FREQUENTLY USED TERMINOLOGY IN THE FIELD OF INFERTILITY

 
 

 

 

Agglutination

This means that motile sperm stick to one another and usually indicates the presence of anti-sperm antibodies preventing sperm from moving towards an egg or fertilizing it.

 

 

Amenorrhoea

If a woman does not have a period at all for six months, this is called amenorrhoea and is a clear indication that there is a hormonal problem because ovulation has in effect ceased.   Amenorrhoea can be caused by several factors including a hormonal problem involving the pituitary, thyroid or adrenal glands, having been on the pill or using contraceptive injections, severe stress, extreme weight loss or having a BMI (body mass index) below 18.5, an eating disorder, an ovarian problem such as premature menopause or excessive exercise.

 

 

Azoospermia

The term that is used to describe the condition where there is an absence of sperm in seminal fluid.

 

 

Blastocyst

A cluster of cells surrounding an inner cavity that develops at an early stage of pregnancy;  the blastocyst embeds into the wall of the uterus and develops into an embryo.

 

 

Clomiphene

A drug used to treat infertility in women who fail to ovulate.

 

Cervical secretions

Refers to the mucus secreted from the cervix.  The quantity and consistency of the mucus varies considerably during the menstrual cycle.  During optimum conditions for conception, the secretions nourish the sperm and help them to swim towards the egg. 

 

 

DAYS IN A CYCLE

 

TYPE OF SECRETION

FERTILE ?

1 – 5

 

Menstrual blood

No

7 – 9

 

Dry.  No secretions seen or felt

Relatively infertile

10- 12

 

Moist and sticky feel, white or cloudy appearance.  Oestrogen levels increasing.  If you try to stretch mucus between your thumb and forefinger, it will break

 

Yes

13 – 15

 

Wet and slippery feel, clear appearance, like raw egg white.  If testing the mucus between the thumb and forefinger, it will stretch rather than break.  Intercourse at the time you notice these secretions gives the highest chances of pregnancy

 

Highly fertile time

16 – 17

 

Moist and sticky feel, white or cloudy appearance.  The peak day is the last day of the wetter secretions and is recognized retrospectively because the following day will be either dry or moist and sticky

 

Fertile for 3 days after the peak day

18 – 28

 

Dry.  No or few secretions seen or felt

No

 

 

Corpus luteum

A small mass of tissue that develops from an empty egg follicle after the egg has been released at ovulation.  It secretes the hormone progesterone, which helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy.

 

 

D and C {dilation and curettage)

A procedure in which the neck of the uterus is dilated (widened) and a sample of the uterine lining is scraped away for analysis. 

 

Dysmenorrhoea

Term used to describe painful periods including severe menstrual cramps.

Painful periods are more likely to occur when a woman’s cycle is irregular and can be extremely uncomfortable, with severe pain felt in the lower back, abdomen and inner thighs.  This may be particularly so if the menstrual cycle has been very long as there has been more time for the hormone progesterone to cause the build-up of a thicker womb lining.  Painful periods can also be caused by underlying conditions such as endometriosis or fibroids.

 

 

Ectopic pregnancy

The embryo develops outside the uterine cavity.  In almost all cases, it implants in one of the fallopian tubes.  Initially, a woman will “feel” pregnant and a pregnant test will be positive, although in many instances she may not even realize she is pregnant by the time the ectopic pregnancy causes problems.  Symptoms include lower abdominal pain, which usually becomes severe and may be accompanied soon after by vaginal bleeding.  Ectopic pregnancies can cause tubal damage if the fertilized egg stretches and bursts the fallopian tube as it attempts to grow.  The damage may be irreversible.

 

 

Endometriosis

A disorder in which fragments of the lining of the uterus are found elsewhere in the body.

 

 

Fetus

The developing child in the uterus from the end of the eighth week of pregnancy until birth.

 

 

Fibroids

Non-cancerous tumours that develop in the wall of the uterus.

 

 

Follicle

A sac within the ovary in which an egg develops.

 

 

Gamente Intrafallopian Transfer (GIFT)

A technique for assisting conception in which a woman’s eggs are removed from the ovary and mixed with sperm in the laboratory.  The sperm and eggs are then placed in one of the fallopian tubes so that fertilization can take place naturally.

 

 

Hysteroscopy

A technique for examining the uterus using a viewing instrument inserted through the vagina.

 

Hypothyroidism

Low thyroid function.

 

Hyperthyroidism

High thyroid function.

 

Hyperprolactinemia

High male hormone levels

 

 

 

Infertility

Reproductive endocrinologists, the doctors specializing in infertility, consider a couple to be infertile if :

 

The couple has not conceived after 12 months of contraceptive-free intercourse if the female is under the age of 34;

The couple has not conceived after 6 months of contraceptive-free intercourse if the female is over the age of 35 (declining egg quality of females over the age of 35 account for the age-based discrepancy as when to seek medical treatment);

The female is incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term.

 

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

Is used if low numbers of motile sperm were detected (only one viable sperm is actually needed for this method to succeed).  The ability to isolate a single sperm and inject it into the egg, first performed in Belgium in approximately 1992, has been a major advance in treating male infertility.

 

 

Laparoscopy

Examination of the abdominal cavity using a viewing instrument inserted through a small incision in the abdominal wall.

 

 

Menopause

Signs of menopause include a regular menstrual cycle becoming increasingly irregular, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings and vaginal dryness.  Early menopause may be hereditary.

 

Menorrhagia

If you experience excessive bleeding that continues for several days and you also notice the passing of blood clots, this can be a sign that you suffer from what is called menorrhagia.  As a result of losing a lot of blood, you may also become anaemic.  Menorrhagia can also be caused by endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, fibroids, thyroid disease etc.

 

 

Menstrual cycle

A menstrual cycle beings on day 1 of your actual period and lasts until the day before your next period.  The length of the cycle varies considerably from one woman to another.  If yours is between 23 and 35 days long, then it is considered normal, as long as it is regular, with no more than seven days variation each month.

 

 

Motility

The ability of sperm to move and swim.

 

 

Oestrogen

This is produced in the ovaries and is important for vaginal lubrication and sexual pleasure.

 

 

Oligomenorrhoea

The medical term for an irregular menstrual cycle.

 

 

Oligozoospermia

A low sperm count of below 20 million sperm per ml.

 

Ovulation

The release of an egg (ovum) from the ovary, which occurs at midpoint in the menstrual cycle.

 

 

Phases in the menstrual cycle

Follicular phase     

 

This phase lasts from day 1 of your period until ovulation.  On day 1 of the menstrual cycle, the hypothalamus (often referred to as the control centre of the brain) secretes gonadotrophin-releasing hormone (GnRH).  This tells the pituitary gland, situated deep inside the brain, to produce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).  Over the next couple of weeks, the levels of FSH in the bloodstream rise and enable sac-like follicles in the ovaries to grow.  Each follicle contains an egg and although around 20 eggs start to ripen each month, only one (or occasionally two) will become fully mature.  Ovulation takes place from one ovary only.   

 

Luteal phase                       

 

This phase lasts from ovulation until the start of your next

period (post ovulation).  The ruptured follicle, propelled by the microscopic hairs (cilia) in the tube travels towards the uterus.  If the egg is not fertilized by sperm along the way, it gradually disintegrates.  If the egg is fertilized, it implants into the thick lining of the uterus called the endometrium. 

 

 

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Is a disorder in which multiple small cysts deelop on the ovaries.  PCOS can cause weight gain, unwanted hair growth and infertility.

 

           

Primary infertility

Couples with primary infertility have never been able to conceive.

 

 

Sperm count           

The number of sperm per millilitre of semen.

 

 

Secondary infertility

Can occur with a couple where they may have a child / children already but experience difficulty in falling pregnant the next time.  It may be age-related, stress (financial, health etc.), medical conditions etc.

 

Subfertility

A couple has tried unsuccessfully to have a child for a year or more is said to be subfertile.  

 

 

Testosterone

This hormone, produced in the testes in men and in the ovaries in women, is responsible for sex drive in both men and women.  Men’s levels of testosterone start to drop as they get older.  Women’s levels of testosterone are highest before the age of 20 and drop thereafter.

 

 

           Home Welcome Male Infertility Female Infertility Do's & Don'ts Religious teachings on Child Bearing Testimonials Frequently Used Medical Terms

FAQ Options Available Useful Literature Links to other sites Contact Us Ask a Fertility Expert