IVF Terms

IVF Terms can be very confusing. Need to look one up? Start here.


Adhesion Scar-tissue band attached to organ surfaces, capable of connecting, covering or distorting organs, such as tubes, ovaries, uterus, and bowel

Amenorrhea– Absence of menstruation

ASRM American Society of Reproductive Medicine – Large multidisciplinary patient and physician organization serving as a platform for new ideas, education and advocacy in fertility and reproductive issues. ASRM is one of the leading advocates for patient care, research, and education.

Anovulation– Absence of ovulation

Antisperm Antibodies– Antibodies that attach to sperm and inhibit movement of sperm or fertilization.

Assisted Hatching– Placing a small opening in the outer “shell” or membrane that surrounds the embryo. This process assists the embryo in breaking out of the shell to allow for implantation in the endometrium. This is used by the embryologists in some IVF cycles.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) -Fertility therapies employed

Azoospermia– The absence of sperm

Biochemical pregnancy– A positive pregnancy test, but with levels of pregnancy hormones too low for documentation by ultrasound.

Blastocyst– A day 5 or 6 embryo

Cervix– The lower section of the uterus that protrudes into the vagina and dilates during labor to allow the passage of the infant.

Clinical Pregnancy– A pregnancy in which a heartbeat can be detected.

Clomiphene Citrate– A commonly prescribed fertility medication that works by binding to the estrogen receptor. This causes the pituitary to release more follicle stimulating hormone to stimulate the cells in the ovary to produce more estrogen and thus more eggs.

Conceptus– A general term referring to the product of the union of the oocyte and the sperm cell.

Corpus Luteum– A special gland that forms on the surface of the ovary at the site of ovulation and produces progesterone during the second half of the cycle. It is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation by the fertilized egg.

Cryobank– A facility where frozen sperm, eggs and embryo are stored.

Cryopreservation– Extra embryos developed during an IVF cycle are frozen for future use.

Diminished ovarian reserve– Reduction of the number of viable eggs in the ovary.

Donor Insemination– The introduction of sperm from a donor into a woman’s vagina or cervix using instruments, in order to achieve pregnancy.

Donor Oocytes Eggs– donated for patients who have premature ovarian failure or advanced maternal age who cannot achieve pregnancy on her own.

Donor Embryo– A frozen embryo donated by a couple who has completed their family and does not wish to use the embryo. The embryo can then be used by another infertile couple.

Donor Sperm Sperm– donated for the purpose of creating a pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy– Pregnancy located outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube.

Egg Freezing– A procedure used to cryopreserve unfertilized eggs taken from a woman’s ovary.

Egg Retrieval– The procedure during an IVF cycle where the eggs are harvested.

Embryo– The developing individual from approximately the second week until approximately the end of the second month.

Embryologist– Embryologists are scientists involved in fertility treatments and reproductive research.

Embryo Transfer– Introduction of an embryo into a woman’s uterus after in vitro fertilization.

Endometriosis– The presence of endometrial tissue (the normal uterine lining) in abnormal locations such as the tubes, ovaries and peritoneal cavity.

Endometrium– The lining of the uterus.

Estradiol– The principal estrogen produced by the ovary.

Estrogen– The primary female hormone produced mainly by the ovary from puberty to menopause.

Fallopian Tube– A pair of tubes that conduct the egg from the ovary to the uterus. Normal fertilization takes place within this structure.

Fertility– The ability to bear children.

Fertilization– A sperm penetrates an egg and subsequently combines genetic material.

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

Fimbria Finger-like outer ends of the Fallopian tubes that capture the egg and deliver it into the tube.

Follicle– The fluid-filled sac on the ovary that has nurtured the egg and from which the egg is released during ovulation, or aspiration.

Follicular Phase– The first half of the menstrual cycle when ovarian follicle development takes place, pre-ovulatory

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – A hormone produced and released from the pituitary that stimulates follicle growth.

Frozen Embryo Transfer– Introduction of a thawed embryo into a woman’s uterus after in vitro fertilization.

Gamete – A generic term referring to either the male sperm or the female oocyte (egg).

Gestational Carrier– A woman who carries an embryo to delivery. The embryo is derived from the egg and sperm of persons not related to the carrier; therefore the carrier has no genetic relationship with the resulting child.

Gonadotropins Hormones– produced by the pituitary gland that control reproductive function, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

Gonadatropin Hormone Releasing Hormone (GnRH) – The hypothalamic hormone that stimulates the pituitary to release LH and FSH. It is used in IVF to prevent the body from spontaneously triggering ovulation. It can also be used to treat endometriosis.

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.

Hydrosalpinx-Blocked, dilated, fluid-filled fallopian tube.

Hyperprolactinemia– The overproduction of prolactin by the pituitary gland. This is the hormone responsible for breast milk production.

Hypothalamus– The area of the brain responsible for release of certain hormones.

Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – A complete x-ray study of the uterus and fallopian tubes accomplished by injecting dye through the cervix.

Hysteroscopy– Examination of the inner cavity of the uterus through a fiberoptic telescope inserted through the vagina and cervical canal.

Infertility-The inability to conceive after a year of unprotected intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term.

Implantation– The embedding of the fertilized egg in the lining of the uterus.

IUI Intra uterine Insemination – The placement of sperm into a woman’s uterus for the purpose of achieving pregnancy.

ICSI Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection – Process of one sperm being injected into a mature oocyte using micromanipulation equipment. This is used when there are very few normal sperm or in sperm that are unable to fertilize the oocyte.

In Vitro Latin term for “in glass”. – A term referring to IVF or fertilization occurring in a dish as opposed to in the body.

In Vitro Fertilization/Embryo Transfer– A procedure in which an egg is removed transvaginally from an ovarian follicle and fertilized artificially and placed intrauterine through a specialized catheter for embryo transfer.

Laparoscopy– Abdominal surgical exploration using a laparoscope (optic system) to view the fallopian tubes, ovaries and uterus.

Luteal Phase – The last fourteen days of the menstrual cycle after ovulation has occurred. It I associated with progesterone production. Post-ovulatory.

MESA– Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration is a term used to describe microsurgical techniques for sperm aspiration from the epididymis.

Mock Transfer– Also known as trial transfer or uterine measurement-This is a measurement performed to determine the length and direction of the uterine cavity.

Morphology– The physical appearance of the sperm.

Motility -The ability of sperm to move and progress forward.

Multi-cell embryo– A day 3 embryo.

Oligoasthenospermia– Poorly moving and low numbers of sperm.

Oocyte– The egg produced in the ovaries each month. Also called the ovum (gamete).

OHSS Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – An exaggerated response to response to ovulation induction therapy with fertility drugs.

Ovaries -The female sex glands with both a reproductive function (releasing eggs) and a hormone function (producing estrogen and progesterone).

Ovulation– The release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary.

Ovulation induction -The administration of hormone medications (ovulation drugs) that stimulate the ovaries to ovulate.

Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPK) – Home urine test for LH which is the signal to release an egg from the ovary.

Pituitary Gland– A gland located at the base of the brain, below the hypothalamus, which controls almost every endocrine gland in the body and therefore, controls human growth, development and reproduction.

Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) – A condition found among women who do not ovulate, characterized by multiple ovarian cysts and increased androgen production.

PGS Pre-implantation genetic screening– A technique used during in-vitro Fertilization- (IVF) to biopsy a cell from the embryo to test for genetic disorders prior to transfer into the uterus. Premature ovarian failure – Menopause before the age of 40.

Primary Infertility – Infertility in patients who have never had children.

Progesterone -A hormone produced and released by the corpus luteum of the ovary during the second half of an ovulatory cycle. It is necessary for the preparation of the lining of the uterus for the implantation of the fertilized egg.

Prolactin– A hormone that stimulates breast milk production.

Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) – A physician who is specially trained to treat infertility.

SART– SART is the primary organization of professionals dedicated to the practice of assisted reproductive technologies (ART) in the United States. ART includes the practice of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). The mission of our organization is to set and help maintain the standards for ART in an effort to better serve our members and our patients.

Secondary Infertility– Infertility in those who have previously been fertile.

Semen– The sperm and seminal secretions ejaculated during orgasm by the male.

Semen Analysis -Evaluation of sperm for volume, count, motility, forward progression and morphology.

Sonogram– See Ultrasound

Sperm (Spermatozoa) – Male reproductive cells (gamete)

Specialty Pharmacy– A pharmacy with expertise in infertility

Sperm Washing Process -used to separate sperm from semen prior to insemination or ICSI

Superovulation– Stimulation of multiple ovulation with fertility drugs

Testes -The male sex glands located in the scrotum

Trans-vaginal Aspiration – A method of obtaining eggs by needle aspiration through the vagina.

Tubal Patency– Unobstructed fallopian tubes.

Tuboplasty -Reconstructive surgery on the fallopian tubes to correct abnormalities that cause infertility.

Unexplained infertility– Inability to identify the cause of infertility despite a complete evaluation.

Uterine septum -A band of fibrous tissue that forms a wall extending from the top of the uterine cavity.

Uterus– The reproductive organ that houses, protects and nourishes the developing embryo/fetus.

Ultrasound -A technique for visualizing the follicles in the ovaries and the fetus in the uterus, allowing the estimation of size.

Vagina -A tubular passageway in the female connecting the external sex organs with the cervix and uterus.

Zygote -The cell resulting after fertilization of the oocyte by the sperm.