Glossary

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D

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A

ART: A common abbreviation for Assisted Reproductive Treatment or Assisted Reproductive Technology, which are collective terms for the different types of fertility treatments.

Agonist Cycle:  A treatment plan which involves the use of medication to prevent ovulation during an IVF cycle. The drug activates the Gonadotrophin releasing hormone receptor and clings onto it thus stopping it from producing more FSH.

Antagonist Cycle: A treatment plan which involves the use of medication in order to prevent ovulation during an IVF Cycle. The drug activates the Gonadotrophin releasing hormone receptor and clings onto it thus stopping it from producing more FSH.

Assisted Conception: A range of medical treatments where there is some form of procedural intervention, with sperm, eggs or embryos spending time outside the body, aimed at increasing the chance of pregnancy.

Assisted Insemination: A basic form of conception where the male partner’s sperm, or donated sperm, is inseminated or injected into the vagina, cervix, uterus or fallopian tube, in order to treat infertility.

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B

Biopsy: Taking a small sample of tissue for diagnosis under the microscope.

Blastocyst: An embryo whose cells have divided into two different types (placental and foetal) and which surround a central, fluid filled cavity, normally forming 5 days after fertilisation.

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C

Catheter: The fine plastic tubes used to transfer the embryos to the uterus, are called catheters.

Cervix: The lower section of the uterus which protrudes into the vagina and dilates during labour to allow passage of the infant. It is also called the neck of womb.

Cleave, Cleavage: The division of the fertilised oocyte (ovum) into daughter cells (blastomeres) is called embryo cleavage.

Conception: The act of becoming pregnant through the fertilisation of the egg by a sperm and the beginning of the growth of the embryo.

Coagulation: The thickening or clotting of Blood.
Cryopreservation: The freezing of sperm or embryos in order to preserve them for use in a future cycle of treatment.

Culture Medium: A fluid consisting of water, salt and nutrients, in which cells or tissues are grown.

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D

DNA: A molecule made of a variable sequence of units which forms the genetic code.

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E

Egg: A general term for oocyte.

Egg Retrieval: The usual method of egg collection (oocyte retrieval) is performed under ultrasound guidance, where a needle is passed through the vaginal wall and into the ovarian follicles.

Embryo: A fertilised oocyte which has begun to divide, and which also includes Blastocysts, embryos that develop on day 5 after fertilisation. The term is also used to describe the early stages of fetal growth from the fourth to the ninth week of pregnancy.

Embryo Transfer Cycle: A cycle in which successful fertilisation leads to a transfer of an embryo, or in which a frozen embryo is thawed and is transferred to a woman.

Endometriosis: A condition where the endometrium grows outside the uterus, which may cause  infertility, painful periods and painful intercourse.

Endometrium: The mucus membrane lining the uterine cavity.

Estrogen: The principal female sex hormone produced by the growing oocytes and which stimulates the growth of the female reproductive system. The other principal female sex hormone is Progesterone.

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F

Fallopian Tubes: These are the tubes (also called oviducts) which transport the oocyte from the ovary toward the uterus.

Fertilisation: The process in which a sperm binds to an oocyte and releases the male chromosomes into the oocyte.

Fetus: The name for the embryo after the seventh week of pregnancy until birth.

Follicle: A fluid-filled sac containing an oocyte  and reaching a diameter of about 2cm at ovulation. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A hormone produced by the pituitary gland which stimulates the growth of follicles in the female, and the development of sperm in the male.

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G

Gamete: A general term for male or female germ cell (sperm or oocyte).

Gonadotropins: LH or FSH hormones released  from the pituitary that stimulate the growth of the gametes  ( egg and sperm). This results in growth of the follicles and release of the egg in the woman and division maturation and development of the sperm in the man.

GnRH: Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone. Hormone produced and released by the hypothalamus, which controls the pituitary gland’s production and release of gonadotropins.

Gonad: Organs that produce sex cells and sex hormones; ovaries in females and testicles in males.
 
Gonal-F: A drug which is used to stimulate the development of follicles.

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H

Hormone: A chemical released by a gland into the bloodstream to have its effect at a distant site. For example, the pituitary gland releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) which stimulates the growth of follicles within the ovary.

Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (HCG): The detection of HCG in the blood usually provides the first sign that conception has occurred. This hormone has properties similar to LH and synthetic preparations of it are used to initiate ovulation when LH levels are inadequate.

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I

Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): The method of injecting a single sperm into the egg.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): The artificial insemination of sperm into the uterine cavity, after the sperm has been washed free of the seminal fluid.

In Vitro: Literally means “in glass” or in a test tube (outside the body).

In Vivo: Means inside the body.

In Vitro Fertilisation: The procedure by which the oocyte from the female partner and the sperm of the male partner are mixed in the laboratory. Provided fertilisation and cleavage of the fertilised oocyte occurs, the embryos formed are transferred into the uterus (womb) of the female. In natural conception, the oocyte and sperm meet in the fallopian tube and fertilisation and early development occurs there before implantation in the uterus.

IVF: A common abbreviation for In Vitro Fertilisation.

IVF with Donated Embryo: The embryo introduced into the recipient woman was produced by both sperm and ovum from another couple.

IVF with Donated Ovum: The embryo placed in the woman’s uterus is the product of her partner's sperm and oocytes from a donor.

IVF with Donated Sperm: The oocytes removed from the woman are fertilised by donor sperm.

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L

Laparoscopy: A visual examination of organs within a woman’s abdominal cavity by insertion of a light guide through a small incision in the abdominal wall.

Liquefy: A fresh semen ejaculate quickly clots after collection. In order to prepare a sample of motile sperm for IVF the specimen is allowed to sit for 30-60 minutes, during which time the clotted seminal plasma liquefies.

Luteal Phase: The portion of the menstrual cycle after ovulation (mid-cycle) and before the commencement of the menstruation.

Luteinising Hormone (LH): A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, which acts on the cells within the follicles of the ovary, stimulating their growth and, at mid-cycle, initiates the events leading to ovulation and the release of the mature oocyte.

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M

Menopause: The permanent cessation of menstruation following the loss of ovarian function.

microTESE:  A microscope is used to identify seminiferous tubules within   the testis  in men with azoospermia to retrieve pockets of sperm producing tissue.

Miscarriage: The loss of a pregnancy before 20 weeks gestation.

Morphology: The physical characteristics of an embryo based on number of cells (size and shape) and the degree of fragmentation (graded 1-4 with 4 being no fragments).

Morula: A blastocyst stage of the embryo, consisting of a ball of cells enclosed by the zona pellucida.

Motility: the percentage of sperm that are moving under microscopic examination.

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O

Oestradiol: The primary female hormone produced by the ovarian follicle.

Oestrogen: The generic name for a class of compounds, both synthetic and natural, which possess ‘oestrogen-like’ activity, typified by the effects of oestradiol.

OHSS: A common abbreviation for Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
Oocyte: The egg cell (gamete, ovum) produced in the ovaries each month.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): A possible complication associated with the use of Follicle Stimulating Hormone used in Ovulation Induction and IVF Treatment, resulting in ovarian enlargement, ranging from mild to severe.

Ovary: The female organ that produces eggs, or oocytes. The ovaries are located on either side of the uterus, and are connected by the fallopian tubes.

Ovulation: The release of the oocyte from the follicle. This process occurs at mid-cycle and is initiated by a rise in levels of LH. The natural course of events may be mimicked by an injection of hcg at mid-cycle. This hormone has properties and action very similar to LH.

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P

Percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA): A procedure whereby a needle is inserted into the head of the testis to collect sperm in men  with obstructive azoospermia , especially after vasectomy.

Pituitary Gland: The pituitary is a pea-sized organ lying in a depression in the base of the skull. It is the source of a number of hormones, including LH and FSH, which circulate through the body and regulate the activity of the ovaries, testes and other organs.

Polar Body: A polar body is a product of cell division for the purpose of reducing chromosome numbers within the oocyte. The 2nd polar body is released at fertilisation.

Pregnancy loss: When conception fails to continue to term. Pregnancy loss may be:

  1. Biochemical pregnancy: a positive pregnancy test followed shortly after by a period, or nothing seen in the uterus on ultrasound at seven weeks.
  2. Ectopic (tubal) pregnancy: an ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants in the fallopian tube (and occasionally elsewhere) instead of in the endometrium of the uterus. It is usually characterised by hcg levels which are inconsistent with gestational age and an empty uterus with no evidence of fetal growth.
  3. Miscarriage: in a small number of cases fetal loss may occur after a ‘healthy’ fetus has been identified when the ultrasound scan is performed at seven weeks.
  4. Missed miscarriage: occasionally hcg levels rise in a pattern which is characteristic of a healthy pregnancy but when a ultrasound scan of the uterus is performed, the uterus is found to contain an empty sac with no living fetus.
  5. Stillbirth  where the fetus dies in the uterus after 20 weeks gestation.

Progesterone: Progesterone is the hormone principally responsible for the maintenance of early pregnancy, and is the ovary’s second main hormone. Estrogen is the other principal female sex hormone.

Pronuclei: The first visible sign of fertilisation is the appearance within the oocyte of two spherical bodies containing the male and female chromosomes. These are called the male and female pronuclei.

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S

Semen:  the fluid ejaculated by a man. It contains mostly fluid from the prostate and seminal vesicle as well as a small volume of sperm.

Sequential Media: A four stage media system to support fertilisation and embryo development in vitro.

Sperm: A common abbreviation for spermatozoon.

Spermatozoon: A male gamete or germ cell produced by the testicle.

Stimulated Cycle: The stimulation of ovaries in an IVF Cycle in order to retrieve more than one egg.

Subcutaneous: A site used for the injection of some drugs used in infertility treatment (e.g. FSH or ovidrel) either in the thigh or abdomen,  under the skin.

Synarel: A GnRH-agonist which is administered as a nasal spray
Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA): A fine needle is passed into the testis to remove very thin pieces of testicular tissue.

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T

Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE): A small incision is made in the testis and a small sample of testicular tissue is excised.

Testosterone: The main male sex hormone, or androgen, in the blood.

Tubal patency: Fallopian tubes that are open and not blocked are termed patent.

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U

Ultrasound: An imaging procedure using high frequency sound waves.

Uterus or womb: A muscular organ the size and shape of a pear and lined with endometrium , where a fertilised egg, or embryo, attaches and develops.

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V

Vitrification: Originates from the Latin word vitrum, meaning glass. When eggs or embryos are rapidly frozen, the freezing solution containing the embryos is cooled so quickly that the water molecules do not form ice crystals but solidifies into glass like structure.

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W

Womb: A muscular organ the size and shape of a pear and lined with a rich and nourishing membrane, where an embryo attaches and develops.

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