Infertility Terms – What Do They Mean?
When becoming pregnant starts to become more complicated than having sex at the right time of the month and ends up with you in a fertility specialist’s office, you will likely hear terms with which you are unfamiliar.
Sometimes, they come so fast and furious, that although you are able to understand them in the context of the sentence or conversation, you wish you understood these infertility terms a little better.
Even if you are an experienced fertility patient, (sorry, I know no one actually wants to be that!), some terminology is used interchangeably and is hard to understand and to really define.
Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut offers an infertility glossary as a helpful resource on our website.
In scrolling through it, I found a theme that lines up with a lot of questions that I’ve been getting lately in Ladies Night In and Fertile Yoga, about pregnancy. Mainly about how we discuss it and how we measure it.
I hope that you find these definitions helpful. In case that you do, please also check our online glossary if you ever run into a term that you are unfamiliar with. ~ Lisa Rosenthal
Infertility Terms – Understanding the Language of Infertility
Chemical Pregnancy: A positive pregnancy test, but with levels of pregnancy hormone (beta hCG) too low for ultrasound documentation of a pregnancy. Typically this definition includes pregnancies that have low beta hCG levels that spontaneously decline without any further development.
Clinical Pregnancy: A pregnancy in which the beating fetal heart has been identified by ultrasound.
Corpus Luteum: A special gland that forms from the ovulated follicle in the ovary. It produces progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle which is necessary to prepare the uterine lining for implantation. It also supports early pregnancies by secreting the necessary hormones until the placenta becomes fully functional between 8-10 weeks of gestation.
Cyst: A fluid filled structure. Cysts may be found anywhere in the body, but in reproductive medicine we primarily refer to them in the ovaries. Ovarian cysts may be normal or abnormal depending on the circumstances. Often they are just follicles that have not been fully reabsorbed from previous menstrual or treatment cycles. They are very common in both natural and stimulated cycles.
Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy implanted outside the uterus; most often in the fallopian tube. This is also termed a tubal pregnancy. This can usually be diagnosed in its early stages by following the pregnancy hormone, beta HCG, very closely during the early part of pregnancy. Left undiagnosed and untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can have serious medical consequences.
Embryo: The term used to describe the early stages of fetal growth. Strictly defined from the second to the ninth week of pregnancy but often used to designate any time after conception.
Endometrium: The inner lining of the uterus that responds to female hormones during the menstrual cycle and treatment cycles. This lining, when properly prepared, forms the area of attachment and implantation of the embryo. A portion of this lining is shed each month with menstruation.
Follicle: A fluid-filled pocket in the ovary that houses the microscopic egg. Each ovary has many follicles within it. Follicles start out extremely small and then grow larger under the influence of hormones (and the medications that mimic these hormones). Follicles are lined with granulosa cells which produce estrogen and nourish the oocyte (egg). Each Follicle contains a single oocyte.
Oocyte: The female germ cell often called an egg.
Ovulation: The release of a mature egg from the surface of the ovary.
Ovum (ova or egg): Mature oocytes.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.