It can be confusing talking to professionals as often they use fertility terminology you may not be familiar with. These professionals don’t use jargon on purpose to confuse you, they are just so use to using it themselves, that they don’t even realise others may not know what they are talking about.
If your doctor or specialist uses a word or term that you are unfamiliar with, the first thing you should ask them to do is explain or rephrase what they have just said so that it make sense in the context of what they are talking to you about. However, your doctor isn’t always to hand, so I have put together a list of the most commonly used fertility terminology to assist you.
A medical condition where there is a complete absence of sperm in a man’s ejaculate. This is often referred to as “no sperm count” and can be caused by either a blockage to the ejaculatory duct or a problem with the production of sperm.
A blockage usually refers to either an Ejaculatory Duct Obstruction in a man or a Fallopian Tube Obstruction in a woman. In the case of an Ejaculatory Duct Obstruction, it prevents the sperm from being ejaculated. For a Fallopian Tube Obstruction, it refers to the egg not being able to pass into the womb.
This is a prescription only oral infertility drug for women that stimulates ovulation. It is given to women whose ovaries can produce follicles, but their hormonal stimulation is insufficient. Clomiphene has several unpleasant side effects, so make sure your doctor fully discusses with you the risks of taking it.
A duct is a tube or passageway that allows access. There are various anatomical ducts (for example the ejaculatory duct), so clarify with your doctor which they are referring to.
Egg (also known as an Ovum)
This is a female Gamete, that when mature, combines with a sperm (the male gamete) to form a zygote that will develop into an embryo. Women create all the eggs they will ever have while they are in the womb and before they are even born themselves.
Ejaculate (relating to sperm)
This is the fluid that is released from the man after reaching sexual climax. It contains a combination of sperm and semen.
The endometrium is a mucous membrane lining the inside of the womb (uterus) that the fertilised embryo embeds into. During the menstrual cycle, this lining thickens and becomes rich with blood to prepare for pregnancy. If the woman does not get pregnant, the thickened part of the endometrium is shed, causing the menstrual bleeding of the period.
Estrogen (also spelt as Oestrogen)
Estrogen is probably the best known female sex hormone and is responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics at puberty and it also helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Technically Estrogen isn’t one hormone, but a collection of similar hormones.
When a sperm and an egg meet, the sperm transfers its genetic material to the egg, which fuses with the egg’s genetic material. The combined genetic material in the egg are all the instructions needed to make a human being. The process of combining the genetic codes within the eggs is fertilisation. An egg without a complete set of genetic codes is said to be unfertilised.
Fertility is the potential for a person to conceive children. Both the man and the woman in a couple need to be fertile in order to conceive. Not having a good fertility is called subfertility, were the person can still conceive, but it will take them longer. The opposite of fertility is infertility, where a person cannot have children.
See Ovarian Follicle.
This is a reproductive cell; the male version is a sperm and the female version is an egg. When a gamete fuses with another gamete of the opposite sex, the DNA from the cells combine in a fertilisation event and creates a zygote.
General Practitioners, often abbreviated to just GP, are primary care Medical Doctors who are also sometimes referred to as a Family Doctor or physician. Your GP should always be the first doctor you see about anything to do with getting pregnant.
See General Practitioner.
A doctor who specialises in the female reproductive system (vagina, ovaries and uterus). Gynaecology literally means “the science of women”. A further specialisation is the Urogynaecologist, who also deals with both the reproductive system and the urinary tract of women.
These are chemicals produced by your body which regulate physiology and behaviour (for example the hormone progesterone controls a woman’s monthly cycle and signals her body to prepare for possible pregnancy). Too much or too little of a hormone can cause physiological and psychological problems. Xeno-hormones are chemicals that mimic the bodies normal hormones and interfere with your normal hormonal balance.
This typically refers to the assisted stimulation of ovulation (the release of an egg by a woman) when there are problems ovulating. Treatment is usually with fertility drugs such as Clomid.
IUI (Intrauterine Insemination)
A fertility treatment which involves taking a man’s sperm, separating out the more motile sperm from the sluggish ones and them placing them into the woman’s uterus. It is used to increase the quantity and quality of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes with the intention of improving the chances of conception.
IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation)
IVF is a fertility treatment where the egg is removed from the woman and is fertilised outside of the body by placing it in vitro (in a glass) with sperm and then once fertilised, it is implanted back in the woman. IVF should never be your first option; it comes with risks, it can be costly and can be emotionally challenging. Before you decide to take it, make you have exhausted all options for getting pregnant naturally and that your doctor agrees it is the best course of action for you.
ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection)
ICSI, often pronounced as “ick-see”, is a fertility treatment that is the same as IVF with the exception that instead of just placing the egg in a dish of sperm and a sperm enters the egg naturally, a single sperm is selected and then injected directly into the egg. Like IVF, ICSI comes with risks, so make sure you discuss it thoroughly with your doctor before deciding to go with it.
A person’s sexual drive. Someone with a high libido wants to have sex a lot. Someone with a low libido would rather do anything, but have sex.
Often referred to simply as the “Cycle”, this counts the time between the first day of a woman’s period and the first day of her next period. Most women have cycles between 23 and 35 days and it can be normal for this to vary by a few days from month to month. Cycles outside 23 to 35 days are referred to as Irregular Cycles.
Morphology (relating to sperm)
This is what the sperm look like. Higher levels of abnormal looking sperm (misshapen heads, double tails, strange mid-sections) are associated with increased risk of infertility.
Motility (relating to sperm)
This is the sperm’s ability to swim and measures both speed and the ability to swim in a straight line. The higher the motility, the more sperm you have that are good at swimming. Sperm with poor motility either swim slowly, in circles or not at all.
Oestrogen (also spelt as Estrogen)
Oestrogen is probably the best known female sex hormone and is responsible for the development of female sexual characteristics at puberty and it also helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Technically oestrogen isn’t one hormone, but a collection of similar hormones.
These are small sacs within the ovaries that each contain an egg cell. During the menstrual cycle, one of the follicles (more in certain situations) will grow in size until it ruptures and releases the egg. Women have roughly 400,000 follicles at puberty, but only 400 of those are likely to mature and release an egg.
Ovaries area pair of organs found in the pelvis of women. Ovaries store the eggs and release one or more every cycle.
See Egg Cell.
Progesterone (abbreviated as simply P4)
Progesterone is a female sex hormone produced by the ovaries and adrenal glands and later by the placenta (when the woman is pregnant). It’s most important role is to help prepare the body for conception and once pregnant, maintaining the pregnancy (hence secretion by the placenta once pregnant). It also regulates the monthly menstrual cycle.
A condition where a man’s semen goes into the bladder instead of being ejaculated. It is sometimes referred to as a dry orgasm. While not harmful, it can prevent the man fathering children until treated.
Scrotum (also known as Scrotal Sac)
The sac of skin suspended under the penis that contains the testicles. This is enables the testicles to be kept outside of the body and at a lower temperature than inside the body, allowing maximum efficiency for sperm production.
Semen is a nutrient rich fluid produced by the prostate gland. When a man ejaculates, sperm from the testicles is mixed with semen before being ejaculated. The semen supports and feeds the sperm while they are in the woman’s body.
This is where a man or a woman’s fertility is not in peak condition. They can still conceive, but it will take them more goes before they either become pregnant in the case of a woman or get their partner pregnant in the case of a man.
The testicles are a pair of organs that manufacture sperm. They are located in the scrotum under the penis, where they are below core body temperature. Testicles are also known as balls, nuts and the albino prunes.
Short for “Trying To Conceive”. Used a lot in social media, this abbreviation is growing more and more popular.
This is the tube that runs through the penis. It goes from the bladder and exits at the chaps-eye. As such, it is the tube that men urinate through. In adult men, it is also the tube through which semen passes through to be ejaculated.
This is the tube that passes from the bladder and through which women urinate through.
A doctor who specialises in the urinary tract and reproductive organs of men. The female equivalent is a Urogynaecologist.
Urogynaecologist (also spelt Urogynecologist)
A doctor who specialises in both the urinary tract and reproductive organs of women. The male equivalent is a Urologist.
The vas deferens are the tubes that sperm travel along from the testicles to the urethra. They may also be referred to as “Ductus Deferens”. They are the reason a vasectomy is called a “vas”ectomy (the word “ectomy” being the surgical removal of something).
These are chemicals that mimic the hormone oestrogen (a xeno-hormone). They can either be industrially made as in the case of the Contraceptive Pill or they can occur naturally in plants such as the Soybean. Xenoestrogens interfere with your body’s natural hormones, which can lead to unwanted side effects.
A zygote is an egg cell that has been fertilised by a sperm cell and contains the full set of DNA needed to make a person. When it divides into two or more cells, it becomes an embryo.