Glossary of Terms

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | K | L | M | N | O | P | R | S | T | U | V | Z

P

Polyp

Benign growth of the lining of the uterus or the endometrium. It looks like a small solid balloon and can interfere with normal implantation and cause infertility, abnormal bleeding and, theoretically, miscarriages. Polyps can be missed during a hysterosalpingogram, but usually are seen during a hysteroscopy or a mid-cycle endovaginal ultrasound.

Pre-Implantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

An advanced technique to evaluate cells from early human embryos for chromosome copy number. Current techniques use microarrays of human DNA and can determine if there is an abnormal number of chromosomes (for example Down Syndrome) and can determine the sex of the embryo. All 24 unique chromosomes can be tested as well as some other chromosome structural defects.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

An advanced technique that involves checking the cells of a developing embryo for genetic abnormalities and thus helping to prevent serious transmissible genetic diseases.  PGD is indicated when an individual or couple carries a genetic mutation that may put their offspring at risk for a serious genetic disease, for example, Cystic Fibrosis.

Premature Ovarian Failure

POF is the cessation of menstruation due to depletion of ovarian follicles before the age of 40. This disorder can run in families and is occasionally associated with other diseases, such as thyroid dysfunction and/or lupus. Women who suffer from Premature Ovarian Failure may elect to use an egg donor as a means to become pregnant.

Progesterone

A hormone secreted by the ovaries that belongs to the steroid hormone family, like estrogen. Progesterone is secreted by the corpus luteum (see Corpus Luteum), the follicle that produces and releases the egg. The specialized cells of the corpus luteum, that surround the egg, produce high levels of progesterone just prior to ovulation. Progesterone also plays a major role in preparing the endometrium for implantation and supports a pregnancy through the first few weeks of gestation. However, the corpus luteum will stop secreting progesterone if pregnancy does not occur. The progesterone level in the blood will then drop, which induces menses within 24 to 48 hours. This is how a regular menstrual cycle takes place. On the other hand, if pregnancy does occur, the placenta will start secreting the HCG hormone, which will salvage the corpus luteum and cause it to continue secreting progesterone.

Prolactin

A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Its major role is to control milk production. Excess secretion can interfere with normal ovulation. This is why prolactin levels are checked in every woman during the infertility evaluation process. Certain women have elevated Prolactin levels due to a small benign tumor in the pituitary gland or the brain. These tumors are often called Prolactinomas. They are usually treated by a medication called Bromocriptine or Parlodel. In rare instances, surgery may be required.

Prometrium

Micronized progesterone in tablet form that is usually used intra-vaginally in the luteal phase of IUI or IVF treatment cycles to augment progesterone being secreted from the ovary.

R

Recipient

A woman who receives the fertilized eggs from an egg donor. The partner’s sperm are used to fertilize the eggs. In other cases, donor sperm are selected for fertilization. Once the embryos are ready, they are implanted via embryo transfer into the recipient's uterus. However, this only occurs after a 2 to 3 week period of hormonal preparation, in order to ready the uterus to accept embryos. Once the recipient is pregnant, she will carry, nourish, and deliver the infant.

S

Saline Sonogram

See "Hysterosonogram.”

Selective Reduction

Also known as "multiple pregnancy reduction.” A procedure that is performed to reduce a high order multiple pregnancies such as triplets, to twins or singleton. It is a relatively simple procedure with minimal risk of losing a whole pregnancy.

Semen Analysis

A test to check for sperm quantity and quality. A sperm sample collected by masturbation after three days of abstinence is used for the test.

Single Embryo Transfer, also known as “elective single embryo transfer”

The elective choice to transfer only a single embryo to the uterus at the time of IVF embryo transfer or a frozen embryo transfer. Ideal candidates for elective single embryo transfer are patients less than 35 years of age, patients using donor egg embryos or patients with known chromosomally normal embryos from pre-implantation genetic screening. 

Spontaneous Abortion

A naturally occurring miscarriage caused by complications such as a genetically abnormal fetus, or an empty sac. Often a doctor will need to perform a minor procedure—called a dilation and curettage (D&C)—when this type of miscarriage occurs, in order to scrape clean the uterine cavity of remnant tissue and to stop the bleeding.

Synarel

A nasal spray medication that can be used instead of Lupron to prevent premature ovulation during an IVF cycle (see also "GnRH agonist" and "Lupron").

T

TESE

A Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) is a minor surgical procedure usually performed under local anesthesia, in which the doctor removes a piece of testicular tissue to collect sperm. This sperm can then be injected into the female partner's eggs (see ICSI). Usually only low numbers of sperm are obtained and are available only for IVF with ICSI on the same day as the TESE.

Testicles

Two oval glands present in the scrotum that are responsible for producing the male gametes (sperm). The testicles also secrete many of the male hormones, such as testosterone.

Testicular Mapping

A diagnostic procedure to identify "pockets" of isolated sperm production in the testicles of men who have very low sperm production. Once these areas are located a TESE procedure can be done to find the sperm for IVF and sperm injection (see "ICSI").

Testosterone

The main hormone secreted by the testicles. The effects of testosterone—such as beard growth, an increase in muscle mass, a deepening voice and sperm maturation—can be easily recognized in men.

Third Party Parenting

The involvement of a third person (a person outside of the couple) to create a baby. There are several ways to participate in third party parenting: egg donation, sperm donation, and/or IVF with a gestational carrier. 

TSH

A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that controls the thyroid gland. Elevated levels imply abnormally low thyroid function. The level of this hormone in blood is checked in most women with infertility because certain thyroid diseases may be associated with infertility.

U

Ultrasonography

One of the most common imaging techniques used on women undergoing infertility treatment. Almost all ultrasound examinations performed for purposes of monitoring/diagnosing women with infertility issues are currently carried out by means of a vaginal transducer (a small probe inserted into the vagina). An ultrasound transducer emits acoustic sound waves that bounce back when they hit different types of tissues in the body. These waves are then recaptured by the transducer and sent to the ultrasound computer. The ultrasound transforms these waves into gray scale pictures that are seen on a monitor screen. The texture of the particular tissue that the ultrasound wave traverses or hits determines the way it will look on the monitor. For instance, clear fluids such as urine will appear black while bony structures will appear white. The vaginal transducer is about 15 inches long and 1 inch in diameter. Only about 5 inches will enter the vagina. The procedure is painless for most women as well as harmless. It enables us to see the pelvic organs, including the ovaries and the uterus. It is commonly used to diagnose the presence of ovarian cysts, tumors, uterine fibroids, and pregnancies. It is also used routinely to follow the growth and development of ovarian follicles during ovulation induction with fertility drugs in patients who are undergoing treatment. 

Ureaplasma

A microorganism that can infect the male and female genital organs. Some studies suggest an association with miscarriages or even infertility.

Uterine Septum

The presence of a thick membrane that separates the uterine cavity either partially or completely into two distinct parts. A septum can interfere with normal implantation and cause recurrent miscarriages. Current treatment of a septum is done by hysteroscopy and involves cutting the septum under direct vision.

Uterus

A hollow muscular organ (the size of a small pear) present in the pelvis. It is connected to the vagina by the cervix and to the abdominal cavity by the fallopian tubes. Its main function is to contain and nourish the fertilized egg through its stages of development from an embryo to a fetus. A layer of specialized glandular cells, called the endometrium, lines the uterus.

V

Varicocele

An abnormal dilatation of the veins surrounding the testes. A varicocele, present in 25% of infertile males, causes blood to pool in the veins of the testes. This pooling presents a problem for some men because the presence of excess blood raises testicular temperature, which can be detrimental to sperm. The surgical correction of a varicocele is minor, and performed in order to ligate the dilated vessels or veins. However, the success of treatment is controversial. Pregnancy rates after surgery are reported to be in the range of 30-50%.

Vas Deferens

The segment of the tube that connects the epididymis to the urethra in males.

Vasectomy

A surgery to ligate the vas deferens in males, thus blocking the transport of sperm to the urethra. It is a very effective form of contraception that can be reversed. However, the longer the wait from the time that you have a vasectomy to the reversal surgery, the less your chances are of a successful pregnancy, due to the presence of anti-sperm antibodies.

Vitrification

An ultra-rapid method of freezing eggs and embryos that has led to a significant leap forward in the success of freezing of these tissues. Vitrification has allowed for the successful freezing of human eggs prior to fertilization, a process that was very poor with older freezing methods. Vitrification has also allowed for the improved survival rates of frozen-thawed blastocysts. 

Z

Zithromax

This is the antibiotic generally known as azithromycin. It is very similar to Erythromycin but can be given in a single dose instead of a ten day course. It is used to decrease the chances that the bacteria ureaplasma or mycoplasma may inhabit the uterine cavity, which could result in decreased chances of embryo implantation. 

Zona Pellucida

A translucent noncellular layer, which surrounds the egg and embryo. Just prior to implantation the zona will be broken and the embryo released to implant in the endometrium. In some women, especially in women over the age of 37, the zona is thicker and therefore harder for the embryo to hatch. Assisted hatching is then employed to help the embryo in this process.

Zygote

A fertilized egg.

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