A general term that describes any mass of tissue which bulges or projects outward or upward from the average surface level.

A disorder occurring during pregnancy that affects both the mother and the fetus. Preeclampsia is characterized by high blood pressure, swelling, and protein found in the urine. This disorder, also know as toxemia, can restrict the flow of blood to the placenta.

A test performed by an embryologist in which one or two cells are removed from an embryo. The removed cells are then screened for genetic abnormalities. PGD may be performed in conjunction with IVF.

Cessation of menstrual periods due to failure of the ovaries before age 40. They are also known as early menopause.

Pain associated with menstrual periods that decreases with age.

A female hormone is usually secreted by the corpus luteum after ovulation during the second half of the menstrual cycle (luteal phase). It prepares the lining of the uterus (endometrium) for implantation of a fertilized egg and also allows for complete shedding of the endometrium at the time of menstruation. In the event of pregnancy, the progesterone level remains stable beginning a week or so after conception.

A synthetic hormone that has an action similar to progesterone. Synonymous with progestational hormones.

A hormone normally secreted by the pituitary gland into the bloodstream to maintain milk production during lactation. When secreted in excessive amounts, it may lead to irregular or absent menstrual periods and produce a milk-like discharge from the breasts.

The nuclei of the male and female gametes (sperm and egg) seen in the one-cell embryo (zygote).

Hormone-like chemicals are produced in large amounts by endometrial cells. They stimulate the uterine muscles to contract and are largely responsible for menstrual cramps.

A hormonal state created by taking medication and characterized by low estrogen levels similar to those found at menopause.

A lung disease that affects premature infants and causes increasing difficulty in breathing.

A uterus that is tilted backwards. This is found in approximately 10% of normal women.

A hormonal state in which estrogen levels fall to menopause levels; ovulation and menstruation do not occur. Reversible menopause is created by taking GnRH analogs.

A minimally invasive method of surgery where the surgeon controls robotic arms with the help of a computer console.

The last vertebrae of the spinal column; the base of the spine.

An operation in which one or both of the fallopian tubes are removed.

Removal of a fallopian tube and ovary together.

A surgical procedure in which the wall of the fallopian tube is opened and the ectopic pregnancy is removed. The tubal incision heals spontaneously.

Pain associated with menstrual periods that begins later in a woman’s reproductive life span. It may be due to an abnormal condition such as endometriosis or infection.

The fluid ejaculated by the male.

The microscopic examination of semen (the male ejaculate) to determine its volume, the number of sperm (sperm count), their shapes (morphology), and their ability to move (motility) in addition to other parameters.

A band of fibrous tissue from birth forms a wall within the uterine cavity. A septum may increase the risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications.

An infection, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea that is transmitted by sexual activity. In female, some STIs can cause pelvic infections and lead to infertility by damaging the fallopian tubes and increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy. In the male, STIs can cause blockage of the ductal system that transports sperm.

Offspring (child) born singly.

A society affiliated with the ASRM and comprised of representatives from assisted reproductive technology programs who have demonstrated their ability to perform IVF.

The male reproductive cells produced by the testes that fertilize a woman’s egg. The sperm head carries genetic material (chromosomes), the midpiece produces energy for movement, and the long, thin tail wiggles to propel the sperm.

A birth defect of the spinal column. Spina bifida is the failure of the spine to close properly during development.

A steroid hormone that directly blocks the effect of androgens on the skin. It initially was used as a diuretic or water pill to increase urine output. A brand name is Aldactone®.

Hormones that are derived from cholesterol. Categories of steroids include sex steroids (estrogens, androgens, progestogens), glucocorticoids (hormones that closely resemble cortisol), and mineralocorticoids (hormones related to aldosterone and involved in fluid and electrolyte control). Man-made steroids closely resemble cortisol, a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands. Steroids decrease inflammation, reduce immune system activity, and are used to treat a variety of inflammatory diseases and conditions.

Treatment with clomiphene, human menopausal gonadotropin, or follicle-stimulating hormone injections to cause more than one egg to develop and release during ovulation.

A procedure to facilitate fertilization. The woman is given ovulation-inducing drugs, which cause her ovaries to produce multiple eggs. When the eggs are ready to be released, the woman is inseminated with her partner’s sperm or donated sperm.

A surrogate is a type of gestational carrier who both provides the egg and carries the pregnancy. In this procedure the surrogate is genetically related to the child.

Thread used to close an incision made during surgery. It is generally absorbable.

The long, coarse, thick hairs that normally grow in the scalp, pubic, and armpit areas of men and women and the face, chest, abdomen, upper arms, and upper thighs of men.

The two male reproductive glands located in the scrotum which produce testosterone and sperm.

Operative removal of testicular tissue in an attempt to collect living sperm for use in an IVF-ICSI procedure.

In men, the primary male hormone produced by the testes. It is responsible for the development of sperm, male physical characteristics, and sex drive. Testosterone is also produced in small quantities by the ovaries in women.

A large, two-lobed endocrine gland located in front of and on either side of the trachea (windpipe) in the neck secretes the hormone thyroxin into the bloodstream. Thyroxin maintains average body growth and metabolism.

Medications that may slow or stop premature labor.

See Preeclampsia.

A woman who carries a pregnancy intended for an infertile couple. The surrogate's egg is fertilized with sperm from the male partner of the infertile couple.

An imaging technique in which a smooth cylindrical probe that uses sound waves to view organs on a video screen is placed in the vagina.

An ultrasound-guided technique for egg retrieval whereby a long, thin needle is passed through the vagina into the ovarian follicle and suction is applied to accomplish retrieval.

A surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are clamped, clipped, or cut to prevent pregnancy.

A lesion (sore) on the surface of the skin or on a mucous surface, usually inflamed. As an occasional side effect of methotrexate therapy, temporary ulcers may form in the mouth.

A picture of internal organs produced by high-frequency sound waves viewed as an image on a video screen; used to monitor growth of ovarian follicles or a fetus and to retrieve eggs. Ultrasound can be performed either abdominally or vaginally.

A picture of internal organs produced by high-frequency sound waves viewed as an image on a video screen; is used to monitor the growth of ovarian follicles or a fetus and to retrieve eggs. Ultrasound can be either performed abdominally or vaginally.

Tubes connecting each kidney to the bladder.

Inability to spontaneously empty the bladder.

Abnormal masses of smooth muscle tissue that grow within the uterine wall. Also called myomas or leiomyomas.

A congenital abnormality caused by a band of tissue in the midsection of the uterus that divides the normal uterine cavity.

Ligaments that attach to the lowest part of the uterus and the cervix to the sacrum.

The hollow, muscular female reproductive organ in the pelvis is where an embryo implants and grows during pregnancy. The lining of the uterus, the endometrium, produces the monthly menstrual blood flow when there is no pregnancy.

The canal in the female that leads to the cervix, which leads to the uterus.

The two muscular tubes that carry sperm from the epididymis to the urethra.

The soft, fine, usually short hairs that appear on the face, chest, and back of women, giving the impression of “hairless” skin.

Presence of a blood clot in the vein.

An ultra-rapid method of freezing eggs and embryos that may offer certain advantages compared with traditional types of cryopreservation.

The egg’s outer layer that a sperm must penetrate in order to fertilize the egg.

A fertilized egg before cell division (cleavage) begins.

An egg is fertilized in the laboratory and the zygote is transferred to the fallopian tube before cell division takes place. Eggs are retrieved and fertilized on one day and the embryo is transferred the following day. 

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