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Fertility Terms

A small ‘cap’ overlaying the sperm head.

Acrosome Reaction
The loss of the acrosome that is necessary for successful fertilisation. Normally only about 10% of sperm undergo an acrosome reaction.

In infertility, the sticking of ovaries, tubes, uterus, bowel and abdominal lining to one or more of each other so as to affect fertility. May follow pelvic surgery, tubal infections or endometriosis Androgens Male sex hormones.

The absence of ovulation. A period may still occur.

In infertility, a compound in the blood, mucus or semen which interferes with normal sperm function.

The absence of sperm in seminal fluid due to blockage of sperm ducts or impairment of sperm production.

Biochemical Pregnancy
Is a positive hCG blood test with no evidence of a gestation sac on Ultrasound.

A fine tubing especially developed for the transporting of eggs, sperm or embryos into the woman’s fallopian tubes or uterus.

Cervical Mucus
Secretions produced by the cervix that, at the time of ovulation, assist the passage of sperm through the cervix.

The lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina.

Clinical Pregnancy
Presence of a gestation sac at Ultrasound.

Clinical Pregnancy – Viable
A positive hCG blood test and the presence of a foetal heartbeat at Ultrasound.

Donor Egg (Oocyte)
Eggs are taken from one woman and donated to another.

Donor Sperm
Sperm produced from a man who is not the woman’s partner to be used for artificial insemination or for IVF/GIFT.

Down Regulation
This refers to the “shutting off” of the messages from the pituitary gland (part of the brain) to the ovary that enables complete control over the events in a cycle.

Ectopic Pregnancy
A pregnancy in which the fertilised egg implants anywhere but in the uterine cavity, usually in the fallopian tubes, or rarely the ovary or the abdominal cavity.

Semen ejected from the penis.

Embryo Cryopreservation
The deep-freezing of embryos not transferred fresh.

Embryo Transfer (ET)
The placement of embryos into the uterus using a fine catheter.

Endocrinology is a branch of medicine dealing with disorders of the endocrine system and its specific secretions called hormones. Hormones are molecules that act as signals from one type of cells to another. Most hormones reach their targets via the blood. Although every organ system secretes and responds to hormones (including the brain, lungs, heart, intestine, skin, and the kidney), the clinical specialty of endocrinology focuses primarily on the endocrine organs, meaning the organs whose primary func:on is hormone secretion. These organs include the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries and testes, and pancreas.

A presence of endometrial issue (the normal uterine lining) in abnormal locations such as the tubes, ovaries and peritoneal cavity (abdomen).

The lining of the uterus which grows and is shed each cycle.

A special duct at the back of the testis for the storage of sperm as they mature.

Fallopian Tubes
A pair of narrow tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the body of the uterus. Fertilisation occurs in the outer end of the tube.

The penetration of the egg by the sperm.

Fertility is the ability of people or animals to produce healthy offspring in abundance. In the English language, the term was originally applied only to females, but increasingly is applied to males as well, as common understanding of reproductive mechanisms increases and the importance of the male role is better known. The opposite of fertility is infertility. Human fertility depends on factors of nutrition, sexual behavior, culture, instinct, endocrinology, timing, economics, way of life, and emotions. Animal fertility is no less complex and may display astounding mechanisms.

A benign tumor of fibrous issue that may occur in the uterine wall. Fibroids can be totally without symptoms or may cause abnormal menstrual patterns. They rarely cause infertility.

Fimbriated Ends
The fringed and flaring outer ends of the fallopian tubes that pick up the sticky egg from the ovary.

The developing human after embryo stage from the ninth week of pregnancy to birth.

The cells surrounding a developing egg in the ovary.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
A hormone naturally produced by the pituitary gland which is essen:al for the growth of ovarian follicles in the woman and sperm production in the man.

Follicular Phase
The first half of the menstrual cycle when ovarian follicular development occurs.

The male or female reproductive cells, the sperm or the egg.

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)
Mimics natural conception more closely than IVF. In GIFT, eggs are collected from the female partner but instead of being taken to the laboratory for fertilisation, the eggs plus the previously collected and washed sperm are placed directly into a normal fallopian tube using a fine sterile plastic tube.

A hormone that is capable of stimulating the testicles or ovaries to produce sperm or egg respectively.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
Antibodies Test is done on male and female to test for exposure to the AIDS virus. A positive test does not necessarily mean that exposure to AIDS has occurred or that the person has or will get AIDS. A positive test may mean that the antibody is present in the blood, which means that, even though the person may not be sick, he/she may still infect others by sharing needles or having sex without condoms. If a woman is pregnant and is HIV positive, there is a strong chance that the baby will be infected with the AIDS virus. All couples having IVF/GIFT are asked to have this test.

A chemical produced by an endocrine gland in the body that circulates in the blood and has widespread action throughout the body.

Hormone Assay
The measurement of hormones present in the blood.

The embedding of an embryo in the endometrium of the uterus.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
IVF is the procedure by which the egg from a female partner and the sperm from a male partner are mixed in the laboratory. Provided fertilisation occurs in the laboratory and the resultant embryos look normal, they are transferred into the uterus (womb) of the female. In natural conception, the egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tube and fertilisation and early development occurs in the tube before implantation in the uterus.

The inability to conceive or carry a baby to term after twelve months of unprotected sex.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
This term refers to the direct injection of a single sperm into the substance (called cytoplasm) of the egg thus the term ICSI refers to Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. The microinjection procedure is used for the more severe forms of male infertility or after a cycle with poor fertilisation.

A surgical investigation using a telescope-like instrument to have a look at the pelvic organs.

Luteal Phase
The days of a menstrual cycle following ovulation up to menstruation.

Luteinising Hormone (LH)
A hormone secreted by the anterior lobe of the pituitary. Its main function is to mature and release the egg (LH surge).

Luteinising Hormone Surge (LH Surge)
The release of large amounts of Luteinising Hormone (LH) that triggers ovulation in a normal menstrual cycle.

Male Factor
When the male sperm is below normal limits and special techniques are required to prepare the semen for fertilisation.

Maternal Serum
Blood drawn from the woman that is added to the solution used to culture embryos.

The direct injection of a sperm into the substance of the egg to produce a fertilisation. This technique is used when there is very few sperm in the ejaculate when the sperm show poor motility or abnormal structure or have been obtained from the testis or have previously failed to fertilise in conventional IVF treatments. This technique is also called ICSI, which stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection where the term “cytoplasm” refers to the substance of the egg.

A hormone produced by the ovary in increasing amounts prior to ovulation.

An abnormally low number of sperm in the seminal fluid.OocyteThe egg cell produced in the ovary also called ovum, egg or gamete.

Ovaries are part of the vertebrate female reproductive system. Normally, a female will have two ovaries, each performing two major functions: producing eggs, or (exocrine function) and secreting hormones, or (endocrine function). Ovaries in females are homologous to testes in males. The term gonads refer to the ovaries in females and testes in males. Most birds have only one functioning ovary; snakes have two, one in front of the other.

The release of a mature egg from the ovary.

Ovulation Induction (OI)
The use of medication to promote ovulation in women who normally do not ovulate.

Papanicolaou Smear (Pap Smear)
An important screening test for cancer of the cervix. This painless test is recommended every two years for all women. Women having IVF/GIFT treatment must continue to have these tests, as they are not performed as a routine part of treatment for infertility.

A gland located at the base of the human brain that secretes a number of important hormones related to normal growth, development, and reproduction.

Preimplantation Gene+c Diagnosis (PGD)
A diagnostic test performed on an embryo prior to transfer to ensure it does not have any diseased cells.

Hormone produced by corpus luteum after ovulation and the placenta during pregnancy. Progesterone is important for its role in preparing the lining of the womb for implantation of the fertilised egg.

Sperm-Zona Binding
Sperm must bind to the zona before they can fertilise. Tests have been developed to determine whether this function is taking place.

Split Ejaculate
A method of collecting a semen specimen so that the first half of the ejaculate is caught in one container and the rest in a second container. The first half may contain the vast majority of the sperm, which can then be used to inseminate the woman in appropriate cases.

The male sex gland that produces testosterone and sperm.

Testicular Biopsy
Open – the removal of testicular tissue (0.5ml) from men with very poor sperm production and the isolation of sperm for ICSI. This procedure is performed under a general anaesthetic. Fine needle – this is performed under a local anaesthetic and involves the insertion of a needle into the testis to remove a small fragment of sperm tubule in cases of obstruction. In this setting an adequate number of sperm can be obtained for use in ICSI.

Vaginal Ultrasound
A technique used to visualise the female reproductive system. This ultrasound can detect the presence of cysts and other problems, follicles or pregnancy.

Zona Pellucida
The outer protective coat of the egg.

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