Glossary

A

Acrosomal dysfunction

Due to an enzyme disorder, the spermatozoa cannot adhere to the zona pellucida of the egg or penetrate it.

Acrosome

Cap-like structure around the anterior half of the sperm head. It contains enzymes necessary for penetration into the oocyte.

Adherences

Scar tissue forming after inflammation, surgery or hemorrhage and able to disturb the functioning of internal organs.

Adrenal cortex

Adrenal cortex, a gland above the kidney, which secretes hormones.

Amenorrhea

Absence of menstruation during at least 3 to 6 months

Amniocentesis

Analysis performed in the amniotic fluid; it is a prenatal examination performed between the 14th and 18th week of pregnancy to detect fetal anomalies.

Androgens

Primarily male sex hormones, but are also produced in small quantities by women in the ovaries and the corticosurrenal gland.

Andrology

Medical specialty (from the Greek andros, man) who takes care of the man's health, especially for the problems of the male reproductive system.

Anovulation

Lack of ovulation. Menstrual cycles where no ovulation occurs are called anovulatory. The periods can appear even if there was no ovulation.

Anticorps

Special protein produced by the body when reacting to foreign substances (antigens). A woman can make antibodies against the spermatozoa of her partner. In some cases, the man himself produces antibodies against his own sperm.

Asthenozoospermia

Reduction in sperm motility. Sperm are either stationary or slower than normal sperm.

Atrophy

Decrease in volume or size, more or less important, of a member, an organ or tissue, due to many causes. The etiologies of atrophy can be: malnutrition, poor blood supply or innervation, senescence, hormonal problems, infection or illness (such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy), a decrease or absence of use.

Azoospermia

Absence of spermatozoa in the semen.

B

Basal body temperature

Temperature taken immediately upon waking, before rising.

Blastocyst

The blastocyst is an early embryonic stage of development of 5 / 6 days, which presents a complex cellular structure composed of about 200 cells. The blastocyst stage is the pre-implantation stage of the embryo in the maternal uterus.

C

Capacitation

All the physiological and biochemical processes through which a sperm acquires the ability to fertilize an egg. These processes occur spontaneously when the sperm comes into contact with various liquids in the uterus and fallopian tubes. They can also occur in vitro. In all cases, capacity is limited in time (a few hours at most).

Catheter

Small tube that can be inserted into organs.

Cervical mucus

Mucous secretion of the cervix of the uterus, through which the migration of spermatozoa into the uterus and fallopian tubes occurs. The amount and consistency of cervical mucus changes at the time of ovulation to allow sperm access to the fallopian tubes where fertilization of the egg takes place.

Cervix

Lower part of the uterus, adjacent to and reaching into the vagina, which secretes an alkaline mucus to protect the sperm from acidic environment of the vagina.

Clomifene citrate

Substance of a structure similar to that of estrogen used to trigger egg maturation.

Corpus luteum

It is a yellowish formation in the ovary that develops from the mature follicle just after ovulation. The corpus luteum secretes progesterone and some estrogen. If the egg is fertilized, the corpus luteum grows and secretes hormones to support pregnancy. In the absence of fertilization, it degenerates and is absorbed until the beginning of next menstrual cycle.

Counselling

Discussion with a specialized professional in which information, advice and support are provided.

Cryopreservation

Process for the preservation of eggs and sperm by freezing. Thanks to the cryopreservation of zygotes the risk of multi-fetal pregnancy after IVF and ICSI can be reduced and the patient doest not need to repeat the hormonal stimulation and the collection of oocytes.

D

DPI-A

Diagnostic pré-implantatoire - aneuploïdie. Aussi appelé PGS (preimplantation genetic screening). Cette technique vise à examiner les chromosomes des embryons obtenus par fécondation in vitro, en particulier pour la recherche d'une aneuploïdie (nombre anormal de chromosomes, par exemple trisomie 21)

E

Echography

Nonoperative method of examination for evaluating by means of sound waves the size and shape of the reproductive organs. This method is particularly useful for the diagnosis of disorders of ovulation and to control the development of the follicle and endometrium for the treatment of fertility problems. Ultrasound can be performed by placing the probe on the abdomen or in the vagina.

Ectopic pregnancy

Pregnancy in which implantation of the fertilized egg occurs outside the uterus, usually in one of the fallopian tubes, an ovary or the abdominal cavity.

Ejaculate

Seminal liquid, sperm.

Embryo

Term designating the early stages of development from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy. From the first cell division on, the two-cell stage, one uses the term embryo.

Embryo transfer (TE)

Transfer of one to two embryos in the uterus after an external fertilization. Embryos are usually at the 2 to 8 cells at the time of transfer. The diameter of an embryo is 0.15 mm.

Endocrine glands

Organs secreting hormones that reach the bloodstream and control the most diverse processes in the body: among the endocrine glands, one can list the pituitary and the gonads (ovaries and testes).

Endogenous

Specific to the organism or developing inside the body.

Endometrial cycle

Monthly cycle changes of the uterine lining in preparation for implantation and development of a fertilized egg.

Endometriosis

Gynecological problem where one finds some tissue of the endometrium (uterine lining) outside  the uterus either on the fallopian tubes, ovaries or in the abdominal cavity. Endometriosis can be the cause of painful periods and is also a factor infertility.

Endometrium

Mucous membrane of the inner wall of the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, the uterine lining builds up to the time of ovulation. If fertilization occurs, the egg may implant in the uterus, otherwise, the periods appear. The mucosa which had thickened for the implantation of the fertilized egg degenerates and is expelled from the uterus in the form of bleeding.

Endoscope

Pipe or tube-shaped lighted magnifier allowing to explore the interior cavities of the body, the endoscope allows for example to examine the inside of the stomach (gastroscopy) or the abdominal cavity (laparoscopy).

Endoscopy

Examination using an endoscope.

Estradiol

Estradiol belongs to the estrogen group of female hormones produced mainly by the ovaries. Estrogen is responsible for the development of physical characteristics of the adult female. It ensures that the uterine lining is prepared for implantation of a fertilized egg. It regulates the secretion of FSH and LH and strengthens the effect of the other major sex hormone, progesterone.

Estrogens

Refers to a group of female hormones produced primarily by the ovaries. Estrogens are responsible for the development of physical characteristics of the adult female. They ensure that the uterine lining is prepared for implantation of a fertilized egg. They regulate the secretion of FSH and LH and strengthen the effect of the other major sex hormone, progesterone (ex: estradiol).

Exogenous

Produced outside the body.

Extracorporeal

Outside the body.

F

Fallopian tube

The fallopian tubes are tubular channels exiting from the uterus and leading to the ovaries. The tubes allow spermatozoa to access ovocytes. The fertilized oocyte, which then divides to become an embryo, travels through the fallopian tubes back to the uterus in order to implant into the endometrium.

Fertilization

Fusion of an egg and a spermatozoon, fertilization occurs naturally in the fallopian tubes.

Fetus

A term for the product of conception in the mother's body after the organs have formed, that is to say after the third month.

Follicle

Fluid-filled sac in the ovary containing and nourishing the egg during its maturation. During ovulation, the follicle bursts and releases the egg.

Follicular aspiration

Aspiration of the follicles for egg retrieval.

Follicular maturation

Development of the follicle in the ovary.

FSH

Follicle stimulating hormone. Hormone secreted by the pituitary stimulating in the woman the growth of follicles inside the ovary and in the man the development of spermatozoa.

G

Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)

Method of medical assistance to reproduction in which one induces with drugs, such as gonadotropins, the development of multiple follicles , the mature eggs are then removed from the ovary. One introduces then immediately and separately sperm and eggs in the fallopian tube where fertilization can take place.

Gametes

Male and female reproductive cells *: spermatozoa and eggs.

GIFT

Gamete intrafallopian transfer.

GnRH/LHRH

Gonadotrophin releasing hormone. Hormone secreted by the hypothalamus, controlling the production and release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) by the pituitary gland.

Gonadotrophins

Umbrella term for the hormones FSH, LH and HCG.

Gonads

Glands producing reproductive cells (ovaries in women and testes in men).

H

HCG

Human chorionic gonadotropin. Hormone produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It causes the secretion of estrogen and progesterone by the corpus luteum to support the growth of the uterine lining. It also prevents menstruation in the first days of pregnancy.

Heterologous insemination

Also called donor insemination (DI). In cases of severe male infertility and sterility, donor semen may be introduced into the uterus (see insemination) of the woman to induce a pregnancy.

HMG

Human menopausal gonodatrophin. Mixture of hormones derived from the urine of postmenopausal women, and then purified and treated for infertility treatment. The HMG contains follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).

Homologous insemination

The sperm of the spouse / partner is introduced into the uterus (see insemination). Abbreviated AIH.

Hormones

Substances secreted by the endocrine glands. Hormones act as chemical messengers for regulating metabolic processes throughout the body.

Hyperprolactinemia

Increased rate of the prolactin hormone in the blood which may result from stress, a benign tumor of the pituitary or certain medications (eg against high blood pressure or depression). Hyperprolactinemia is one of the causes of infertility.

Hypothalamus

Gland located at the bottom of the brain, secreting hormones into the bloodstream. It controls such functions as body temperature and appetite, as well as the secretion of hormones from the pituitary.

Hysterosalpingography

A radiological examination of the uterus and fallopian tubes, especially to check tubal patency. Abbreviated HSG.

Hysteroscopy

Endoscopic examination of the uterine cavity using a special endoscope which is introduced through the cervix.

I

ICSI

From English "Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection." Assisted fertilization by microscope, where a single sperm is injected directly into the oocyte. ICSI is indicated in cases of male fertility problems, so if there are only very few normal sperm in the sperm or the fertilization capacity of sperm is extremely small.

Idiopathic infertility

This term is used when the cause of infertility of a couple remains unknown even after thorough medical examination.

Implantation

Installation of the embryo in the uterine lining.

In vitro

Latin for "in glass" for example in a test tube, as opposed to processes taking place inside the body.

In vivo

"In the body," as opposed to processes taking place in the laboratory.

Infecundity

The fact of not having a child.

Infertility

Difficulty for a man or a woman to procreate as a result of a functional disorder or an organic lesion of the reproductive system, generally acknowledged after one year of regular, unprotected sexual relations.

Insemination

Process to facilitate the meeting of spermatozoon and oocyte (egg). Using a catheter, semen prepared for this purpose is brought directly into the uterus.

Intrauterine

Within the uterine cavity.

IVF

IVF or In Vitro Fertilization: Fertilization outside of the body, for which one induces with gonadotrophins the development of several ovarian follicles. The oocytes (eggs) arrive at maturity and are taken from the ovary by surgical puncture and mixed 4-6 hours later with the sperm of the partner (or ICSI is performed to introduce one spermatozoa in each oocyte). To allow cell division, the fertilized eggs are kept from 2 to 6 days in a protected environment (incubator). The embryos are then transferred into the uterus of the patient for implantation.

L

Laparoscopy

See endoscopy.

Leydig cells

Cells lying between the seminiferous tubules of the testes, responsible for the production of male sex hormones, especially testosterone.

LH

Luteinizing hormone. Hormone secreted by the pituitary gland, triggering on the one hand the expulsion of the ovum by the mature follicle and stimulating on the other hand the production of progesterone by the corpus luteum.

LHRH

See gonadotropin releasing hormone .

LPMA

The Swiss Law on Medically Assisted Procreation (2001).

M

MAP

Medically Assisted Procreation.

Membrane

Envelope of a cell, surface of separation.

Menopause

Last menstrual period, at the average age of 51, when the ovaries are no longer able to bring eggs to maturity.

Menstruation

Detachment of the uterine lining by cyclic bleeding, typically appearing once a month in adult women until menopause, in the absence of pregnancy.

MESA

From English "Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration." Microsurgical aspiration of sperm directly into the epididymis (a long tubular and tortuous structure in which spermatozoa are getting mature and are stored). Sperm retrieved are used for fertilization by intracytoplasmic injection (ICSI).

Microinjection

Refers to various recent methods of assisted reproduction in which a conception is made possible by the introduction of a single spermatozoon directly into the egg.

Morphology

Shape, conformation.

Motility

Displacement capacity of spermatozoa.

Myoma

Benign tumor in the muscle of the uterus.

Myometrium

Uterine muscle.

N

Normozoospermia

Ejaculated sperm which shows normal quantity, shape and mobility.

O

OHSS

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. Condition that can occur in rare cases during ovarian stimulation. Signs of hyperstimulation may include: increased volume of the ovaries, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, gastrointestinal disturbances, stomach bloating and weight gain. In severe cases, serious complications with pulmonary and cardiovascular disorders may occur, requiring hospitalization.

OHSS

See ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Oligomenorrhea

Irregular and rare occurrence of menstruation.

Oligozoospermia

Abnormally low amount of sperm in the semen.

Oocyte

A female reproductive cell. At birth, the ovaries contain 1 to 2 million oocytes. At puberty, there are no more than 400'000 to 500'000 left. Only 400 to 500 will reach maturity and ovulation at a rate of  one per month until menopause. All the others will finally degenerate at various stages of development.

Oocyte recovery

Oocyte recovery or retrieval in ovarian follicles in women for in vitro fertilization. The vaginal oocyte retrieval is generally performed under a light general anesthesia, and is carried out by puncturing each mature follicle under ultrasound guidance.

Ooplasm

Substances within the egg, often called cytoplasm.

OPU

From English "Oocyte Pick-Up". 

Oocyte retrieval in ovarian follicles in women for in vitro fertilization. The vaginal oocyte retrieval is generally performed under a light general anesthesia, and is carried out by puncturing each mature follicle under ultrasound guidance.

OTA syndrome

Combination of alterations observed in sperm: oligospermia (decreased number), asthenozoospermia (decreased motility) and teratozoospermia (abnormal morphology).

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)

Condition that can occur in rare cases during ovarian stimulation. Signs of hyperstimulation may include: increased volume of the ovaries, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, gastrointestinal disturbances, stomach bloating and weight gain. In severe cases, serious complications with pulmonary and cardiovascular disorders may occur, requiring hospitalization.

Ovarian stimulation

Medical treatment designed to stimulate the ovaries, the follicular growth and development. This treatment usually allows several oocytes to become mature.

Ovaries

Two glands the size of a plum (3-5 cm), located on either side of the uterus, where the eggs are located. The ovaries produce the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone.

Ovulation

The release of the egg from the ovary. A mature follicle bursts, expelling the egg it contains into the fallopian tube. This usually occurs around the middle of the menstrual cycle.

Ovulation induction

Induction of ovulation. Ovulation can be triggered by exogenous hormones, administered by injection, for example by HCG. Sometimes the term induction of ovulation is also used as a synonym for ovarian stimulation.

Ovule

Female reproductive cell.

P

PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome: development of small cysts in various parts of the ovaries due to disturbed follicle growth. This state is characterized by a hormonal imbalance with increased levels of LH. Infertility due to PCOS can often be treated successfully with medication.

Perivitelline space

Space between the oocyte and the zona pellucida

PGD

PGD or preimplantation genetic diagnosis. A genetic test performed on cells taken from an embryo obtained through in vitro fertilization. It allows to verify if the embryo presents a genetic illness for which the future parents are genetic carriers (cystic fibrosis, myasthenia, etc.)

PGS

PGS or preimplantation genetic screening is a procedure allowing to check if an embryo presents a chromosomal anomaly. A few cells are taken from the embryo and analyzed. Only the embryos without a chromosomal anomaly are transferred into the woman's uterus.

Pituitary

Endocrine gland at the base of the brain which secretes hormones (FSH, LH) essential for reproductive function.

Placenta

Spongy organ on the wall of the uterus, through which nutrients and oxygen reach the circulating blood from mother to fetus through the umbilical cord.

Polycystic ovaries (PCO)

Development of small cysts in various parts of the ovaries due to disturbed follicle growth. This state is characterized by a hormonal imbalance with increased levels of LH. Infertility due to PCO can often be treated successfully with medication.

Post-coital test

Examination of the cervical mucus after sex to assess the quality and behavior of spermatozoa.

Primary infertility

Inability of a couple, who has never previously initiated a pregnancy, to achieve pregnancy after one year of regular intercourse without contraception.

Progesterone

Female sex hormone secreted by the corpus luteum after ovulation. Its task is to prepare the uterine lining (endometrium) for the implantation of the embryo. If  pregnancy occurs, the placenta is then responsible for the further production of progesterone.

Prolactine

Hormone secreted by the pituitary, stimulating the production of milk in the breasts.

Puncture

Oocyte retrieval in ovarian follicles in women for in vitro fertilization. The vaginal oocyte retrieval is generally performed under a light general anesthesia, and is carried out by puncturing each mature follicle under ultrasound guidance.

R

Reproductive cells

Ovules (eggs, oocytes) and spermatozoa.

S

Salpingocatheterism

Insufflation through the fallopian tubes to verify their permeability.

Secondary infertility

Inability to achieve conception or to complete a pregnancy after one or more previous pregnancies.

Sertoli cells

Cells in the seminiferous tubules whose function is to feed the spermatozoa during maturation.

Sonography

See echography

Sperm

Ejaculated spermatozoa and secretions during the male orgasm.

Sperm analysis

Examination of sperm under a microscope to determine the amount of spermatozoa (in millions per milliliter) as well as their shape, size and mobility.

Spermatogenesis

Production and maturation of spermatozoa in the testicles.

Spermatozoon

Reproductive cell produced by the male genitalia (testes).

Spermiogram

Also referred as semen or sperm analysis. Examination of sperm under a microscope to determine the amount of spermatozoa (in millions per milliliter) as well as their shape, size and mobility.

Stimulation

Ovarian stimulation. Medical treatment designed to stimulate the ovaries, the follicular growth and development. This treatment usually allows several oocytes to become mature.

Subcutaneous

Under the skin.

Subfertility

Reduced fertility.

T

Teratozoospermia

Semen that contains a small number of normally shaped spermatozoa.

TESE

"Testicular sperm extraction". Microsurgical technique to extract sperm directly from a testicular biopsy. The sperm obtained from testicular tissue are used for fertilization by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). TESE is applied in cases where the epididymis does not store sperm, or is absent (see also ICSI and MESA).

Testicles

Male genitalia located in the scrotum. They secrete the male hormone testosterone and produce the male reproductive cells, the spermatozoa.

Testicular biopsy

Under anesthesia, some tissue is removed from the testicle in order to analyze it (presence or absence of spermatozoa, or other cells).

Testicular dysfunction

Functional disorders of the testicles. We are in the presence of dysfunction if the testicles are not able to produce normal amounts of mature spermatozoa, and if the hormone levels (LH, FSH) required for normal production of sperm is excessively increased.

Testosterone

Male sex hormone produced by the testes and the adrenal cortex. Testosterone is responsible for developing most of the physical characteristics of the adult male. It also influences the secretion of hormones LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which play an important role in sperm maturation.

Thyroid

Endocrine gland located below the larynx, which secretes hormones that are important for controlling early growth, development and regulation of body metabolism. A functional disorder of the thyroid can disrupt the reproductive cycle in women.

Treatment cycle

Hormonal treatment of the female menstrual cycle.

TSH

Hormone produced by the pituitary gland, controlling the thyroid.

Tubal infertility

Infertility due to the obstruction or dysfunction of the fallopian tubes.

Turner syndrome

Rare genetic abnormality occurring in women, causing infertility.

U

Ultrasonography

Nonoperative method of examination using sound waves for evaluating the size and shape of the reproductive organs. This method is particularly useful for the diagnosis of disorders of ovulation and to control the development of the ovarian follicle(s) and endometrium during fertility treatments. Ultrasound can be performed by placing the probe on the abdomen or into the vagina. Also known as as echography.

Uterine lining

See endometrium

Uterus

Pear-shaped organ that contains and nourishes the fetus during pregnancy, which contracts in a powerful and rhythmic manner at birth to expel the fetus.

V

Vaginal

Relating to the vagina.

Varicocele

Varicose veins at the level of the testes.

Venereal disease

Infection of the genitals or transmitted by sexual relations. Among the widely known venereal diseases one finds chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Such diseases are curable if medical attention is seeked on time. If they are not treated or if the treatment occurs at a stage too advanced, venereal diseases are major causes of infertility in men as well as in women.

Z

ZIFT

See Zygote Intrafallopian transfer.

Zygote

A diploid cell resulting from the fertilization of an oocyte by a spermatozoon, which subsequently divides to form an embryo.

Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT)

Method of medical assistance in which the developement of ovarian follicles is stimulated with gonadotropins. The mature eggs are removed from the ovaries and mixed with the sperm of the partner. After fusion of two gametes, the fertilized egg (zygote) is placed in the fallopian tube.

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