Glossary

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A


Adenomyosis
Disease characterised by growth of the endometrium into the walls of the uterus.

Adhesions
Scar tissue that is formed by bleeding endometriosis lesions and surgery. This scar tissue can bind together internal organs and surfaces → Read more

Adjuvants
A therapy used in conjunction with another; ie. hormonal treatment after surgery.

Adnexal mass
A mass in the area of the Fallopian tube or ovary.

Adnexal torsion
A twisting of ovary or, rarely, the Fallopian tube.

Agonist
A chemical that binds to some receptor of a cell and triggers a response by that cell. Agonists often mimic the action of a naturally occurring substance.

Amenorrhea
Refers to a woman who is not having her period, either because of a medical condition or because her menstruation is being supressed by drug treatment.

Androgen
Male sex hormones.

Andrologist
A physician-scientist who performs laboratory evaluations of male fertility. May hold a PhD.degree instead of an MD. Usually affiliated with a fertility treatment centre working on in vitro fertilization.

Androstenedione
One of the androgens (male hormones) that are naturally present in women. (Other androgens include testosterone and DHEAS.) These hormones play an important role in ovulation. High levels of androgens in women may indicate an abnormality in the ovulation process.

Aneuploidy
The loss or gain of one or more chromosomes.

Anovulation
The failure to ovulate.

Antagonist
A drug or other substance that exerts an opposite action to that of another or competes for the same receptor sites. An oestrogen antagonist, for example, blocks oestrogen.

Antepartum
The pre-delivery pregnancy period.

Anterior
Top or upper.

Antibodies
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.

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.

Asherman’s Syndrome
A condition where the uterine walls adhere to one another. Usually caused by uterine inflammation.

Assisted hatching
Perforating the zona pellucida (‘shell’ of the egg) to help the very early embryo (the blastocyst) escape, ie. to hatch. Can be done by needle, by the use of an acid tyrodes, or by laser.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
The term used to describe several procedures employed to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IUI, IVF, GIFT and ZIFT.

Atrophy
Thinning and decreased blood flow to tissue resultant from a lack of hormones, most commonly estrogen.

Autoimmune Disorders
When a person has an autoimmune disorder, immune cells mistakenly attack the body’s own cells. Examples of autoimmune disorders are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Grave’s Disease. Some autoimmune factors, such as antiphospholipid antibodies, may affect fertility or pregnancy.

B

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

Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
The body reaches a basal metabolic temperature early in the morning when we are at rest. Charting this temperature variation helps determine when ovulation occurs. The basal body temperature is measured with a special basal thermometer.

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

Bicornuate Uterus
A congenital malformation of the uterus where the upper portion (horn) is duplicated.

Bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy
Removal of both ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Bladder neck
Junction between urethra and bladder

Blastocyst
The very early embryo.

Bowel resection
A surgical procedure performed when a blockage of the intestines occurs. The procedure removes the portion of the bowel where the obstruction is located.

C

Candidiasis
Also referred to as Candida Albicans is a yeast infection that may be uncomfortable and itchy.

Catheter
A hollow flexible tube that is passed into the body. In IVF, a special catheter is used to transfer fertilised embryos into the uterus.

Cauterise
To burn tissue with electrical current (electrocautery) or with a laser. Used in surgical procedures to remove unwanted tissue such as adhesions and endometriotic implants. Also used to control bleeding.

CBC (Complete Blood Count)
A routine blood test is that analyses the three major types of cells in blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A CBC is a general indicator of overall health.

Cervical mucus
A viscous fluid plugging the opening of the cervix. Most of the time this thick mucus plug prevents sperm and bacteria from entering the womb. However, at midcycle, under the influence of estrogen, the mucus becomes thin, watery, and stringy to allow sperm to pass into the womb. See also Cervix

Cervical smear
A sample of the cervical mucus examined microscopically to assess the presence of oestrogen (ferning) and white blood cells, indicating possible infection.

Cervical Stenosis
A blockage of the cervical canal from a congenital defect or from complications of surgical procedures.

Cervix
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.

Chemical pregnancy
Very early pregnancy that is indicated through a positive pregnancy test only. When the term is used in connection with IVF, a chemical pregnancy may not be a pregnancy at all, but rather the result of the hCG injection creating a false-positive pregnancy test.

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.

Chocolate cyst (endometrioma)
A cyst in the ovary that is filled with old blood, also known as an endometrioma. It occurs when endometriosis invades an ovary.

Chromosome
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.

Cilia
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
Pregnancy in which the foetus shows on an ultrasound at about seven weeks.

Clone
A perfect copy of a (DNA) molecule, a (stem) cell or an individual. Cloning of an individual is done by replacring the nucleus of an egg cell with the genetic material from a somatic (non-germ) cell – as was done to make Dolly the sheep, the world’s first clone. Cloning can also be done to produce stem cells, the undifferentiated early cells from which all types of cells develop. This technique may in the future enable people to access life-saving treatments tailored-made from their own DNA.

Coagulation
A method of destroying endometrial lesions by dehydrating the cells with a bipolar or thermal coagulator.

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

Coitus
Intercourse; the sexual union between a man and a woman.

Conception
The fertilisation of an ovum or the act of becoming pregnant.

Cone biopsy
A surgical procedure used to remove pre-cancerous cells from the cervix.

Contraceptives
Any agent or device used for the prevention of conception (getting pregnant).

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

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 mid-cycle during an ovulatory cycle. If the corpus luteum functions poorly, the uterine lining may not support a pregnancy. If the egg is fertilised, a corpus luteum of pregnancy forms to maintain the endometrial bed and support the implanted embryo. A deficiency in the amount of progesterone produced (or the length of time it is produced) by the corpus luteum can mean the endometrium is unable to sustain a pregnancy. This is called luteal phase defect (LPD).

Cryopreservation
Frozen storage of sperm, eggs, embryos, or other reproductive tissue for later use.

Culdoscopy
A procedure by which an endoscope and light can be inserted through the posterior wall of the vagina to examine the pelvic organs.

Cushing’s syndrome
A condition characterized by an overproduction of adrenal gland secretions. The person will suffer from high blood pressure and water retention as well as a number of other symptoms. A concurrent elevation of adrenal androgens will suppress pituitary output of LH and FSH and result in low sperm production or ovulatory failure. A woman may also develop male secondary sex characteristics, including abnormal hair growth. Cushing’s Disease is another condition in which these same symptoms occur, but as the result of a pituitary tumor.

Cystocele
Prolapse of the bladder into the vagina. This can be seen as a bulge from the anterior wall of the vagina.

D

D&C (Dilation and Curettage)
Surgical dilation of the cervix followed by surgical scraping of the interior of the uterine cavity with a currette (spoon-shaped surgical instrument) to remove growths (eg. pregnancy, tumours, etc) or diseased tissue.

Delayed puberty
A condition in which the youngster fails to complete puberty and develop secondary sex characteristics by sixteen years of age. Puberty may be stimulated with hormonal replacement therapy. Some will outgrow the condition without treatment.

Denervation
Loss of neuronal connections.

DHEAS (dihydroeprandrostone)
One of the androgens (male hormones) that are naturally present in women. (Other androgens include testosterone and androstenedione.) These hormones play an important role in ovulation. High levels of androgens in women may indicate an abnormality in the ovulation process.

DI
Donor insemination.

Diabetes
A condition in which the glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is unable to use it properly. Diabetes may be responsible for decreased fertility and increased incidence of miscarriage.

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.

Doppler flow ultrasonography
Measures and visually records changes in the frequency of an ultrasonic wave, indicative of the change in velocity of the blood flow in the underlying vessels.

Dysmenorrhea
Painful menstruation. This may be a sign of endometriosis.

Dyspareunia
Painful intercourse.

E

Ectopic pregnancy
A pregnancy outside of the uterus, usually in the Fallopian tube.

Eggs
Female cells containing 23 chromosomes that are stored in the ovaries. When fertilised by sperm, an egg forms an embryo. A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. Each month, an egg is released during ovulation. If it is not fertilised, menstruation will occur about two weeks later. During IVF fertility drugs are given, which cause the ovaries to produce numerous eggs instead of just one.

Egg retrieval
A procedure used to obtain eggs from ovarian follicles for use in in vitro fertilisation (IVF). The procedure may be performed during laparoscopy or by using a long needle and ultrasound to locate the follicle in the ovary.

Endometrial cells
The cells that make up the lining of the uterus. These cells build up a thick lining cyclically which is then discarded through menstrual flow.

Embryo
The early products of conception, ie. the undifferentiated beginnings of a baby.

Embryologist
A scientist who is highly trained in embryo growth and development.

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

Empty Sella Syndrome
A condition that occurs when spinal fluid leaks into the bony chamber (fossa) housing the pituitary gland. The fluid pressure compresses the pituitary gland and may adversely affect its ability to secrete LH and FSH and may elevate prolactin levels.

Endometrial biopsy
A test to check for Luteal Phase Defect 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 oestrogen and progesterone stimulation.

Endometrioma (chocolate cyst)
A cyst in the ovary that is filled with old blood, also known as a “chocolate cyst”. It occurs when endometriosis invades an ovary.

Endometriosis
See our section on endometriosis.

Endometritis
An inflammation or irritation of the lining of the uterus (the endometrium). It is not the same as endometriosis. It is typically caused by infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, tuberculosis, or mixtures of normal vaginal bacteria and is more likely to occur after miscarriage or childbirth, especially after a long labour or caesarian section.

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

Endopelvic fascia
The fascia of the inner pelvis.

Endorphins
Natural narcotics manufactured in the brain to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress. May contribute to stress-related fertility problems.

Enterocele
A true herniation into the top of the vagina. This results from loops of small bowel herniating through a fascia tear into the space between the pelvic fascia and the vaginal wall.

Endoscopy
The visualisation of the internal organs and cavities of the body with illuminated optic instruments such as a laparoscope.

Endothelial cells
Simple cells forming the lining of all blood vessels and lymphatics.

Epididymis
The tube that carries sperm out of the testis.

Expectant management
A “wait and see” approach, which involves no active intervention or treatment. The patient is followed closely to determine if any future action is needed.

Excision
A method of removing endometriosis by physically cutting it out of the body, normally via laparoscopy.

F

Fallopian tubes
Ducts through which eggs travel to the uterus once released from the ovary.

Fascia
Connective tissue supporting organ structures. Consisting of mostly collagen fibres, this tissue makes up ligaments and keeps muscular bundles together as well as lending structural integrity and strength to the body.

Fecundity
Ability to reproduce.

Female Kallman’s Syndrome
A condition characterised by infantile sexual development and an inability to smell. Since the pituitary cannot produce LH and FSH, the woman must take hormone supplements to achieve puberty, to maintain secondary sex characteristics, and to achieve fertility.

FER
Frozen embryo replacement.

Ferning
A pattern characteristic of dried cervical mucus viewed on a slide. When the fern pattern appears, the mucus has been thinned and prepared by oestrogen for the passage of sperm. If it does not fern, the mucus will be hostile to the passage of the sperm.

Fertility
The capacity to initiate or support conception.

Fertility specialist
A physician specialising in the practice of fertility.

Fertility treatment
Any method or procedure used to enhance fertility or increase the likelihood of pregnancy. 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.

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

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

Fibroid (myoma or leiomyoma)
A benign tumor of the uterine muscle and connective tissue.

Fimbria
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.

Follicles
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.

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.

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 phase
The pre-ovulatory portion of a woman’s cycle during which a follicle grows and high levels of oestrogen cause the lining of the uterus to proliferate (thicken). This normally takes between 12 and 14 days.

G

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

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer – GIFT
A technique that may be used instead of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) 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 IVF.

Gastrointestinal
Relating to the stomach and intestine.

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

Genitourinary
Related to the genital and urinary systems of the body.

Genomics
The science that deals with the analysis of DNA (gene activity and expression) in body tissues and fluids with respect to specific diseases.

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.

GIFT
Gamete intra-fallopian transfer: a process by which eggs are collected after ovarian stimulation by laparoscopy or vaginal ultrasound-direced aspiration and mixed with prepared sperm. These are then introduced in the Fallopian tube either through a laparoscope or transvaginally.

GnRH analogue – gonadotrophin releasing hormone analogue
A class of drugs that are used to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs too early during an IVF cycle. There are two types of GnRH analogues: GnRH agonists, which cause a sharp increase of LH and FSH, and GnRH antagonists, which cause immediate suppression of LH (= no “flare-up”). GnRH-analogues are also used to suppress ovarian function in women with endometriosis so that they do not menstruate, known as a medically induced menopause.

Gonadotropins
Hormones which control reproductive function: Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Lutenising 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. See also FSH; LH.

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

Gynaecologist
A specialist physician specialised in female disorders, particularly those of the reproductive and urological organs.

H

Hematoma
Blood clot.

Hemoperitoneum
Escape of blood in the peritoneal cavity.

Hemostasis
The arrest of bleeding.

Hirsutism
Excessive body hair, such as a mustache or pubic hair growing upward toward the navel, found in women with excess androgens.

Hormone
A chemical secreted from a part of the body (usually an endocrine gland) and carried in the bloodstream to another part to stimulate or retard its function.

Hormone Replacement Therapy – HRT
Also referred to as Oestrogen Replacement Therapy. The practice of medically administering oestrogen after the menopause, after procedures such as hysterectomy, or together with menopause-inducing drugs to reduce side effects and reduce medical risks such as osteoporosis.

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 used via injection to trigger ovulation after some fertility treatments, and used in men to stimulate testosterone production.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin – hMG
A combination of the hormones FSH and LH, which is extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women. Used to induce ovulation in several fertility treatments.

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

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

Hypo oestrogenic
Having lower than normal levels of oestrogen.

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.

Hypospermatogenesis
Low sperm production.

Hypothalamus
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.

Hypothyroidism
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 (see Hyperprolactinemia), and women will suffer from elevated prolactin and estrogen, both of which will interfere with fertility.

Hysterectomy
Surgical removal of the uterus. When the ovaries and the fallopian tubes are also removed, it is called hysterectomy with bilateral salpingo-oopherectomy. See also our article on hysteretomy.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)
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.

Hysteroscopy
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.

I

IAIH (Intrauterine Artificial Insemination Homologous)
Artificial insemination where the husband’s sperm is injected directly into the uterus to avoid cervical mucus problems or to maximize the potential for poor semen.

ICSI
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a process by which an egg is fertilised by injecting a single sperm into the egg.

Imperforate hymen
A condition where the membrane (hymen) covering the vagina fails to open and allow menstrual flow.

Implantation
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.

Immune system
The system within the body that secures against harmful substances; it enables the body to recognise materials as foreign to itself and to neutralise, eliminate, or metabolise them with or without injure to its own tissues.

Incidence
New occurrences of a disorder per year.

Inflammation
A tissue reaction to irritation, injury or infection, marked by localised warmth, swelling, redness and pain.

Informed consent
A contractual agreement between a patient and a physician, whereby the patient gives permission to undergo a certain procedure based on as clear an understanding of the issue as is possible. This understanding should be based on information on and explanation of the procedure and the options available to the patient.

Intra-abdominal
Inside the abdominal cavity.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
See ICSI.

Intrauterine
Inside the uterus.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Literally means “in glass.” Fertilisation of an egg by sperm takes place outside the body in a small glass dish.

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

Infertility specialist
A physician who specialises in infertility. Most are board-certified reproductive endocrinologists, but some gynaecologists have considerable experience in infertility and may be considered experts in the field.

Inhibin
A male feedback hormone made in the testicles to regulate FSH production by the pituitary gland.

Inhibin-F (Folliculostatin)
A female feedback hormone made in the ovary to regulate FSH production by the pituitary gland.

Intramuscular injection
A shot that is inserted into the muscle. Some IVF drugs are administered in the muscle, usually in the upper hip.

IUD (Intrauterine Device)
A device placed into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

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 eggs.

K

Kallman’s syndrome
A congenital hypothalamus dysfunction which has multiple symptoms including the failure to complete puberty.

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

Klinefelter’s syndrome
A genetic abnormality characterised by having one Y (male) and two X (female) chromosomes. May cause a fertility problem.

L

Laparoscope
The instrument used to perform a laparoscopy. It is a small telescope which can be inserted into a hole in the abdominal wall for viewing the internal organs.

Laparoscopy
A surgical procedure used as the primary means of diagnosing endometriosis; also used to treat endometriosis. A lighted tube is inserted into the belly button through which the surgeon can view the inside of the abdomen. Instruments can be inserted into other small incisions to remove or destroy endometriosis.

Laparotomy
Open abdominal surgery.

Laser ablation
A method of destroying endometriosis using a concentrated beam of light.

Leiomyoma
See Fibroids.

Leydig cell
The testicular cell that produces the male hormone testosterone. The Leydig cell is stimulated by LH from the pituitary gland.

Ligaments
Series of structures supporting the internal female genitalia within the pelvis. Ligaments associated with the female reproductive tract are the “broad”, the “uterine”, and the “ovarian”.

Live birth rate
The rate of live births per cycle. Also known as “take home rate.”

Luteinising 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 oestrogen. When oestrogen 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 luteinising hormone (LH) that causes the 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).

Luteal phase
Post-ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle. The corpus luteum produces progesterone, which cause 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 miscarriage.

Luteinized Unruptured Follicle (LUF) syndrome
A condition in which the follicle develops and changes into the corpus luteum without releasing the egg.

M

Menopause
The transition between the reproductive and postreproductive stages in an older women’s life, or when a woman ceases to menstruate or ovulate.

Menorrhagia
Heavy or prolonged menstrual flow.

Menstruation
The physiologic cyclical shedding of the uterine endometrium (the lining of the uterus), unless pregnancy intervenes, and is characterised by vaginal bleeding of three to seven days’ duration. Menstruation is also referred to as the “menstrual period” or “monthly period”.

MESA
Micro-epididymal sperm aspiration: a surgical collection of sperm direct from the epididymis (the tube that carries sperm out of the testis). Used when blockage in the epididymis leads to absence of sperm in the semen. Usually done under general anaesthetic when surgical repair to the tubes is necessary.

Mesovarium
The upper free portion of the broad ligament, above the proper ovarian ligament and investing the Fallopian tube.

Metrorrhagia
Menstrual spotting during the middle of the cycle.

Miscarriage
Spontaneous loss of an embryo or foetus from the womb.

Mittleschmerz
Pain in the lower abdomen at the time of ovulation.

Morbidity
A diseased state/character, or ill health. Within a population it refers to the number of sick persons or cases of disease recorded.

Mortality
Death

Mucosa
Epithelial tissue encountered in the mouth, vagina, anus, etc.

Multiple pregnancies
A pregnancy that involves more than one foetus. For example, twins, triplets, and quadruplets are all multiple pregnancies. Multiple pregnancies are a risk associated with IVF.

Myofascial pain
An often chronic condition affecting the fascia (connective tissue which covers the muscles), which may involve either a single muscle or whole muscle group. The area where pain is experienced may not be where the pain generator is located (known as “referred pain”).

Myoma
See Fibroids.

Myomectomy
Surgery performed to remove fibroid tumors.

Myometrium
The middle, muscular layer of the uterus (which is what is affected if you have adenomyosis).

N

Neonatology
The specialty of looking after new born babies.

O

Obstetrics
The medical specialty of caring for pregnant mothers and delivering babies.

Obstetrician
A specialist gynaecologist specialised in looking after pregnant women, and the delivery of babies.

Oestradiol/Oestrogen
The female sex hormone produced in the ovary. Its production is signaled by the pituitary gland in the brain and is responsible for formation of the female secondary sex characteristics. It supports the growth of the follicle and the development of the uterine lining. At midcycle the peak oestrogen 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 can also produce oestrogen, and this is known as aromatase.

Oestrogen Replacement Therapy
Also referred to as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). The practice of medically administering oestrogen after the menopause, after procedures such as hysterectomy, or together with menopause-inducing drugs to reduce side effects and reduce medical risks such as osteoporosis.

Oligomenorrhea
Infrequent menstrual periods.

Omentum
A membranous double layer of fatty tissue that covers and supports the intestines and organs in the lower abdominal area.

Oncology
The branch of medicine concerned with the study of and treatment of cancer.

Oophorectomy
Removal of one or both ovaries.

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

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

Ovaries
Two small organs on either side of a woman’s lower pelvis which produce ova, or eggs, and hormones; the female gamete-producing glands.

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 endometrioma.

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.

Ovarian follicle
The ovum together with its surrounding cells, located within the ovary.

Ovulation
The cyclical occurrence in a woman’s reproductive years when an egg is released from the ovary and picked up by the fallopian tubes and guided into the uterus where it will either be fertilised or discarded with menstruation.

Ovulation induction
Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation.

Ovulation predictor test
A home test kit that help women detect the “LH surge” in their urine. A surge in the level of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) causes ovulation.

Ovulatory Failure (anovulation)
The failure to ovulate.

Ovum/ova
An egg(s).

P

Panbypopituitarism
Complete pituitary gland failure.

Pap smear
A screening test for pre-cancerous changes of the uterine cervix.

Parity
Number of babies where the gestation went to term.

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

Pelvic floor dysfunction
Disorders of the pelvic floor related to physiological or anatomical abnormalities. They include incontinence, prolapse, pain syndromes, and others.

Pelvic floor
The floor of the abdominal cavity. It pertains to those structures that form the natural bottom of the pelvic and intra-abdominal cavities.

Pelvic ultrasound
A procedure in which the doctor checks for structural abnormalities or other problems in the female reproductive system.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
An infection in the pelvic area that can be caused by a variety of bacteria and can attack various pelvic organs.

Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration
See PESA.

Perimetrium
The outer lining, layer/muscular coat of the uterus.

Perineal body
The thickened part between the anal and vaginal openings.

Peritoneum
A smooth membrane lining the walls of the abdominal and pelvic cavities and enclosing the organs.

PESA
Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration: a collection of sperm under local anaesthesia by needle aspiration of the epididymis.

PGD
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis: a diagnostic technique involving genetic tests on an embryo. Generally done when the embryo is at the six to eight cell stage when one cell is removed for analysis of its DNA or chromosomes to determine whether or not the embryo is like to develop a genetic disease.

PGS
Pre-implantation genetic screening: using genetic techniques to check if an embryo has the right number of chromosomes. Although used particularly for older women (at increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities) and for women who have had recurrent miscarriage (often due to chromosomal abnormalities), it is still in the experimental phase, since it is not yet evidence based.

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.

Placenta
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.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
A condition found in women who don’t ovulate, characterised 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.

Posterior
Bottom or lower.

Postpartum
After delivery. This period lasts until six weeks after delivery.

Pre-embryo
The fertilised egg that is produced outside the uterus during IVF.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis
See PGD.

Pre-implantation genetic screening
See PGS.

Premature menopause
Menopause that occurs naturally before the age of 40. Also known as premature ovarian failure.

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

Presacral neurectomy
A surgical procedure in which nerves at the back of the uterus are severed in an attempt to eliminate or reduce pain.

Prevalence
Occurrence of a disorder in the general population.

Primary infertility
Infertility in a woman who has never had a pregnancy.

Progesterone
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 fertilised egg.

Prognosis
Prediction of most likely future outcome.

Prolactin
The hormone that stimulates the production of milk in breastfeeding women.

Prolapse
Falling out of, falling down, or dropping, bulging.

Prostaglandins
Substances found in bodily tissues which are often responsible for the contractions of smooth muscles such as the uterus. Prostaglandins keep blood pressure low and influence hormone activity.

Proteomics
The science that deals with the analysis of proteins (presence, activity, function, dysfunction) in body tissues and fluids with respect to specific diseases

Psoas muscle
A long muscle located on the side of the lumbar region of the vertebral column and brim of the lesser pelvis. It is believed to be one of the most important core muscles.

Psoriasis
A chronic skin disease characterized by reddish patches covered with silvery scales, occurring mostly onthe knees, elbows, scalp, and trunk.

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

Pudendal nerve
A sensory, autonomic and motor nerve carrying signals to and from genitals, anal area, and urethra. Generally, there are three branches of the nerve on each side of the body: rectal, perineal, and clitoral or penile.

Pudendal neuralgia (Alcock’s Syndrome, Pudendal Canal Syndrome)
A type of neuropathic pain caused by entrapment, compression, or tension of the pudendal nerve. The primary symptom is pain in the genitals or anal-rectal area, which may be worsened by sitting.

R

Recurrent miscarriage
Three or more miscarriages. Also know as recurrent pregnancy loss.

Rectocele
Prolapse of the rectum into the vagina. This can be seen as a bulge from the lower wall of the vagina.

Recto-vaginal septum
The fascial layer which separates the vagina from the rectum.

Reproductive endocrinologist (RE)
A sub-specialist doctor, who is dedicated to the treatment of infertility. An RE has gone through advanced training to understand female hormones, the causes of infertility, and the latest infertility treatments. An RE is capable of handling very complex infertility cases.

Resection
Surgical excision (removal by cutting) of a portion of an organ or other structure.

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.

Ruptured ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy that has eroded or torn through the tissue in which it has implanted, producing hemorrhage (bleeding) from exposed vessels.

S

Sacroiliac
Joint in lower back where the spine meets the pelvis. A number of conditions, including endometriosis, may cause discomfort in this area.

Sacrospinous ligament
Ligament attaching the ischial spine to the sacrum.

Salpingectomy
Surgical removal of the fallopian tube.

Salpingitis
Inflammation of the Fallopian tube.

Salpingostomy/Fimbrioplasty
Surgical repair made to the fallopian tubes; a procedure used to open the fimbria.

Secondary infertility
The inability of a couple which has successfully achieved pregnancy to achieve another. In other words: it refers to a couple which has one biological child but is unable to conceive another.

Septate 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.

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
An infection that is spread by sexual contact. Also called a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

Sonogram (ultrasound)
Use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts.

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

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

Stem cell
A “blank” cell, capable of becoming another cell such as a skin cell, a muscle cell, or nerve cell.

Sterility
An irreversible condition that prevents conception.

Stillbirth
The death of a foetus between the twentieth week of gestation and birth.

Stress urinary incontinence
Incontinence related to episodes of increased intra-abdominal pressure, thus leakage of urine.

Subcutaneous injection
A shot that is inserted under the skin, including the upper thigh, abdomen, or upper arm.

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

T

TESA
Testicular sperm aspiration: needle aspiration of the testis to collect sperm, usually carried out in cases where PESA has been unsuccessful.

TESE
Testicular sperm extraction from a biopsy: carried out when other methods of extraction have been unsuccessful.

Testes
Two small organs that are located at the base of the male’s penis and in which sperm are produced.

Testicular sperm aspiration
See TESA.

Testicular sperm extraction
See TESE.

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

Thromboembolisis
Blood clotting and migration of clots to plug distant blood vessels.

Thyroid conditions
Any condition in which the thyroid is not functioning properly, such as underactive (hypo) or overactive (hyper) thyroid.

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

TNF
A molecule that is important in inflammation. TNF binding protein blocks the activity of TNF and selectively inhibits inflammation.

Transvaginal ultrasonography
Ultrasonography which sends into the pelvic cavity and receives ultrasonic waves through the vagina by using a probe placed inside the vagina.

Trichomonas
An infection that may produce a greenish, bad-smelling vaginal discharge.

Trimester
One-third of the length of a pregnancy (3 months).

Tubal ligation
A type of female sterilisation in which the fallopian tubes are cut, clipped, or tied in order to prevent pregnancy.

Tubocornual anastomosis
Surgery performed to remove a blocked portion of the fallopian tube and to reconnect the tube to the uterus. Tubouterine implantation may also be performed to remove fallopian tube blockage near the uterus and reimplant the tube in the uterus.

Tubotubal anastomosis
Surgery performed to remove a diseased portion of the fallopian tube and reconnect the two ends; sterilisation reversal.

Turner’s Syndrome
The most common genetic defect contributing to female fertility problems. The ovaries fail to form and appear as slender threads of atrophic ovarian tissue, referred to as streak ovaries. Karyotyping will reveal that this woman has only one female (X) chromosome instead of two.

U

Ultrasound
A test used to visualise the reproductive organs. The instrument works by bouncing sound waves off the organs, and a picture displayed on a TV screen shows the internal organs.

Ultrasonography
The delineation of deep bodily structures by sending ultrasonic waves (sound waves of frequency higher than the range audible to the human ear, ie. above 20,000 cycles per second) toward an organ or mass, which in turn bounces back (echoes); the patterns produces are graphically displayed on a fluorescent screen for interpretation.

Umbilical cord
Two arteries and one vein encased in a gelatinous tube leading from the baby to the placenta. Used to exchange nutrients and oxygen from the mother for waste products from the baby.

Unexplained infertility
Infertility for which the cause cannot be determined with currently available diagnostic techniques.

Unicornuate uterus
An abnormality in which the uterus is “one sided” and smaller than usual.

Ureter
The muscular tubes carrying urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

Urethra
The tube that allows urine to pass between the bladder and the outside of the body.

Urinary tract disorders
Disorders of the urinary tract causing painful urination, frequency of urination, and/or urine leakage, such as interstitial cystitis. Sometimes confused with the symptoms of endometriosis on the bladder.

Uterine fibroids
Abnormal, benign (non-cancerous) growths of muscle within the wall of a woman’s uterus.

Uterine polyps
Abnormal, benign (non-cancerous) growths attached to a short stalk that protrudes from the inner surface of a woman’s uterus.

Urinary incontinence
Urinary incontinence related to bladder muscle contractions which occur involuntarily and in the setting of an inability to suppress those contractions.

Urinary obstruction
Inability to pee.

Urodynamic assessment
Dynamic testing of the urological system whereby pressure differentials are measured.

Urologist
A physician specialising in the genitourinary tract.

Uterosacral ligaments
Ligaments attaching the lower part of the uterus to the sacral bone. One of the main supports of the uterus and upper vagina, and a common place to find endometriosis.

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

V

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

Vaginismus
Painful spasm of pelvic floor muscles on vaginal entry, such as sexual intercourse.

Vaginitis
Clinical inflammation of the vagina.

Vaporisation
A method of destroying endometriosis by boiling of the cellular water with a laser or electrosurgical knife.

Venereal Disease
Any infection that can be sexually transmitted, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, ureaplasma, and syphilis.

Venous
Having, characterised by, or composed of veins, the vessels of the body that return blood from arms, legs and organs back to the heart.

Vulva
The female external genital organs.

Vulvodynia
Painful vulva, also sometimes associated with urinary symptoms, painful intercourse and generalised pelvic pain.

X

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. See also Y chromosome.

Y

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. See also X Chromosome.

Z

Zona pellucida
The outer protein coat (shell) of an ovum, which must be penetrated by a sperm cell for fertilisation to take place.

Zygote
A fertilised egg which has not yet divided.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
An assisted reproduction technology (ART) in which eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries, fertilised with the man’s sperm in a lab dish, and the resulting embryos are transferred into the woman’sfallopian tubes during a minor surgical procedure.

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