Know Your Vocab
We know the family-building process can be daunting and it can sometimes feel like everyone is speaking an entirely different language (we know, we’ve been there).
We’ve compiled this resource of words, abbreviations, and phrases you’ll likely hear throughout your family-building journey to help demystify the process.
Adrenal Carticotropic Hormone
Aunt Flo, otherwise known as your period, or otherwise known as, "ughhhh, HER again." When she comes to town, it's time to stock up on heating pads, sweatpants, and your favorite Netflix shows.
"Assisted hatching," or a methodology in IVF when the zona (egg covering layer) is thinned prior to embryo transfer. The thinking here is that this will improve the likelihood that that little embaby will hatch and get cozy inside that uterus of yours.
"Artificial/Assisted Insemination," such as an IUI.
A form of assisted hatching in which the embryo is exposed to a chemical solution that erodes the zona (egg covering) juuust a little bit, in order to promote hatching.
The protective structure surrounding the head of a sperm, which contains enzymes allowing the sperm to penetrate an egg like the strong little tadpole it was meant to be.
A condition in which the endometrial glands run a little wild. With adenomyosis, the endometrial glands grow into the uterine walls and create a spongey effect (AKA not the best uterine lining for an embryo to grow within). Sometimes, this condition comes with heavy, painful periods and uterine enlargement.
One of the first hormones your reproductive endocrinologist will investigate, this hormone is measured early in a woman’s cycle to determine her ovarian reserve. A higher AMH level correlates to a higher ovarian reserve, or in other words, more eggs.
Antibodies to chemical substances that coat the placenta root system as it grows into the uterine walls. If you've experienced repeat miscarriages or have had trouble conceiving, it's worth testing your concentration of these bad boys—women with high concentrations of APAs may have a tougher time getting pregnant.
Substances in our blood (man or woman) as well as semen, cervical mucus, or uterine/tubal secretions that reduce fertility. How, you may ask? By causing sperm to stick together, coating their surface or killing them altogether.
A count of the number of small follicles in a woman's ovaries, seen via ultrasound early on in her cycle. Used to measure ovarian reserve, you'll probably have a lot of these if you've been visiting a reproductive endocrinologist, and you'll definitely have a lot of these if you're doing IVF to monitor how you're responding to ovary-stimulating medication.
A methodology in IVF when the zona (egg covering layer) is thinned prior to embryo transfer. The thinking here is that this will improve the likelihood that that little embaby will hatch and get cozy inside that uterus of yours.
Any procedure involving egg retrieval and manipulating or enhancing eggs and sperm outside the body. It includes things like gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and zygote intrafallopian transfer/tubal embryo transfer (ZIFT/TET).Procedures involving retrieval of eggs and the enhancement of eggs and sperm outside the body. It includes procedures such as gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and zygote intrafallopian transfer/tubal embryo transfer (ZIFT/TET).
These little guys are antibodies that are formed against the proteins of the individual’s own body. It's like your body is fighting against itself. Frustrating, we know.
"Bloodwork," which, if you're undergoing fertility treatment, you'll be doing a lot of.
"Baby aspirin," which some studies have shown increases pregnancy rates among women with inflammation.
Otherwise known as basal body temperature, this is your lowest resting temperature and must be measured as soon as you wake up. Tracking subtle changes in BBT is one of the ways some have had success with monitoring their ovulation and tracking their cycles.
Birth control pills. Often taken for years prior to trying to conceive (oh, the irony) and sometimes taken as part of a medicated cycle–for example, if you are doing IVF and your doctor wants to regulate the timing of your cycle, he/she may use BCP to manipulate it.
"Baby dancing," having sex, getting it on...you get the idea. If you're within your fertile window, it's time to BD.
Big Fat Negative, or what you get on a home pregnancy test or blood test when you are not pregnant.
Big Fat Positive, or what you're waiting, hoping, and praying to see on a pregnancy test if you're trying to conceive.
Otherwise known as a quantitative beta hCG blood pregnancy test, this is the test that measures how much hCG a woman has in her blood, produced by an implanting embryo. It's measured 9-11 days after an IVF embryo transfer, so you don't ABSOLUTELY INSANE waiting for a missed period.
An advanced stage of embryo development (days 5-7 after fertilization), during which a cavity develops within the young embryo. Before sending any embryos off for genetic testing, they must make it to blastocyst stage.
One single, tiny cell within a developing embryo. Each one of these is capable of developing into an identical embryo (which could result in multiples) until the embryo reaches about the 30 cell stage, after which the cells begin to differentiate into specific tissues.
"Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia," or a group of rare genetic disorders that affects the adrenal glands and may influence your hormones.
"Congenital Bilateral Absence of Vas Deferens," or when a man's vas deferens is missing. This condition exists at birth, and is associated with cystic fibrosis.
"Cycle day"—or the day of one's menstrual cycle, with CD1 = the first day of a period. If you're trying to conceive (or trying to avoid it), understanding your cycle length is super important as it may indicate the window of dates when you'll be most fertile.
"Cervical mucus"—sounds gross, but is actually an important indicator for a woman's ovulation and a healthy cycle. Depending on the type or consistency of cervical mucus a woman experiences, she may be at different phases of her menstrual cycle.
"Certified Nurse Midwife," or someone who is a certified midwife and also a registered nurse. Just another person in your corner as part of your birthing team, once you do become pregnant.
"Cervical position," or the position of a woman's cervix at different points in her cycle (low/high, "measured" by sticking her fingers up there). Cervical position indicating ovulation is actually a myth, however, and the only time the cervix goes through major changes is when a woman is giving birth.
Nope, not the drugstore chain. This stands for "Chorionic Villae Sampling," and it's a test performed in early pregnancy to detect any abnormalities in the fetus.
This is the process of sperm getting prepared for fertilization as it passes through the woman's reproductive tract (in vivo capacitation) or in a lab (in vitro capacitation). Think of it as sperm being "on deck," or getting a pep talk before the big moment.
The area connecting the outer cervical opening and the uterine cavity. Think of it like any other canal—stuff is supposed to "flow" through.
A mucus-y susbtance excreted by glands in the cervical canal. Depending on where you're at in your cycle, your cervical mucus will change in consistency—and can be a good indicator for ovulation. If you're #ttc (trying to conceive), you'll want to monitor this closely. When women ovulate, cervical mucus helps sperm make its journey toward the egg for fertilization.
The lowest part of the uterus that extends into the upper vagina and opens into the uterus through the cervical canal. During an IUI, your doctor will place a catheter up through your cervix to get sperm as close to your uterus—and those eggs—as possible.
Early pregnancy loss, despite chemical evidence of a possible developing pregnancy based on a positive home pregnancy test or blood test indicating the presence of the hCG hormone. This is different than a clinical pregnancy, which is confirmed by ultrasound. With a chemical pregnancy, the loss occurs before the pregnancy would have been detectable on an ultrasound.
An STD that may cause damage to the fallopian tubes or male reproductive system, which can result in infertility conditions.
Structures within the nuclei of cells—including eggs and sperm—where the genetic material lives. These guys are how you might pass on your blue eyes, or your partner's long legs, to an embryo using both of your genetic material.
The process of cell division.
The change in hormones several years before menopause that begins the progressive decline in fertility, including increased abnormal or absent ovulation, fewer or more irregular periods, and progressive rises in FSH and LH levels. If you're trying to conceive, yeah, things start to get tough from here—but the good news is, there are lots of options and treatment available to hopefully help you.
A pregnancy that's far along enough to be confirmed by an ultrasound or examining a surgical specimen obtained from a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
A drug that lowers estrogen levels, causing FSH to increase and allowing egg follicles to develop into eggs. In other words, it makes you ovulate.
"Clomid Challenge Test"—essentially, when a woman is prescribed clomid to see how her ovaries and FSH levels respond to fertility treatment or if they are resistant in one way or another.
A drug that lowers estrogen levels, causing FSH to increase and allowing egg follicles to develop into eggs. In other words, it makes you ovulate. When marketed in the United States, it's also known as clomid or serophene.
Genetic testing that examines all chromosomes of a single cell.
The fertilization of an egg by sperm. When the "magic" happens.
When several follicles mature simultaneously in response to fertility drug treatment. The key word here is controlled. Your follicle growth will be carefully monitored by your doctor, and your medication protocol will adjusted accordingly to stimulate or halt further growth.
This is what a follicle becomes after an egg has been extracted. After ovulation, the follicle evolves chemically and hormonally into the corpus luteum, which produces progesterone and estrogen. The corpus luteum usually lasts 10-14 days and then dies unless a pregnancy occurs.
Freezing and storing eggs, sperm, and embryos for future use. Ice, ice, baby.
"Dilation & Curettage," which is a procedure used after a first-trimester miscarriage or abortion to remove tissue from inside a woman's uterus. A doctor may also perform a D&C to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions. It's just generally a terrible experience, especially emotionally. If you've experienced a miscarriage and a D&C, we are so, so sorry you've gone through this.
"Dilation & Evacuation," which is a procedure used after a second-trimester miscarriage or abortion. Typically, this includes everything from a D&C as well as some additional surgery to remove the fetus. Like a D&C, it's just generally a terrible experience, especially emotionally. If you've experienced a miscarriage and a D&E, we are so, so sorry you've gone through this.
"Diethylstillbestrol," which, besides being a mouthful to say, is an estrogen medication that's mostly no longer used.
"Dear husband"—referring to all the husbands out there on fertility journeys with their partners.
"Dihydroepiandrosterone," which is a male sex hormone that's actually present in both men and women.
"Diminished ovarian reserve," or when a woman has decreasing quality and quantity of her eggs.
"Days post 3-day transfer," or the days following the transfer of an embryo that had developed for 3 days.
"Days post 5-day transfer," or the days following the transfer of a blastocyst embryo that had developed for 5 days.
"Days past ovulation." Typically, women can expect their period at 14DPO, and sometimes, it's insanity counting the DPO until a pregnancy test can be taken with certainty.
"Days post retrieval," or the days following an egg retrieval as part of a freezing or IVF cycle.
"Days post transfer," or the days following an embryo transfer as part of an IVF cycle. If you've just gone through an embryo transfer, you're likely monitoring the DPT as you get closer to a date when you can take a pregnancy test with certainty.
"Dear wife"—referring to all the wives out there on fertility journeys with their partners.
A person who was conceived via the donation of sperm (sperm donation) or ova (egg donation), or both.
Used in cases of poor egg quality, diminished ovarian reserve, or in order for gay fathers to conceive, donor eggs are also used in gestational surrogacy.
A procedure where a small camera is inserted through the cervix and into the uterine cavity, to hopefully make a diagnosis and get you some answers. It's usually performed under anesthesia in your doctor's office or operating room, so while the procedure usually only lasts about 20 minutes or so, you'll be knocked out. Carbon dioxide gas or a liquid will be injected to distend the cavity and allow direct visualization of its structure.
A drug previously taken by women during pregnancy that has since been found to potentially cause infertility conditions in their offspring. If your mother took this while pregnant with you, we recommend chatting with a reproductive endocrinologist.
"Diagnosis," or a doctor's conclusion as to why something may be impacting one's fertility.
"Endometrial biopsy," where a doctor removes a small piece of tissue from the endometrium, or the lining of a woman's uterus. By examining this tissue, he/she can check for abnormalities or altered hormone levels and potentially diagnose a condition.
"Early pregnancy test," or a pregnancy test with enhanced sensitivity to hCG in urine that may give you conclusive results a few days sooner than other pregnancy tests.
"Egg retrieval"—not "emergency room!" An ER will be performed as part of an egg freezing or IVF cycle.
"Endometrial Receptivity Analysis," which is one test that can be done after repeat miscarriage or failed IVF embryo transfers to better understand the uterine environment. The test evaluates genetic makeup to determine the optimal time window that the endometrial lining will be most receptive to an embryo for implantation, and if standard transfer protocols need to be altered.
"Embryo transfer," or the transfer of a fertilized embryo into the uterus as part of an IVF cycle. An embryo can be fresh, or frozen after genetic testing, and the transfer can take place anytime after.
"Embryo toxicity assay," which is one test that can be done after a woman has experienced miscarriages or implantation failures. An ETA aims to determine if a woman is secreting a substance that's toxic to the embryo, which could cause implantation failure or miscarriage. It can determine embryonic toxic factor (ETF).
"Embryonic toxic factor"—this is what happens to an embryo if a woman or man is secreting a substance toxic to the embryo before conception, which could cause implantation failure or miscarriage.
"Egg white cervical mucus"—when a woman experiences this type/consistency of cervical mucus, it may be a sign of impending ovulation.
A pregnancy where the embryo implants somewhere outside the uterus, most often the fallopian tube—which explains why this is sometimes also called a "tubal pregnancy." If undetected, an ectopic pregnancy can have serious—even life-threatening—effects that may require surgical intervention. If you've had an ectopic pregnancy, seek medical help ASAP.
The female reproductive gamete, AKA an oocyte. Eggs develop in the ovaries and are the largest cells in a human body.
If you're undergoing IVF treatment or are donating your eggs, you'll experience an egg retrieval. During this procedure, eggs are removed from follicles in your ovaries through a needle with ultrasound guidance or during a laparoscopy. This happens just before ovulation, so the eggs are as mature as possible.
The first 6-8 weeks of development of a fertilized egg. After that, once the embryo starts to take on human features, it's referred to as a fetus.
The donation of an embryo, created through IVF, by its parents to an agency or another person/couple directly. This takes place when the original parents have remaining embryos frozen, but have already undergone IVF and are done having kids or have decided not to pursue the transfer of these embryos for other reasons.
This involves adding cells from other tissue growth (usually from the fallopian tubes or follicular lining) to the culture in which the zygote is growing in the lab. Supposedly, this can enhance embryo growth and healthy development.
The process of transferring embryos grown in vitro (fresh or frozen) directly into the uterus.
The condition where the endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) actually grows outside the uterus. This can cause scar tissue, painful periods or sex, or heavy bleeding. Resulting damage to the fallopian tubes or ovaries can also relate to infertility, though many endometriosis infertility cases are treatable.
The inner lining of the uterus. During your menstrual cycle, the endometrium grows and sheds to prepare for an upcoming embryo to implant there. Think of it as "tidying up for company."
The tubular structure that contains and transfers sperm to the vas deferens and then through the urethra and penis during ejaculation. Basically, it functions as a holding cell for sperm.
A female hormone that's produced by ovarian follicles and determines how well a woman is responding to controlled ovarian hyperstimulation with fertility drugs. If you're doing IVF, your bloodwork will be measuring your levels of estradiol. The higher the estradiol, the more follicles that are likely developing and (fingers crossed) the more eggs that may be retrieved.
Natural estradiol, prescribed orally, by injection, or transdermally (via patches).
The queen of hormones, otherwise known as a primary female sex hormone. It's produced by your adrenal glands, ovaries, and placenta.
"Fasting blood glucose," which is one measurement taken to determine if someone is prediabetic or diabetic.
"Frozen embryo transfer," or transferring a previously-frozen embryo into a woman's uterus.
"First Morning Urine," or what some recommend to use on a pregnancy or ovulation test as it is most concentrated.
"Fertile Thoughts To All," a favorite sign-off in fertility speak.
Short (approx. 4 inches) and narrow structures that connect the sides of the uterus with the ovaries. If you've been having trouble getting pregnant, your doctor may order a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to determine if anything is blocking your tubes and preventing eggs from making their way to your ovaries.
A procedure where a thin camera is inserted into the fallopian tubes to view their condition. Don't worry, you won't be awake for this procedure—it's typically performed during a laparoscopy or hysteroscopy.
Hormones prescribed to stimulate "regular" reproductive function. For women, that means stimulating her ovaries to produce as many mature eggs as possible or to help her actually ovulate. For men, it means enhancing sperm function or production.
Banking eggs or embryos for later use, or to preserve your fertility...get it?
When a sperm meets an ovulated egg and they fuse to create a zygote. The big moment!
After the first 6-8 weeks of embryo development, this is when it starts to take on human features. It's alllllll happening.
Non-cancerous (benign) growths in the uterus. These can range in size—from tiny to larger—and can exist on their own or in multiples, which can cause your uterus to expand. We know that sounds scary, but you can breathe a sigh of relief: fibroids aren't associated with an increased of uterine cancer and almost never develop into cancer. Lots of women have fibroids and never know it because there usually aren't any symptoms, but fibroids can still prevent proper embryo implantation or development. Your doctor should be able to detect fibroids on an ultrasound.
Scar tissue in the uterus that may prevent an embryo from properly implanting.
Little, finger-shaped extensions at the ends of the fallopian tubes that retrieve eggs during ovulation.
A hormone released from the pituitary gland to stimulate the ovaries or testicles. When getting an initial fertility workup, you'll get tested for your existing FSH. If you're taking FSH as a drug, it's also known in the United States as Follistim, Gonal-F or Bravelle.
Small sacs within the ovaries. Usually, each follicle contains an egg and produces female sex hormones.
The first half of your cycle, beginning on day 1 of your period and ending with ovulation.
An abnormal pattern of estrogen production, also known as follicular phase defect.
A term of endearment for a frozen embryo. Awww.
For females, this refers to eggs. For males, sperm.
A person who carries a pregnancy for another intended parent(s)
The process where prospective parents undergo IVF to create embryos and then transfer one to the uterus of another woman (a saint, really) who carries the baby to term.
A hormone released by the hypothalamus that, essentially, tells the pituitary gland to produce gonadotropins.
Also known as Lupron, Nafarelin, or Synarel, these cause FSH and LH blood levels to fall to low levels.
Also known as Ganirelix or Cetrotide, these block the pituitary gland from releasing FSH and LH. If you're doing an IVF cycle, you may be prescribed to take these injections several days in, to suppress ovulation and keep your follicles growing before an egg retrieval.
A group of hormones—LH and FSH—secreted by the pituitary which get your gonad activity going. In other words, they stiumulate the testes and the ovaries to function how they're supposed to.
Ovaries and testicles. Where it all goes down.
A fertility drug taken to stimulate the ovaries with FSH, typically taken as part of an IVF cycle. Otherwise known as Follitism or Bravelle.
The bacteria that produces gonorrhea, an STD that can cause infertility in men and women.
Home pregnancy test, the kind you take by peeing on a stick.
A drug aimed at preventing blood clotting within the fluid surrounding eggs. Sometimes, this may be added to the solution used to flush eggs out of follicles during retrieval.
A hormone produced by an implanting embryo. If this hormone is present in a woman's blood, it indicates a possible pregnancy. It can also be given to women undergoing fertility treatment to trigger ovulation, for example, if she is undergoing IVF. hCG injections may also be given post-embryo transfer to encourage progesterone production and promote implantation. Fun fact: the hormone hCG that's taken as a drug is actually extracted from the urine of pregnant women.
A series of X-rays of the uterine area, after a technician has injected dye through the cervix and into the uterus. The idea is that the X-ray will show the path the dye has traveled and if there are any blockages in the uterus or fallopian tubes preventing the dye to flow correctly.
Used in a hysteroscopy, this is a telescope-like tool (with a light on it and everything!) that gets passed through the cervix into the uterus. This allows the surgeon to get a good, hard look at the inside of the cervical canal and uterus for any scar tissue, disease or other issues.
The procedure whereby a hysteroscope is inserted through the cervical canal and inside the uterus to search for any defects. It can also involve surgery to correct these issues right then and there, so there (hopefully) won't be a need for other more invasive surgeries.
"Infertility." Basically, once a word becomes a big enough part of your vocab, you need some sort of abbreviation for it.
"Insulin resistant," a relatively common trait among females with infertility, particularly among those who may be overweight. The good news is, treating insulin resistance can often help those women get pregnant (sometimes in addition to other fertility treatments).
The same thing as gestational surrogacy, when prospective parents undergo IVF to create embryos and then transfer one to the uterus of another woman who carries the baby to term.
When an embryo "implants" into the woman's endometrium and begins to further develop.
The process of external fertilization—literally translating to, "fertilization in glass." First, a woman takes fertility drugs for several days that stimulate her ovaries to produce mature eggs. Then, right before ovulation, her eggs are retrieved in minor surgery using suction to remove the eggs. Afterwards, the eggs are fertilized in a lab using partner or donor sperm, and then the fertilized embryos are transferred back into her body or a surrogate's (potentially after some genetic testing).
Pregnancy success reports that include both clinical and chemical pregnancies. Make sure when you visit a clinic that you ask about their clinical pregnancy rate or live birth rate for the most accurate and clear stats.
The inability to conceive naturally after one full year (if you're under 35) or six months (if you're between 35-40). If you're over 40 and trying to conceive, we recommend heading straight to a specialist to see what's what, versus trying first.
One of the hormones evaluated in a woman's blood that measures her ovarian reserve.
Placement of sperm into a Petri dish in a lab, containing a woman's egg (as in IVF), or directly into a woman's uterus (as in IUI).
A solution that nourishes and protects an egg or embryos in a Petri dish, similar to the function of the mother's body fluids in the womb.
Person or persons who become the legal parent of a child born through third-party reproduction.
The action of taking a single sperm and injecting it directly into the egg, ICSI is often used to help fertilization for couples faced with sperm issues or other embryo quality challenges.
Used to treat implantation failure or repeat miscarriage, intralipids are a synthetic liquid cocktail given via IV prior to embryo transfer. Usually comprised of egg yolk phospholipids, soybean oil, glycerin and water, intralipids are given to combat natural killer cells of women with autoimmune issues, which can sometimes "attack" an implanting embryo. Some studies have found that intralipid treatment can contribute to improved embryo implantation.
The injection of "washed" sperm (only the best swimmers) into the uterus via a catheter inserted through the cervix. The idea here is that the best sperm will be placed much closer to eggs than if they had to get there on their own.
"Last menstrual period," or the start date of a woman's last menstrual period.
"Low sperm count," or lower-than-average/expected volume of sperm produced by a man.
A long, thin instrument with a light and camera lens system that allows the surgeon to examine the pelvic and abdomen areas or perform other surgical or diagnostic procedures. This could allow you to avoid other major surgery. Thank you, medical technology.
A procedure in which a laparoscope is inserted into the abdominal cavity and surgery on the abdomen or fallopian tube area is performed if necessary.
A procedure in which the surgeon makes an incision in the abdomen in order to diagnose what's going on or perform surgery at that time.
Used to treat endometriosis and uterine fibroids, Lupron is also used as part of the IVF process as an ovulation trigger (taken along with hCG). It lowers estrogen levels and regulates the production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
The blood tests performed to measure a woman's rising LH (luteinizing hormone) levels in order to pinpoint when she'll most likely ovulate.
Producing an insufficient amount of certain hormones during the second (luteal) phase of the menstrual cycle. Sadly, this could contribute to infertility or miscarriage.
A hormone released by the pituitary gland to stimulate the gonads (ovaries and testicles). If you're doing fertility treatment, you'll likely have levels of this hormone measured often via bloodwork in order to determine ovulation timing.
"Miscarriage after infertility," or pregnancy loss after one has already endured infertility treatments. If you've experienced MAI, we know how devastating this is. Know that we are so sorry for your loss and sending our love.
An acronym for "miscarriage." If you've experienved a miscarriage, we're so, so sorry for your loss and our community is here for you.
"Male factor," or infertility conditions experienced by a man.
Immune system cells that destroy "invaders," like other organisms or invading proteins. Studies have shown that macrophages remove excess sperm from the male and female reproductive tracts, so they could play a role in fertility.
When AF stops coming to town for good, or in other words, when a woman's menstrual cycles end. Usually, this takes place between the ages of 40-55.
A gonadotropin injection that contains follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), in order to stimulate follicle growth to produce multiple eggs. It's often used in IVF cycles as one of the many "fun" injections a woman might have to take.
The time frame between the start of each menstrual period. The average cycle is about 28 days, with ovulation usually occurring on the 14th day. But many women have "irregular" cycles that may be shorter or longer. Talk to your doctor about what that might mean for you.
The process where a woman sheds her uterine lining as blood, which for most women, usually takes place monthly. It can be accompanied by other fun symptoms, like cramping and bloating. Good times.
The (extremely sad and overall awful) loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy. If you think you have miscarried, speak to a doctor right away as there are a few different types of miscarriage that require varying treatment. And know that we are so, so sorry for your loss.
Early on in embryo development, when the embryo looks kind of like a mulberry or raspberry due to the large number of blastomeres.
When a woman is pregnant with more than one gestation at the same time, resulting in twins or more.
Cells that are part of the immune system that aim to destroy any foreign or harmful bodies, usually in response to infected cells or tumor formation. Unfortunately, for some people, some early research has shown that natural killer cells may also be at play when it comes to repeat implantation failure or miscarriage. Essentially, they treat an embryo as a foreign body or parasite and go into attack mode. Research about natural killer cells and fertility has been controversial, but talk to your doctor if you think natural killer cells or autoimmune response may be playing a role in your fertility.
"Obstetrician/Gynecologist," or a doctor with expertise in female reproductive health, pregnancy, and childbirth. If you're facing a fertility challenge, you'll want to see an RE (reproductive endocrinologist), as they'll be a bit more specialized for dealing with infertility.
"Oral contraceptives," or birth control pills. Often taken for years prior to trying to conceive (oh, the irony) and sometimes taken as part of a medicated cycle–for example, if you are doing IVF and your doctor wants to regulate the timing of your cycle, he/she may use OC to manipulate it.
"Ovulation Predictor Kit," or an at-home, pee-on-a-stick test that indicates if a woman is ovulating or how close to ovulation she is. OPKs will measure this by detecting a woman's luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, which surge about 36 hours prior to ovulation.
An acronym for "ovulation," or when a woman's ovary releases one or more eggs. In a "normal" 28-day menstrual cycle, this happens around the halfway mark, 14 days before the start of your next period.
Cytoplasm—a thick solution composed of water, salts and proteins—inside an egg.
A laparoscope that's used for operative surgery (vs. just looking around/diagnostic surgery). In this case, the laparoscope can have a needles or surgical instruments attached to it through a groove or sleeve.
A payment plan offered by some clinics, where you're only responsible for full payment for your IVF cycle(s) if transferring all embryos (over one or more months of treatment) results in a live birth.
Tissue surrounding egg-containing follicles that produces hormones.
The female reproductive organs, attached to the ends of fallopian tubes on both sides of the pelvis. Ovaries release eggs (or they're supposed to, anyway) and sex hormones into the bloodstream during every menstrual cycle. These guys are small—about the size of almonds—but if you're doing IVF, they'll be stimulated to hopefully produce many eggs, and will swell to larger than this.
When an ovary releases one or more eggs. In a "normal" 28-day menstrual cycle, this happens around the halfway mark, 14 days before the start of your next period.
"Polycystic ovarian syndrome," a condition where the ovaries develop many small cysts, which results in irregular periods and ovulation and can contribute to infertility. If you're trying to conceive and you know you have PCOS, chat with a reproductive endocrinologist to ensure a safe and healthy plan.
An abbreviation for "pregnant." If you're trying to conceive and PG, congrats! If not yet, we're right here with you.
"Primary Infertility," or infertility challenges facing those trying for their first child.
"Pelvic Inflammatory Disease," which refers to infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries, usually occurring as a result of sexually transmitted bacteria. It could go undetected, but could contribute to infertility or chronic pelvic pain.
"Pee On A Stick," aka an HPT, aka a home pregnancy test. If you're trying to conceive, you'll be using so many of these that it helps to abbreviate.
"Premature Ovarian Failure," or when a woman's ovaries stop producing eggs unusually early (before age 40). Note that this is different than menopause, which usually occurs around age 50.
Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise. After an IVF transfer of an embryo into a woman's uterus, she's technically PUPO until a blood test confirms she is not pregnant.
The cavity in one's abdomen that contains the pelvic organs, kidneys, stomach, liver, bowel, adrenal glands, spleen, and more.
A small structure at the bottom of the brain that, along with the hypothalamus, releases and regulates lots of hormones in the body.
The solution in a woman's uterus that nourishes a growing fetus throughout pregnancy. It's connected to the baby through the umbilical cord.
When the placenta actually forms and attaches within the uterine wall. That baby is growing and it needs to be nourished! Enter placenta.
Also known as the Huhner Test, this is the now-outdated assessment of cervical mucus after sex to evaluate its quality and ability to allow sperm to freely swim through. However, doctors now consider this test inaccurate and unnecessarily invasive. Talk to your doctor about other more accurate ways of assessing your/your partner's fertility.
Assessing an embryo to determine its sex and diagnose certain genetic disorders. This will, ideally, result in a much healthier embryo to transfer.
Screening embryos fertilized in a lab for aneuploidy (missing or additional numbers of chromosomes), which could result in implantation failure or miscarriage. This process will identify chromosomally abnormal embryos and avoid those for transfer to ensure a healthier pregnancy.
A primary female sex hormone that affects secretions in the endometrial glands. A healthy progesterone level contributes to a healthy pregnancy carried to term, and it may be given via injection or through vaginal suppositories (fun times) to increase chances of implantation and reduce miscarriage risk. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum, which develops after ovulation, so the presence of progesterone is usually a good indicator ovulation has occurred.
The blood test measuring a woman's progesterone levels to see if she has ovulated. Progesterone is produced by the corpus luteum, which develops after ovulation, so the presence of progesterone is usually a good indicator ovulation has occurred.
A hormone that can influence FSH activity and follicle/egg count and growth.
Stopping hMG/FSH meds and putting off hCG administration for a few days while continuing GnRHa (gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists) medication. This protocol is usually ordered in cases where COH (controlled ovarian hyperstimulation) results in ovarian hyperstimulation.
Male reproductive glands that promote sperm survival by secreting it in a milky substance. This combined fluid—otherwise known as semen—is what gets ejaculated during that magic moment.
"Reproductive endocrinologist," or a doctor who specializes in treating male and female fertility. If you've been trying for a baby for a year if you're under 35 or six months if you're 35-40, it may be worth visiting an RE. If you're over 40, though, don't wait—if you're going to try for a baby, it's best to visit an RE as soon as you can.
"Recurrent pregnancy loss," or repeat miscarriages (there are several kinds) or chemical pregnancies. If you've experienced a miscarriage, we are so sorry for your loss. An RPL bloodwork panel may be able to identify certain underlying causes. It's a bit more invasive than regular bloodwork (think, 20 vials of blood vs. the usual 1), which is part of why it's typically not done unless you've already experienced a miscarriage.
"Semen analysis," or the analysis of a man's semen and sperm.
"Secondary infertility," or infertility challenges facing prospective parents as they try for their second, third, fourth (and so on) child.
Surgically unblocking a blocked fallopian tube, usually during a laparoscopy or laparotomy.
The male pouch containing the testicles.
This is when, before a woman completes the third month of pregnancy, she and her doctor agree to reduce the number of fetuses growing in the womb. Selective reduction of pregnancy is typically done with a high-risk, large multiple pregnancy (quads, quints, or more) that might endanger or threaten the lives of the mother or the babies. It involves injecting a chemical under ultrasound guidance, and the fetus/fetuses are affected immediately and absorbed by the body. Devastating, tough, and awful don't even begin to cover it.
Fluid that contains sperm (hopefully, lots of 'em, with proper morphology and motility), seminal fluid, and other male reproductive secretions.
A parent who is not biologically related to their child but is the parent nonetheless.
The primary organization of professionals dedicated to the practice of assisted reproductive technology (ART) and IVF. SART is affiliated with the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and provides data on IVF results from participating programs and clinics. Many fertility grants will only apply towards treatment at a SART-affiliated clinic, but the good news is that SART represents the majority of ART clinics in the country.
A procedure for women who have experienced infertility or multiple miscarriages, where a liquid solution is injected into the uterus through the cervix, allowing for ultrasound evaluation of the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes. The idea is to look for uterine abnormalities, incluiding blood flow blockages/clots, polyps, tumors, or congenital malformation.
The male reproductive gamete. Sperm must fertilize an egg in order to create an embryo and make a baby.
You guessed it: this is a test to determine if a man or woman's blood contains anisperm antibodies, which mistakenly target sperm as "invaders" and fight against them.
One of the biggest determinants of male factor fertility, sperm count affects the ability to fertilize an embryo with semen as-is, as low count may mean sperm cannot make it to an egg. One of the first tests a man will undergo as part of fertility treatment is a basic assessment of sperm count, motility (ability to move/"swim") and morphology (shape). Often, IVF with ICSI or PICSI is a good solution for low sperm count—since the embryo is fertilized within a lab and specific sperm are selected for fertilization, count/volume is less of an issue.
A test that looks at a male's DNA to evaluate it for damage. It's believed that abnormal DNA could lead to abnormal sperm function and cause reduced fertility. This is also known as a sperm DNA fragmentation test.
How well sperm is able to move and its ability to swim up to that magical egg. In an initial fertility assessment, a reproductive endocrinologist will evaluate a male's sperm motility, among other sperm health factors like count and morphology. All of this can be observed under a microscope in a lab.
A form of IVF that involves breaking up the IVF cycle into 2 separate stages—stimulation/egg retrieval and embryo transfer—which can be weeks, months, or even years apart. This allows time for the lab to conduct genetic testing (PGS) on one or more cells that were surgically removed from the embryo 3-7 days after IVF fertilization.
Using fertility drugs to induce a woman's ovaries to produce a significant number of egg-containing follicles. If you're about to start stims, just breathe—it's only temporary, and you're a badass.
When another woman carries a baby for the biological parents if the biological mother cannot carry the baby for various reasons. There are two types of surrogacy: (1) "traditional surrogacy" is when the surrogate's own egg is used in producing the embryo, but is very rarely done anymore; and (2) "gestational surrogacy" is when the surrogate does not contribute biologically and is much more commonly done.
An STD that, if left untreated, can attack systems in the body like your nervous or cardiovascular systems. It can also impact your fertility—if you become pregnant while you have untreated syphilis, it could cause a 50% chance of miscarriage or stillbirth. And if you had syphillis sometime during the 4 years prior to getting pregnant, there is an 80% chance of fetus infection. If you're thinking about having kids and you have syphillis or you've had it in the past, go ahead and chat with a reproductive endocrinologist to see what your options are.
"Tubal ligation"/"tubal reversal," otherwise known as "getting your (fallopian) tubes tied" to prevent pregnancy—or in the case of tubal reversal, getting your tubes untied.
"Trying to conceive." AKA, trying to get pregnant. When you spend all your free time thinking about getting pregnant, any time-saving acronym is probably helpful.
The "two week wait" between ovulation (or embryo transfer) and a woman's period. During this time, embryo implantation may occur if the woman is pregnant. Either way, it's a time during which we recommend lots of distraction so you don't go crazy in this waiting game.
"Treatment," or medication or procedures provided by a doctor to treat infertility causes.
The male reproductive miracle-workers, testicles are located in the scrotum and are responsible for producing sperm and testosterone.
A procedure that takes sperm directly from the testicular tissue, to be used in ICSI fertilization as part of IVF if the man cannot release or make healthy sperm on his own.
The main male sex hormone that plays a role in a man's sperm production and maturation.
Reproduction via donor eggs, sperm, or through the use of a gestational carrier.
A hormone produced by the pituitary gland, meant to stimulate the release of thyroid hormone by the thyroid gland. Recent research has suggestsed that slightly low TSH may associate with unexplained infertility.
The passageway between the vagina and the uterus, passed through by sperm, secretions, or medical instruments.
An embryo transfer through the uterine wall vs. through the cervix, this procedure may be done if a woman's cervix is too narrow to perform a typical embryo transfer.
An injection of hCG given to a woman to trigger ovulation of mature egg-containing follicles. It is typically instructed to be given at a very specific time prior to egg retrieval, to maximize maturation and release timing. Synthetic hCG is marketed under the brand names Novarel, Pregnyl, Ovidrel and Profasi.
Surgery during which fallopian tubes are reconnected and unblocked. It's usually performed to reverse a previous tubal ligation to prevent pregnancy (otherwise known as, "getting your tubes tied"), and is also known as tubal ligation reversal or tubal reversal.
"Ultrasound." If you're undergoing fertility treatment, you'll most likely have a lot of these.
Probably the most frustrating diagnosis of them all, unexplained infertility is when the cause of one's infertility can't be diagnosed by conventional procedures. Unfortunately, this is the case for approximately 10% of all infertile couples.
A microorganism that may interfere with sperm transport or embryo implantation, ureaplasma exists in both male and female reproductive tracts. A recent study has shown a particular ureaplasma—known as ureaplasma urealyticum—is seen more often in women with unexplained infertility.
Growths that protrude into the uterus that might interfere with healthy embryo implantation. They can also cause pain and bleeding, and are just generally no fun. There are some treatments and procedures available to fix polyps, though, so talk to your doctor.
A female organ that is responsible for housing an embryo and nurturing a growing baby throughout a full pregnancy. The state of the uterus itself, as well as its lining, is an important factor in healthy embryo implantation and pregnancy.
"Vasectomy" or "vasectomy reversal"—either the surgery to block a man's sperm ducts, or the surgery to reverse that previous blockage surgery.
Found around the testicles, these are dilated veins that may hinder sperm function. How does this happen? One theory is that it may be due to variocele increasing the temperature in the scrotum.
The tube that transports sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory ducts. In Latin, vas deferens literally translates to, "carrying-away vessel."
Basically male birth control, a vasectomy consists of surgery to block a man's sperm ducts.
A newer, more effective method of egg freezing, this ultralipid freezing process is more effective at preserving egg viability than previous slow freezing/conventional cryopreservation.
Processing a semen sample to separate out sperm cells from seminal fluid. Essentially, it's an extra step to make sure that the good stuff reaches a woman's intended egg, vs. getting diluted with seminal fluid. It is also useful in male factor infertility situations.
A woman's egg's outer layer, meant as protection. Think of it like armor (or shells) for human eggs.
A fertilized egg—until it begins to cleave (or its cells begin to divide, starting 24 hours after fertilization), however, at which point we call it an embryo.