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Adhesion – Scar tissue occurring in the abdominal cavity, fallopian tubes or inside the uterus. Adhesions can interfere with transport of the egg and implantation of the embryo in the uterus.
Agglutination – The sticking together of sperm cells that can impair or prevent fertilization.
Andrology – The branch of medicine concerned with diseases peculiar to the male sex, particularly infertility and sexual dysfunction.
Amenorrhea - This term refers to a woman who has never had a period.
Anovulation – Failure to ovulate.
Antisperm antibodies – An immune response that causes the body to attack, kill or immobilize sperm, or prevent sperm from binding to and fertilizing the egg. Both men and women can develop antibodies to sperm.
Aspirate – To remove fluid by suction.
Assisted hatching – The thinning or making of a small hole in the zona pellucida (a protective layer) that surrounds the embryo.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) – The generic term for all “high-tech” infertility treatments, including ovarian stimulation; egg, sperm, or embryo manipulation in the laboratory; and replacement of eggs, sperm or embryos back to the women’s reproductive system.
Asthenozoospermis – Low sperm motility of less than 50 percent motile sperm in the ejaculate.
Azoospermia – Lack of sperm.
Blastocyst – The developmental stage whereby the morula cavitates produces a fluid filled cavity or cyst. The blastocyst becomes more specialized with two cell populations differentiating into the outer trophoblast layer containing a smaller inner mass of cells termed the inner cell mass. Once the blastocyst hatches out of the zona pellucida shell the trophoblast layer will come in contact with the uterine lining to establish implantation and become the placenta. The inner cell mass will become the fetus.
Capacitation – The changes sperm go through after ejaculation that enables them to fertilize an egg.
Catheter – A plastic tube used for medical procedures.
Cervical stenosis – Blockage of the cervical canal from a congenital defect or from complications of surgical procedures.
Cleavage – The process of cellular division. When an embryo has cleaved, it has started to grow.
Cryopreservation – To freeze sperm or embryos to maintain or preserve them for the future.
Cumulus mass – The group of cells that surrounds an egg.
Cumulus oophorus – The protective layer of cells surrounding the egg when the egg is normally ovulated. The cumulus cells must be enzymatically removed in the lab prior to ICSI and also allows for evaluation of egg maturity. Cumulus cells are left in tact when conventional insemination is performed in the Petri dish.
Ectopic pregnancy – A pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside of the uterus.
Egg retrieval – A procedure to collect eggs from the ovary using a long needle under ultrasound guidance to locate the follicles in the ovary.
Embryo – A fertilized egg.
Embryo Transfer (ET) – Placing embryos into the woman’s uterus after in vitro fertilization.
Endometriosis – A condition in which uterine tissue is found outside the uterus, like the abdominal cavity.
Endometrium – The lining of the uterus where the embryo should implant. It is shed during menstruation if the implantation does not occur.
Estradiol (E2) – A specific type of estrogen produced by the follicle and monitoring during treatment cycles.
Fallopian tubes – The two tubes attached to the uterus in which fertilization of the egg naturally occurs. The developing embryo then travels through the tube and into the uterus.
Fertilization – The process of sperm penetrating into the egg and fusion of the sperm and egg genetic material.
Fibroids – Tumors that grow in the muscular layer of the uterus. Fibroids are almost always benign. There may be one or many fibroids in the uterus, and can range in size from an apple seed to as large as a grapefruit.
Fimbria – The delicate ends of the fallopian tubes that help pick up the egg from the ovary.
Follicle – Fluid-filled sac in the ovary that contains a developing egg.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – A hormone either produced naturally by the pituitary or given as a medication (Gonal F/Follistim, Bravelle, Repronex, Menopur) which causes follicle growth and egg development within the ovary.
Gamete – A reproductive cell (eggs in a women and sperm in a man).
Gonadotropins – Natural occurring hormones that control reproductive function in both the male and the female, like Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone. During an ovarian stimulation cycle these hormones are injected to stimulate the ovary to produce follicles. These hormones come in two forms: menopausal hormones extracted from the urine of post-menopausal women or recombinant hormones produced from genetically engineered cells. Menopausal hormones typically contain both FSH and LH but recombinant hormones exist as a purified extract of either FSH or LH.
Gradient centrifugation – A laboratory method whereby sperm cell are centrifuged through layers of media of differing viscosities in order to harvest only motile sperm from semen. The enriched motile fraction is then washed, diluted, and used for insemination.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) – A hormone secreted by pregnancy. The presence of this hormone in the woman’s blood or urine represents a positive pregnancy test. HCG is also given as a medication in ART cycle to trigger egg maturation and to mimic an LH surge.
Hysteroscopy – A thin telescope inserted through the cervix into the uterus.
Implantation – The process of embryo attachment to the uterine lining or endometrium.
Incubate – To maintain eggs, sperm or embryos under controlled conditions (temperature, humidity and gaseous environment) favorable for development.
Infertility – The inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex.
Insemination – Placing eggs and sperm together in order for fertilization to occur.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – A micromanipulation technique that involves the selection of a single sperm and injecting into a single egg. ICSI is utilized to overcome male infertility associated with poor sperm parameters or is utilized in conjunction with extracting sperm directly from the testes or epididymis.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – Performed by threading a very thin flexible catheter into the cervix and injecting washed sperm directly into the uterus.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – An infertility treatment that includes ovarian stimulation, egg retrieval and sperm collection. Eggs and sperm are then placed together in the laboratory, and therefore, fertilization takes place outside of the women’s body. Resulting embryos are later transferred to her uterus.
Laparoscopy – Laparoscopy is direct visualization of the peritoneal cavity, ovaries, outside of the tubes and uterus by using a laparoscopy. The laparoscopy is an instrument somewhat like a miniature telescope with a fiber optic system which brings light into the abdomen.
Luteinizing Hormone (LH) – A hormone either produced naturally by the pituitary or given as a medication that causes follicle development, egg maturity and ovulation.
Maturation arrest – A testicular condition in which at one stage of sperm production all sperm development halts throughout all testicular tubules.
Media – A liquid nutrient system in which eggs, sperm and embryos are cultured.
Micromanipulation – Micromanipulation is the technique where sperm, eggs and embryos can be handled on an inverted microscope stage, performing minute procedures at the microscopic level via joysticks that hydraulically operate glass microtools. ICSI, assisted hatching and embryo biopsy are all examples of micromanipulation.
Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) – Obtains sperm from the epididymis (the organ where sperm are stored after exiting the testis and before entering the vas deferens) in men with a reproductive tract blockage or congenital absence of the vas deferens. An incision is made in the scrotal skin, where a microscope is used to place an aspiration needle in order to collect and then examine fluid for the presence of sperm. This process continues until viable sperm are found. This process takes place in an operating room setting.
Morula – As the embryo develops it occupies the same space within the zona pellucida but increases in cell number while decreasing the cell. By day four of culture the embryo is a ball of cells comprised of 16-32 cells.
Oligospermia – Low sperm count defined by a concentration of less than 20 million sperm per cc of semen.
Oocyte – An egg.
Ovum – An egg (ova is the plural).
Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) – A needle is placed through the scrotal skin and into the epididymis to aspirate and retrieve sperm. This procedure is not considered a surgical procedure and can be performed in an office setting.
Polar body – A structure within the egg that contains excess genetic materials. Embryologists look for this structure to evaluate egg quality and maturity.
Polyspermia – Fertilization of an egg by more than one sperm. This condition is not compatible with normal embryonic development.
Progesterone – A hormone secreted by the ovaries after ovulation which is necessary for uterine lining development. Progesterone is produced by the follicle after ovulation and later by the placenta. It can be given as a medication when needed.
Pronuclei – Small spherical structures within the one cell embryo which contains genetic material. Once fertilization has occurred, two pronuclei are visible, one from the egg and one from the sperm.
Retrieval – A surgical procedure (ultrasound-directed vaginal aspiration) that is performed in order to harvest or collect eggs for IVF.
Retrograde ejaculation – A condition which causes sperm to be ejaculated into the bladder.
Semen analysis – The assessment of semen quality whereby sperm quantity, concentration, motility and morphology are evaluated.
Seminiferous tubes – The testicular tubules in which the sperm are produced and mature before moving towards the epididymis.
Sperm banking/Donor sperm – The collecting, freezing and storage of sperm.
Sperm morphology – Size and shape of sperm. Indicates the percentage of sperm that appear normal when semen is stained and viewed under a microscope.
Sperm motility – The ability for sperm to swim.
Swim-up – A lab technique of processing semen that separates the sperm from the remainder of the seminal fluid. The most motile, active sperm can then be used for insemination.
Test tube baby – Babies that are created in a test tube by combining one egg cell and one sperm cell. The baby is then implanted in the uterus. Today, gametes and embryos are cultured in Petri dishes instead of a test tube.
Testicular biopsy – The removal of a small sample of tissue from one or both testicles to examine under a microscope and evaluate sperm production and sperm maturity.
Testicular sperm aspiration – A procedure used to obtain viable sperm from a testicle that involves aspirating fluid from the testes as apposed to a biopsy which involves the removal of a piece of testicular tissue.
Tubal reversal/Untying tubes – Rejoining previously severed fallopian tubes in order to give a woman the chance to conceive by natural means.
Ultrasound – A means to visualize the reproductive organs; for example, to monitor follicular development and to examine the tubes and uterus. The instrument works by bouncing sound waves off the organs. A picture displayed on a TV screen shows the internal organs. Ultrasound guidance is also used during the egg retrieval and for the embryo transfer.
Vas Deferens – One of the tubes through which the sperm move from the testicles (epididymis) toward the seminal vesicles and prostate gland. These tubes are severed during a vasectomy performed for birth control. Congenital absence of the vas can occur at birth preventing ejaculation of sperm. This condition can be associated with the gene for cystic fibrosis.
Zona pellucida – The outer membrane of the egg which the sperm must penetrate prior to fertilization.
Zygote – A fertilized egg.