Fertility terms to know before your first visit
When you set your first appointment with a fertility doctor, it can be intimidating. Understanding key fertility terms will assist with guiding the conversation at your consultation and provide comfort as a resource tool you can come back to when you want to know more. Here are common fertility terms and their definitions related to fertility care:
Artificial Insemination with Donor Sperm (AID)
Donor sperm used for insemination to assist in conception.
A procedure performed in an IVF lab. The layer around the embryo is thinned to assist with implantation in the uterus. There are certain indications for using this procedure and some include: advanced maternal age, elevated hormone levels, and unexplained implantation failure.
A procedure that is performed to decrease the chance of a miscarriage due to an incompetent cervix. A small stitch is placed in the cervix to prevent early dilatation. This can be accomplished as an outpatient procedure.
The cylindrical-shaped neck of tissue that connects the uterus to the vagina. The cervix closes during pregnancy but dilates during labor so a baby can be delivered.
A technique that stores embryos, eggs or sperm at very low temperatures for transfer at a later date to maintain their viability.
Eggs donated by a fertile woman for conception planning for a woman with fertility issues.
An important part of IVF treatments, egg retrieval occurs when egg follicles grow to a specific size (stimulated by hormones) and then are retrieved from a woman’s ovaries, usually with the help of a transvaginal ultrasound-guided needle. This process enables the fertilization of embryos outside the human body.
The early stage of a developing baby, and in humans, considered from fertilization to the end of the eighth week of pregnancy.
A women’s medical condition in which the lining of the uterus, a tissue called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus, often around places like the fallopian tubes, ovaries or along the pelvis. When endometrium breaks down, like the regular lining in the uterus that produces monthly menstruation, it builds with nowhere to go and can cause estrogen-dependent cysts, heavy periods, severe cramps and even infertility.
The process by which sperm penetrates an egg, resulting in the combination of genetic material from both mother and father, formalizing the creation of an embryo. At the moment of fertilization, the genes and sex of the baby are permanently set. If fertilization happens naturally, sperm travel down the fallopian tube to find the egg. If fertilization happens outside the body, there are a number of fertilization methods that can be employed in a laboratory setting.
The follicle is a fluid-filled sac in the ovary where an immature egg is grown and protected before being released during ovulation. During ovulation, a mature egg is released from a follicle. Although several follicles develop during each cycle, only one ovulates an egg. When the egg has been ovulated, this empty follicle becomes a corpus luteum, which secretes estrogen and progesterone that prepares the female for the opportunity to conceive.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
An important chemical produced by the pituitary gland, FSH is critical in determining fertility issues for both partners. For women, FSH regulates the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries, and in men, FSH controls sperm production. FSH levels can determine if male or female sex organs are functioning optimally.
The condition of not being able to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. Usually, due to complications in the reproductive system of a woman, man or both partners, infertility can affect people both in prime childbearing years and older. If you are under 35 and have not been able to conceive after 12 months of trying or over 35 and have not been able to conceive after six months of trying, you may want to visit a reproductive endocrinologist to fully assess and diagnose health variables contributing to infertility.
Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
A process that entails a single sperm inserted into a single egg to achieve fertilization and is commonly used when there is a diagnosed sperm complication.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
This more successful artificial insemination technique places concentrated sperm directly into a woman’s uterus close to the time an ovary releases eggs for fertilization. Depending on fertility treatments, IUI can be timed with a woman’s typical menstrual cycle or with fertility medications.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In Vitro Fertilization is the most effective form of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). This complex procedure involves combining sperm and eggs outside the body in a laboratory to cause fertilization. Once an embryo or embryos form, then the embryo is placed into a woman’s uterus to grow inside the body naturally.
Laparoscopic Abdominal and Cervical Cerclage
An outpatient procedure that decreases the chance of a miscarriage or premature delivery by keeping the cervix safely closed during pregnancy. The cerclage may be done laparoscopically through the abdominal or with a cervical approach.
Laser-Assisted Embryo Hatching
A tough protective coating called the zona pellucida surrounds the embryo. The embryo must escape, or hatch, from this coating to implant itself successfully in the uterus. A cutting-edge laser assists the embryo in breaking out of its shell by thinning out the coating. Some reasons for using this procedure include advanced childbearing age, elevated hormone levels and unexplained implantation failure.
A surgical procedure using a 3D high-definition da Vinci vision system that removes uterine fibroid tumors using robotic instruments while still protecting the uterus.
Also called an egg or ovum, the oocyte is a female reproductive cell.
The pool of eggs in a woman’s ovaries at any given time, a key to fertility health. A woman’s ovarian reserve decreases as she ages. A diminished ovarian reserve often is common in women in older childbearing ages or with conditions like endometriosis.
The process in which a mature ovarian follicle releases an egg during the female menstrual cycle. During this process, the egg travels down the fallopian tube where it may meet sperm and become fertilized.
The purpose of ovulation induction is to stimulate one or more follicles on the ovaries to encourage ovulation with the help of medications. Irregular cycles or the absence of menstruation are indicators that ovulation induction may be necessary.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
A condition that affects up to 20 percent of women with ovulatory dysfunction. Characterized by numerous small cysts located along the outer edge of the ovaries, PCOS puts many women at a higher risk of developing endometrial cancer along with conditions related to metabolic syndromes like type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Symptoms include infrequent menstrual periods or no periods at all, pregnancy complications and unexplained weight gains.
Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosing (PGD)
When one or both parents have a high risk of transmitting a genetic abnormality, testing is conducted on an embryo to determine if it has inherited a genetic defect. PGD is generally a diagnosis of a single gene defect. The procedure, carried out by an embryologist, is done in conjunction with an egg retrieval using a single embryo cell.
Outpatient microsurgery that reconnects blocked sections of a woman’s fallopian tubes, following a previous tubal ligation, allowing eggs to move through the tube or sperm to travel up the fallopian tubes to join an egg. Robotic instrumentation, aided by the da Vinci system, enhances surgery’s precision.
A microsurgery technique used to repair damage to the fallopian tubes in order to make it more likely a woman will become pregnant.
Also known as the womb, the major female hormone-responsive reproductive sex organ in a woman’s lower abdomen that carries a developing fetus during pregnancy.