Glossary of Terms

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F

Fallopian Tubes

A hollow muscular tubular organ that is connected to the uterus at one end, and opens inside the abdomen close to the ovaries at the other. The latter part is made of finger-like projections, also called “fimbria," that pick up the ovulated egg from the surface of the ovary. The egg meets the sperm at the mid-junction of the tube where fertilization occurs. The fertilized egg then travels to the uterine cavity where implantation takes place. There are normally two fallopian tubes, one on each side of the uterus. Damage to these tubes is common with sexually transmitted diseases, such as Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. They can also be easily damaged during pelvic or abdominal surgeries or in patients with severe endometriosis. Reconstructive tubal surgery for infertility can be done in some women. The success rate depends on the state of the tubes prior to the surgery. If for instance, the tubes are blocked and swollen, the success rate is extremely small in achieving pregnancy. In such cases, IVF should be the treatment of choice. Recent data has also shown that swollen tubes lower IVF success rates; therefore, it is strongly recommended that swollen damaged tubes (hydrosalpinx) be surgically removed prior to IVF.

Fertility Preservation

Refers to undergoing IVF for the purposes of freezing eggs or embryos. Candidates for fertility preservation are women facing chemotherapy treatment that may harm their eggs or women who delay childbearing due to career commitments or other personal circumstances. This significant step forward in fertility treatment enables women to take advantage of their body’s fertility at a time when eggs are at their healthiest. 

Fertilization

The unification of sperm and egg to form a zygote (the earliest stage of human life). The zygote would then become an embryo, and then a fetus. A sperm or an egg contains half of the genetic make-up of its species. A normal human cell contains 46 chromosomes, while an egg or sperm contains only 23 chromosomes. After successful and normal fertilization, the number of chromosomes becomes 46 (23 from the egg and 23 from the sperm).

Fetus

A fertilized egg is called a zygote. Further cellular division and differentiation yields an embryo. Once organic differentiation occurs, i.e., the embryo acquires human-like features, it is called a fetus.

Fibroid Tumors (or Myomas)

Benign tumors of the muscle of the uterus. Fibroids develop in one of every four women at some point during their lifetime. If present inside the uterine cavity, they can interfere with implantation. Fibroids can also cause problems if they become large in size and impinge or put pressure on the uterine lining. They are treated by surgical removal, either via laparoscopy, hysteroscopy, or a major abdominal surgery.

Fimbriae

The delicate finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tubes that are responsible for picking up the egg from the surface of the ovary and transporting it to the inside of the tube.

Follicle

A fluid-filled space (like a balloon) present inside the ovary that contains and nourishes the egg. In a normal cycle, a woman will usually ovulate only one egg. Very early in the cycle, however (and actually before the cycle even begins), many small minute follicles containing immature eggs are recruited. During the first 5 to 7 days after the start of a period only one of these follicles will mature and grow. This leading follicle will increase and be ready for ovulation roughly 2 weeks after the start of the menstrual cycle. The follicle will then burst with ovulation and release the egg that is picked up by the finger-like projections (fimbria) of the fallopian tube. The collapsed follicle will become the corpus luteum.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone

Abbreviated as FSH. A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland; FSH stimulates the growth and development of ovarian follicles. It is the main hormone present in the gonadatropin medications Gonal-F, Follistim and Bravelle, and comprises half of the hormones in Menopur. A blood test for this hormone on the third day of the menstrual cycle is crucial in evaluating how the ovaries are functioning. A significantly elevated level (>10) implies possible decreased ovarian reserve.

Women with higher basal FSH levels may not respond as well to fertility medications in terms of the numbers of follicles and eggs recruited but does not necessarily predict who will and who will not get pregnant. Age is a better predictor of successful pregnancy. The level of FSH also assists us in determining the ideal dosage and regimen of fertility agents necessary to initiate proper ovarian stimulation in a subsequent cycle of treatment.

Follistim

This fertility medication contains recombinant FSH. In other words, the medication is made up of cells that have been genetically engineered through recombinant DNA technology to produce large quantities of human FSH. It is self-administered by subcutaneous injection.

Frozen Embryo Transfer

The process of thawing and placing into the uterus embryos previously frozen from a preceding IVF cycle. Currently most embryos are frozen at the blastocyst stage (Day 5 embryos) and over 90% of embryos frozen by vitrification will survive the freeze-thaw process. See also “vitrification.”

FSH

See Follicle Stimulating Hormone.