Glossary of Medical Terms

Andrology: the study of sperm. In reference to the Andrology Lab, this is where semen analysis and sperm preparation for treatment will occur. All hormonal testing will be run in this laboratory.

Artificial insemination (AI): placing sperm in the reproductive tract of a woman by means other than intercourse. Intrauterine insemination (placing the sperm in the uterus) is the primary method of AI used.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): all treatments that include handling eggs, sperm and/or embryos in the laboratory. This included in vitro fertilization, oocyte donation, and gestational surrogacy. It also includes specific  micromanipulation techniques of the gametes/embryos such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection, assisted hatching,  and embryo biopsy for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis / screening

Birth defects of the female reproductive tract:  birth defects of the female reproductive tract are present in 1/100 to 1/1000 women. Severe defects usually leave the woman permanently infertile. However, the most common defects cause pregnancy loss and are often amenable to surgical correction.

Cryopreservation (gametes, embryos): freezing of sperm, oocytes or embryos to maintain their viability so that they may be used for achieving pregnancy in the future. Sperm and embryo freezing are established and successful technologies, while oocyte freezing remains experimental (but not for long).

Embryology: the study of embryonic development. In reference to the Embryology Laboratory, it is where the oocytes and sperm are combined; embryos develop and are prepared for transfer to the uterus or for cryopreservation.  This preparation may include micromanipulation, biopsy and testing.

Fertility preservation for cancer patients: with improvement in cancer detection and treatment, many cancer patients are surviving to live normal lives. However, many cancer treatments can significantly disrupt reproductive function.  There are a variety of options that may be helpful to cancer patients, including medical and surgical treatments, cryopreservation of gametes or embryos and third party reproduction.

Follicle: a small fluid filled sac in the ovary containing the egg (oocyte)

Gamete: the sex cells (sperm and oocytes). Contain ½ the number of chromosomes of other cells in the body.

Genetic disorders: disorders of the chromosomes or genes on the chromosomes. These may be structural (problems with the structure of the chromosome)  or functional (problems with the function of a gene on a chromosome) in nature.

Gestational Carrier /Surrogacy: A gestational carrier is a woman who carries and delivers a baby for an infertile couple and is not genetically related to the child. This is done when the female partner of the intended parents does not have a uterus, the uterus is not capable of carrying a pregnancy or she has a medical condition that makes pregnancy life threatening.

Hysterosalpingography (HSG): an x-ray test in which a fluid is injected into the uterus to demonstrate if the internal contours of the uterus are normal and if the fallopian tubes are open.

Hysteroscopy:  a surgical procedure (diagnostic or treatment) in which a hysteroscope (a narrow lighted telescopic lens) inserted into the uterus (through the vaginal and cervix). If abnormalities are noted, the surgeon may usually treat the abnormalities seen through the hysteroscope.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection): a micromanipulation technique in which a single sperm is injected into an oocyte in an attempt to achieve fertilization. It is used primarily in situations where sperm quality is poor.

Infertility: The ability to attain a successful pregnancy in one year of unprotected intercourse. Evaluation is recommended at one year in women under 35 y.o., but only after 6 months in women 35 years and older.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): the primary assisted reproductive technology; in which an egg and sperm are combined in the laboratory to facilitate fertilization, with and appropriate number of subsequent embryos being transferred to a woman’s uterus.

Laparoscopy: a surgical procedure (diagnostic or treatment) in which a laparoscope (a narrow lighted telescopic lens) inserted in through the navel to inspect the pelvic anatomy. If needed, additional small incisions (5-10mm) can be made to place other instruments, thus allowing the surgeon to treat abnormalities seen.

Minimally invasive surgery: surgical procedures that involve very small incisions or no incisions at all that allow for rapid recovery, and in some cases, better outcomes. Includes laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, and most sterilization reversals

Oocyte: (egg) the female sex cell. Are released from the follicles in the ovary

Oocyte Donation (egg donation): a variation of In Vitro Fertilization. The oocytes of a young woman are donated to a couple, combined with the husband’s sperm to form embryos. The embryos are subsequently transferred to the infertile woman’s uterus for the purpose of producing the pregnancy.  It is used when the infertile woman’s ovarian function and/or oocyte quality are insufficient to produce a pregnancy.

Ovulation induction: the use of medicines (ovulation induction agents i.e. “fertility drugs”) to stimulate development of a single follicle or multiple follicles. May be used alone, with intrauterine insemination or as part of an in vitro fertilization cycle.

Ovulatory and menstrual disorders: control of a woman’s reproductive process is complex and there are a variety of illnesses, hormonal abnormalities, and anatomic disorders that can alter function.  Gynecologists usually handle most of these issues, but more complex disorders are usually referred to reproductive endocrinologists.

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis / screening: The ability to diagnose certain genetic disorders or screen for chromosomal abnormalities in an embryo before it is transferred to the uterus.  Occurs as part of an in vitro fertilization cycle. Almost eliminates the possibility of a given genetic disorder and can reduce the risk of other problems (e.g. miscarriage, Down’s syndrome).

Recurrent pregnancy loss: Two or more consecutive first trimester miscarriages. Represents about 5% of women attaining pregnancy. Evaluation includes looking at uterine anatomy, hormonal function, parental genetics, the metabolic environment, infectious screening, and the immune system. For many couples, solutions are available to reduce the risk of loss in the future.

Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE): “A specialist in obstetrics and gynecology who is capable of managing complex problems relating to reproductive endocrinology and whose current professional activity involves the practice of reproductive endocrinology in a setting  where in essential diagnostic and therapeutic  resources are available and being used appropriately.” (American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology). RE’s  have completed medical school, a 4 yr residency, a 2-3 year fellowship and then written and oral board examinations in both general obstetrics and gynecology  and reproductive endocrinology. Only about ½ of the physicians completing fellowship have become board-certified as RE’s.

Reproductive sparing surgery:  surgery that improves or preserves reproductive function for a woman.

Saline sonography: an ultrasound test to evaluate the inside of the uterine cavity by placing a catheter in the uterus and injecting a saline solution to open up the endometrial cavity.

Third party reproduction: The involvement of an individual in addition to the infertile couple to help them achieve a successful pregnancy. This includes sperm donation, oocyte donation and the use of gestational carriers.