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It can be hard to keep up with the latest infertility and assisted reproductive technology processes, surgical procedures, terms and definitions, especially if you are new to the world of infertility. Below are fertility terms and definitions that are routinely used.

Glossary of Terms

Blastocyst – An embryo that has developed for approximately five days after fertilization. At this point the embryo has two different cell types and a central cavity. The surface cells (trophectoderm) will become the placenta, and the inner cell mass will become the fetus.

Cryopreservation – A technique which uses extremely low temperature to preserve live tissue in storage for long periods of time.  Cells are partially dehydrated and slowly brought to a temperature at which all cellular metabolic reactions cease.  Upon thawing, cells are rehydrated and slowly brought back to body temperature.

Egg retrieval – A procedure used to obtain eggs from ovarian follicles for use in IVF (In vitro fertilization). The procedure may be performed during laparoscopy or through the vagina by using a needle and ultrasound to locate the follicle in the ovary.

Embryo – An egg fertilized with a sperm, in the early stages of fetal growth from conception to the 8th week of pregnancy.

Endometriosis – A cause of infertility, in which the lining of the uterus migrates to other regions of the body, usually in the pelvic region, causing scarring and sometimes damaging the fallopian tubes and ovaries.

ET (embryo transfer) – Procedure by which the embryo (usually aged 3 to 5 days) is placed into the uterus.

HSG (hysterosalpingogram) – An x-ray that allows the physician to view the size and shape of the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes. It is also known as the tubal dye test.

Hysteroscopy – A procedure by endoscopy with access through the cervix that permits a physician to view the uterine cavity. It allows for the diagnosis of intrauterine pathology and serves as a method for surgical intervention.

ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) – A micromanipulation procedure whereby a single sperm is captured in a thin glass needle and injected directly into the egg. This procedure allows fertilization to be possible even with just one sperm.

IUI – A type of artificial insemination in which washed semen is injected into the uterus using a catheter.

IVF – In Vitro Fertilization is a process by which eggs are harvested from the ovaries and mixed with sperm outside of the body and allowed to fertilize.  Fertilized eggs, or embryos, can be cultured for up to 6 days in the laboratory.  At that point, embryos or blastocysts are transferred to the uterus.

Laparoscopy – Laparoscopy is a surgical procedure performed under a general anesthetic in the abdomen or pelvis through small incisions (usually 0.5–1.5 cm) with the aid of a camera. It can be used to inspect and diagnose a condition or to perform surgery.

PGD  (Pre-implantion Genetic Diagnosis)– refers to genetic profiling of embryos prior to implantation (as a form of embryo profiling).  PGD is considered in a similar fashion to prenatal diagnosis.

SA (semen analysis) – A laboratory test used to assess semen quality: sperm quantity, concentration, morphology (form), and motility