Penn Fertility Care

Patient Resources

Reproductive Health Information

Glossary of Terms

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

Antithyroid Antibodies (ATA) -- Antibodies that interfere with thyroid function, therefore interfering with normal metabolism. They are also indicators for a predisposition of the patient to auto immunity, which may involve additional autoimmune problems that interfere with the reproductive process.

Amenorrhea -- The absence of menstruation.

Androgens -- Male sex hormones such as testosterone.

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

Anovulation -- The absence of ovulation.

Antisperm Antibodies (ASA) -- Antibodies are produced by the immune system to fight off foreign substances, like bacteria. Antisperm antibodies attach themselves to sperm and inhibit movement and their ability to fertilize. Either the man or the woman may produce sperm antibodies.

Artificial Insemination (AI) -- Placing sperm into the vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes through artificial means instead of by coitus -- usually injected through a catheter or cannula after being washed. This procedure is used for both donor (DI) and husband's (AIH) sperm. This technique may be used to treat sexual performance problems, to circumvent sperm-mucus interaction problems, to maximize the potential for poor semen, and for using donor sperm.

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

Aspermia -- The absence of sperm and semen.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) – Various procedures used to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IUI, IVF, GIFT and ZIFT.

Azoospermia -- Absence of sperm in ejaculate. Obstructive Azoospermia: The result of obstruction in either the upper or lower male reproductive tract (epididymis, vas deferens, seminal vesicles or ejaculatory ducts). Sperm production may be normal (this can be verified through testicular biopsy), but the obstruction prevents the sperm from being ejaculated. Some causes of obstructive azoospermia are vasectomy, congenital absence of vas deferens, scarring from past infections, and hernia operations. Non-obstructive Azoospermia: Severely impaired or non-existent sperm production. Sperm may be found and extracted directly from the testicles.


Basal Body Temperature (BBT) – A person’s body temperature when taken at its lowest point, usually in the morning before getting out of bed. Charting BBT is used to predict ovulation. BBTs are not very reliable while taking fertility medications. Reference terms - Biphasic: A BBT pattern consistent with ovulation and the formation of the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone. This hormone elevates the basal body temperature about one-half degree during the latter half of the menstrual cycle. Monophasic: An anovulatory BBT pattern where the temperature remains relatively constant throughout the cycle.

Beta HCG Test -- A blood test used to detect very early pregnancies and to evaluate embryonic development. A beta test usually refers to a quantitative hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) in which the units of hCG are counted, but it sometimes refers to a qualitative (yes/no) test that reads to an hCG level under 50 (level is lab dependent).

Biphasic -- Having two phases. Used to describe BBT charts that show a clear shift from the follicular phase (before ovulation) to the luteal phase (after ovulation).

Blighted Ovum -- A pregnancy that stops developing very early on. The amniotic sac may only contain fluid and no fetal tissue (empty sac) when the miscarriage occurs.


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

Cervical Mucus -- A gelatinous fluid plugging the opening of the cervix. Most of the time this thick mucus plug prevents sperm and bacteria from entering the womb. At mid-cycle, under the influence of estrogen, the mucus becomes thin, watery and stringy to allow sperm to pass into the uterus.

Chemical Pregnancy – When hCG levels are detected in a pregnancy but the pregnancy is lost. This is a very early miscarriage -- often before the woman misses a period.

Chromotubation/Chromopertubation – A test of the fallopian tubes performed by injecting colored liquid through the fallopian tubes and watching the ends of the tubes for the dye. Spillage of dye indicates patent (open) tubes.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid, Serophene) -- A fertility drug that stimulates ovulation through the release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland.

Cytoplasmic Transfer -- An extension of in-vitro fertilization which takes the material from a mother's egg and combines it with the cytoplasma of a donor egg. Two methods of cytoplasm transfer were developed, one that transfers a small amount of cytoplasm by tiny needle from the donor to the recipient egg, the other transfers a larger amount of cytoplasm that is then fused to the recipient cytoplasm with electricity.


Danazol (Danocrine) -- A synthetic androgen used to treat endometriosis. Suppresses LH and FSH production by the pituitary and causes a state of amenorrhea during which the endometrial implants waste away. Possible side effects are; oily skin, acne, weight gain, muscle cramps, abnormal hair growth and a deepening of the voice.

Day 1 -- The first day of a woman's cycle with menses in full flow (more than simple spotting). If full flow begins after mid-afternoon, the next day is considered Day 1.

Days Post-Ovulation (DPO) -- The number of days a woman is past ovulation. Counting begins the day after ovulation. Therefore, if ovulation occurs on Sunday, Wednesday is considered 3 DPO.

Days Post-Transfer (DPT) -- The number of days a woman is past embryo transfer. Counting begins the day after transfer. Therefore is transfer is on Tuesday, Saturday is considered be 4 DPO.

Donor Egg -- Eggs donated by one woman to another.


Ectopic Pregnancy -- A pregnancy occurring outside of the uterus, often in a fallopian tube. Such a pregnancy can rarely be sustained, and frequently leads to decreased or complete loss of function in the affected tube. Treatment is usually laparoscopic removal of the embryo or use of the chemotherapy drug Methotrexate that attacks fast growing cells and may dissolve the pregnancy without causing major damage to the tube.

Egg Donation -- The act of donating eggs for use in attempting pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.

Egg Retrieval -- A procedure used to obtain eggs from ovarian follicles for use in several assisted reproductive technologies.

Endometrial Biopsy (EB, Ebx, EMB)-- A test to check for Luteal Phase Defect or Hyperplasia. A procedure during which a sample of the uterine lining is collected for microscopic analysis. The biopsy results will confirm ovulation and the proper preparation of the endometrium by estrogen and progesterone stimulation.

Endometriosis – The growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus. The tissue may attach itself to the reproductive organs or to other organs in the abdominal cavity. Endometrial tissue increases with the onset of menses. The resultant irritation causes adhesions in the abdominal cavity and in the fallopian tubes. Endometriosis can potenially interfere with ovulation and with the implantation of the embryo.


Falloscopy -- Falloposcopy is the visual examination of the inside of the fallopian tube. A tiny bendable catheter is inserted through the cervical canal and uterine cavity into the fallopian tube. A fiber optic endoscope is threaded through the catheter into the fallopian tube. A camera at the end of the falloscope transfers images of the inside of the tube to a monitor so the surgeon can thoroughly visualize and examine the inside of the tube.

Ferning – The pattern created by dried cervical mucus when viewed on a slide. When the fern leaf pattern appears, the mucus has been thinned and prepared by estrogen for the passage of sperm. If it does not fern, the mucus will be hostile to the passage of the sperm.

Fertile Mucus -- Mucus that allows sperm to thrive and makes its way into the cervical canal into the uterus and tubes. It has a consistency similar to egg whites and is both stretchy and watery.

Fertility Treatment -- Any method or procedure used to enhance fertility or increase the likelihood of pregnancy

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) - A hormone produced and released from the pituitary that stimulates the ovary to ripen a follicle for ovulation.

Follicular Phase -- The pre-ovulatory portion of a woman's cycle during which a follicle grows and high levels of estrogen cause the lining of the uterus to proliferate. Usually occupies 12 and 14 days.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) -- A procedure where frozen embryos are thawed and then placed into the uterus.


Gamete -- A reproductive cell: For men that cell is sperm for women it is the egg.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) --- A technique that may be used in lieu of in vitro fertilization for women with clear and open tubes. After egg retrieval the eggs are mixed with sperm and then immediately injected past the fimbria into the woman's fallopian tubes for in vivo fertilization. Procedure is done through laparoscopy.

Genetic Counselor – A genetic expert who offers advice on the detection, consequences and the potential for the recurrence of chromosomal and genetic disorders.

Gestation -- The period of fetal development in the womb (uterus) from implantation to birth.

Gland -- An organ or structure that produces or secretes essential body fluids or substances, such as hormones.

GnRH -- See Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone.

Gonads -- The glands that create reproductive cells and "sex" hormones: the testes, which make sperm and testosterone and the ovaries, which make eggs (ova) and estrogen.

Gonorrhea -- A sexually transmitted disease that may lead to infertility. Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonococcus.

Gonadotropins -- Hormones that control reproductive function: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Leutenizing Hormone (LH).

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH) -- The hormone which controls the production and release of gonadotropins. This hormone is secreted by the hypothalamus , the portion of the brain just above the pituitary, every ninety minutes or so enabling the pituitary gland to secrete LH and FSH, which stimulate the gonads. See gonadotropins


Habitual Abortion -- Repeat miscarriages.

hCG/HCG -- See Human Chorionic Gonadotropin.

Heparin – An blood thinner injected into the patient to prevent blood clots from forming.

Heparin Therapy -- The use of Heparin to thin blood in women with recurrent pregnancy loss or presence of an autoimmune problem, such as antiphospholipid antibodies.

hMG, HMG -- See Human Menopausal Gonadotropin.

Home Pregnancy Test (HPT) -- A test a woman can use at home to test urine for the presence of hCG.

Hormone -- A substance produced by an endocrine gland that travels through the bloodstream to a specific organ.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) – A hormone released in the early stages of 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 Gonadotropins (hMG) -- A combination of hormones FSH and LH, which is extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women. Used to induce ovulation in several fertility treatments.

Hyperandrogenism – Andgrogens in women produced in excess. This is often associated with polycystic ovary disease (PCO).

Hyperplasia -- A thickening of the endometrium. It can lead to abnormal, pre-cancerous cells.

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

Hyperstimulation (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, OHSS) -- A potentially life-threatening side effect of ovulation induction with injectable fertility medications. A woman's ovaries become enlarged and produce an overabundance of eggs. Blood hormone levels rise, fluid may collect in the lungs or abdominal cavity, and ovarian cyst may rupture, causing internal bleeding. Bloodclots sometimes develop. Symptoms include sudden weight gain and abdominal pain. Cycles stimulated with these drugs must be carefully monitored with ultrasound scans. OHSS may be prevented by withholding the hCG injection when ultrasound monitoring indicates that too many follicles have matured.

Hyperthyroidism – Occurs when the thyroid gland produces too many hormones. The resulting increased metabolism "burns up" estrogen too rapidly and interferes with ovulation.

Hypoestrogenic -- Having lower than normal levels of estrogen.

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 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 and women will suffer from elevated prolactin and estrogen, both of which can interfere with fertility.

Hysterosalpinogram (HSG) -- An x-ray of the pelvic organs. 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.

Hysterectomy – Removing the uterus surgically.

Hysteroscopy (HSC)
-- 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.


IBT – See Immunobead Binding Test.

ICI -- See Intracervical Insemination.

ICSI – See Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection.

Idiopathic (Unexplained) Infertility -- When no cause for infertility can be found after substantial testing.

Immature Oocyte Retrieval (IOR) -- A procedure in which immature eggs are aspirated from the ovaries and treated in the laboratory with fertility drugs allowing them to mature. When mature, the eggs are mixed with sperm and any resulting embryos are transferred into the uterus.

Immature Sperm (Germinal Cell) – An immature sperm that is unable to swim. In the presence of illness or infection such sperm may appear in the semen in large numbers.

Immunobead Binding Test (IBT) -- Used to detect antisperm antibodies.

Immunoglobulins – Another term for antibodies.

Immunosupressive Drug -- A drug that interferes with the normal immune response.

Implantation (Embryo) -- The embedding of the embryo into tissue so it can establish contact with the mother's blood supply for nourishment. Implantation usually occurs in the lining of the uterus 5-10 days after ovulation.

Implantation Failure – The inability of the fertilized egg to properly implant into the uterine lining.

Implantation Spotting -- Bleeding associated with an embryo implanting into the endometrium. Spotting does not always occur, however and when it does it is usually evident 5-10 days after ovulation.

Impotence -- The inability of the man to achieve or maintain an erection and to ejaculate due to physical or emotional problems, or a combination thereof.

Incompetant Cervix -- A weakened cervix which opens prematurely during pregnancy and can cause the loss of the fetus. A “cervical cerclage” is a procedure in which a stitch or two is put around the cervix to prevent its opening. The stitch is removed when the pregnancy is at term.

Infertility -- The inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse in women under 35, or after six months in women over 35.

Injectables/Injectable Fertility Medications -- Medications given by injection. The term injectables is often used to refer to ovulation induction medications such urofollitropins (brands Fertinex and Metrodin), as hMG (brands Pergonal, Humegon and Repronex) and recombinant FSH follitropins alpha and beta (brands Follistim and Gonal-F).

Insulin - is a hormone produced by the pancreas in response to increased glucose levels in the blood, which then reduces blood glucose.

Insulin Resistant (IR) -- Occurs when the body produces too much insulin in relation to glucose.

Intracervical Insemination (ICI) -- Artificial insemination where the sperm is deposited into the cervical canal.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) -- A procedure in which a single sperm is injected into the egg to enable fertilization with very low sperm counts or with non-motile sperm.

Intramuscular (IM) – They way a medication is administered. IM medication is given by needle into the muscle.

Intratubal Insemination (ITI) -- Artificial insemination where washed sperm is deposited into the fallopian tubes.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) -- A relatively "low-tech" ART which deposits washed sperm directly into the uterus, bypassing cervical mucus and depositing the sperm more closely to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization occurs. Used to bypass hostile cervical mucus and to overcome sperm count and motility problems.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – The literal term means "in glass." The process of fertilization outside the body in a small glass dish.


Karyotyping -- A chromosome analysis test. Cells are examined to look for
abnormalities. Testing an embryo or fetus may show if there is a chromosomal reason for the pregnancy loss. Approximately 50% of miscarriages are caused by chromosomal problems. Parents can be tested to possibly determine if there is an underlying chromosomal problem that increases the chances of repeated losses. Repeat losses occur in about 3% of couples with recurrent pregnancy loss.

Klinefelter's Syndrome -- A genetic abnormality characterized by having one Y (male) and two X (female) chromosomes or a combination of 46XY and 47XX. Klinefelters often causes fertility problems. ART and donor insemination are possible. The condition can be hereditary.


Laparoscope -- A small telescope through the abdominal wall to view the internal organs. This instrument is used to perform a laparoscopy to treat many fertility problems including endometriosis and polycystic ovaries. Also can be used in egg retrieval for in vitro fertilization.

Laparoscopy (LAP) -- Examination of the pelvic organs through use a small telescope called a laparascope.

Laparotomy -- Organ abnormalities can potentially be corrected and fertility restored via a laparotomy. This is a major abdominal surgery that can be used to repair tubes and remove adhesions.

Leukocytosis --- An increase in the number of Leukocytes (White Blood Corpusles) often caused by infection and usually transient.

Leydig Cell -- The testicular cell that produces the male hormone testosterone.

Low Responder -- A woman who does not produce many follicle with injectable fertility medications.

Lupron -- An injectable medication used to down-regulate the pituitary gland and prevent the release of substances such as Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH). Without LH or FSH, the ovary will not produce follicles that will in turn decrease the production of Estrogen and Progesterone.

Lupus -- See Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

Luteal Phase -- Post-ovulatory phase of a woman's cycle. During this phase, the corpus luteum produces progesterone,. This causes the uterine lining to thicken which supports the implantation and growth of the embryo.

Luteal Phase Defect (or Deficiency) (LPD) -- A condition that occurs when the uterine lining does not develop adequately because of inadequate progesterone stimulation. LPD also occurs when the uterine lining does not respond to progesterone stimulation. LPD may prevent an embryo to implant or may cause an early miscarriage.

Luteinized Unruptured Follicle Syndrome (LUFS) -- A condition in which the follicle develops and changes into the corpus luteum without releasing the egg. This sometimes goes hand-in-hand with PCO.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH) – Gonads are stimulated by this pituitary hormone. LH is necessary in men for spermatogenesis and for the production of testosterone. In women, when estrogen reaches a critical peak in the menstrual cycle, the pituitary releases a surge of LH (the LH spike), which releases the egg from the follicle.

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


Measles-Mumps-Rubella Vaccine (MMR) -- A vaccine recommended for women who have a low antibody titre to Rubella (German Measles). Rubella can be extremely damaging or life-threatening to a fetus.

Meiosis -- The cell division, that occurs in reproductive cells allowing genetic material to divide in half. Each new cell will contain twenty-three chromosomes. The spermatids (immature sperm) and ova (eggs) each contain twenty-three chromo-somes. When they combine (fertilize), the baby will have a normal complement of forty-six.

Metrorrhagia -- Menstrual spotting during the middle of the cycle.

Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) -- Using microsurgery to remove sperm from the epididymis for use in in vitro fertilization, often used with ICSI.

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

Mittleschmerz -- The discomfort felt on one or both sides of the lower abdomen at the time of ovulation.

Molar Pregnancy (Trophoblastic Disease) - a condition in which the placenta develops into a nonmalignant tumor called a hydatidiform mole. The layer of cells that line the gestational sac and normally give rise to the chorionic villi convert into a mass of clear, tapioca-like vesicles instead of into a healthy placenta. The fertilized egg then deteriorates. Usually caused by a chromosomal abnormality in the fertilized egg. A brownish discharge is the prime symptom. Treated by a D&C and sometimes methotrexate.

Morphology -- The shape of sperm as studied in a semen analysis.

Mosaicism -- Having more than one blood line. For example, instead of having all 46XX cells, a mosaic may have a combination of 46XX and 45X cells. Reference Klinefelter's and Turner's Syndrome.

Motility – In semen analysis, this is measurement of motion and forward progression of sperm.

Mucus -- Secretions from a gland that can be water, gel-like, stretchy, sticky or dry. Fertile mucus resembles raw egg whites (watery and stretchy).

Mycoplasma -- An infectious agent that structurally falls between a virus and a bacterium. May be related to pregnancy loss and perhaps infertility as well.

Myomectomy -- Surgical removal of a uterine fibroid.


Necrospermia -- Condition in which sperm are produced but are found dead in the semen and are unable to fertilize eggs.

Non-obstructive Azoospermia -- Severely impaired or non-existent sperm production.

Non-surgical Sperm Aspiration (NSA) – While the patient is sedated, a tiny needle is used to extract sperm directly from the testis. Performed for those who have blocked ducts or cannot ejaculate. Used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization and ICSI.

NSA -- see Non-surgical Sperm Aspiration.


Obstructive Azoospermia -- The result of a blockage in the male reproductive tract. Sperm production may be normal but the sperm cannot get out of the epididymis.

Oligomenorrhea -- Infrequent menstrual periods.

Oligo-ovulation -- Infrequent ovulation, usually less than six per year.

Oligospermia -- Having few sperm.

OPK/OPT -- See Ovulation Predictor Kit/Test.

Oocyte (Egg) -- The female reproductive cell.

Ovarian Failure – When an ovary does not respond to FSH stimulation from the pituitary Can occur due to damage to or malformation of the ovary. Diagnosed by elevated FSH in the blood.

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

Ovary -- The female gonad; produces eggs and female hormones.

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

Ovulation Induction -- Medical treatment performed to initiate ovulation.

Ovulation Predictor Kit/Test – An at-home test kit to aid women in predicting ovulation based on a surge of luteinizing hormone.

Ovulatory Dysfunction – An abnormal process in the ovary. Occurs when the developing the follicle or the egg is not released from the follicle.

Ovulatory Failure (Anovulation) -- The failure to ovulate.

Ovum -- The egg in women. The female gamete. The sex cell that contains the woman's genetic information.


P4 = See Progesterone.

Pap Smear -- Removal of cells from the surface of the cervix to study microscopically.

Patent -- The state of being open regarding tubes that form part of the reproductive organs. An hysterosalpingogram (HSG), for example, is done to see if the fallopian tubes are patent (open or closed).

PCO, PCOD, PCOS -- See Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.

PCT -- See Post Coital Test.

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

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) – A test performed on men. A small needle is passed directly into the head of the epididymis and fluid is extracted. Used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization with ICSI.

PESA -- See Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration.

PI – See Primary Infertility.

PID – See Pelvic Inflammatory Disease..

Pituitary Gland -- The gland or “master gland” stimulated by the hypothalamus. Located at the base of the brain just below the hypothalamus, this gland controls all many major hormonal functions throughout the body including the gonads, the adrenal glands, and the thyroid gland.

POC – See Products of Conception.

POF – See Premature Ovarian Failure.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCO, PCOD, PCOS, or "Stein-Leventhal Syndrome") – Occurring in women, this condition is characterized by the excessive production of androgens (male sex hormones) and the presence of cysts in the ovaries. Some symptoms include excessive weight gain, acne and unusual hair growth although PCO can occur without symptoms.

Polyspermy -- More than one sperm entering and fertilizing an egg.

Post Coital Test (PCT) -- A microscopic examination of the cervical mucus. This test determines the compatibility between the woman's mucus and the man's semen. It is performed several hours after intercourse to and is used to detect sperm-mucus interaction problems, and the quality of the cervical mucus.

Preclinical Pregnancy – A pregnancy that ends before the next period is due. There are usually no pregnancy symptoms, but a blood test can reveal small amounts of the pregnancy hormone HCG. Also referred to as a “chemical pregnancy.”

Pre-embryo -- A fertilized egg up to 14 days after fertilization.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) -- The cessation of menses associated before age 40. Associated with high levels of gonadotropins and low levels of estrogen

Primary and secondary infertility – Primary infertility is the term used to describe a couple that has never been able to conceive a pregnancy, after a minimum of 1 year of attempting to do so through unprotected intercourse. Secondary infertility is the term used to describe couples who have previously been pregnant at least once, but have not been able to achieve another pregnancy.

Progesterone (P4) -- The hormone produced by the corpus luteum during the second half of a woman's cycle. This hormone thickens the lining of the uterus in preparation to receive the implantation of a fertilized egg. The amount in the bloodstream is not constant as it is released intermittently.

Progestin -- A synthetic progesterone (Provera).

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

Prostate Gland -- A gland encircling the male urethra that produces a third of the fluid in semen, including a chemical that liquefies the coagulated semen twenty minutes to one hour after entering the vagina.

Prostaglandins -- Hormone-like substances found in men and women. Prostaglandins may possibly interfere with the reproductive organs by causing muscular contractions or spasms.

Provera -- See Progestin.


Qualitative hCG Test -- A pregnancy test that supplies a yes or no answer. Home pregnancy tests are qualitative.

Quantitative hCG Test -- A pregnancy test in which the units of hCG are measured.


RE -- See Reproductive Endocrinologist.

Recombinant (Human) Follicle Stimulating Hormone (R-FSH, R-hFSH) – A follicle genetically engineered to stimulate hormones as opposed to FSH extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women. Brand names are Gonal-F and Follistim.

Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) -- A medical specialty combining obstetrics and gynecology with endocrinology to treat reproductive disorders.

Reproductive Immunologist (RI) -- A medical specialty combining obstetrics and gynecology with immunology to treat reproductive disorders that are related to immune problems.

Reproductive Surgeon -- An ob-gyn or urologist who specializes in the surgical correction of anatomical disorders that affect reproductive function.

R-FSH, R-hFSH -- See Recombinant (Human) Follicle Stimulating Hormone.

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

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

Retroverted Uterus -- Uterus that is tilted back toward the rectum.

Reversal -- Term used in infertility for undoing a sterilization procedure such as a tubal ligation or vasectomy.

Rh Factor -- Genetically determined antigens present in the red blood cells of most persons with the capability to induce immunologic reactions. If a woman is Rh negative and her husband is Rh positive, she may have Rh incompatibility problems. After the first pregnancy, the Rh factor enters the Rh-negative mother's circulatory system during the delivery (or miscarriage) of a child who has inherited the Rh factor from his father. The mother's body then produces antibodies. If she becomes pregnant with another Rh-positive baby, the antibodies cross the placenta and attack the baby's red blood cells, causing mild to serious anemia in the baby.

Rhogam (Anti-D) -- an immunization given to Rh-negative women after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or live birth to prevent the production of antibodies in any Rh-positive babies they may have in future pregnancies.


Salpingectomy -- Surgical removal of the fallopian tube.

Salpingitis -- An inflammation of one or both fallopian tubes.

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

Salpingo-oophorectomy -- Surgical removal of the fallopian tube and ovary.

Salpingostomy -- A surgical incision made in a fallopian tube, as in to repair a tube or to remove an ectopic pregnancy.

Secondary Infertility (SI) – Occurs when a couple cannot achieve a second pregnancy. Includes couples for whom the pregnancy did not go to term. The common definition refers to a couple which has one biological child (or more) but is unable to conceive another.

Secondary Sex Characteristics -- The physical qualities that distinguish a man from a woman. For example, a beard, developed breasts and deep voice.

Semen (Seminal Fluid) -- The ejaculate fluid containing sperm and secretion from the testicles, prostate, and seminal vesicles. The semen provides nourishment and protection for the sperm and a medium in which the sperm can travel to the woman's vagina.

Semen Viscosity -- The liquid flow or consistency of the semen.

Semen Analysis (SA) -- A laboratory test used to assess the quality of semen. Assesses sperm quantity, concentration, morphology (form) and motility. This test also measures semen (fluid) volume and whether or not white blood cells are present.

Seminal Vesicles – A pair of pouch-like glands at the base of the bladder that produce much of the semen volume.

Seminiferous Tubules -- The network of tubes in the testicles in which the sperm are formed, mature and move toward the epididymis.

Septate Uterus -- A uterus divided into right and left halves by a wall of tissue (septum). A septate uterus increases the chance of early pregnancy loss.

Sertoli (Nurse) Cells -- Testicular cells responsible for providing nurishment to the spermatids (immature sperm). Secretes inhibin, a feedback hormone, which regulates FSH production by the pituitary gland. When stimulated by FSH, the Sertoli cell initiates spermatogenesis.

Serophene -- Brand name for clomiphene citrate. See Clomid.

SHG -- See Sonohysterogram.

Short Luteal Phase -- See Luteal Phase Defect.

SI -- See Secondary Infertility.

Sonogram (Ultrasound) – A test performed to view images of internal body parts. High-frequency sound waves are used to create the images. Physicians can then detect and count follicle growth (and disappearance) in many fertility treatments. Also used to detect and monitor pregnancy.

Sonohystogram -- An ultrasound/sonogram in which saline is injected into the uterus to check for abnormalities. Similarity to a hysterosalpingogram but does not require iodine dye injection or radiation.

SPA -- See Sperm Penetration Assay.

Sperm -- The cell that carries the male's genetic information to the female's egg. The male gamete. The male reproductive cell.

Sperm Count -- The number of sperm in an ejaculate. Also referred to as sperm concentration or sperm density and given as the number of sperm per milliliter.

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

Sperm Morphology -- A semen analysis factor that indicates the number or percentage of sperm in the sample that appear to have been formed normally. Abnormal morphology includes sperm with kinked, doubled, or coiled tails. The higher the percentage of misshapen sperm, the less likely fertilization can take place.

Sperm Motility -- The ability of sperm to swim. When a sperm has poor motility it usually means it has a difficult time swimming toward their goal, the goal being the egg.

Sperm Penetration -- The ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg.

Sperm Penetration Assay (SPA) -- A test performed to measure the ability of sperm to penetrate a hamster egg that has been stripped of the Zona Pellucida (outer membrane).

Sperm Washing -- A laboratory procedure that separates sperm from semen and separates motile sperm from non-motile sperm.

Split Ejaculate -- A method used to concentrate the sperm for insemination. The semen is separated into two portions, those being the first portion of the ejaculate, which is rich in sperm, and the second portion, containing mostly seminal fluid.

Spontaneous Miscarriage/Spontaneous Abortion -- An unplanned and sudden end to a pregnancy during the first 20 weeks.

Stein-Leventhal Disease: -- Another name for Polycystic Ovaries.

Superovulation -- Using fertility medications to stimulate the growth of multiple follicles for ovulation.


T4 – See Thyroxine..

TeBG -- See Testosterone-estradiol-binding Globulin.

Teratogen -- Any substance capable of causing malformations in a developing embryo.

TESA -- See Testicular Sperm Aspiration.

TESE -- See Testicular Sperm Extraction.

Testes -- The two male sexual glands in the scrotum. They produce the male hormone testosterone and the male reproductive cells (sperm).

Testicle -- The male gonad. Produces sperm and male sex hormones.

Testicular Biopsy -- A minor surgical procedure to examine testicular tissue. This test is used to diagnose male fertility problems when no other means is available (this is because the biopsy procedure itself may cause testicular damage).

Testicular Enzyme Defect -- A congenital enzyme defect that prevents the testes from responding to hormonal stimulation. Result in oligospermia or azozoospermia.

Testicular Failure – In its primary form, a congenital, developmental or genetic error that prevents sperm production. In its secondary form the damage occurred to the testes by other influences for example, drugs, prolonged exposure to toxic substances, or a varicocoele.

Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA) – Obtaining small amounts of sperm through a needle biopsy. A small incision is made in the scrotal skin and a spring loaded needle is fired through the testicle.

Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) -- An open biopsy where a small piece of testicular tissue is removed through a skin incision. The tissue is separated into small pieces. Sperm are then extracted from the surrounding testicular tissue. This procedure can be performed by using local anesthetics. Sperm can be frozen for future use.

Testosterone -- The male hormone responsible for the formation of secondary sex characteristics and for supporting the sex drive.

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

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) -- Also referred to as thyrotropin. A hormone produced by the pituitary gland (at the base of the brain) that promotes the growth of the thyroid gland (in the neck) and stimulates it.

Thyroxine (T4) -- A chemical substance produced by the thyroid gland. Thyroxine (T4) is one of the most important thyroid hormones. Thyroid hormones are essential for the function of every cell in the body. They help regulate growth and the rate of chemical reactions (metabolism) in the body.

Tipped Uterus -- When the uterus is tipped toward a woman's back instead of tilting forward as is more common. This alone should not be considered a cause of infertility.

TORCH Organisms -- Toxoplasmosis, syphillis, rubella, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex, and other diseases which may harm the embryo/fetus.

Transvaginal --- Through the vagina or across its wall as in a surgical procedure.

Transvaginal Ultrasound -- An ultrasound examination performed by means of inserting a probe into the vagina. Common procedure for viewing follicle growth.

TRH -- See Thyroid-releasing Hormone.

Triphasic -- Having three phases. Used to describe a basal body temperature chart that shows three levels of temperatures: low temperatures before ovulation, an increase of at least .4 degrees Fahrenheit after ovulation, and then another increase that may coincide with the implantation of an embryo.

TSH -- See Thyroid Stimulating Hormone.

Tubal Embryo Transfer (TET) -- The placement of an embryo inside the fallopian tube after in vitro fertilization. The process is meant to mimic the natural process of a fertilized embryo traveling down the tube and implanting in the uterus.

Tubal Patency -- Open and unobstructed fallopian tubes.

Tubal Pregnancy -- See ectopic pregnancy.

Tuboplasty -- Plastic or reconstructive surgery on the fallopian tubes in order to correct abnormalities which may lead to blockage or otherwise cause infertility.

Tubotubal Anastomosis -- Surgery performed to remove a diseased portion of the fallopian tube and reconnect the two ends. Can be used in sterilization 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. Karyotyping will reveal that this woman has only one female (X) chromosome instead of two.


Ultrasound -- See sonogram.

Unexplained infertility --- Unexplained infertility is a diagnosis of exclusion, once a couple have both been evaluated. The reasons for infertility are unable to be determined. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of infertile couples will receive the diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

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

Urogynecology – the study of urologic disorders.

Urologist -- A physician specializing in the urinary tract and male reproductive tract.

Uterus -- The female reproductive organ that houses and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy. The womb.


Vaginitis - An inflammation of the vagina. Yeast, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomonas infections of the vagina. Frequent vaginitis may indicate the presence of pelvic adhesions and tubal blockage that may be caused by chlamydia or other infections. Vaginitis may interfere with sperm penetration of the cervical mucus. The symptoms may even interfere with the ability and desire to have intercourse.

Varicocele - Varicose veins in the scrotum. This condition causes swollen vessels surrounding the testicles that create a pool of blood, elevating the scrotal temperature. Varicocele is a major cause of male infertility.

Vas Deferens - The pair of thick-walled tubes through which sperm move from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct in the prostate. These tubes are severed during a vasectomy .

Vasectomy - The surgical separation of both vas deferens. A procedure used for birth control/sterilization.

Venereal Disease - Sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Many of these diseases will interfere with fertility and some will cause severe illness.

Vulva - Female's external genitalia.


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


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


ZIFT -- See Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer.

Zygote -- A fertilized egg which has not yet divided.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT) -- An ART in which eggs are removed from a woman's ovaries, fertilized with the man's sperm in a lab dish and the resulting Zygotes are transferred into the woman's fallopian tubes during a minor surgical procedure.