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IVF GLOSSARY   Term Definition  Andrologist A highly trained


A highly trained, sub-specialist urologist who deals with male infertility.

One of the androgens (male hormones) that are naturally present in women. (Other androgens include testosterone and DHEAS.) These hormones play an important role in ovulation. High levels of androgens in women may indicate an abnormality in the ovulation process.

Autoimmune disorders
When a person has an autoimmune disorder, immune cells mistakenly attack the body's own cells. Examples of autoimmune disorders are lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Grave's Disease. Some autoimmune factors, such as antiphospholipid antibodies, may affect fertility or pregnancy. Many IVF clinics test for autoimmune disorders. Treatment may consist of low-dose heparin (an anticoagulant), baby aspirin, or prednisone (a steroid).

Basal body temperature (BBT)
The body reaches a basal metabolic temperature early in the morning when we are at rest. Charting this temperature variation helps determine when ovulation occurs. The basal body temperature is measured with a special basal thermometer. For more information, see http://www.epigee.org/guide/nfpchart.html.

A hollow flexible tube that is passed into the body. In IVF, a special catheter is used to transfer fertilised embryos into the uterus.

CBC (complete blood count) A routine blood test is that analyses the three major types of cells in blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. A CBC is a general indicator of overall health.

The neck of the uterus, which creates an opening between the uterus and the vagina.

Chemical pregnancy
Very early pregnancy that is indicated through a positive pregnancy test only. When applied to IVF, a chemical pregnancy may not be a pregnancy at all, but rather the result of the hCG injection creating a false-positive pregnancy test. This term may also refer to a true chemical pregnancy that may or may not progress to a clinical pregnancy. When comparing IVF Success Rates, “Chemical Pregnancy Rates” are not very helpful.

Clinical pregnancy
Pregnancy in which the foetus shows on ultrasound at about seven weeks.

A professional counselor employed by (or referred by) the IVF clinic to help those going through treatment deal with the emotional stresses associated with infertility treatment.

DHEAS (dihydroeprandrostone)
One of the androgens (male hormones) that are naturally present in women. (Other androgens include testosterone and androstenedione.) These hormones play an important role in ovulation. High levels of androgens in women may indicate an abnormality in the ovulation process.

A condition in which the glucose (sugar) in the blood is too high because the body is unable to use it properly. Diabetes may be responsible for decreased fertility and increased incidence of miscarriage.

Ectopic pregnancy
A pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancies are usually resolved by medication that dissolves the pregnancy. In some instances, surgery is required. For more information about ectopic pregnancies, see http://www.Ectopic.org

Female cells containing 23 chromosomes that are stored in the ovaries. When fertilized by sperm, an egg forms an embryo. A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. Each month, an egg is released during ovulation. If it isn't fertilised, menstruation will occur about two weeks later. During IVF, fertility drugs are given which cause the ovaries to produce numerous eggs instead of just one.

The early stage of development of a fertilised egg.

A scientist who is highly trained in embryo growth and development.

Endometrial biopsy
An outpatient procedure in which the doctor removes a small amount of tissue from the uterine lining (called the endometrium) to examine it for abnormalities. To control pain, local anaesthesia may be injected into the cervix. Bleeding or cramping may occur after this procedure.

A disease in which tissue similar to the uterine lining implants and grows outside the uterus.  Endometrial growths are often found on the ovaries, bowel, fallopian tubes, or vagina, but may also grow in other areas of the body. Endometriosis can cause a variety of symptoms, including pelvic pain, bowel changes, heavy menstrual bleeding, bloating, fatigue, and infertility. See www.EndometriosisZONE.org.

Fallopian tubes
Part of the woman's reproductive system, these are the tubes through which the eggs travel on their way from the ovaries to the uterus.

Fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries that contain the eggs.

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
A naturally occurring female hormone. In the infertility workup, this hormone is usually measured on Cycle Day 3 (Day 1 is the first day of bleeding). The FSH level in the blood gives the doctor information about ovarian reserve. FSH levels on Day 3 should be less than 13 miu/ml. A high Day 3 FSH level may indicate decreased ovarian reserve.

Free thyroxine (T4)
A blood test that checks proper thyroid and pituitary function. Thyroid disorders may affect ovulation.

Free thyroxine (T3)
A blood test that checks proper thyroid function. Thyroid disorders may affect ovulation.

GnRH analogue (gonadotrophin releasing hormone agonists)
A class of drugs that are used to prevent the ovaries from releasing eggs too early during an IVF cycle. There are two types of GnRH analogues: 1) GnRH agonists (GnRH-a), which cause a sharp increase of LH and FSH, and 2) GnRH antagonists, which cause immediate suppression of LH (i.e., no "flare"). Your doctor will choose the protocol that is right for you.

hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin)
A drug that triggers ovulation during an IVF cycle.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) A type of x-ray test in which dye is inserted into through cervix into the uterus and fallopian tubes. The x-ray is examined for any abnormalities, such as blocked fallopian tubes. This test may cause cramping. If abnormalities exist, the cramping may be severe.

Hysteroscopy (diagnostic)
If a hysterosalpingogram shows abnormalities, a diagnostic hysteroscopy may be ordered. During this outpatient procedure, the doctor inserts a thin telescope (called a hysteroscope) through the cervix and into the uterus to look for abnormalities. There is usually very little pain associated with a diagnostic hysteroscopy.

In vitro fertilisation
A complex process in which eggs are retrieved from the woman's ovaries and mixed with sperm in a dish in the laboratory. “In vitro” is a Latin term literally meaning “in glass,” even though the fertilisation takes place in a dish.

The inability to conceive after twelve months of unprotected intercourse. This timeframe may be shortened to six months if the woman is over 35 or if a known fertility disorder exists.

Infertility specialist
A physician who specialises in infertility. Most are board-certified reproductive endocrinologists, but some gynaecologists have considerable experience in infertility and may be considered experts in the field.

Intramuscular injection
A shot that is inserted into the muscle. Some IVF drugs are administered in the muscle, usually in the upper hip.

Lab technician
Assistants who may help draw and interpret laboratory blood tests, interpret semen analysis, and/or assist with IVF procedures.

A surgical procedure (usually outpatient) in which a small instrument called a laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a very small incision, often just above or below the naval. The laparoscope sends pictures to a TV monitor in the operating room, giving the doctor a clear view of the inside of the abdomen. During this procedure, the doctor looks for any abnormalities that might be causing infertility.

Live birth rate
The rate of live births per cycle. Also known as “take home rate.”

Luteinizing hormone (LH)
The female hormone that triggers ovulation. Abnormal levels may indicate lack of ovarian reserve. Doctors also often look at the LH:FSH ratio to determine if there are any ovulation problems or other conditions that may affect fertility.

Multiple pregnancies
A pregnancy that involves more than one foetus. For example, twins, triplets, and quadruplets are all multiple pregnancies. Multiple pregnancies are a risk associated with IVF.

Nurse coordinator
A specially trained nurse who specialises in IVF patient education. Also shows patients how to give shots and answers questions.

Oestradiol (E2)
A naturally occurring female hormone. In the infertility workup, this hormone is usually measured on Cycle Day 3 (Day 1 is the first day of bleeding). E2 and FSH are sometimes interpreted together to determine ovarian reserve and predict response to treatment. Tests for E2 are also done throughout IVF to monitor response to the fertility drugs.

Ovarian cyst
A fluid-filled sac inside the ovary. It may be completely normal (a functional cyst) that will disappear within a few cycles – or it may be the result of ovulation disorders or other conditions.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)
A potentially serious side effect of follicle stimulating drugs, occurring when too many follicles develop and hCG is given to release the eggs. If ultrasound monitoring shows that too many follicles have matured, OHSS may be prevented by withholding the hCG injection.

Two small organs that are part of the female reproductive system. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones.

A time in a woman's menstrual cycle when the egg is released from the follicle.

Ovulation predictor test
A home test kit that help women detect the “LH surge” in their urine. A surge in the level of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) causes ovulation.

Pap smear
A screening test for pre-cancerous changes of the uterine cervix. For more information about pap smears, Read an article by Dan Braun, MD "What a normal PAP Smear means".

Pelvic ultrasound
A relatively painless procedure in which the doctor checks for structural abnormalities or other problems in the female reproductive system. During an IVF cycle, frequent ultrasound scans are scheduled to provide essential information about the number of eggs that are developing.

Post-coital test
A test that is done in the doctor's office 8-12 hours after intercourse on the day of ovulation. During this test, the doctor removes a small amount of cervical mucus (the fluid at the opening of the cervix) and examines it under the microscope. The test shows the quality of the cervical mucus and reveals if the partner's sperm are able to progress through the cervical mucus.

The fertilised egg that is produced outside the uterus during IVF.

Premature menopause
Menopause that occurs naturally before the age of 40. Also known as primary ovarian failure.

A naturally-occurring hormone that is essential for normal reproductive function. During an IVF cycle, Progesterone is administered by injections or vaginal suppositories to prepare the uterine lining for implantation (pregnancy).

A hormone that stimulates the production of milk in breastfeeding women. Increased prolactin while a woman is not breastfeeding may interfere with ovulation and fertility.

Recurrent miscarriage
Three or more miscarriages. Also know as recurrent pregnancy loss.

Reproductive endocrinologist (RE)
A sub-specialist doctor who is dedicated to the treatment of infertility. An RE has gone through advanced training to understand female hormones, the causes of infertility, and the latest infertility treatments. An RE is capable of handling very complex infertility cases.

Semen analysis
Measures the volume of semen, approximate number of sperm (sperm count) as well as the sperm's morphology (shape) and motility (how well they swim). Additionally, white blood cells are measured to detect any possible infection.

Sperm count
A test that counts the number of sperm in the sample. A sperm count of less than 20 million per millilitre may indicate male infertility.

Sperm morphology
A test that indicates the number or percentage of sperm that are normally formed in terms of size, shape, and characteristics. Abnormal morphology may indicate fertility problems.

Sperm motility
A test that indicates the sperm's proper movement (i.e., swimming ability). Poor motility means the sperm may have a difficult time moving through the cervix towards the egg.

Subcutaneous injection
A shot that is inserted under the skin. Some IVF drugs are administered in this manner. Sites chosen include the upper thigh, abdomen, or upper arm.

One of the androgens (male hormones) that are naturally present in women. (Other androgens include DHEAS and androstenedione.) These hormones play an important role in ovulation. High levels of androgens in women may indicate an abnormality in the ovulation process.

Thyroid conditions
Any condition in which the thyroid is not functioning properly, such as underactive or overactive thyroid. Some thyroid conditions may have an impact on fertility.

The baby's home during pregnancy. Also known as a womb.