IVF Glossary

Grow Your Fertility Knowledge. Grow Your Family.

When couples begin considering infertility testing or assisted reproduction treatments, they often have little or no familiarity with the terminology used by reproductive endocrinologists. As the majority of these words are not used in everyday speech, just reading about the different processes involved can be confusing. It is for this reason that Midwest Fertility Center’s infertility specialists encourage prospective patients to browse our glossary below.

Let us know when you’re ready to book a consultation and have a more personal and personalized exchange of information. You can also give us a call at 1-800-244-0212.

Artificial Insemination – transferring sperm to the cervix or uterus through artificial means, rather than through sexual intercourse

Assisted Hatching – a microsurgical technique in which an embryologist “assists” a developing embryo to break through the zona pellucida

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) – advanced technology and treatment used to enhance fertility through the manipulation of sperm, oocytes (“eggs”), and/or embryos

Basal Body Temperature – the temperature of the body just after awakening; monitoring a woman’s BBT can help determine if/when ovulation is occurring

Blastocyst – a growing embryo that has just begun to differentiate; this stage occurs approximately five to seven days after fertilization

Blastocyst Transfer – an IVF method in which an embryo is not transferred to the uterus until it has developed into a blastocyst

Cryopreservation – an assisted reproduction method in which sperm, oocytes, and embryos are preserved through cryogenic freezing

Embryo – the inner cells of a fertilized oocyte from which a fetus develops

Embryo Donation – when healthy embryos cannot be produced, our specialists can proceed with IVF using the embryos created by donated oocytes and sperm

Embryologist – a scientist specializing in assisted reproduction and expertly trained in working with oocytes, sperm, and embryos

Endometriosis – occurs when the lining of the uterus spreads outside the uterine cavity into the pelvis, cervix, or other area; symptoms include pain during intercourse, severe cramping, and even infertility

Estrogens – steroid compounds produced by both men and women, but that serve as the principal female sex hormone

Fallopian Tubes – the connecting tubes between the ovaries and the uterus; during ovulation, an oocyte travels through one of the fallopian tubes to reach the uterus, where it is either fertilized by sperm and attaches to the uterine wall, or is expelled in the course of menstruation

Fertility Drugs – hormone medications designed to provoke or control ovulation; four major classifications include progesterone, gonadotropins, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists, and GnRH antagonists

Follicles – groups of cells within the ovaries that house undeveloped oocytes until they mature and are ready to be released

Gamete – a sex cell containing one complete set of chromosomes; the female gamete is an oocyte and the male gamete is a spermatozoon

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT) – performed during laparoscopy surgery, GIFT is the process of removing eggs from a woman’s ovary, then inserting them and her partner’s (or a donor’s) sperm into the fallopian tube for fertilization

hCG – human chorionic gonadotropin; released naturally by the body during pregnancy, hCG is also a type of fertility medication commonly used to stimulate the ovaries during IVF treatment

Infertility – the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term without medical intervention; secondary infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term despite having previously given birth to a child

If you and your partner are struggling with fertility problems, please contact Midwest Fertility Center’s infertility specialists to schedule a consultation.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) – using micromanipulation technology, an embryologist injects a single sperm into an oocyte; because the egg is penetrated manually rather than by the sperm, this treatment is used in cases of severe male infertility

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) – in cases of male infertility, unexplained infertility, or mucus factor infertility, the physician performs IUI to place sperm directly into the woman’s uterus, rather than having it swim through the cervical mucus

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) – the process of transferring fertilized embryos into a woman’s uterus; oocytes are retrieved from the ovaries or from a donor, fertilized in our lab with sperm, incubated, and then placed in the uterine cavity

Laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical method of examining the abdomen and pelvic region; laparoscopy involves the insertion of a tiny camera-like laparoscope, which allows the surgeon to view the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes

Micromanipulation – a surgical technique which uses microscopic instruments to handle and manipulate oocytes and embryos; assisted hatching and ICSI are both examples of micromanipulation

Microsurgery – reconstructive surgery performed under a microscope to repair damaged or disconnected tissue and restore blood flow; reconstruction of the fallopian tubes is one example

Oocyte – another name for “egg” or “female gamete”

Oocyte Donation – when we are unable to retrieve healthy oocytes, or eggs, from a woman’s ovaries, IVF can be achieved using oocytes from a donor

Ovarian Hyperstimulation – the administration of different fertility drugs to induce the ovaries to release multiple eggs at once

Ovulation – occurs when the ovaries release an oocyte; ovulation takes place on about the fourteenth day of a woman’s menstruation cycle

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – also known as Stein-Leventhal syndrome; PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that can prevent regular ovulation and lead to infertility

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) – the examination of embryos to detect congenital abnormalities, such as cystic fibrosis or Down syndrome, before placing them in the uterus

Progesterone – a steroid hormone found in men and women; in women, progesterone plays an essential role in the menstrual and reproductive cycles, including preparing the uterine lining for pregnancy and regulating the body during gestation

Reproductive Endocrinologist – an obstetrician/gynecologist who has received at least two years of additional advanced training in the diagnosis and treatment of reproductive disorders and infertility, and is a specialist in internal medicine

Shared Success Program (SSP) – Midwest Fertility Center’s “IVF Fee Reimbursement” initiative; learn more by contacting the infertility specialists at one of our Chicago or Northwest Indiana locations

Sperm Donation – the provision of sperm by a male other than a woman’s male partner. Sperm donation is generally performed when the male partner does not produce sufficient sperm or carries a known genetic disorder, or when a single woman would like to conceive; all donor sperm at our fertility centers is screened for infections and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Surrogacy – describes when a woman carries a pregnancy to term for another woman who is otherwise unable to bear children. In a traditional surrogacy, the woman acting as the surrogate is artificially inseminated with sperm from the male partner of the infertile couple; in a gestational surrogacy, the surrogate carries an embryo fertilized outside of the uterus.  Our clinic does not do traditional surrogacy cases in which the surrogate is both an egg donor and a surrogate carrier for the infertile couple.

Testosterone – a steroid hormone found in both men and women, testosterone is the principal male sex hormone and plays an important part in the development of the reproductive system

Third Party Reproduction – when the man or woman of a couple cannot induce a successful pregnancy, a third party can contribute to the reproduction process

Ultrasound – a process in which high frequency sound waves are used to project a “picture” of the internal organs, including the ovaries, uterus, and developing fetus

Zona Pellucida – a protein membrane that surrounds and protects an oocyte; approximately five days after fertilization, the zona pellucida breaks down to allow the embryo to continue developing

Zygote – the single diploid (containing two sets of chromosomes) cell produced in the initial stage of development immediately after fertilization, when a sperm cell and an egg merge