» Glossary of Terms

Artificial Insemination (AI): Any type of procedure that places sperm in a woman’s reproductive tract through a method other than sexual intercourse.

Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART): Any procedure that joins sperm and egg in an attempt to achieve pregnancy through artificial, or partially artificial means.

Cervix: The cervix is the lower, narrow portion of the uterus. It is about an inch long and located at the top of the vagina.

Clinical Pregnancy: A pregnancy confirmed by both high levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and ultrasound evidence of a gestational sac, fetal pole, or heartbeat.

Chemical Pregnancy: A pregnancy that is only confirmed by elevated levels of hCG and that results in miscarriage (loss of pregnancy) prior to ultrasound evidence.

Conization: Also called a cone biopsy, conization is a surgical procedure where a cone shaped sample of tissue is removed from the cervix and examined. It is typically used to diagnose or treat cervical conditions.

Cryopreservation: The process of using liquid nitrogen to freeze and preserve tissue. May be used to preserve eggs, sperm, embryos, and ovarian or testicular tissue for future fertility use.

Egg: An immature female reproductive cell prior to fertilization.

Egg Donation: A process where a woman provides one, or several, eggs for assisted reproduction.

Egg Cryopreservation: Also known as egg freezing, this procedure has been around for years but has had little success. It is only available as an experimental fertility preservation technique.

Egg Retrieval: This surgical technique is used to remove eggs from a female’s ovary to attempt fertilization outside the body. Also called egg collection.

Ejaculate: The substance, made up of semen and possibly sperm, which is ejected from the male reproductory tract.

Electroejaculation: A procedure used to extract sperm from a male who is not able to ejaculate. Involves the use of an electric probe to stimulate ejaculation.

Embryo: A fertilized egg in the early stages of fetal growth, from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy.

Embryo Donation: In vitro fertilization can result in extra embryos, which can then be donated to another individual or couple for transfer with the goal of achieving pregnancy.

Embryo Freezing: Fresh embryos can be frozen (cryopreserved) for a later transfer to the uterus. Can be used to preserve a woman’s fertility prior to cancer treatment.

Embryo Transfer: When one or more embryos are placed in the uterus in an attempt to achieve pregnancy.

Estrogen: The primary female sex hormone often used for birth control, hormone replacement therapy, and to prepare a uterus for embryo transfer.

Fallopian Tubes: A slender pair of ducts or tubes, in which eggs pass through from the ovaries to the uterus.

Fertility: The ability to initiate, maintain, or carry a pregnancy.

Fertility Preservation: Techniques used to preserve the reproductive ability of individuals facing medical treatment that may lead to infertility.

Fertilization: Occurs when an egg and sperm combine to create an embryo.

Follicle: Cells within the ovaries that contain eggs.

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH): A hormone secreted by the pituitary gland that stimulates the formation of eggs or sperm. Administering additional FSH can increase egg development.

Gamete: The reproductive cells of a male (sperm), or female (eggs).

Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT): A procedure where a retrieved egg (or eggs) and sperm obtained from a male, are inserted into a woman’s fallopian tube, in an attempt to achieve fertilization and pregnancy.

Gestational Surrogacy: See Surrogacy.

Hormone Replacement Therapy: The use of hormone supplements (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) to support the long-term health of cancer survivors who, due to cancer treatments, may not be producing the hormones they need.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): Produced by the placenta in the earlier stages of pregnancy, this hormone is used to induce ovulation before the egg retrieval procedure. (See Ovulation Induction)

Hysterectomy: The surgical removal of all, or part, of the uterus.

Implantation: The attachment of a fertilized egg (or embryo) to the wall of the uterus at the beginning of pregnancy.

Infertility: The inability to conceive a pregnancy after trying to do so for at least a year. Many cancer treatments can cause infertility, for both men and women.

Intracervical Insemination (ICI): One of the more common types of AI. Sperm is placed directly into a woman’s cervix to increase the chance of conception.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): Sperm is washed and then placed directly into the uterus.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI): A method of injecting a single sperm into an egg. This method is often used when a male has a low sperm count.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): A fertility treatment where a woman’s eggs are retrieved and fertilized with sperm in a laboratory to create embryos. The embryos are then placed into the uterus to attempt pregnancy.

In Vitro Maturation (IVM): Retrieving immature eggs from follicles without using hormone stimulation, and maturing the eggs in the laboratory.

Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure in which small incisions are made in the abdomen to accommodate thin tubes for examination and surgical treatment.

Loop Electrocautery Excisional Procedure (LEEP): A procedure using a wire loop with an electric current to remove abnormal cells on the cervix.

Luteinizing Hormone (LH): The pituitary hormone that produces and matures eggs in females, and sperm in males.

Menopause: The point at which menstruation ceases, and is effectively the end of a woman’s fertility.

Menstruation: The stage of the menstrual cycle where the unused lining of the uterus is shed.

Miscarriage: The spontaneous end of a pregnancy before an embryo or fetus is able to survive on its own.

Sperm Motility: The ability of sperm to move properly towards an egg, motility also refers to sperm “quality.”

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS): Can occur with hormonal overstimulation of the ovaries, usually as a result of fertility medication injections to increase the number of eggs produced. OHSS causes swollen and painful ovaries, and can have serious side effects.

Ovarian Transposition: The surgical repositioning of one or both ovaries away from the radiation field. It can be done laparoscopically, which is less invasive than traditional ovary transposition surgery.

Ovarian Reserve: Describes the capacity of the ovary to provide eggs that could result in pregnancy. It’s an important test in the treatment of infertility.

Ovarian Stimulation: The use of fertility drugs to increase hormones, which cause the ovaries to mature and provide a larger number of eggs.

Ovarian Shielding: Techniques used to shield or protect the ovaries and/or uterus from radiation damage.

Ovarian Suppression: Medical treatments that suppress ovarian function. Also called ovarian ablation.

Ovarian Tissue Freezing: The removal of ovarian tissue, or an entire ovary, in order to freeze it for future fertility-related use.

Ovulation Induction: The stimulation of ovulation using medication. (See Human Chorionic Gonadotropin)

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA): A procedure used to determine sperm counts, or to collect sperm in the event of a possible blockage. It can also be used to extract sperm for ICSI.

Pituitary Gland: This gland, located at the base of the brain, directs the ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, and adrenal gland to produce hormones such as thyroid, estrogen, and testosterone.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD): PGD is used to test embryos for chromosome abnormalities. Used with IVF, PGD determines healthy embryos with normal chromosomes, which can then be implanted to achieve pregnancy.

Premature Ovarian Failure: A stop in the normal functioning of the ovaries in a woman younger than age 40.

Prepubertal: The period of life immediately before puberty.

Progesterone: The female hormone the ovaries secrete for two weeks prior to menstruation. This hormone can be used in HRT and to prepare the uterine lining for pregnancy.

Progestogens: Progesterone-like chemicals that attach to the body’s progesterone receptors and function like progesterone, but often with different side effects.

Radical Trachelectomy: The surgical removal of the cervix, leaving the uterus intact for future pregnancy. This is an increasingly common treatment for early stage cervical cancer.

Reproductive Endocrinologist: A Gynaecologist who is accredited and certified to treat reproductive disorders.

Semen: Fluid that is released from the penis with ejaculation. Semen can contain sperm.

Sperm: The male reproductive cells.

Sperm/Semen Analysis: A test to assess certain characteristics of male sperm, including count, motility, and appearance.

Sperm Donation: When a man provides sperm to a woman, who is usually not his sexual partner, in an attempt to achieve pregnancy.

Sperm Freezing: The cryopreservation of sperm for future conception.

Sterility: The lack of functioning testes in a male, or egg-producing ovaries in a female.

Surrogacy: An arrangement where a woman carries and delivers a child for another person or couple. In a traditional surrogacy arrangement, the woman is the child’s genetic mother. In the case of gestational surrogacy, the woman has no genetic relationship to the child. Note: In Canada, it’s illegal to financially compensate a surrogate mother for anything other than pregnancy-related expenses.

Testicle: The sperm and testosterone producing male reproductive organ located in the scrotum.

Testicular Biopsy: The removal of a small sample of testicular tissue, which can be used to determine causes of male infertility.

Testicular Shielding: Techniques used to shield or protect the testes and/or pelvic area from radiation damage.

Testicular Sperm Extraction: The removal of testicular tissue to collect sperm from a man who does not have sperm in his ejaculate, and in the case where PESA has failed. Used with ICSI.

Testicular Tissue Cryopreservation: Also known as testicular tissue freezing, this procedure is experimental with no live births to date, but shows promise for the future.

Testosterone: The hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of male sex characteristics.

Transvaginal Ultrasound: A type of pelvic ultrasound used to examine a woman’s reproductive organs, including the uterus, ovaries, and cervix.

Ultrasound: Exposing an area of the body to ultra-high sound waves. These waves reflect off organs that are read by a computer to create images (sonogram).

Urologist: A physician who focuses on the urological structures of both men and women, and the male reproductive system.

Uterus: The female reproductive organ that expands to accommodate fetal growth. Also referred to as the womb.

Vitrification: A fast-freeze method that prevents ice crystals, which could damage sperm, eggs, embryos, and ovarian tissue. Thaw success rates after vitrification are much higher than those after traditional freezing.

Zygote: A fertilized egg, before cell division takes place and it becomes an embryo.