Commonly Used Medical Terms

– A –

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

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)
a fatal disease caused by a virus that destroys the immune system’s ability to fight off infection

the packet of enzymes in a sperm’s head that allows the sperm to dissolve a hole in the coating around the egg, which allows the sperm to penetrate and fertilize the egg

Acrosome reaction
a chemical change that enables a sperm to penetrate an egg

a union of adjacent organs by scar tissue

Adrenal glands
the endocrine gland on top of each kidney

Aerobic bacteria
the bacterial organisms that require relatively high concentrations of oxygen to survive and reproduce

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

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

Anaerobic bacteria
bacterial organisms that survive in relatively low oxygen concentrations

male sex hormones

a specialist who treats sperm problems

the absence of ovulation

a protective agent produced by the body’s immune system in response to a foreign substance

any substance that induces the formation of an antibody

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

Artificial insemination (AI)
placement of a sperm sample inside the female reproductive tract (See also intracervical insemination, intrauterine insemination, intratubal insemination

suctioning of fluid, as from a follicle

without any symptoms

antibodies formed against one’s own tissues

an immune reaction against one’s own tissues

absence of sperm

– B –

microscopic, single-celled organisms that can cause infections of the genital tract

Basal body temperature (BBT)
the temperature taken at its lowest point in the day, usually in the morning before getting out of bed

a fragment of tissue removed for study under the microscope

Blood-testis barrier
the barrier that separates sperm from the bloodstream

Bromocryptine (Parlodel)
a drug that reduces levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin

– C –

a hollow tube used, for example, to inseminate sperm artificially

the process by which sperm become capable of fertilizing an egg

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

the lower portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina

inflammation of the cervix

a type of bacteria that is frequently transmitted sexually between partners or from an infected mother to her newborn child; the most common sexually transmitted bacterial disease

Chorionic villus sampling (CVS)
taking a biopsy of the placenta, usually at the end of the second month of pregnancy, to test the fetus for genetic abnormalities

threads of DNA in a cell’s nucleus that transmit hereditary information

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

a latex (rubber) device that fits over the penis to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections

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

Corpus luteum
(“yellow body”) formed in the ovary following ovulation, it produces progesterone

cautery by freezing

failure of one or both testicles to descend into the scrotum

pouch located at the bottom of the abdominal cavity between the uterus and rectum

examination of the internal female pelvic organs through an incision in the vagina

a sac filled with fluid

– D –

(Danocrine) a synthetic androgen frequently prescribed for endometriosis

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
the combination of amino acids in the cell’s nucleus that make up the chromosomes, which transmit hereditary characteristics

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)
a synthetic estrogen (originally prescribed to prevent miscarriage) that caused malformations of the reproductive organs in some who were exposed to the drug during foetal development

Dilatation and curettage (D&C)
an operaton that involves stretching the cervical opening to scrape out the uterus

Donor insemination
artificial insemination with donor sperm

abnormal function

– E –

Ectopic pregnancy
pregnancy located outside of the uterus, most commonly in a fallopian tube

the female reproductive cell

Egg donation
donation of an egg by one woman to another who attempts to become pregnant by in vitro fertilization

the sperm-containing fluid released at orgasm

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

cauterization using electrical current

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

the developing baby from implantation to the second month of pregnancy

a specialist in embryo development

Embryo transfer
placing a laboratory-fertilized egg into the uterus

Endocrine gland
an organ that produces hormones

Endometrial biopsy
removal of a fragment of the lining of the uterus for study under the microscope

a special type of ovarian cyst that is chocolate in color and contains endometrial cells that grow and bleed during menstruation

growth of endometrial tissue outside of its normal location in the uterus

inflammation of the endometrium

the inner lining of the uterus

the tightly coiled, thin-walled tube that conducts sperm from the testicles to the vas deferens

inflammation of the epididymis

the principal estrogen produced by the ovary

female sex hormones

– F –

Fallopian tubes
ducts that pick up the egg from the ovary; where a sperm normally meets the egg to fertilize it

the ability to become pregnant

the developing baby from the second month of pregnancy until birth

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

Fibroid (myoma or leiomyoma)
a benign tumor of the uterine muscle and connective tissue.

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

plastic surgery on the fimbria of a damaged or blocked fallopian tube

an imaging device that uses X-rays to view internal body structures on a screen

a fluid-filled sac in the ovary that releases an egg at ovulation

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)
the pituitary hormone that stimulates follicle growth in women and sperm formation in men

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

– G –

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

a bacteria that may cause a vaginal infection

the unit of heredity, composed of DNA; the building block of chromosomes

Gestation sac
the fluid-filled sac in which the fetus develops, visible by an ultrasound exam

see Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer

an organ that produces and secretes essential body fluids or substances, such as hormones

the hormones produced by the pituitary gland that control reproductive function follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH)

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

organs that produce the sex cells and sex hormones; testicles in men and ovaries in women

a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria Neisseria gonococcus that can lead to infertility

a ball of inflamed tissue, commonly formed after vasectomy due to sperm leaking from the vas deferens

– H –

Habitual abortion
repeat miscarriages

Hamster test
a test of the ability of a man’s sperm to penetrate a hamster egg stripped of its outer membrane, the zona pellucida, also called Hamster Zona-Free Ovum (HZFO) Test or Sperm Penetration Assay (SPA)

Hemizona assay
a laboratory test of the ability of sperm to penetrate into a human egg; first the egg is split in half, then one half is tested against the husband’s sperm and the other half against sperm from a fertile man

excessive hair growth

a substance, produced by an endocrine gland, that travels through the bloodstream to a specific organ, where it exerts its effect

Host uterus procedure
a woman carries to term a pregnancy produced by an infertile couple through in vitro fertilization

Hostile mucus
cervical mucus that impedes the natural progress of sperm through the cervical canal

Human chorionic gonadotropin(hCG)
the hormone produced early in pregnancy to keep the corpus luteum producing progesterone; may be injected to stimulate ovulation and progesterone production

Human menopausal gonadotropins(hMG)
see Pergonal

injection of fluid, often into the fallopian tubes to determine if they are open

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

excessive prolactin in the blood

excessive stimulation of the ovaries that can cause them to become enlarged

the endocrine gland at the center of the brain that produces gonadotropin releasing hormone and controls pituitary function

underactivity of the thyroid gland

surgical removal of the uterus

examination of the inner cavity of the uterus through a fiberoptic telescope inserted through the vagina and cervical canal

an X-ray examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes


– I –

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

a class of proteins endowed with antibody activity; antibodies

Immunosuppressive drug
a drug that interferes with the normal immune response

a medical treatment for an immune system disorder that involves transfusing donor white blood cells into a woman who has had recurrent miscarriages

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

inability of a man to achieve an erection or ejaculation

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

inability of a couple to achieve a pregnancy or to carry a pregnancy to term after one year of unprotected intercourse

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

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

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
direct injection of a single sperm into an egg

Intratubal insemination (ITI)
artificial insemination of sperm, which have been washed free of seminal fluid, into the fallopian tubes

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
artificial insemination of sperm, which have been washed free of seminal fluid, into the uterine cavity

In utero
while in the uterus during early development

In vitro fertilization (IVF)
(literally, “in glass”) fertilization outside of the body in a laboratory; the term “test tube baby” is inaccurate since fertilization occurs in a small circular dish, not a test tube

– J –

– K –

a chromosome analysis

Klinefelter’s syndrome
a chromosome abnormality that prevents normal male sexual development and causes irreversible infertility due to the presence of an extra female (X) chromosome

– L –

examination of the pelvic organs through a small telescope called a laparoscope

a surgical opening of the abdomen

Leiomyoma (fibroid)
a benign tumor of the uterus

Leydig cells
the cells in the testicles that make testosterone

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 (LPH)
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 (LUF) syndrome
the failure of a follicle to release the egg even though a corpus luteum has formed

Luteinizing hormone (LH)
the pituitary hormone that causes the testicles in men and ovaries in women to manufacture sex hormones

– M –

the time when a woman has her first menstrual period

the time when a woman stops having menstrual periods

Metrodin (Pure FSH)
an injectable drug consisting of pure follicle stimulating hormone used to stimulate ovulation

reconstructive surgery performed under magnification using delicate instruments and precise techniques

spontaneous abortion

the study of form, such as assessing the shape of sperm during semen analysis

mothion, such as the forward swimming motion of health sperm

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

an infectious agent that falls structurally between a virus and a bacterium

surgical removal of a uterine fibroid tumor

– N –

– O –

Obstetrician-gynaecologist (Ob-gyn)
a physician who specializes in the treatment of female disorders and pregnancy

infrequent and irregular menstrual cycles

a low sperm count

Ovarian cyst
a fluid-containing enlargement of the ovary

Ovarian wedge resection
surgical removal of a portion of a polycystic ovary to produce ovulation

the female gonad; produces eggs and female hormones

release of an egg from the ovary

– P –

Pap smear
removal of cells from the surface of the cervix to study microscopically

see Bromocryptine

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 imflammatory disease (PID)
inflammation of any of the female pelvic organs, usually due to infection from a sexually transmitted disease

a test of how fast sperm can travel up through cow mucus

the male organ of sexual intercourse

Pergonal (hMG)
the luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones recovered from the urine of postmenopausal women that is used to induce multiple ovulation in various fertility treatments

Pituitary gland
the endocrine gland at the base of the brain that produces the gonadotropin luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone, which in turn stimulate the gonads to produce sex cells and hormones

Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD)
a condition found among women who do not ovulate, characterized by multiple ovarian cysts and increased androgen production

a growth or tumor on an internal surface, usually benign

Post-coital test (PCT)
microscopic examination of a woman’s cervical mucus at the fertile time of the cycle to determine the number and motility of sperm following intercourse

a fertilized egg in the early stage of development prior to cell division

the female hormone, produced by the corpus luteum after ovulation, that prepares the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg and helps maintain the pregnancy

the pituitary hormone that in high amounts stimulates milk production

Prostate gland
the male gland encircling the urethra that produces one third of the fluid in the ejaculate

a group of hormone-like chemicals that have various effects on reproductive organs; so named because they were first discovered in the prostate gland

– Q –

– R –

Reproductive endocrinologist
an ob-gyn who specializes in the treatment of hormonal disorders that affect reproductive function

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

Retrograde ejaculation
ejaculation backwards into the bladder instead of forward through the urethra

– S –

surgical removal of the fallopian tubes

inflammation of one or both fallopian tubes

Salpingitis isthmica nodosa
an abnormal condition of the fallopian tube where it attaches to the uterus, characterized by nodules

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

an operation to open a blocked fallopian

the sac containing the testicles, epididymis, and vas deferens

the fluid containing sperm and secretions from the testicles, prostate, and seminal vesicles that is expelled during ejaculation

Semen analysis
laboratory examination of semen to check the quality and quantity of sperm

Seminal vesicles
the paired glands at the base of the bladder that produce seminal fluid and fructose

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

a wall that divides a cavity in half, such as a uterine septum

Sertoli cells
the cells in the testicles that provide nourishment to the early sperm cells

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)
a disease caused by an infectious agent transmitted during sex

male gamete or reproductive cell

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

Sperm count
the number of sperm in the ejaculate (when given as the number of sperm per millimetre it is more accurately known as the sperm concentration or sperm density)

Sperm penetration assay (SPA)
see Hamster test

an agent that kills sperm

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

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

stimulation of multiple ovulation with fertility drugs; also known as controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (COH)

Surrogate mother
a woman who becomes artificially inseminated with a man’s sperm and carries the pregnancy for an infertile couple, who adopt the baby after its birth (the man being the biological father of the child)

– T –

the male gonad; produces sperm and male sex hormones

Testicular biopsy
the removal of a fragment of a testicle for examination under the microscope

the primary male sex hormone

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

a drug that relaxes smooth muscles and therefore interferes with uterine contractions; frequently used to stop premature labour

Total effective sperm count
an estimate of the number of sperm in an ejaculate capable of fertilization; total sperm count X percent motility X percent forward progressive motility X percent normal morphology

a poison produced by a living organism, such as by some bacteria

Tubal ligation
surgical sterilization of a woman by obstructing or “tying” the fallopian tubes

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)

– U –

Ultrasound (US)
use of high-frequency sound waves for creating an image of internal body parts

a microorganism similar to mycoplasma

the tube through which urine from the bladder is expelled

a physician who specializes in the surgical treatment of disorders of the unitary tract and male reproductive tract

the womb; female reproductive organ that nourishes the fetus until birth

– V –

the female organ of sexual intercourse; the birth canal

inflammation of the vagina

varicose veins in the scrotum

Vas deferens
the tubes that conduct sperm and testicular fluid to the ejaculatory ducts

surgical sterilization of a man by interrupting both vas deferens

Vasectomy reversal
surgical repair of a previous vasectomy for a man who wants to regain his fertility

an X-ray study of the vas deferens

Venereal disease
see Sexually transmitted diseases (STD)

a microscopic infectious organism that reproduces inside living cells

– W –

– X –
– Y –
– Z –

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; a combination of in vitro fertilization and gamete intrafallopian transfer