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Glossary Of IVF Terms

Albumin

A protein found in blood, an essential ingredient in culture medium.

Anencephaly

An abnormality due to a failure to develop normal brain tissue. All these babies die at birth or soon after.

ART

Assisted reproductive technology – includes medical treatments for infertility such as artificial insemination and IVF.

Blastocyst

An embryo at around 4 days of age, which has begun to develop a fluid collection in the centre of the embryo.

Catheter

A long thin tube that is inserted into a body part e.g. urinary catheter into the bladder, or a transfer catheter into the uterus.

Cervix

The opening into the uterus from the vagina.

Chromosomes

Long strands of DNA containing all the genetic information. There are 2 set of 23 chromosomes in human, one from the sperm the other from the egg, making 46 in total.

Culture Medium

A mixture of water, salts, nutrients and proteins needed for survival of eggs, sperm and embryos in the laboratory.

Cystic Fibrosis

A genetic condition occurring in 1 in 2000 babies, making the most common genetic disorder in Australia. Causes damage to the lungs leading to respiratory failure.

D&C

Dilatation and curettage. A surgical procedure used to obtain a sample of the endometrium, or to treat a miscarriage.

DNA

Deoxyribose nucleic acid, the chemical building blocks that make up the genes and chromosomes.

Downs Syndrome

Or Trisomy 21. A chromosome disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Occurs in about 1 in 800 births, more common in older mothers.

Embryo

A cluster of more than one cell that develops as a result of the fertilization of an egg with a sperm.

Endometrium

The tissue that lines the uterus.

Fallopian Tubes

Thin tubes that start near the ovaries and end at the top of the uterus, carries eggs and sperm, this is where natural fertilization occurs, then the embryo passes through to the uterus.

Fertilization

When an egg and a sperm join to form an embryo.

Follicle

Small balloon of fluid that develops on the surface of the ovary, contains a single egg.

FSH

Follicle Stimulating Hormone. A hormone produced in the pituitary gland under the brain. Promotes the development of follicles on the ovary.

Genes

Pieces of information created by a code of DNA molecules. Many join together to form chromosomes.

Hepatitis

An infectious disease affecting the liver. Hepatitis B and C are the more serious forms of this.

hCG

Human chorionic gonadotropin. A hormone produced by the embryo, used as the basis on pregnancy tests. Also given as an injection to trigger ovulation or in the luteal phase.

HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The cause of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Hormone

A chemical that is made by an organ and has effects on other tissues elsewhere in the body.

HSG

Hysterosalpingogram. An Xray test that shows the outline of the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes. Used to check for blocked fallopian tubes.

ICSI

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection. Also called micro-injection. A single sperm is placed deep within the structure of a single egg using a very fine needle.

Implantation

The process where an embryo burrows into the endometrium and begins to form a placenta so that a pregnancy occurs.

Incubator

A piece of laboratory equipment that is used to maintain a strictly control temperature and balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

Insemination

The medical process of placing sperm inside a woman’s vagina or uterus in order to achieve a pregnancy.

Intercourse

Sex involving placing the penis in the vagina.

IUI

Intrauterine insemination.

IVF

In Vitro Fertilization. Eggs and sperm are mixed in the laboratory to form embryos used to try and achieve a pregnancy.

Laparoscopy

Small incisions are made in the abdomen (belly), and a telescope is inserted to view the internal organs, and perform surgery.

LH

Leuteinizing Hormone. A hormone made by the pituitary gland that is involved in development and release of the egg. Important for development of progesterone production in the follicle after ovulation.

Luteal phase

The part of the cycle between ovulation and the next period (or positive pregnancy test).

MESA

Microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration. A surgical procedure to collect sperm directly from the testicle.

Miscarriage

The loss of a pregnancy prior to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Micropipette

An extremely fine tube used for manipulating eggs and sperm in ICSI.

Mosaicism

A genetic disorder that affects only some but not all of the cells of a developing embryo.

Neural Tube Defect

A group of abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord, includes anencephaly and spina bifida.

Oestradiol

The main form of oestrogen hormone made by the follicles on the ovary. Causes development of the uterine lining.

Oocyte

An egg.

Ovary

An organ deep within a woman’s pelvis close to the end of the fallopian tubes. Responsible for egg and hormone production.

Ovulation

The process of release of the egg from the follicle on the ovary.

Pap smear

A scraping of cells collected from the surface of the cervix which is tested for abnormal cells that might lead to cancer of the cervix.

PGD

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis. One or more cells are taken from a developing embryo and tested for abnormal chromosomes or genes.

PGS

Preimplantation Genetic Screening. Similar to PGD but the testing is limited to specific chromosomes rather than testing all of them.

Progesterone

A hormone produced by the ovary, mostly in the luteal phase. Supports the developing embryo.

Pro-nuclei

A circular structure seen inside the fertilized egg, contain one complete set of chromosomes. There are normally two – one from the egg and one from the sperm.

Rubella

Also known as German Measles. A viral infection causing fever, rash and flu like symptoms. Can cause fetal abnormalities if it occurs during pregnancy. A vaccine is available.

Semen

The fluid that is produced from the penis at ejaculation, it contains sperm and the nutrients needed for them to do their job.

Sperm

Small cells with a tail that are found in semen. Contains genetic information that merges with an egg (oocyte) to form an embryo.

Spina Bifida

An abnormality of development of the spinal cord that results in damage to the spine. The severity depends on where the problem is.

Syphilis

An infection caused by the spirochaete treponema pallidum. Sexually transmitted and can cause fetal abnormalities or long term brain injury if untreated. Can be tested for with a blood test. Treated with penicillin.

Tenaculum

An instrument that is used to grab hold of the cervix during medical procedures.

TESA
Testicular epididymal sperm aspiration. A technique to harvest sperm directly from the testicle.

Testicle

The organ in men that is responsible for the production of sperm, located in the scrotum.

Turners syndrome

A chromosome disorder due to a missing X chromosome. The baby is female but generally infertile.

Ultrasound

A technology that uses sound waves to generate an image of internal structures.

Uterus

Also called the womb. Sitting at the top of the vagina it is where the embryo normally implants and grows until ready for birth.

Vagina

The tube that connects the uterus to the outside of a woman’s body.

Zona pellucida

A thick layer around the outside of the egg.