Glossary

Click one of the letters above to advance the page to terms beginning with that letter.

A

Abstinence search for term

Abstinence involves refraining from any sexual activity, including masturbation.

Agonist search for term

This is an IVF treatment used to control ovulation. During the agonist cycle, there is an initial surge in hormone production, followed by a reduction, which prevents ovulation

Antagonist search for term

This is an IVF treatment used to control ovulation. During the antagonist cycle, hormone production is suppressed, preventing ovulation.

Assisted conception search for term

Treatments which help people conceive by controlling the way that the sperm and the egg are brought together.

B

Blastocyst search for term

An embryo that has developed for five to six days after fertilisation.

Body mass index search for term

The ratio of your weight in kilograms to the square of your height in metres. Your BMI is an indicator of whether your weight is healthy. A healthy weight increases the chance of successful IVF treatment.

C

Catheter search for term

A tube that can be inserted into a body cavity, duct or vessel - a catheter may be used either to introduce something into the body, or to drain something from it.

CCG search for term

Clinical Commissioning Group

Cervix search for term

The cervix is the lower portion or 'neck' of the womb which opens into the vagina.

Chlamdydia search for term

A common sexually transmitted disease (STD), chlamydia can damage a woman's reproductive organs and affect her fertility.

Chromosonal defect search for term

Errors in the number or structure of chromosomes, which are found within human cells can cause abnormalities eg Down's syndrome.

CIVF search for term

Stands for Cambridge IVF

Clinical pregnancy search for term

A confirmed pregnancy, shown by both high levels of hCG (hormone) in the blood and ultrasound confirmation of a fetal heartbeat.

Compaction search for term

During compaction, the cells of an embryo bind tightly together into a sphere. This is an important step in the formation of a blastocyst (five/six day old embryo).

Crystorage search for term

The preservation of blastocysts, unfertilised eggs, or sperm, at very low temperatures for use in future treatment cycles.

Culture medium search for term

A liquid or gel designed to support the growth of embryos in the lab.

Cycle search for term

The IVF treatment cycle describes the complete round of treatment, incorporating all stages of IVF

D

Data Protection Act search for term

The Data Protection Act (DPA) is the 1998 law designed to protect your personal data, whether this is stored in paper files or on a computer. Your IVF treatment notes, other health records and any other information you choose to share with us, eg by filling in forms on this website, are covered by the DPA. 

Diabetes search for term

Diabetes is a long-term condition caused by too much glucose, a type of sugar, in the blood. It happens when the body is not able to produce insulin to control the breakdown of sugar in the blood (Type 1). It may also happen if the body does not produce enough insulin or if the insulin does not work properly (Type 2). Type 2 diabetes is more common and usually occurs in older people. It is linked to obesity in many cases. Diabetes may also occur during pregnancy in women who do not otherwise have the condition. This happens when pregnant women produce so much sugar that their insulin cannot control it.

Donor insemination search for term

Using the sperm of a donor, usually not known to you, to fertilise the eggs during fertility treatment.

Down regulation search for term

"Switching off" the reproductive hormone production before the woman can receive drugs to stimulate egg production during fertility treatment. This describes the antagonist IVF cycle.

E

Egg collection search for term

The process of collecting eggs from the follicles in your ovaries during IVF treatment.

Embryo search for term

A fertilised egg where the cells have begun to divide. After five or six days, the embryo becomes a blastocyst.

Embryo transfer search for term

The process of transferring embryos from the culture in which they have been developing in the lab, into the womb.

Embryologist search for term

Clinical scientist working in the field of fertility. The embryologist is responsible for checking fertility levels, collecting eggs and sperm and processes of bringing them together during fertility treatment. Embryologists are also involved in research, supporting IVF and other fertility treatments.

Endometriosis search for term

Condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the womb (endometrium) grows in other parts of the body, most commonly on the ovaries. It can contribute to infertility.

Endometrium search for term

The lining of the womb. This grows and sheds during a normal menstrual cycle. For pregnancy to take place, the blastocyst must implant into the endometrium. 

Epididymis search for term

A long tube forming part of the male reproductive system. The epididymis carries the sperm from the testicles. The sperm are  then stored in the lower part of the tube until the man comes.

eSET search for term

Elective single embryo transfer refers to transferring a one embryo as part of IVF treatment. There are strong arguments, in some cases, for transferring a single embryo (rather than two or three), to prevent multiple pregnancies.

F

Fallopian tubes search for term

Two long, thin tubes that connect to a woman's ovaries to her womb. The fallopian tubes allow sperm to travel to the eggs after they leave the ovaries and fertilised eggs to move to the womb and implant.

Fibroids search for term

Benign (non-cancerous) tumours that grow in or around the womb. Fibroids can contribute to infertility.

Folic acid search for term

Also known as vitamin B9 [3], vitamin Bc[4] or folacin. Having enough folic acid before you are pregnant and during the early weeks of pregnancy, can significantly reduce the chance of a baby being born with a neural tube defect such as spina bifida. 

Follicle search for term

The follicles are small, fluid-filled sacs in the ovaries in which the eggs develop.

Follicle-Stimulating Hormone search for term

FSH is a hormone which stimulates the production of follicles by the ovaries. It is used during fertility treatment to stimulate the growth of multiple follicles, producing several eggs for use during treatment.

Frozen embryo transfer search for term

The process of transferring embryos into your womb, using embryos which have been frozen after previous IVF treatments. The embryos will have been carefully thawed for use in the current treatment.

G

GnRH agonists search for term

GnRH is a hormone released by the body which stimulates the production of lutenising hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone.  During IVF, GnRH is used to control the fertility cycle. See also 'down regulation' in the jargon buster.

H

Hormone replacement therapy search for term

HRT is used to replace the female hormones that a woman’s body no longer produces because of the menopause or  fertility treatment.

Human Chorionic Gonadatrophin search for term

hCG is a naturally occuring hormone, usually found in the placenta. Artificial hCG is used during IVF to help the eggs mature before they are collected.

Hysterosalpingogram search for term

An X ray process, showing whether the fallopian tubes are open and womb cavity is a normal shape. During an HSG a special dye is injected into the womb, showing clearly where there are abnormalities. How the dye travels through and out of the fallopian tubes can show up defects and blockages.

L

Laparoscopy search for term

This is a surgical examination of the pelvis/abdomen, through a small incision. The surgeon uses a narrow telescopic tool with a small camera attached. This is inserted just below the belly button and allows images to be projected onto a screen. Also sometimes called 'keyhole surgery'. 

Lutenising Hormone search for term

A hormone which is essential for the development of eggs and sperm.

M

Menstrual cycle search for term

This describes the changes which normally take place in a more or less monthly cycle in the ovaries and the lining of the womb. During a normal menstrual cycle, the ovary will release an egg and the womb lining will thicken so that the embryo can implant if the egg is fertilised. If this happens, the cycle ends in pregnancy. If the egg is not fertilised, the thickened lining is shed through the vagina - this is what causes menstruation / periods. See also 'menstruation'.

Menstruation search for term

Menstruation is the formal word for a woman's period. During the normal menstrual cycle, the womb builds up a thick lining. This allows the embryo to implant if the egg released at the start of the menstrual cycle is fertilised. If the egg is not fertilised, the thickened lining is shed through the vagina - this is what causes menstruation / periods.

Miscarriage search for term

Loss of a pregnancy in the first 23 weeks.

Morphology search for term

Size and shape - in the case of fertility treatment this refers to the size and shape of sperm.

Motility search for term

The ability to move - in the case of fertility treatment, this refers to the movement of sperm.

Multiple birth search for term

The birth of more than one baby from a single pregnancy, usually twins or triplets.

N

Natural cycle search for term

A fertility treatment cycle in which no drugs are given to stimulate egg production.

O

Oestrogen search for term

A hormone produced in the ovaries, oestrogen controls sexual development and the reproductive cycle in women.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome search for term

OHSS is a potentially serious complication of some treatments, which occurs when the ovaries respond excessively to fertility drugs

Ovaries search for term

Part of the female reproductive system, the two ovaries are attached to the womb by the fallopian tubes. When functioning normally, they produce and release eggs as part of the menstrual cycle. They also produce hormones which are essential for reproduction. Problems with the ovaries may be a cause of fertility problems in women.

Ovary stimulation search for term

The use of drugs to stimulate the ovaries to develop follicles and thus produce more eggs.

Ovulation search for term

Ovulation takes place when an ovary releases one or more eggs. In the normal menstrual cycle, the ovaries alternate in  releasing a single egg a month.

Ovum search for term

'Ovum' is the Latin word for egg. It is used to describe the eggs produced by a woman's ovaries.

P

Penis search for term

The penis is the male sex organ.

Pessary search for term

A solid, often bullet shaped 'pill' made to be inserted into the vagina or rectum. Pessaries hold drugs which are gradually released as the pessary dissolves at body temperature.

Polyscystic ovaries search for term

Polycystic ovary syndrome is a condition in which small cysts develop aaround the ovaries. This can affect hormone production and hence fertility, as it can result in no ovulation taking place.

Premature menopause search for term

The early onset of menopause, before the age of 40.

Progesterone search for term

One of the female hormones, progesterone is produced after ovulation and encourages the growth of the lining of the womb.

Prostate search for term

The prostate gland  is located just below the bladder. It produces most of the liquid which makes up 20 - 30% of the semen.

R

Retrograde Ejaculation search for term

Retrograde ejaculation occurs when semen squirts backwards into the bladder instead of out of the penis when a man comes.

S

Sedation search for term

Sedatives are drugs which produce a calming effect. You may be given a sedative to relax you before a treatment, rather than having to undergo a general anaesthetic.

Semen search for term

Semen is the liquid which emerges from the penis when a man comes. Its purpose is to carry the sperm into and through the vagina, cervix and womb, to the eggs.

Specimen search for term

A sample collected for testing.

Sperm search for term

Sperm are reproductive cells produced by men. The word comes from the Greek word for seed. When a man comes, millions of sperm cells are carried into the woman's reproductive system in the semen.

Sperm Preparation Test search for term

The method by which sperm are separated from seminal liquid so that they can be used for IVF.

T

Testicles search for term

The testicles, testes or 'balls' are the two, oval male organs which hang below the penis. Sperm and testosterone are produced in the testicles which are the main organs in the male reproductive system.

Testosterone search for term

Testosterone is the main male sex hormone and is necessary for normal sperm development. 

Transvaginal Ultrasound search for term

Transvaginal ultrasound is a type of ultrasound scan of eg the womb and its lining and/or the ovaries. During this scan a wand-like probe is placed into the vagina, enabling the clinician to get a good view of the pelvic organs.

Tubal blockage search for term

If the fallopian tubes are blocked, this can cause infertility as the sperm cannot reach the eggs. The eggs also cannot travel from the ovaries to the womb. Tubal blockage may be caused by disease eg pelvic infection or endometriosis. It can also be used intentionally during sterilisation.

U

Ultrasound search for term

Ultrasound is a method of scanning which uses high frequency sound waves to produce images of internal organs, eg the womb and ovaries.

Uterus search for term

The uterus or womb is the female reproductive organ in which the embryo develops. At one end, the cervix opens into the vagina, at the other, the fallopian tubes link to the ovaries

V

Vagina search for term

The vagina is the tube leading from the womb to the outside of the body.

Vas Deferens search for term

The vas deferens is a pair of tubes which carry the sperm into the penis.

Vasectomy search for term

This is a surgical method of sterilisation for men. The tubes carrying the sperm to the penis are cut and sealed to prevent sperm from entering the semen.

Z

Zona Pellucida search for term

A clear membrane which surrounds the egg and the developing embryo for the first few days after fertilisation. After five days the blastocyst 'hatches' through the zona.

Zygote search for term

The zygote is the initial cell which forms when the sperm fertilises the egg.