Adenomyosis The condition which is caused by pockets of endometriomium —uterine lining- growing in the muscle wall of the uterus. When the resultant scarring is severe, it may cause painful periods, irregular cycles and infertility.


Antibodies Formed as part of the body’s defense system against foreign invasion, for example bacteria. Sperm antibodies are an example of what happens when the system ‘goes wrong’. The antibodies detect sperm as a foreign protein and they fail to function.


Biopsy The surgical removal of a small piece of tissue for analysis


Blastocyst Stage of embryonic development at around five days, just before implantation into the womb. At this stage, the embryo is a fraction of a millimeter across and comprises something over 100 cells.


Catheter Fine tubing mostly used to transfer embryos, eggs or sperm to the uterus, fallopian tubes or vagina.


Chromosomes The pair structures on which the genes are located. One of the pairs in inherited from the father, the other from the mother. Each human cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes.


Clomiphene Commonly known as Clomid, taken in the first part of the menstrual cycle. It helps ovulation by stimulating FSH production.


Down’s Syndrome This genetic condition is caused by three copies or trisomy instead of a pair of chromosome 21. It leads to mental retardation.


Ectopic pregnancy Pregnancy outside the uterus — usually in the fallopian tube — which can occur in any woman with tubal damage, even after IVF.


Endometrium The lining of the womb, shed during menstruation.


Endometriosis Abnormal deposits of womb lining (endometrium) outside the womb, usually in organs nearby. It may cause some internal bleeding and pain is common, especially during periods.


Epididymis The fine coiled tubing which conducts sperm from the testis to the vas deferens.


Fibroid A benign tumour of the uterus more common in women over the age of 38.


Fimbria End of the fallopian tube near the ovary.


Follicle The cystic structure in which an egg develops in the ovary.


Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) Hormone produced by the pituitary gland, causing the ovary to produce follicles and eggs. In men, FSH stimulates spermatogenesis.


Fructose A sugar required as an energy source for sperm, produced by the seminal vesicles — the storage area connected to the ducts coming from the testicles.

Gonadotrophins Hormones LH or FSH-produced by the pituitary gland which stimulate the testes or ovaries.


Human chrionic gonadotrophin (HCG) A hormone which mimics the action of LH, encouraging the ovary to develop follicles to ovulate.


Hydrosalpinx A collection of watery fluid in a blocked fallopian tube.


Hyperstimulation Over-vigorous response of the ovary to fertility drugs, causing swelling of the ovary and discomfort. Sometimes called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which, when severe, can cause severe disturbance requiring hospital admission.


Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) The X-ray examination which outlines the uterine cavity and tubes by injection of a radio-opaque dye.


Immotile Not moving.


Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) Sperm injection directly into the egg to assist fertilisation.


Intrauterine insemination (IUI) Freshly produced semen is washed and filtered in the laboratory and then immediately injected into the uterine cavity.


Laparoscopy Telescope inspection of the pelvic organs.


Luteinising Hormone (LH) The hormone from the pituitary gland which triggers the final stages of maturation of the egg and ovulation.


Long protocol Prolonged suppression of pituitary gland with drugs-normally for two to four weeks-followed by stimulation of ovarian function.


Microinjection The injection of single sperm into an egg. See Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).


Myomectomy Operation to remove a fibroid.


Pituitary gland The master gland at the base of the brain which controls many other glands in the body.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome A common cause of failure to ovulate. It may also be associated with poor quality eggs when ovulation does occur.


Polyp A fleshy outgrowth of tissue, commonly in the uterine cavity.


Preimplantation embryo An embryo before implantation in its mother’s uterus-essentially the first week or so of embryonic life.


Preimplantation diagnosis The diagnosis of genetic or other defects in an embryo before implantation.


Progesterone The female hormone produced by the ovary after ovulation and which primes the uterus to allow implantation of the embryo.


Releasing hormones (usually LHRH) The hormones which stimulate the pituitary gland to produce (release) gonadotrophins-when used therapeutically the releasing hormone for LH-hence LHRH-maybe given.


Short protocol Brief suppression of pituitary function with drugs-normally for two to seven days-followed by stimulation of ovarian function.


Spermatid Immature precursor of a sperm.


Spermatogenesis The first and main stage of manufacture or production of sperm in the testes.


Ultrasound The use of sonar-high frequency sound-to image structure inside the body.


Vas deferens The muscular tube which conducts sperm from the epididymis to the urethra and thence outside the body.


Varicocele Enlarged complex of veins, for example around the testes.


X-chromosome The sex chromosome of which normal females have a pair-one inherited from the father, one from the mother.


Y-chromosome The sex chromosome of which carries the male-determining genes and which is inherited paternally.


Zona pellucida The glycoprotein ‘shell’ or coat that surrounds and protects the unfertilized egg, and subsequently the embryo during the first five days after fertilisation.


Zygote A zygote is a fertilized egg, this term is to some extent interchangeable with the term ‘early embryo’.

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