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Glossary of Medical Terms Related to Fertility and Surrogacy

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

These are some of the terms you might hear while going through your journey (or while doing your research). We wanted to explain them in a less complicated way.

ART: Acronym for Assisted Reproductive Technologies, defined by many to mean the handling outside the body of both egg and sperm. This definition is the one used by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), who has the mission of tracking and monitoring fertility clinics in the United States.

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 (baby).

Ectopic Pregnancy: A pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus. The developing embryo implants and grows in a location other than inside the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies often take place in the fallopian tube.

Embryo: The developing baby in the early stages of fetal growth, from conception to the eighth week of pregnancy. In infertility treatments this term is restricted to mean a fertilized egg, between 1 and 5 days old, used in IVF treatments. See also Blastocyst.

Endometriosis: Is a gynecological condition in which cells from the lining of the uterus (endometrium) appear and flourish outside the uterine cavity, most commonly on the membrane which lines the abdominal cavity, the peritoneum.

ESET: Elective single embryo transfer, which means only placing one embryo in the uterus.

Fallopian Tube: Anatomical structures attached to the uterus where eggs pass on their way to the uterus from their origin in the follicle of the ovary. In the course of ART, fertilized eggs (at times termed zygotes) are commonly placed here rather than directly in the uterus. Eggs are naturally fertilized in the fallopian tube.

Fibroids: Are non-cancerous growths in the womb (uterus).

Fecundity: Characterized by having produced many offspring. 2: Capable of producing: not sterile or barren.

Gamete: In the case of the male, this would be a sperm cell, in the case of a female this would be the egg or ova.

Gestational Surrogate (also called a Gestational Carrier -GC- or Uterine Carrier): Is an individual to whom embryos created by the Intended Parents will be transferred to. She has been prepared hormonally to carry a pregnancy. The Gestational Surrogate has no genetic link to the baby she is carrying because she did not use her egg.

GIFT: Gamete Intrafallopian Tube Transfer is when the eggs are removed from the ovaries and are placed in the fallopian tubes along with the sperm.


ICSI: Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection is the process in an in-vitro fertilization in which a single, viable, sperm is injected into the egg.

IVF: In-Vitro Fertilization is the fertilization of the egg by the sperm outside of the body. In Vitro, literally translated from Latin, means in glass. The fertilized egg is then implanted into the uterus.

Infecundity: Is the condition where the woman has the ability to conceive (have egg fertilized), but is not able to carry the baby to term.

Nulliparous: A term meaning a woman has never had a child.

Ovum: The egg; the reproductive cell from the ovary; the female gamete; the sex cell that contains the woman's genetic information.

Oocyte: The egg cell produced in the ovaries. Also called the ovum or gamete.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Is a condition characterized by the accumulation of numerous cysts (fluid-filled sacs) on the ovaries.

Retrograde ejaculation: A condition in which sperm are ejaculated into the bladder instead of out of the penis.

Semen: The fluid portion of the ejaculate consisting of secretions from the seminal vesicles, prostate gland, and several other glands in the male reproductive tract. The semen provides nourishment and protection for the sperm and a medium in which the sperm can travel to the woman's vagina. Semen may also refer to the entire ejaculate, including the sperm.

Sperm: The microscopic cell that carries the male's genetic information to the female's egg; the male reproductive cell; the male gamete. When ejaculation occurs the sperm are discharged in a fluid called semen.

Surrogate: A woman who agrees to carry (gestate) a child for another couple (intended parents) or individual. Note; a Gestational Surrogate does not use her eggs and hence is not genetically related to the baby. A Traditional Surrogate will use her egg (see traditional surrogate).

Surrogacy: An arrangement where another woman is hired to carry the child (gestate) for another couple (intended parents) or individual.

Third Party Reproduction: Refers to the use of eggs, sperm, or embryos donated by a third person (donor) to enable an infertile individual or couple (intended parent) to have a child. Donors of eggs or sperm may be known or anonymous to the intended parents. Third-party reproduction also includes traditional surrogacy and gestational carrier arrangements.

Traditional Surrogacy: Is when a woman is inseminated with sperm for the purpose of conceiving for an intended recipient (intended parents). The surrogate in this scenario has a genetic and biological link to the baby she carries as her egg was used.

Varicocele: A varicocele (physical structure) is like varicose veins of the small veins next to one testis or both testes. It usually causes no symptoms.

ZIFT: Zygote Intrafallopian Tube Transfer is when the developing embryo (termed zygote in the first few days) is placed in the fallopian tube.

Zygote: A fertilized egg, or embryo, in the early stages of development. It is multicellular and of a development stage prior to being a blastocyst.

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