Glossary of Fertility Terms

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on June 12, 2022
5 min read

You'll hear dozens of new scientific words and terms on your journey to get pregnant. Don't despair. They're not as complicated as they sound. To help you at the doctor's office, print out this glossary and keep it with you.

Agglutination: This is the clumping of any particles, used at time to describe when sperm clump together.

Amenorrhea: A condition in which a woman doesn't have menstrual periods.

Anovulation: A condition in which a woman doesn't ovulate or ovulates rarely.

Antisperm Antibody Test: A test that can determine if antibodies on the surface of sperm are interfering with the ability of sperm to move, penetrate the cervical mucus, or fertilize an egg.

Artificial Insemination: The general name for the procedure in which sperm are inserted directly into a woman's cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus.

Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART): The general term for infertility procedures (involving both egg and sperm) such as IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, and ICSI.

Azoospermia: When a man has no sperm present in their semen.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT): A temperature reading that can be used to chart ovulation when taken every day.

Blastocyst: This stage of embryo development is achieved around 5 days after the egg is fertilized.

Cervical Mucus: Mucus produced by the cervix that increases in quantity as ovulation approaches.

Clomid: A fertility drug given to women to stimulate ovulation.

Donor Eggs: Eggs that are taken from a fertile woman and used for invitro fertilization with sperm before being implanted in the uterus.

Ectopic Pregnancy: When an embryo implants outside the uterus.

Endometriosis: A painful condition in which tissue from the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterus.

Endometrium: The tissue lining the inside of the uterus.

Fallopian Tubes: Two hollow tubes on either side of the uterus where the egg and sperm meet to begin the process of fertilization.

Follicle: A group of cells forming a cavity in the ovary where the egg grows before it's released during ovulation.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A hormone produced in the pituitary gland that causes cells in the ovaries to grow. Sold under the name Follistim, Fertinex, and Gonal-F.

Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT): An assisted reproductive technique that involves removing sperm and eggs, mixing them together and placing them into the fallopian tubes.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (Gn-RH): A hormone produced in the hypothalamus of the brain that is involved in triggering ovulation. Sold under the name Factrel and Lutrepulse.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone Agonists and Antagonists (GnRH Agonist): Synthetic hormones that perform the same function as natural Gn-RH.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG): A hormone that can be used to trigger ovulation. Sold under the names Novarel, Pregnyl, and Ovidrel.

Hysterosalpinogram: An X-ray which involves injecting dye through the cervix into the uterus to determine if the fallopian tubes are open and the uterine cavity is normal.

Hysteroscopy: A procedure in which a thin, telescope-like instrument is inserted through the cervix into the uterus, allowing the doctor to see and photograph the area, and correct problems if needed.

Infertility: Typically defined as an inability to get pregnant after a year of unprotected intercourse.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A laboratory procedure in which sperm and eggs are retrieved from both partners. A single sperm is injected directly into an egg, then the fertilized egg is implanted into the woman's uterus.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): An artificial insemination technique in which sperm are put directly into a woman's uterus at the time they are ovulating.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): An assisted reproductive technique that involves removing sperm and eggs, fertilizing them in a laboratory, then placing a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Laparoscopy: A procedure that involves insertion of a narrow, telescope-like instrument called a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen.

Luteinizing Hormone: A hormone that triggers ovulation.

Luteal Phase: The second half of the menstrual cycle.

Male Factor Infertility: When the cause of a couple's infertility is due to problems in the man or when it contributes to existing fertility problems in the woman.

Morphology: The size and shape of sperm.

Motility: The ability of sperm to move by themselves.

Oligospermia: When a man has too few sperm to fertilize an egg normally.

Ovulation: When the ovaries release a mature egg that is ready for fertilization.

Ovum: An egg.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID):Inflammation of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries due to infection; a cause of infertility in some women.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A common hormonal condition in which an imbalance in the sex hormones may cause menstrual abnormalities, skin and hair changes, obesity, infertility and other long-term health problems. The name comes from the multiple small cysts which line the ovaries of most women with the disorder.

Postcoital Test: A standard fertility test in which a sample of cervical mucus is taken after intercourse to check the number and behavior of the sperm.

Premature Ovarian Failure: A condition in which a woman enters menopause before age 40 as a result of the ovaries ceasing ovulation and the production of estrogen.

Retrograde Ejaculation: A condition in which semen enters the bladder during ejaculation instead of leaving the penis.

Round Spermatid Nucleus Injection (ROSNI): An experimental fertilization technique in which immature sperm cells are removed from the testicle and the genetic material is injected into an egg.

Semen Analysis: A standard test of a man's semen to check the number and shape of their sperm and it's motility.

Sonogram: The use of high-frequency sound waves to create images of structures inside the body.

Sperm: The main agents of male reproduction, which are produced in the testes and released into the semen.

Superovulation: Stimulation of the ovaries, usually done with hormones, that causes them to produce multiple eggs instead of one.

Tubal Ligation: A surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are surgically closed by cutting, clamping, banding, tying or sealing them to prevent pregnancy.

Uterus: The womb, the main female reproductive organ.

Varicocele: A varicose vein in the scrotum that may affect the quality and the production of sperm.

Vasectomy: A surgical procedure for men that prevents sperm from reaching the urethra, making them sterile.

Zygote: An early stage in the development of a fertilized egg.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT): An assisted reproductive technique similar to IVF that involves removing sperm and eggs, combining them outside the body, and inserting fertilized eggs into the fallopian tubes.