Fertility Glossary Of Terms

Fertility can be really confusing when you’re faced with long-winded medical jargon, but we’ve made things nice and simple for you by compiling a glossary of terms. Take a look below, and don’t forget to check out our Fertility Video Course and our Fertility Checklist for more help with trying to conceive.


  • Acupuncture – the insertion of the tips of needles into the skin at specific points for the purpose of treating various disorders by stimulating nerve impulses. Originally Chinese, this method of treatment is practised in many parts of the world. When used in fertility, it is thought to help improve blood flow to the uterus and ovaries.
  • Additives – Chemical non organic substances that are used in food, but can have a negative impact on health and fertility
  • Artificial insemination – The process of placing sperm into the female reproductive tract
  • Asherman’s syndrome –  A condition where scarring can form inside the womb, often due to previous surgery having taken place. This can be associated with infertility
  • Assisted hatching – The mechanical breakdown of the outer shell of the egg, called the zona pellucida, to help aid fertilisation
  • Assisted reproductive technology – The collective name for all the various artificial techniques used to help conception
  • Azoospermia – The absence of sperm in the male ejaculate


  • Blastocyst – A 5-6 day old embryo
  • Blood clotting disorder –  This can sometimes be genetically inherited or caused by another condition, such as lupus, whereby blood has a greater propensity to form clots in blood vessels. Can be associated with miscarriage
  • BMI – Body mass index: The ratio of height and weight, with normal being 20-25


  • Cervical mucus – Secretions in the cervical canal that change according to the different stages of the cycle
  • Cervix – The neck of the womb
  • Clomid/Clomiphene – A drug that acts on the brain to stimulate the production of follicles in the ovaries
  • Corpus luteum – The follicle remaining behind once the egg has been released
  • Cryopreservation – The freezing of eggs or sperm or embryos
  • Cyst – A fluid filled structure in the ovary that normally does not contain an egg


  • Donor eggs – Eggs donated by another woman, usually younger, in order to help improve the chance of conception
  • Donor insemination – Using donor sperm to deposit in the cervix or womb
  • Dye test – The process of injecting dye into the fallopian tubes to determine if they are unobstructed. Can be done as a HyCoSy, HSG or laparoscopy


  • Egg – The female sex cell/gamete released during each monthly cycle
  • Egg collection – The process of collecting eggs from a woman’s ovary, normally done using an ultrasound guided needle through the vagina
  • Egg donation – The donation of eggs by a fertile woman to be used in fertility treatment
  • Egg sharing – The process of undergoing IVF to use some of the eggs for own treatment, and the rest for egg donation
  • Embryo – A fertilised egg that has the potential to develop into a foetus/baby
  • Embryo quality – How good an embryo is deemed to be based on a set of criteria that determines its grading. This can often, but not always, reflect its chromosomal integrity, and therefore help to predict success of implantation
  • Embryo transfer – Process of implanting the embryo into a woman’s womb
  • Endometriosis – A condition where tissue that is supposed to line the inside of the womb (endometrium) is found outside of it, often causing pain during periods or sex


  • Fallopian tube – The tube where the sperm and egg fertilise and that connects the ovary to the womb, normally there are two on each side for each ovary
  • Fatty acids – the building blocks of the fat in our bodies and in the food we eat. They are an essential component of a healthy balanced diet.
  • Fertilisation – The penetration of an egg by a sperm resulting in the creation of an embryo, can be done naturally, inside the woman’s body, or outside using assisted reproductive technology
  • Folic acid – A supplement recommended if trying to conceive
  • Follicle – A small sac capable of containing an egg and found in the ovary
  • Frozen embryos – Embryos that have been frozen and captured at an early stage of development, to store for future use


  • Genetic disorders – Conditions caused by inheritance of faulty chromosomes that contain DNA, and may be transmitted in families
  • Genetically abnormal embryo – An embryo that isn’t genetically normal, due to being affected by abnormalities in its chromosomal make up and DNA structure
  • Gonadotrophins – Hormones released by the pituitary gland in the brain that stimulates the ovaries to grow and develop follicles


  • Heparin – An anticoagulant used to help reduce the risk of blood clots forming within blood vessels.  Other forms include Clexane and Fragmin
  • HFEA – Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, governs all fertility treatment in the UK
  • Hypnotherapy – a combination of hypnosis and therapeutic intervention . The therapist leads the patient to positive change while the patient is deeply relaxed in a state of heightened suggestibility called trance. Can be used to help with fertility, and help to align the mind with the body.


  • ICSI – The process of injecting sperm directly into the egg to achieve fertilisation
  • Implantation – The process whereby the embryo embeds itself into the lining of the womb
  • Inflammatory response – A fundamental type of response by the body to disease or injury that involves a complex release of various chemicals, leading to pain, swelling, heat and redness
  • Intrauterine insemination – The process of inseminating sperm into the womb
  • IUI – Intra- uterine insemination: The introduction of specially prepared and concentrated sperm into the uterus via the cervix
  • IVF – In vitro fertilization: A procedure in which one or more eggs, each removed from a ripe follicle, is fertilized by a sperm outside the human body




  • Laparoscopy – Keyhole surgery to examine and treat organs in the abdomen and pelvis


  • Meditation – the act of giving your attention to only one thing, being still and present in the moment, as a way of becoming calm and relaxed, helping you to focus on the positive aspects of life and giving you the necessary support from within to be able to deal with any adversities
  • Menstrual cycle – A monthly cycle whereby an egg is released from the ovary and the lining of the womb grows and then sheds, resulting in a bleed, unless pregnancy occurs
  • Multiple pregnancy – When two or more foetuses develop in the womb



  • Oestrogen – A hormone produced by the ovaries that changes in quantity depending on the stage of the cycle
  • Oligospermia – Low sperm count
  • Oocyte – Female egg/gamete
  • Organic – Food that is free from pesticides and fertilizers and additives and therefore healthier to eat
  • Ovarian reserve –  An estimate of an ovary’s capacity to provide eggs to be used in fertilization. In simple terms, it is a measure of a woman’s biological clock and how fast it may be ticking
  • Ovary – Female reproductive organ that releases eggs and produces hormones
  • Ovulation – The release of an egg from the ovary


  • Polycystic ovaries – A common condition where ovaries are slightly bigger and contain a larger number of small follicles, due to a hormonal imbalance, that may cause problems with ovulation, and is sometimes associated with the condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Premature menopause – Ovarian failure/cessation of periods and ovulation before the age of 40
  • Progesterone – A hormone produced by the corpus luteum after ovulation, to encourage the lining of the womb to grow



  • Recurrent miscarriage – 3 or more consecutive miscarriages


  • Secondary infertility – The inability to fall pregnant after having previously given birth
  • Sexually transmitted infections –  Infections that are passed on by sexual contact and if not treated, can go on to cause internal pelvic organ damage. Include Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia
  • Sperm – Male sex cell
  • Superovulation – The stimulation of the ovary with drugs to induce multiple follicles to grow and develop


  • Temperature charting – Natural fertility technique that involves the process of measuring basal body temperature throughout the monthly cycle to help determine point of ovulation
  • Testis – Male sex organ containing sperm
  • Testosterone – Hormone that regulates male sexual characteristics, exists in women too
  • Thrombophilia – An abnormality of blood coagulation that increases its propensity to form clots in the body


  • Ultrasound – Scan used to assess internal organs, in this case usually the pelvic reproductive organs that include the uterus and ovaries
  • Uterus – The womb, where the embryo grows and develops


  • Vas deferens – A pair of tubes connecting the epididymis to the urethra, transporting sperm into the ejaculate, damaged during vasectomy





  • Zona pellucid – Shell surrounding the egg
  • Zygote – Fertilised egg