Glossary

Acne: a common skin condition, causing spots on the face, back and chest

Alopecia: hair loss

Altruistic:Altruistic donor (sperm or eggs): someone who ‘gifts’ egg or sperm without payment

Anaesthesia/anaesthetic: literally means ‘loss of sensation’; a state where you are given medication to make you unconscious, relaxed, and pain free

Anonymous: someone who is not identified by name

Antenatal: before birth

Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH): a hormone released by the ovaries and relating to the development of follicles. Testing for this hormone can help to estimate the remaining egg supply (or ovarian reserve)

Antisperm antibodies: substance produced by men that works against sperm by preventing it from reaching and fertilising an egg

Assisted reproduction/conception: using medical techniques to enable the conception and birth of a child

Biopsy: the removal of a tissue sample for examination to diagnose disease

Blastocyst: an early stage embryo

Body Mass Index (BMI): a way of measuring body fat based on height and weight

Caesarean section: an operation to deliver a baby by making an incision (cut) through the mother’s abdomen and womb

Catheter: a thin, sterile tube

Cerebral palsy: a group of non-progressive and permanent neurological disorders affecting movement and coordination

Cervix: the neck (lower part) of the womb which forms a narrow canal that opens into the vagina

Chemotherapy: medication used to treat disease (especially cancer)

Chromosomal abnormality: an extra, missing, or abnormal part of the chromosomal DNA. Chromosomes are structures that contain genes. Genes affect the development of function of our bodies including physical characteristics and how susceptible we are to disease. Tests can be carried out to find (screen) chromosomal abnormalities in the developing baby

Conception: the process of becoming pregnant (conceiving)

Embryo: an unborn child that is developing in the womb

Embryoscope:  An incubator that provides continuous time-lapse monitoring of the embryos whilst they grow in the laboratory

Epididymis: a coiled tube within the scrotum that stores sperm, transporting it from the testes to the vas deferens (the tube that takes sperm from the testes to the penis)

Fallopian tubes: tubes along which an egg passes from the ovaries to the womb. Women have two fallopian tubes

Fibroids: benign (non-cancerous) tumours made of muscle and fibrous tissue that grow in and around the womb

Follicles: small sacs of fluid within the ovary where eggs develop

Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): a hormone that regulates the functions of the ovaries and testes. Lack of this hormone can cause infertility or subfertility in men and women

Follicle tracking: scans and tests (urine or blood) to check the development of follicles in the ovaries

Forceps: a medical instrument, like pincers or tongs, used for encircling a baby’s head to help with delivery

Genetic disorder: (see inherited disease) also called hereditary disease or disorder, a disease that is caused by changes or mutations in the DNA that make up a gene. Examples include cystic fibrosis

Gestational diabetes: high blood glucose levels during pregnancy (especially in the third trimester) in women who have not previously been diagnosed with diabetes

Gynaecological/gynaecology: relating to the health of a woman’s reproductive system (vagina, womb, ovaries) and the breasts

Gynaecology oncology: relating to the health of a woman’s reproductive system when it is affected by cancer

hCG (pregnancy hormone): human Chorionic Gonadotropin, a hormone produced during pregnancy

High blood pressure: where the force of blood against your artery walls is too high and can cause health problems including coronary heart disease

High cholesterol: a condition where there are high numbers of lipids (fatty substances) in the blood which increases the risk of serious health conditions

Hirsutism: excessive growth of thick dark hair in women on the face and body; it can be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or a side-effect of certain medications

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): medication that contains female hormones to help treat menopausal symptoms

Hot flushes: a common symptom of the menopause caused by fluctuating amounts of oestrogen in the body

Human papilloma virus (HPV): a group of viruses that affect the skin and moist membranes in the body including the cervix. In some cases it can cause cancer of the cervix (neck of the womb)

Hysterosalpingogram: a type of X-ray used to examine the inside of the womb and fallopian tubes

Hysteroscopy: the use of a thin tube with a telescope at the end to examine the inside of the womb; it can enable doctors to diagnose and in some cases treat conditions including fibroids and polyps

Incubator: a device where eggs and embryos are kept that is clean and maintains a constant temperature

Inherited disease or disorder: (see genetic disorder) a disease that is caused by changes or mutations in the DNA that make up a gene. Examples include cystic fibrosis

Insemination: directly inserting sperm into the womb to achieve pregnancy

Insulin: a hormone produced by the pancreas that allows the body to use sugar (glucose) which is converted from carbohydrates into energy. It stops the blood sugar level from getting too high or too low

Intrauterine insemination (IUI):

Immunological/immunology: a branch of medicine dealing with the immune system, the complex network of cells, tissues and organs that defend the body against germs

Implantation failure: when an embryo fails to implant in the womb. Recurrent implantation failure is diagnosed when a pregnancy has not been achieved after at least three cycles of in vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Laparoscopy/laparoscopic surgery: a type of minimally invasive procedure where a thin tube with a camera (laparoscope) is inserted through a small cut in the abdominal wall to diagnose and treat a number of conditions

Libido: sex drive

Luteinising hormone (LH): essential for fertility, this hormone regulates the ovaries in women and testes in men. It is needed to produce oestradiol and is also responsible for ovulation after which it stimulates the production of progesterone if an egg is fertilised. High levels of LH can be associated with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Menstrual cycle: the cycle of changes affecting the ovaries and womb to prepare for ovulation, fertilisation of an egg, and pregnancy

Night sweats: excessive sweating associated with hormonal imbalances, especially during the menopause when it is caused by lower levels of oestrogen

Obesity: describes someone who is overweight with excess body fat which can have a negative effect on their health

Obstetric: branch of medicine that deals with pregnancy and the period before and after childbirth (antenatal care)

Oestradiol: essential for ovulation, as well as for the thickening of the lining of the womb (endometrium) so that an egg can attach to it if it is fertilised. Oestradiol is made by the ovaries and levels decrease with age, particularly during the menopause

Oestrogen: a female hormone produced in the ovaries along with progesterone. It is essential for female characteristics, sexual function, bone health, ovulation and reproduction

Ovarian cyst: a fluid-filled sac that forms on the ovary

Ovary: one of a pair of ovaries, women’s reproductive glands; they are involved in producing the sex hormones (including oestrogen and progesterone) that control reproduction. They contain follicles, which can develop into eggs to be released each month during the menstrual cycle, ready to travel down the fallopian tube for fertilisation by sperm to develop into an embryo

Ovulation: this is when the follicle releases an egg, which travels down the fallopian tube to be fertilised by sperm

Ovulation predictor kit: a home kit to identify when the woman is most fertile. It detects a surge in the luteinising hormone (LH), which happens about 36 hours before ovulation

Pessaries: (for fertility treatment) a small soluble block of medication that can be inserted into the vagina or anus

Polyps: small growths on mucous membrane, often in the lining of the womb (endometrium) or the cervix

Pregnancy hormone (hCG): see hCG

Pregnancy test: this measures the amount of hCG (pregnancy hormone) in the urine

Premature labour: going into labour before 37 weeks of pregnancy

Progesterone: produced in the ovaries, this hormone helps the body to prepare for conception and pregnancy, as well as regulating periods

Prolactin: produced by the pituitary gland, this hormone enables milk production as well as other functions including playing an essential role in the metabolism and regulating the immune system. Very high levels can decrease the production of oestrogen and affect the menstrual cycle

Quarantined: separated and isolated for a while to check for disease

Radiotherapy: a treatment using high energy radiation, often used in cancer therapy

Recurrent implantation failure: see implantation failure

Scrotum: a small sac of skin and muscle that contains the testicles

Self-insemination: to inject semen into the vagina in order to achieve a pregnancy

Semen: fluid secreted by the male reproductive organs which contains sperm

Speculum: a medical instrument that holds the vagina open during an internal examination

Sperm bank: a place where semen is stored to be used in artificial insemination
Sterilisation (vasectomy): a procedure to cut the vas deferens (the tube that takes sperm from the testes to the penis) so sperm cannot be ejaculated during sex. It is a permanent type of contraception

Stroke: an interruption of blood supply to the brain, resulting in lack of oxygen and the sudden death of cells in one area of the brain

Testes: male reproductive glands that produce and store sperm

Testicular tissue: tissue surrounding the testes

Testosterone: low levels of this male hormone suggest a man may have decreased fertility

Transvaginal ultrasound scan: used to carry out a pelvic ultrasound scan. You will be asked to empty your bladder first, before lying on your back with your legs apart where they can rest in specially designed holders. The slim ultrasound probe will then be covered and lubricated before being gently inserted into the vagina. The image appears on a screen and the probe is moved gently about to identify the individual structures so that measurements and images can be taken

Type 2 diabetes: a long-term condition that affects the body’s ability to break down (metabolise) sugar. It may be treated by modifying the diet or by being prescribed insulin

Ultrasound scan (pregnancy): a scan that uses sound waves to check the health of a baby in the womb and detect any abnormalities

Vasectomy: see sterilisation

Vitrification: a type of technology used at the Agora to freeze embryos, which are kept in liquid nitrogen storage at -196°C. At this temperature all biological activity in the embryo stops and it will remain stable for many years. Current regulations allow us to store embryos for up to 10 years and these can be used at a later date in Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) cycles

Vulva: the external genital organs of a woman

Womb (uterus): the organ in a woman where babies are conceived and grow until birth
Zift technique: when a fertilised embryo is transferred into the fallopian tube instead of the womb