the premature termination of a pregnancy; may be induced or spontaneous (miscarriage)

Acanthosis Nigricans
the appearance of darkened, thickened skin (sometimes described as “velvetlike") in the armpits, nape of the neck, inner thighs or under the breasts in some women with polycystic ovary syndrome

bands of scar tissue that can form in the abdomen and pelvis after surgery or from an infection. Adhesions may connect organs in the pelvis that normally are separated and may restrict the movement of the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing infertility.

clumping together, as of sperm, often due to infection, inflammation, or antibodies

Aging Egg Supply
From birth, a woman has a fixed—though plentiful—supply of eggs (ovarian reserve). As a woman ages into her mid-30s, her eggs gradually degrade, making it less likely that she will be able to conceive naturally, or that an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure will result in pregnancy.

Alpha Fetoprotein
substance produced by the fetus that is measured in the mother’s blood to screen for increased risk for certain problems in the baby such as spina bifida or Down syndrome.

absence of menstruation

the aspiration of amniotic fluid from the uterus, usually performed at three to three and one-half months of pregnancy, to test the fetus for genetic abnormalities

Anabolic Steroids
drugs used by some weightlifters and athletes to increase muscle mass, and which can significantly impair sperm production. These drugs suppress, or decrease, the production and release of LH from the pituitary gland. This, in turn, causes a decrease in production of testosterone in the testes.

male sex hormones

a condition in which no semen is expelled from the penis during sexual arousal

the absence of ovulation

proteins made by the immune system (your body's natural defense system) that attack and destroy foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses. Antibodies attach themselves to the foreign substance, allowing other cells in the immune system to attack and destroy the substance.

Antisperm Antibodies
antibodies that can attach to sperm and inhibit movement of sperm or fertilization

Artificial Insemination
the placement of sperm into a woman's cervix or vagina when she is ovulating—the sperm then travel into the uterus and fallopian tubes, where they may fertilize an egg

suctioning of fluid, as from a follicle

Assisted Hatching
microsurgery to help an embryo release itself from its surrounding shell (zona pellucida). Such “hatching” helps the embryo implant in the uterus during an in vitro fertilization cycle. It is sometimes used when the female partner is 38 years or older, has an elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level, meaning she will have diminished egg production, or has several failed cycles of in vitro fertilization

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)
procedures that remove eggs from a woman's ovaries (or use donor eggs), fertilize them with sperm in a laboratory, and transfer one or more resulting embryos to her uterus or fallopian tubes. The most common ART is in vitro fertilization.

Autoimmunity (autoimmune response)
when the body responds to its own tissue as if the tissue was a foreign substance, creating antibodies against the tissue and triggering reactions that cause normal cells to be destroyed

absence of sperm in the ejaculate



Basal Body Temperature (BBT)
a woman’s resting temperature, usually taken before getting out of bed in the morning. Female hormones usually cause a woman’s BBT to decrease slightly just before an egg is released (ovulation) and then increase suddenly 24 hours after ovulation. By carefully measuring and recording BBT every morning for several months, a woman can estimate when she is most likely to become pregnant if she has sex. BBT is one of several fertility awareness or natural family planning methods of birth control.

Beta HCG
A hormone measured to determine if pregnancy has occurred

Billings Method (Cervical Mucus Method)
a method of fertility awareness—the amount, texture, and appearance of mucus produced by a woman’s cervix changes during her menstrual cycle. By observing, feeling, and recording the nature of the mucus over several cycles, a woman may be able to predict when ovulation occurs.

Biological Father
the man whose sperm fertilized the ovum from which a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child

Biological Mother
the woman from whose ovum from which a child developed and who is therefore genetically related to that child

a sample of tissue taken from an organ or other part of the body. The tissue is examined for abnormalities, such as cancer, by a pathologist (a doctor trained to look at tissue samples.

Blastocyst Embryo Transfer
A blastocyst is an embryo that has developed for approximately five days after fertilization. Embryos that reach the blastocyst stage have a higher chance of implanting in the woman’s uterus. This technique is used by some fertility programs as part of the in vitro fertilization process.

Board Certification
To become board certified a doctor must complete training in a specialty area and pass an examination given by a specialty board.


a flexible tube used for aspirating or injecting fluids

to destroy tissue with heat, cold, or caustic substances usually to seal off blood vessels or ducts

Cervical Factor Infertility
Infertility in a woman caused by cervical mucus abnormalities or abnormal structure of the cervix

the lower neck-like portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina

Cervical Mucous
mucous in the cervix, or neck of the uterus

a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by bacteria. It is one of the most common STDs in the United States. It often does not cause any symptoms and the person may not know that he or she is infected. If untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and may lead to infertility in women.

Chorionic Villus Sampling
genetic screening in which a sample of early fetal cells are taken using a thin catheter inserted into the uterus either through the vagina or abdominal wall; usually done at the end of the second month of pregnancy to test the fetus for genetic abnormalities

the parts of body cells that carry the genetic material (DNA) or genes—DNA determines the features a person inherits from his or her parents, such as blood type, hair and eye, and other characteristics such as risks for developing certain diseases.

Clomiphene Challenge Test
a test is used to assess egg supply (ovarian reserve), usually in women in their 30s and 40s who are considering using reproductive technology to conceive. Clomiphene is a fertility medication that stimulates the ovaries to produce eggs.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid, Serophene)
a fertility pill that stimulates ovulation through release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland

examination of the cervix through a magnifying telescope to detect abnormal cells

fertilization of an embryo by a sperm and implantation of an embryo into the uterine lining, which is confirmed by a positive pregnancy test

Congenital defect
a birth defect

surgical removal of a cone-shaped portion of the cervix, usually as a treatment for a precancerous condition

a reason not to use a particular drug or treatment

freezing of embryos, sperm, or oocytes (eggs). Cryopreservation of embryos allows couples to undergo subsequent IVF cycles without ovulatory stimulating drugs

failure of one or both testicles to descend into the scrotum

menstrual or ovulation cycle. Certain medications are given, and some tests and procedures are done based on the cycle

An abnormal sac containing gas, fluid, or a semisolid material

A term used to describe a cyst or material that forms, contains, or is enclosed in a cyst

Cystic Fibrosis
a genetic disorder affecting the glands in the body that produce mucus. Normally, mucus is thin and slippery, but in men with cystic fibrosis, the secretions are thick and sticky. Because these thick secretions may block the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm from the testes, many men with cystic fibrosis are infertile.


Delayed Ejaculation
absence of male ejaculation during intercourse

Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA)
a molecule in the form of a twisted double strand of a combination of amino acids in the cell’s nucleus that make up the chromosomes, which transmit hereditary characteristics

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
a medication used to prevent miscarriage taken by up to 6 million women between 1948 and 1971. Daughters born to women who took DES while pregnant have a slightly higher risk of developing cancer of the cervix or vagina as well as structural problems in their reproductive organs, which can cause infertility and a higher risk of preterm labor.

Dilatation and Curettage (D&C)
a procedure that may be done to remove tissue from inside the uterus.
During a D&C, a scraping or suction instrument is passed through the vagina and cervix into the uterus to remove tissue from the endometrium (lining of the uterus.

Donor Eggs
eggs that are removed from one woman, fertilized, and then placed in another woman for the purpose of producing pregnancy

Donor Insemination
artificial insemination with donor sperm

Donor Sperm
sperm from a man who is not a woman’s partner for the purpose of producing pregnancy

a condition in women in which intercourse is uncomfortable or painful due to a medical or emotional problem


Eating Disorders and Infertility
Anorexia nervosa and bulimia may contribute to ovulatory problems by interfering with the normal activity of luteinizing hormone (LH). In women with eating disorders, LH does not fluctuate as it should, which may cause irregular or absent periods.

Ectopic Pregnancy
occurs when a fertilized egg attaches somewhere other than in the uterus, most often in a fallopian tube. An ectopic pregnancy is called a tubal pregnancy when the fertilized egg is located in a fallopian tube. This situation can be dangerous because the fallopian tube does not stretch as the fertilized egg grows. If a tubal pregnancy is not detected and treated early, the tube may burst.

Egg (ovum)
the female reproductive cell

Egg Donation
Egg donation involves the use of eggs provided by a donor for in vitro fertilization (IVF) and subsequent transfer of the embryo to a recipient. Egg donors may be either unknown or known to the recipient. Most egg donors in the United States are young women who are paid for their services, and donate their eggs anonymously.

Egg Retrieval
Removing the egg from the follicle, as in IVF

the sperm-containing fluid released at orgasm

Release of semen from the penis during sexual climax

Ejaculatory ducts
the male ducts that contract with orgasm to cause ejaculation

controlled electrical stimulation to induce ejaculation in a man with damage to the nerves that control ejaculation

the developing baby from implantation in the uterus to about 8 weeks after conception

Embryo Cryopreservation
Cryopreservation or freezing offers a way to store embryos for a subsequent IVF cycle. Couples who have extra embryos available after an IVF procedure need to decide what to do with them. The extra embryos may be frozen, or cryopreserved, after fertilization. The embryos can be thawed and transferred into a woman’s uterus during a future cycle.

Embryo Donation
the donation of remaining cryopreserved embryos to another couple

Embryo Transfer
placing a laboratory-fertilized egg into the uterus

Endocrine Gland
an organ that produces hormones

Endometrial Biopsy
During this procedure, a small sample of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) is removed for examination under a microscope. This biopsy may provide valuable information about whether a woman’s menstrual cycle is normal.

a condition in which cells that look and act like the cells of the lining of the uterus (endometrium) are found in other parts of a woman’s abdominal cavity. These cells may attach to the ovaries or fallopian tubes, or to the outer surface of the uterus, bowels, or other abdominal organs. The condition can cause scarring and adhesions (binding together) of the pelvic organs, ectopic or tubal pregnancy, and infertility.

the inner lining of the uterus

a long, tightly coiled tube that lies behind each testicle. The epididymis collects the sperm made by the testicles.

an inflammation of the epididymis that may sometimes be caused by bacteria (an infection) or may have no known cause

Erectile Dysfunction (impotence)
the persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection that is hard enough to complete sexual intercourse

the principal estrogen produced by the ovary

a hormone that produces female characteristics and helps regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle


Fallopian Sperm Perfusion
the flushing of sperm through a thin flexible tube (catheter) directly into the fallopian tubes

Fallopian Tubes
2 tubes that lead upward out of the uterus and end near the ovaries. Eggs released from the ovaries travel through the fallopian tubes toward the uterus. Eggs that are moving from the ovaries to the uterus may be fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tubes. If the fallopian tubes are blocked, a woman may not be able to become pregnant.

Female Reproductive System
consists of two ovaries, two fallopian tubes, the uterus, and the vagina

able to produce offspring

ability to conceive and have children

Fertility Awareness
a type of natural family planning based on a woman’s physical signs of ovulation, such as a sudden, slight rise in body temperature and vaginal discharge that feels thin and slippery—keeping track of these symptoms may be helpful if a couple is trying to become pregnant or trying to avoid pregnancy

Fertility Drugs
Medications that stimulate a woman's ovaries to release eggs. These drugs (such as menotropins and clomiphene) increase the chance that the ovaries will release more than one egg at a time. They also increase the chance that more than one egg will become fertilized by sperm.

union of the male gamete (sperm) with the female gamete (egg)

the developing baby from the second month of pregnancy until birth

Fibroids (Uterine)
noncancerous growths in the uterus, which can grow on the inside of the uterus, within the muscle wall of the uterus, or on the outer surface of the uterus. Symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic and low back pain, and pain during sex. Occasionally uterine fibroids may be the cause of infertility.

the finger-like projections at the end of the fallopian tube nearest the ovary that capture the egg and deliver it into the tube

a procedure to rebuild the fringed ends of the fallopian tube—may be done when the part of the tube closest to the ovary is partially or totally blocked

an X-ray test that uses a continuous beam of X-rays to follow movement in part of the body. During the procedure, X-rays are directed continuously at an area of the body, and the resulting pictures are displayed on a monitor similar to a TV screen.

a small sac (cyst) on the ovary. An egg matures inside of the follicle—when the egg is mature, the follicle bursts open and releases the egg.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. In women, FSH helps control the menstrual cycle and the production of eggs by the ovaries. In men, FSH helps control the production of sperm.

Follicular Fluid
fluid surrounding the egg inside the follicle

Follicular Phase
the pre-ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle during which the follicle grows and high estrogen levels cause the uterine lining to proliferate

produced by the seminal vesicles, the sugar that sperm use for energy


a reproductive cell; the sperm in men, the egg in women

Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT)
combining eggs and sperm outside of the body and immediately placing them into the fallopian tubes to achieve fertilization. The procedure involves collecting eggs from the ovaries, placing them into a thin, flexible tube with the sperm, and then injecting them into the woman’s fallopian tubes for fertilization.

the unit of heredity, composed of DNA, and capable of transmitting characteristics from one generation to the next

Genetic Counseling
guidance given by a health professional (genetic counselor or medical geneticist) trained to help people understand their risk of having a child with an inherited, or genetic disease, such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, or hemophilia.

see gamete intra fallopian transfer

organ that forms reproductive cells—the testes in men, and the ovaries in women

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (GnRH)
the hormone produced and released by the hypothalamus that controls the pituitary gland’s production and release of gonadotropins

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Antagonist
interferes with the natural process that causes release of a mature egg—used to inhibit premature ovulation in women undergoing fertility procedures

the hormones produced by the pituitary gland that control reproductive function. For a woman, gonadotropins may be given to stimulate ovulation in women with low estrogen levels and for developing multiple egg follicles on the ovaries for use in assisted reproductive techniques. For a man, gonadotropins may be used to treat low sperm counts caused by low levels of natural gonadotropins.

a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria Neisseria gonococcus bacteria—in women, untreated gonorrhea can also lead to severe pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility.

medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of the uterus, ovaries, cervix, and vagina (female reproductive system). They may also practice obstetrics or further specialize in reproductive endocrinology.


High Risk
having a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure that requires special care during pregnancy and birth

the excessive growth of long, coarse hair on the face, chest, lower abdomen, back, upper arms or upper legs. It is a common symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome.

Home Ovulation Kits
available without a prescription, these kits help a woman identify the most fertile days during her menstrual cycle. These tests measure the presence of luteinizing hormones in the urine and provide information about a woman’s fertility level.

a substance released by an organ or tissue that controls the activity of organs or cells in another part of the body. Examples of hormones include insulin, testosterone, and estrogen. The organs that release these hormones are called endocrine glands. Hormones may also be used as medications.

Hormone Therapy
treatment that adds, blocks, or removes hormones

excessive production of androgens in women, frequently a cause of hirsutism and also associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)

excessive prolactin in the blood

a deficiency in the production of testosterone, which has a negative impact on the production of sperm and therefore the sperm count. The condition can be present at birth due to a congenital defect or it can develop later in life as the result of a disorder of the testicles or an abnormality affecting the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the brain, which produce hormones that control the testicles.

a birth defect in which the urethra is short and does not come out to the end of the penis. The opening may be located anywhere along the underside of the shaft of the penis or even in the scrotum. If not surgically corrected, the condition may interfere with sperm entering the vagina or reaching the cervix during intercourse.

the endocrine gland at the center of the brain that secretes hormones that regulate the pituitary gland which in turn regulates various bodily functions, including ovulation in women and sperm production in men

surgical removal of the uterus

a procedure that allows a doctor to look at the inside of the uterus. During the procedure, a lighted viewing instrument (hysteroscope) is inserted through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus. It is done to examine the lining of the uterus, to help obtain a biopsy sample, and to guide surgery to remove growths in the uterus.

an X-ray test used to examine the inside of uterus, fallopian tubes, and surrounding area. It is most often done for women who are unable to become pregnant. The procedure can reveal problems such as an injury or abnormal structure of the uterus or fallopian tubes, or blockage that would prevent an egg passing through a fallopian tube from reaching the uterus. Blockage can also prevent sperm from entering the fallopian tube.

an ultrasound of the uterus that involves using high frequency sound waves--this may show uterine scar tissue, polyps or other anomalies that may interfere with pregnancy.


Immune System
the body’s defense against any injury or invasion by a foreign substance or organism

Immunologic Infertility
infertility caused by antibodies to sperm that can prevent the normal motility and function of sperm

Immunosuppressive Drug
a drug that interferes with the normal immune response

attachment of the fertilized egg to the uterine lining, usually occurring five to seven days after ovulation

Implantation Bleeding
light bleeding or spotting that sometimes occurs when a fertilized egg (embryo) implants in the uterus

Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
the persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection that is hard enough to complete sexual intercourse

In Utero
while in the uterus during early development

In Vitro
an artificial environment such as a test tube

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
During in vitro fertilization (IVF), eggs and sperm are brought together in a laboratory glass dish to allow the sperm to fertilize an egg. Two to four fertilized eggs are then placed in the uterus using a thin flexible tube that is inserted through the cervix. The remaining fertilized eggs may be frozen (cryopreserved) for future IVF attempts. With IVF, a couple can use any combination of their own eggs and sperm and donor eggs and sperm.

Incompetent Cervix
cervix with the inability to remain closed throughout an entire pregnancy; a frequent cause of premature birth

a couple's inability to become pregnant after 1 year of sex without using birth control

a response to some type of injury such as infection, characterized by increased blood flow, heat, redness, swelling, and pain

insertion of sperm into the woman’s uterus

Intracervical Insemination (ICI)
artificial insemination of sperm into the cervical canal

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)
an assisted reproductive technique used to treat sperm-related infertility problems. ICSI is used as part of in vitro fertilization (IVF) by injecting a single sperm into a mature egg. The fertilized egg is then placed in a woman's uterus or fallopian tube.

Intramuscular Injection
an injection that is given into a muscle

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
the flushing of sperm through a thin flexible tube (catheter) directly into the uterus when a woman is ovulating

Intravenous (IV)
infusion of fluids, such as glucose or a medication, through a thin tube into a vein, usually in the arm



a process to evaluate and map a person's chromosomal (genetic) makeup. Certain combinations of the chromosomes that determine a person's sex can cause fertility problems.

Klinefelter’s Syndrome
a genetic disorder in males who have one or more extra X (sex) chromosomes. Many affected males have no noticeable physical, emotional, or mental difficulties. Others may have sparse body hair, underdeveloped muscles, speech delay, emotional problems, or mild mental retardation. Men with Klinefelter's syndrome usually have infertility.


Laparoscopic Ovarian Drilling (Ovarian Diathermy)
a surgical treatment for polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in which electrocautery or laser is used to destroy a portion of the ovaries. In some women with PCOS who have not responded to weight loss and fertility medication, the procedure can trigger ovulation.

a surgical technique during which a lighted viewing instrument (laparoscope) is inserted into the lower abdomen through a small cut usually placed below the navel. Laparoscopy may be used for both diagnosis and treatment. It is often used to diagnose and treat problems in the female reproductive organs, such as endometriosis, infertility, or tubal pregnancy.

During a laparotomy, a cut is made in the lower abdomen, which allows a surgeon to visually inspect the abdominal cavity. The procedure is commonly used in the diagnosis and treatment of female pelvic conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, and ectopic pregnancy.

Leydig Cells
cells in the testicles that make testosterone when stimulated by luteinizing hormone (LH) from the pituitary gland

LH surge
the sudden release of luteinizing hormone (LH) that causes the follicle to release a mature egg

Luteal Phase
post-ovulatory phase of a woman’s cycle; the corpus luteum produces progesterone, which in turn causes the uterine lining to secrete substances to support the implantation and growth of the early embryo

Luteal Phase Defect
inadequate function of the corpus luteum that may prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus or may lead to early pregnancy loss

Luteinized Unruptured Follicle Syndrome
the failure of a follicle to release the egg even though a corpus luteum has formed

Luteinizing Hormone (LH)
a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, which along with other hormones (follicle-stimulating hormone and estrogen), helps to regulate the menstrual cycle in women and causes ovulation to occur


Male Factor Infertility
infertility caused by semen or sperm abnormalities, including the production of insufficient numbers of sperm or sperm with aberrant morphological characteristics

Male Reproductive System
consists of the penis, two testicles, two epididymides, two vas deferentia, two seminal vesicles, and the prostate gland

cell division in reproductive cells that allows transmission of half of the genetic material from each parent

the time when a woman has her first menstrual period

marks the end of a woman's menstrual periods and childbearing years, without using assisted reproductive techniques. At menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs, estrogen, and progesterone.

Menstrual Cycle
the regular sequence of changes that the uterus and ovaries go through. In most women, a menstrual cycle lasts 24 to 35 days, with an average of 28 days.

periodic blood flow as a discharge from the uterus

procedures that involve microsurgery on gametes or embryos and that are used to assist sperm in fertilizing the egg or to assist the embryo in leaving the zona pellucida that surrounds the embryo

reconstructive surgery performed under magnification using delicate instruments and precise techniques

Miscarriage (spontaneous abortion)
the unintended loss of a fetus before the 20th completed week of pregnancy. Delivery of a dead fetus after the 20th week of pregnancy is known as a stillbirth.

secretion from a gland that can be watery, gel-like, stretchy, sticky, or dry; fertile mucus is watery and stretchy

Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction
a procedure used to reduce the number of fetuses in a multiple pregnancy, usually to 2 or 3. When a pregnancy involves 3 or more fetuses, the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, and child disability increase with each additional fetus.
The goal of the procedure is to increase the chance of a successful, healthy pregnancy.


Needle Aspiration
removing fluid or contents from a body cavity with a long needle


Obstetrician-Gynecologist (Ob/Gyn)
a physician who specializes in women’s reproductive health

infrequent and irregular menstrual cycles

a low sperm count

female sex cell, also called egg or ovum

Oocyte Cryostorage
freezing of oocytes or eggs for later use

an inflammation or infection of the testicle, which most often occurs in men who have mumps. Orchitis may be associated with a low sperm count.

climax of sexual excitement, consisting of intense muscle tightening around the genitals experienced as a pleasurable wave of tingling sensations through parts of the body

Ovarian Cyst
a fluid-filled sac that forms on the surface of an ovary; most do not cause symptoms and go away by themselves

Ovarian Follicle
a small sac (cyst) on the ovary. An egg matures inside of the follicle—when the egg is mature, the follicle bursts open and releases the egg.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
Before having an assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedure, a woman uses medication or hormones to stimulate the production of multiple eggs (superovulation). In about 5% of ART cycles, superovulation overstimulates the ovaries, a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
Doctors monitor closely for signs of ovarian hyperstimulation during superovulation. If severe, hyperstimulation can cause life-threatening fluid buildup around the heart and lungs and in the abdomen.

Ovarian Resistance (resistant ovary syndrome)
Some women may have this condition during which the ovaries “slow down” rather than stop functioning, and ovulation may occur from time to time. The ovaries become resistant to stimulation from Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and may not respond to treatment with fertility medications.

2 small glands located on either side of a woman's uterus. The ovaries store and release eggs (ova), and produce female sex hormones (estrogen and progesterone), which help control the menstrual cycle, breast development, and other functions.

the release of a mature egg from an ovary during menstruation. Ovulation occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle, or about 14 days before the start of the next menstrual period.

Ovulation Induction
a procedure in which medication is used to stimulate a woman’s ovaries to produce multiple mature follicles and ova

Ovulatory Dysfunction
a condition in which ovulation, the release of an egg from the ovary, does not occur regularly or is absent. Anything that interferes with the normal hormonal regulation of the female menstrual cycle may result in ovulatory dysfunction. Infrequent ovulation and other ovulation problems may account for up to 30 percent of female infertility.


open; for example, fallopian tubes should be patent after a sterilization reversal operation

Pelvic Cavity
the area surrounded by the pelvic bone that contains the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries in women, and the prostate gland and seminal vesicles in men

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
a term used to describe inflammation or infection of the female pelvic organs (uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries). It is usually caused by bacterial infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. Women who have PID are more likely to have repeated pelvic infections. Scarring from pelvic infection is a common cause of chronic pelvic pain and infertility.

Pelvic Ultrasound
A pelvic ultrasound uses sound waves to evaluate the shape and size of the uterus. The test may also help to evaluate the ovaries, providing some information about their shape and size, and the presence of developing cysts.

the male organ used for urination and sexual intercourse

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration
an aspiration technique in which the sperm is removed from the male reproductive tract (epididymis)

Pituitary Gland
a small endocrine gland at the base of the brain that produces substances (hormones) that help control many processes of the body, such as growth, some aspects of pregnancy, breast milk production, sex organ functions in both women and men, and thyroid gland function.

organ attached to the uterus and to the baby by the umbilical cord that nourishes the fetus during pregnancy

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
a hormonal imbalance that affects a woman's ability to ovulate. In some women, the ovaries become enlarged and develop fluid-filled sacs (cysts). The condition, related to a problem with insulin, is a major cause of infertility.
Symptoms and related problems may include irregular menstrual cycles, weight gain, acne, excess hair growth, and diabetes.

a growth or tumor on an internal surface, usually benign

Postcoital Test (PCT)
microscopic examination of a woman’s cervical mucus after sexual intercourse to determine whether sperm are present and moving. Many doctors no longer use this test as an abnormal finding only suggests a need for more testing.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis
a procedure in which one or two embryo cells are removed at an early stage, analyzed for gender and genetic disorders; if the embryo is normal, it is returned to the uterus for pregnancy

Premature Ejaculation
a condition in which ejaculation occurs before the penis enters a woman’s vagina

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)
POF (sometimes called premature menopause) is a loss of ovarian function in women under 40. The condition may be associated with the absence of menstruation and the early depletion of ovarian follicles.

the female hormone, produced by the ovaries during ovulation, that helps prepare the lining of the uterus (endometrium) to receive a fertilized egg. If the egg does not get fertilized, progesterone levels drop and menstrual bleeding begins.

the pituitary hormone that in high amounts stimulates milk production. Prolactin may be measured to evaluate a man's lack of sexual desire or his inability to have an erection.

Prostate Gland
a small walnut-shaped organ that lies just below a man's bladder. The prostate gland produces most of the fluid in semen.


a medical doctor who specializes in performing and interpreting imaging tests. A radiologist reads X-rays and scans, such as chest X-rays, ultrasounds, or mammograms, and reports the findings to your doctor.

Reproductive Endocrinologist
gynecologists who specialize in the care and treatment of women and men who have infertility problems. Women who have difficulty becoming pregnant because of hormone disturbances might see a reproductive endocrinologist.

Reproductive Surgeon
an ob-gyn or urologist who specializes in the surgical correction of anatomical disorders that impair reproductive function

Retrograde Ejaculation
occurs when the semen travels “backwards” and enters the bladder during orgasm instead of emerging through the penis. This happens because the muscles of the urethra and urinary tract are not functioning properly during ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is most common in men with diabetes.


removal of part of a fallopian tube—may be done to improve in vitro fertilization (IVF) success when a tube has developed a buildup of fluid (hydrosalpinx)

inflammation of one or both fallopian tubes

an incision in a fallopian tube, such as to remove an ectopic pregnancy

an operation to open a blocked fallopian tube

a sac, which hangs below the base of the penis, and contains the testicles

Selective Reduction (Multifetal Pregnancy Reduction)
a procedure used to reduce the number of fetuses in a multiple pregnancy, usually to 2 or 3. When a pregnancy involves 3 or more fetuses, the risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, and child disability increase with each additional fetus.
The goal of the procedure is to increase the chance of a successful, healthy pregnancy.

the thick, white fluid containing sperm that is released (ejaculated) from the penis during a man's sexual climax (orgasm)

Semen Analysis
measures the amount of semen and determines the number and quality of sperm. A problem with the semen or sperm affects more than one-third of couples who are being evaluated and treated for infertility. Semen analysis is the most commonly performed test used to evaluate infertility in a man.

Semen Cryostorage
freezing of sperm prior to procedures, such as chemotherapy or radiation, which may render the male temporarily or permanently sterile or in preparation for procedures such as IVF

Semen Fructose Level
a measure of the amount of a sugar, called fructose, in the semen. Fructose provides energy for the sperm and, if absent, may indicate that the man was born without seminal vesicles or has blockage of the seminal vesicles.

Semen pH
a measure of how acid (low pH) or alkaline (high pH) the semen is. A pH that is abnormally high or low can kill sperm or affect their ability to move or to penetrate an egg.

Semen Volume
a measure of how much semen is present in one ejaculation. An abnormally low or high semen volume may sometimes cause fertility problems.

Seminal Vesicles
two sac-like structures that produce part of the thick fluid (semen) that contains sperm. They are located just above the prostate gland.

Seminiferous Tubules
in the testicles, the network of tubes where sperm are formed

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
diseases (STDs) spread by sexual contact. They can also be spread from a pregnant woman to her fetus before or during delivery. STDs may be a cause of infertility.

male germ cells (called gametes or reproductive cells) produced by the testicles and capable of fertilizing the female partner’s eggs. Cells resemble tadpoles. Also referred to as spermatozoa

Sperm Antibody Test
a test to evaluate whether impairment of a man’s sperm is caused by antibodies. Semen can cause an immune response in either the man's or woman's body, and the resulting antibodies can disable or kill sperm. Many doctors no longer use this test.

Sperm Bank
a place where sperm are kept frozen in liquid nitrogen for later use in artificial insemination

Sperm Concentration
a procedure performed for men who have low sperm counts or small numbers of normally active sperm. The sperm is collected, washed, and concentrated so that there are more active, healthy sperm available to use for artificial or intrauterine insemination.

Sperm Count
a count of the number of sperm present in each milliliter of semen in one ejaculation. A milliliter is a measure of volume equal to one-thousandth of a liter. A liter is slightly larger than a quart.

Sperm Morphology
a measure of the percentage of sperm that have a normal shape. A high percentage of abnormal sperm may impair a man's fertility.

Sperm Motility
a measure of the percentage of sperm that can move forward normally. Sperm must be able to move forward through a woman’s cervical mucus to reach an egg. A high percentage of sperm that cannot swim properly may impair a man's fertility.

Sperm Mucus Penetration Test
a test to evaluate whether a man's sperm can travel through cervical mucus. Samples of a woman’s cervical mucus are obtained during ovulation. In a laboratory, semen from the man is added to the mucus in a tube. After 90 minutes, the distance the sperm have traveled is measured.

Sperm Penetration Assay (SPA)
a test to evaluate whether a man's sperm can penetrate an egg. Sperm are collected and mixed with hamster eggs that have had the outer membranes removed. The number of sperm penetrations per egg is measured.

Sperm Washing
a procedure used to remove components other than sperm from a semen sample prior to being used for intrauterine insemination

inability of male or female partner to reproduce due to the absence of normally functioning sperm, eggs, or embryos, or due to the uterus being incapable of sustaining pregnancy

a surgical procedure (such as tubal ligation or vasectomy) designed to produce infertility

Sterilization Reversal
a surgical procedure to undo a previous sterilization operation and restore fertility

Subcutaneous Injection
an injection that is given just under the skin

the production of many mature eggs in one menstrual cycle, usually triggered by a medication that stimulates the ovaries, such as clomiphene, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and gonadotropins. While superovulation increases the likelihood of conception, it also increases the risk of multiple pregnancies.

When a woman is not able to carry a pregnancy but the couple would like to parent their biological child, the couple can use the services of a surrogate—a woman who carries a child for someone else.

Gestational surrogacy is when the couple who want to be parents create an embryo through in vitro fertilization (IVF), and the resulting embryo is transferred to another woman (the surrogate) for gestation. In this situation, the surrogate mother is not genetically related to the child and carries the fetus to term in the role of "host" uterus.

Traditional surrogacy involves insemination using the sperm of the intended father and the surrogate mother’s eggs. Since the eggs of the surrogate mother are used, she will be the genetic mother of the resulting child.


Testicles (testes)
a pair of oval organs in men that produce sperm and the male hormone testosterone. They are located in the scrotum, the sac that hangs below the base of the penis.

relating to the testicle (testis)

Testicular Biopsy
a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from one or both testicles and examined under a microscope to help determine the cause of male infertility.

the male hormone, produced in large amounts by the testicles that affects sexual features and development. Testosterone causes the sex organs to mature, sperm to be produced, and sexual features to develop. A low amount of testosterone can lead to low sperm counts and decrease a man’s sex drive.

Thyroid Gland
the endocrine gland in the front of the neck that produces thyroid hormones, which regulate the body’s metabolism

Total Effective Sperm Count
an estimate of the number of sperm in an ejaculate capable of fertilization, including the total sperm count, the motility percentage, the forward progressive motility percentage, and the normal morphology percentage

Transrectal Ultrasonography (TRUS)
Used to evaluate infertility caused by a blockage of the ejaculatory ducts or absence of seminal vesicles or vas deferens. During this procedure, a lubricated probe inserted in the rectum directs sound waves at the reproductive tract. The echo patterns of the sound waves form an image on a computer display screen.

Tubal Ligation ("having your tubes tied")
a type of surgery for women that permanently prevents fertilization and pregnancy by blocking the sperms' path to the egg. During a tubal ligation, the fallopian tubes are cut and the ends clamped closed or tied off.

plastic or reconstructive surgery on the fallopian tubes to correct abnormalities that cause infertility

an abnormal growth of tissue that can be benign or malignant (cancerous)

Turner's Syndrome (gonadal dysgenesis or monosomy X)
a condition caused by the absence of one (or part of one) of the two X (sex) chromosomes. The syndrome affects only females and results in ovaries that fail to function, causing an absence of ovarian hormones.


a test that uses reflected sound waves to produce an image of organs and other structures in the body

Undescended Testicle (cryptorchidism)
occurs when one or both testicles fail to descend, or drop from the abdomen into the scrotum during fetal life. If not corrected, the condition can interfere with sperm production due to exposure of the testicles to the higher degree of internal body heat. The normal production of sperm requires the cooler temperature found in the scrotum.

Unexplained Infertility
infertility in which no cause has been identified after a medical evaluation

a narrow, tube like structure through which urine passes on its way from the bladder to the outside of the body in both sexes. In males, it is also a passageway for sperm

a physician who specializes in disorders of the male and female urinary system and male reproductive system

Uterine Embryo Transfer
part of the IVF process when the embryos are placed through the woman’s cervix into the uterus

Uterine Fibroids
noncancerous growths in the uterus, which can grow on the inside of the uterus, within the muscle wall of the uterus, or on the outer surface of the uterus. Symptoms may include abnormal vaginal bleeding, pelvic and low back pain, and pain during sex. Occasionally uterine fibroids may be the cause of infertility.

a hollow pear-shaped organ in a woman's lower abdomen. During pregnancy, the fetus grows inside the uterus. When a woman is not pregnant, her monthly menstrual period flows from the uterus.


the part of a woman’s reproductive tract that extends from the uterus to outside the body. During sexual intercourse, sperm are ejaculated into the vagina and travel through the cervical canal and uterus to the fallopian tubes, where fertilization can occur.

inflammation of the vagina

Vanishing Twin Syndrome
In nearly 1 in 4 of known twin pregnancies, one fetus disappears during the first trimester (first 12 weeks of the pregnancy. This is called vanishing twin syndrome. The syndrome may be caused by too little of the hormone that supports pregnancy (human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG).

an enlarged, twisted vein (varicose vein) in the scrotum, which feels like a “bag of worms” and may occasionally cause discomfort. A varicocele can cause an abnormally low sperm count and interfere with a man's fertility. A varicocele may be surgically removed.

Varicocele Repair (Varicocelectomy)
A procedure that is done to improve the fertility of men who have both a varicocele and impaired sperm.

Vas Deferens
a narrow, muscular tube that connects the testicles to the prostate gland. During ejaculation, a man’s sperm flows out of the testicles, through the vas deferens, and into the urethra that leads outside the body through the penis.

a surgical procedure to make a man permanently unable to father a child (sterile). During a vasectomy, the vas deferens, or tube, that carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra is cut and tied off. This prevents sperm from being released during ejaculation.

Vasectomy Reversal (Vasovasostomy)
a surgical procedure to reconnect the tubes (vas deferens) that were cut during a vasectomy. The procedure is performed when a man has had a vasectomy, and now wants to be fertile.





Zona Pellucida
the protective coating surrounding the egg

an egg that has been fertilized but not yet divided

Zygote Intra Fallopian Transfer (ZIFT)
in vitro fertilization with a transfer of the zygote into the fallopian tube; ZIFT combines IVF and GIFT. Eggs and sperm are mixed outside of the body. The fertilized eggs (zygotes) are then returned to the fallopian tubes, through which they travel to the uterus.