Last updated: April 30th, 2021 at 03:24 pm

Glossary of commonly used terms in IVF

When undergoing fertility tests or IVF there is a whole new and unfamiliar terminology that your doctor may use or appears in the associated literature. Below is glossary of terms commonly used in IVF.

This iVF Glossary is furnished for information purposes only. Please consult your medical professional for clarification or explanation of your particular circumstances or as how any of these terms apply to you.

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Adhesion: Bands of scar tissue attached to organ surfaces and capable of connecting, covering, or distorting organs, such as tubes, ovaries or uterus.
Adrenal Glands: Two glands near the kidneys that produce hormones, including some male sex hormones – the adrenal androgens.
Agglutination of Sperm: Sticking together of sperm.
AID Artificial Insemination Donor:- a procedure introducing sperm from an anonymous donor into a woman’s uterus in order to achieve a pregnancy.
Amenorrhea: The absence of menstruation.
Ampulla: The outer half of the fallopian tube, where fertilisation occurs. It opens into the abdominal cavity through the tubal ostium, which is lined by the fimbria.
Androgens: Male sex hormones. Testosterone is one example.
Andrology: The science of diseases peculiar to the male sex, particularly infertility, and sexual dysfunction.
Anomaly: A malformation or abnormality in any part of the body.
Anovulation: Total absence of ovulation. Note: This is not necessarily the same as “amenorrhea.” Menses may still occur with anovulation.
Anovulatory Bleeding: The type of menstruation often associated with failure to ovulate. This menstruation may be scanty and of short duration; or abnormally heavy and irregular.
Antibody: A protective protein produced in the body that fights or otherwise interacts with a foreign substance in the body.
Antisperm antibodies: Antibodies that may be produced by either a female or male which may damage sperm or cause them to adhere to each other, thus limiting their fertility potential.
Artificial Insemination by Donor (AID): The injection of donor semen into a woman’s reproductive tract for the purpose of conception.
Artificial Insemination by Husband (AIH): The injection of husband’s semen into the wife’s reproductive tract for the purpose of conception.
Aspermia: The absence of semen. This is not the same as azoospermia.
Asthenospermia: A condition in which the sperm do not move (swim) at all or move more slowly than normal.
Azoospermia: The absence of sperm in the ejaculate.
Basal Body Temperature (BBT): The temperature of the woman, taken either orally or rectally, upon waking in the morning before any activity. Used to help determine ovulation.
Bicornuate Uterus: A congential malformation of the uterus in which it appears to have two “horns ” (cornu).
Capacitation: The process by which sperm are altered (usually during their passage through the female reproductive tract) that gives them the capacity to penetrate and fertilise the ovum.
Cervix: The lower section of the uterus which protrudes into the vagina.
Child-free Living: A resolution to infertility in which the couple opts for a life-style without parenting, either temporarily or permanently.
Chlamydia: A sexually transmitted disease that may cause impaired fertility.
Chromosomes: Rod-shaped bodies in a cell’s nucleus which carry the genes that convey hereditary characteristics. Made up of DNA.
Cilia: Microscopic hair-like projections from the surface of a cell capable of beating in a coordinated fashion.
Clitoris: The small erectile sex organ of the female, located in front of the vagina and similar to the penis of the male.
Clomiphene Citrate: A synthetic drug used to stimulate the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to increase FSH and LH production. It is usually used to treat ovulatory failure due to hypothalamic pituitary dysfunction.
Coitus: Sexual intercourse.
Conception: The fertilisation of a woman’s egg by a man’s sperm resulting in a new life.
Congenital: A characteristic or defect present at birth. It is acquired during pregnancy but is not necessarily hereditary.
Corpus Luteum: The special gland that forms in the ovary at the site of the released egg. This gland produces the hormone progesterone during the second half of the normal menstrual cycle.
Cryobank: A place where tissues (i.e., sperm, oocytes, embryos) are stored in the frozen state.
Cryopreservation (freezing): A procedure used to preserve (by freezing) and store embryos or gametes (sperm, oocytes).
Cryptorchidism: Undescended testicles.
Dilatation and curettage (D & C): Dilatation of the cervix to allow scraping of the uterine lining with an instrument (curette). This also a means to induce abortion in the first trimester of pregnancy.
Dysgenesis: Faulty formation of any organ.
Dysmenorrhea:Dyspareunia: Painful menstruation.Painful intercourse for either the woman or the man.
Ectopic pregnancy: A pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants anywhere but in the uterine cavity (usually in the fallopian tube, the ovary or the abdominal cavity).
Egg (Oocyte) donation: Surgical removal of an egg from one woman for transfer into the fallopian tube or uterus of another woman.
Ejaculation: The male orgasm during which approximately two to five milliters of semen (seminal fluid and sperm) are ejected from the penis.
Embryo: The term used to describe the early stages of fetal growth, from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy.
Embryo transfer: The introduction of an embryo into a woman’s uterus after in vitro (or in vivo) fertilisation.
Endocrine system: The system of glands including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, testicles or ovaries.
Endocrinologist: A doctor who specialises in diseases of the endocrine glands.
Endometrial biopsy: The extraction of a small sample of tissue from the uterus for examination. Usually done to show evidence of ovulation.
Endometriosis: The presence of endometrial tissue (the normal uterine lining) in abnormal locations such as the tubes, ovaries and peritoneal cavity, often causing painful menstruation and infertility.
Endometrium: The mucous membrane lining the uterus.
Endosalpinx: The tissue lining in the fallopian tube.
Epididymis: An elongated organ in the male lying above and behind the testicles. It contains a highly convoluted canal, four to six meters in length, where, after production, sperm are stored, nourished and ripened for a period of several months.
Erection: The enlarged, rigid state of the penis when sexually aroused.
Estradiol (E2): A hormone released by developing follicles in the ovary. Plasma estradiol levels are used to help determine progressive growth of the follicle during ovulation induction.
Fallopian tubes: A pair of narrow tubes that carry the ovum (egg) from the ovary to the body of the uterus.
Fertilisation: The penetration of the egg by the sperm and fusion of genetic materials to result in the development of an embryo.
Foetal death The term often used to include both miscarriage and still-birth.
Foetus: The developing baby from the ninth week of pregnancy until the moment of the birth.
Fibroid: A benign tumour of fibrous tissue that may occur in the uterine wall. Maybe totally without symptoms or may cause abnormal menstrual patterns or infertility.
Fimbriae: The fringed and flaring outer ends of the fallopian tubes which capture the egg after it released from the ovary.
Follicle: The structure in the ovary that has nurtured the ripening egg and from which the egg is released.
Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): A hormone produced in the anterior pituitary that stimulates the ovary to ripen a follicle for ovulation.
Follicular Phase: The first half of the menstrual cycle when follicle development takes place in the ovary.
Frigidity: The inability to become sexually aroused. Not a known cause of infertility.
Gamete: The male or female reproductive cells- the sperm or the ovum (egg).
Gamete intra-fallopian transfer (GIFT): Procedure in which the sperms and eggs are transferred by laparoscopy into the fallopian tubes where fertilisation may then take place.
Genes: Substances that convey hereditary characteristics, consisting primarily of DNA and proteins and occurring at specific points on the chromosomes.
Genetic: Pertaining to hereditary characteristics.
Genetic abnormality: A disorder arising from an anomaly in the chromosomal structure which may or may not be hereditary.
Genetic counselling: Advice and information provided, usually by a team of experts, on the detection and risk of recurrence of genetic disorders.
Gestation: The period of foetal development in the uterus from conception to birth, usually considered to be 40 weeks in humans.
Gland: Hormone-producing organ.
GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone; LHRH): A hormone released from the hypothalamus that controls the synthesis and release of pituitary hormones FSH and LH.
Gonadotropin: A hormone capable of stimulating the gonads to produce hormones and / or gametes.
Gonads: The glands that make the gametes (the testicles in the male and the ovaries in the female).
Gonal-F: The brand name of a new recombinant FSH used to stimulate the ovaries to produce follicles. Follistim is the brand name of another recombinant FSH on the market.
Gynaecologist: A doctor who specialises in the diseases of the female reproductive system.
Hamster Test (sperm penetration assay): Used to determine the ability of a man’s sperm to penetrate a hamster egg. Thought to provide evidence of the sperm’s fertilising ability.
Haemorrhage: Excessive bleeding.
Hereditary: Transmitted from one’s ancestors by way of the genes within the chromosomes of the fertilising sperm and egg.
Hirsutism: The presence of excessive body and facial hair, especially in women.
Hormone: A chemical, produced by an endocrine gland, which circulates in the blood and has widespread action throughout the body.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG): A hormone secreted by the placenta during pregnancy that prolongs the life of the corpus luteum.
Human menopausal gonadotropin (HMG): A natural product containing both human FSH and LH. These hormones are extracted from the urine of postmenopausal women.
Hydrocele: A swelling in the scrotum containing fluid.
Hydrosalpinx: A large fluid-filled, club-shaped fallopian tube closed at the fimbriated end. It is a cause of infertility.
Hydrotubation: Lavage or “flushing” of the fallopian tubes with a sterile solution which sometimes contains medication such as antibiotics, enzymes, or steroids.
Hymen: A membrane that partially covers the virgin vagina.
Hyperplasia: An abnormal enlargement of an organ or tissue of the body.
Hyper-stimulation syndrome: A syndrome which may include ovarian enlargement, abdominal distension and weight gain.
Hypogonadism: Inadequate gonadal function as manifested by deficiencies in sperm production in males or egg production in females and/or the secretion of gonadal hormones (oestrogens and androgens, respectively).
Hypospadias: A malformation of the penis in which the urethral opening is found on the underside rather than at the tip of the penis.
Hypothalamus: A part of the base of the brain that controls the release of hormones from the pituitary.
Hysterosalpingogram: An X-ray study in which a contrast dye is injected into the uterus to show the delineation of the body of the uterus and the patency of the fallopian tubes. Also called a tubogram or uterotubogram.
Hysteroscopy: An endoscopic (fiber-optic tube) procedure used primarily to visualise the interior of the uterus.
Idiopathic (unknown or unexplained): The term used when no reason can be found to explain the cause of a medical condition.
Immunological response: The production of antibodies in the woman or man.
Implantation: The embedding of the fertilised egg in the endometrium of the uterus.
Impotence: The inability of the male to achieve or maintain an erection for intercourse due to physical or emotional problems.
Incompetent cervix: A weakened cervix that is incapable of holding the foetus within the uterus for the full nine months. Can be a cause of late miscarriage.
Infertility: The inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy after one year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, or the inability of the woman to carry a pregnancy to live birth.
Interstitial cells: The cells between the seminiferous tubules of the testicles that produce the male hormone testosterone. Also called Leydig cells.
In vitro (literally, in glass) fertilisation (IVF): A procedure in which a egg is removed from a ripe follicle and fertilised by a sperm cell outside the human body. Also called “test tube baby” and “test tube fertilisation.”
In vivo fertilisation: The fertilisation of an egg by a sperm within the woman’s body.
IUI Intrauterine insemination- Placement of washed sperm into the uterus
Kallman’s syndrome: Hypogonadism with anosmia (loss of the sense of smell). Uncommon cause of male infertility.
Karyotype: A study of the chromosomes of the tissue. Used for genetic studies.
Klinefelter’s syndrome: A congenital abnormality of the male wherein he receives an XXY chromosomal complement instead of XY. These men are infertile.
Labia: Folds of skin on either side of the entrance of the vagina.
Laparoscopy: The direct visualisation of the ovaries and the exterior of the fallopian tubes and uterus by means of inserting a surgical telescope through a small incision below the naval.
Leydig Cells: Abdominal surgery.See interstitial cells.
LHRH: Luteinising hormone releasing hormone (see GnRH).
Libido: Sexual desire.
Luteal Phase: The days of the menstrual cycle following ovulation and ending with menses during which progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum.
Luteal phase defect: A shortened luteal phase or one with inadequate progesterone production.
Luteinised un-ruptured follicle syndrome (LUF): A condition in which the egg is not released during ovulation; the follicle does not rupture and the egg is trapped.
Luteinising hormone (LH): A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. Secretion of LH increases in the middle of the cycle to induce release of the egg.
Lutrepulse: The trade name for a gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) used to induce ovulation in some patients. It is administered through an infusion pump in a pulsatile fashion.
Menarche: The onset of menstruation in girls.

Menopause: The cessation of menstruation due to aging or failure of the ovaries. Most commonly occurs between the ages of 40 and 50.
Menotropins (human menopausal gonadotropin or HMG): Injections which containing FSH and LH. They are produced by extraction from the urine of menopausal women.
Menstruation: The shedding of the uterine lining by cyclic bleeding that normally occurs about once a month in the mature female.
Micromanipulation: Process whereby a single sperm is injected under the egg’s shell or directly into the egg to facilitate fertilisation.
Miscarriage: A spontaneous abortion of a foetus up to the age of viability.
Mittelschmerz: German for “middle pain,” referring to the pain during ovulation that some women experience.
Morphology of sperm: The study of the shape of sperm cells. This evaluation is part of a semen analysis.
Motility of sperm: The ability of the sperm to move about.
Mumps orchitis: Inflammation of the testicle caused by mumps virus. Can lead to sterility if infection with the virus occurs after puberty.
Myomectomy: Surgical removal of a fibroid tumour (myoma) in the uterine muscular wall.
Necrospermia: A condition in which sperm are produced and found in the semen but they are dead. These sperm cannot fertilise eggs.
Nidation: The implantation of the fertilised egg in the endometrium of the uterus.
Obstetrician: A doctor who specialises in pregnancy and childbirth.
Oestrogen: A class of female hormones, produced mainly by the ovaries from the onset of puberty until menopause which are also responsible for the development of secondary sexual characteristics in women.
Oligo-ovulation: Infrequent ovulation, usually less than six ovulatory cycles per year.
Oligospermia: An abnormally low number of sperm in the ejaculate of the male.
Oocyte: The egg.
Oocyte retrieval: A surgical procedure to collect the eggs contained within the ovarian follicles.
Orchitis: An inflammation of the testes.
Ovarian failure: The inability of the ovary to respond to any gonadotropic hormone stimulation, usually due to the absence of oocytes.
Ovaries (Ovary): The sexual gland of the female which produces the hormones oestrogen and progesterone, and in which the ova are developed.
Oviduct: Fallopian tube.
Ovulation: The discharge of a mature egg, usually at about the midpoint of the menstrual cycle.
Ovulation induction: The use of hormone therapy (clomiphene citrate, HMG,HCG) to stimulate development and release.
Ovum: The egg (reproductive) cell produced in the ovaries each month. (The plural of ovum is ova.)
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Inflammatory disease of the pelvis, often caused by infection.
Penis: The male organ of intercourse.
Pituitary: A gland located at the base of the human brain that secretes a number of important hormones related to normal growth and development and fertility.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS): Development of multiple cysts in the ovaries due to arrested follicular growth resulting in an imbalance in the amount of LH and FSH released.
Polyp: A nodule or small growth found frequently on mucous membranes, such as in the cervix or the uterus.
Post-coital test (huhner test): A diagnostic test for infertility in which vaginal and cervical secretions are obtained following intercourse and then analysed under a microscope.
Progesterone: A hormone secreted by the corpus luteum of the ovary after ovulation has occurred. Also produced by the placenta during pregnancy.
Prostate: A gland in the male that surrounds the first portion of the urethra near the bladder. It secretes an alkaline liquid that neutralises acid in the urethra and stimulates motility of the sperm.
Pyospermia: A condition in which the presence of white cells in the semen indicates possible infection.
Retrograde ejaculation: Discharge of semen backward into the bladder rather than forward through the penis.
Retroverted uterus: Uterus that is bent backward.
Rubin test: Obsolete test in which a gas such as carbon dioxide is blown into the uterus under pressure to test if the fallopian tubes are open.
Salpingitis: Inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
Salpingolysis: Surgery to clear the fallopian tubes of adhesions.
Salpingoplasty: Surgery to correct blocked fallopian tubes.
Scrotum: The bag of skin and thin muscle that holds the testicles.
Secondary infertility: The inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy after having successfully conceived and carried one or more pregnancies.
Semen: The sperm and seminal secretions ejaculated during orgasm.
Semen analysis: The study of a fresh ejaculate under the microscope.
Seminal vesicle: A pair of pouch-like glands above the prostate in the male that produce a thick, alkaline secretion that is passed in the semen during ejaculation.
Seminiferous tubules: The long tubes in the testicles in which sperm are formed.
Septum: An abnormality in organ structure present since birth in which a wall is present where one should not exist.
Sperm (spermatozoa): The male reproductive cell, that has measurable characteristics such as:

  • Motility: refers to percent of sperm demonstrating any type of movement.
  • Count (or Density): refers to the number of sperm present.
  • Morphology: refers to form or shape of the sperm.
  • Viability: refers to whether or not the sperm are alive.


Sperm bank: Place in which sperm (from donor or from husband) is stored frozen for future use in artificial insemination.
Sperm washing: A technique that separates the sperm from the seminal fluid.
Spermatogenesis: The production of sperm within the seminiferous tubules.
Spinnbarkheit: The stretch-ability of cervical mucus.
Split ejaculate: A method of collecting a semen specimen so that the first half of the ejaculate is caught in one container and the rest in a second container. The first half usually contains the majority of the sperm.
Surrogate mother: A woman who gestates an embryo and then turns over the child to the infertile couple, who may be its genetic parents.
Testicles: The male sexual glands of which there are two. Contained in the scrotum, they produce the male hormone testosterone and produce the male reproductive cells, the sperm.
Testicular biopsy: Surgical excision of testicular tissue to determine the ability of the testes to produce normal sperm
Testicular failure: Occurs when the testes fail to produce sperm.
Testosterone: The most potent male sex hormone, produced in the testicles.
Test-tube baby: A child born through in vitro fertilisation.
Thyroid gland: A gland located at the front base of the neck which secretes the hormone thyroid which is necessary for normal fertility.
Tuboplasty: Surgical repair of fallopian tubes.
Turner’s syndrome (ovarian dysgenesis): A congenital abnormality of the female wherein she receives an XO instead of an XX genetic sex complement. Women with this condition are sterile.
Ultrasound (sonography): A imaging technique for visualising the growth of ovarian follicles during infertility therapy.
Unexplained fertility: See idiopathic infertility.
Urethra: The tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside. In men it also carries semen from the prostate to the point of ejaculation during intercourse.
Urologist: A doctor who specialises in diseases of the urinary tract in men and women, and the genital organs in men.
Uterotubogram: See hysterosalpingogram.
Uterus: The hollow, muscular organ in the woman that holds and nourishes the foetus until the time of birth.
Vagina: The birth canal opening in the woman extending from the vulva to the cervix of the uterus.
Vaginismus: A spasm of the muscles around the opening of the vagina, making penetration during sexual intercourse either impossible or very painful.
Varicocele: A varicose vein of the testicles, sometimes a cause of male infertility.
Vas deferens: A pair of thick-walled tubes about 45cm long in the male that lead from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct in the prostate.
Vasectomy: Surgery to excise part of the vas deferens to sterilise a man.
Vasogram: X-ray of the sperm ducts.
Venereal disease (VD): Any infection pertaining to or transmitted by sexual intercourse. Also known as STD or sexually transmitted disease – most commonly gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia.
Viscosity: Thickness of the semen.
Vulva: The external genitalia of the female.
Zygote: An embryo in early development stage.
Zygote intra-fallopian transfer (ZIFT): Transfer of a zygote into a fallopian tube (usually done by laparoscopy).

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