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Glosary and terms

The absence or abnormal interruption of the menstruation.

The absence of ovulation. A woman can have her menstruation without the occurrence of ovulation.

It is the branch of medicine that studies and treats the male sexual and reproductive function.

Antisperm antibodies:

It is a response of the immune system by which the organism reacts attacking the sperm. Both men and women can develop antisperm antibodies.

Epididymal aspiration:

It is a technique for sperm retrieval from the testicle performed via aspiration of the epididymal content. It is a minimally invasive procedure indicated especially in cases of obstructive azoospermia (vasectomy, diagnosed agenesis of the vasa deferentia).


It is a pathology characterized by low count of motile spermatozoa in the ejaculate. Below 32% motility according to the criteria of the Workd Health Organization.


It is the absence of sperm in the ejaculate.

Testicular biopsy or TESE:

Surgical procedure used to obtain testicular tissue. The aim is to get testicular sperm to use in In-vitro Fertilization with ICSI technique in cases of secretory azoospermia. It can be performed with local anesthesia or deep sedation.

Cryo-Top - Kitazato:

Oocyte and embryo vitrification (freezing) system used to achieve the first pregnancies in Japan in 2005. The application of this technique allows for the survival of 98% of vitrified eggs and embryos. Embryos can be vitrified by means of this system at any stage (from day 2 until day 5). (see also Vitrification).


It is a procedure used to maintain eggs, embryos and sperm frozen at a very low temperature. The samples are kept in liquid nitrogen at –196°C which inactivates their metabolism whilst keeping their properties for many years. Cryopreservation can be used to preserve fertility by keeping eggs and sperm or to maintain good quality embryos resulting from Invitro Fertilization.

Long embryo culture or culture up to the blastocyst stage:

Culture technique used to maintain embryos up to five or six days in the IVF Lab to observe their capacity to develop until the blastocyst stage. This technique provides improved embryo selection and subsequent pregnancy rates in the case of transferring day 5 blastocysts. This treatment is recommended in cases of implantation failure and it is increasingly used for the selection of a single embryo to transfer with a view to reducing multiple pregnancy rates.


It is the earliest stage in embryonic development where the genetic material (nucleous) derived from the egg and the spermatozoa can be seen right before fusing. Fertilized egg on day 1 development.


Genetic study of the chromosomal pattern of an individual. Humans should have 2 pairs of 23 chromosomes: the expected female karyotype formula being 46XX and the male formula being 46XY. An alteration in the number of chromosomes (for instance, extra or missing chromosomes) is called aneuploidy. Some aneuploidies are compatible with life but result in genetic abnormalities of more or less clinical impact (for example, Down Syndrome: 3 copies of chromosome 21, Turner Syndrome: 1 sexual chromosome).

Sperm capacitation:

Lab techniques that allow for the selection and concentration of the best sperm in the ejaculate, that is, sperm with better motility and morphology, in very little volume. Such techniques are applied in the andrology lab and are used to treat semen samples before their use in reproduction techniques as well as for the diagnosis of seminal quality.

Menstrual cycle:

Physiological process leading to the development of feminine gamets parallel to hormonal changes to enable the occurrence of pregnancy. The day when menstruation begins is the first day of the cycle. A cycle ususally lasts 28 days, though it can be longer or shorter.

Annexin V columns:

It is a lab procedure that allows for the filtering and separation of fragmented or degenerated sperm. Its use is recommended in cases where DNA fragmentation is increased in sperm, varicocele, etc.

Egg donation:

Egg donation generally pertains to egg donation programs where young and healthy women between 18 and 35 years of age undergo a medical and psychological study to give eggs to other women or couples who need them. The Egg Donation Program is directed to help patients with reduced ovarian function. That is, women with low quality oocytes unable to produce pregnancy. This is the case of women with premature menopause or those whose ovaries have been removed, also, patients with chromosome abnormalities systematically passed on to the children, women with poor response to ovarian stimulation or cases of repeated Invitro fertilization failure.

Prenatal Diagnosis:

Branch of gynecology dealing with the detection of embryonic or fetal abnormailities of any kind. The results obtained through citogenetic techniques, biochemical tests and high resolution ultrasound scans allow for the diagnosis of 90% of congenital abnormalities before birth. Prenatal Diagnosis encompasses important tests like O.S.C.A.R., Chorionic Villus Sampling, Amniocentesis, Harmony test, High Definition Morphological Ultrasound Scan at 20 weeks pregnancy, 3D/4D Ultrasound Scan.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD):

Genetic study for chromosome analysis performed in the embryos before being transferred into the uterus. When embryos are in culture in the lab, a cell is removed from them on the third day of development. Depending on the result obtained, only those genetically normal and with good morphology on the blastocyst stage (day 5 of development) are placed into the uterus.

In some specific cases, if there is high risk of genetic transmission of certain diseases onto the offspring (hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, etc.), PGD can also be applied to prevent transmission of said diseases to the child.


Intense abdominal and/or pelvic pain beginning before the menstruation. It generally lasts 24 hours.

Egg retrieval or follicular puncture:

The eggs are located inside the follicles (cystic structures) in the ovary. Egg retrieval for Invitro fertilization entails outpatient surgery. By means of an ultrasound scan and via vaginal route, the content of the follicles in the ovaries is aspirated. This procedure requires deep sedation and lasts a maximum of 20 minutes. The patient is discharged home 1-3 hours later and is instructed to rest at home.

Retrograde ejaculation:

During ejaculation, the spermatozoa in the semen go to the urinary bladder because the valve joining the urethra and the bladder does not work. There may be several causes, like traumas, infection, the use of certain medication, alterations in the autonomic nervous system, etc. It is very frequently diagnosed due to low sperm volume. If retrograde ejaculation is suspected, the male is advised to provide a urine sample subsequent to ejaculation. The presence of sperm in the urine will be later checked in the lab. Retrograde ejaculation is not considered a disease per se, but it can impact on male fertility. The sperm found in urine can be centrifugated and used in fertility treatments.


These are the female hormones produced mainly in the ovaries. They are essential for female sexual development and the functioning of the reproductive system. Eg: estradiol.


Difficulty in conceiving after one year of unprotected sex. It affects 15-20% of couples in fertile age.

Primary Sterility:

When a couple has never achieved pregnancy.

Secundary Sterility:

When the difficulty to conceive arises in a couple with antecedents of one or several pregnancies.


Male reproductive cells (gamets) produced by the male sexual organs.


A duct that keeps the sperm for maturation and transports it up the vasa deferentia.


Gynecological condition characterized by the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus, in abnormal places like the fallopian tubes, the ovaries or the peritoneum (e.g. bladder, intestine, etc.). Endometrial tissue implantation is influenced by the menstrual cycle. This tissue is discharged during menstruation. However, this bleeding cannot leave the body and produces swelling and scar tissue or fibrosis occasionally leading to intestinal obstruction, digestive bleeding, urinary discomfort and abdominal pain. Endometriosis has an unknown cause and can appear from menarche to menopause, reducing the fertile potential of a woman depending on the stage of the condition.


It is the mucose lining the uterus. During the menstrual cycle, this mucose thickens and accumulates in blood layers until ovulation takes place. If fertilization occurs, the embryo should implant in the endometrial mucose of the uterus. If there is no implantation, the uterus slough off discharging the blood layers, thus producing the menstruation. The endometrium is an element to be observed in fertility treatments for pregnancy to occur.


Initial stage in fetal growth, from fertilization until 8 weeks of pregnancy, later it changes its name to foetus..

Ectopic pregnancy:

Pregnancy occuring outside the uterus. Embryo implantation can take place, for instance, in the fallopian tubes or even sometimes in the abdominal cavity. This kind of pregnancy cannot progress because the foetus cannot develop in these inappropriate sites. Depending on the clinical circunstances, the patient has to undergo laparoscopic removal of the embryo or even the surgical removal of the tube.


Ovarian structure or cyst containing one egg. As from the first menstruation, each month, the ovary produces the maturation of 8-20 follicles depending on the ovarian reserve of each woman, and only one of them reaches full maturation. Gradually, in time, the number of existent follicles decreases until menopause when there is practically none left.


Follicle stimulating hormone. It is produced in the pituitary gland and regulates the female menstrual cycle. Its function is to stimulate the growth and maturation of the follicles in the ovary.


Lab technique based on Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization. It is currently used as a routine technique for the study of chromosomes in the sperm and the genetic quality of the samples.

In Vitro (IVF) Fertilization:

It basically consists on the fertilization of an egg by a sperm outside the female body, that is, in the lab, for the subsequent transfer or placement of the embryo in the uterine cavity. This process requires perfect coordination of the team that is to be multidisciplinary and formed by experts in several fields: Gynecologists, specialists in reproduction, andrologysts –experts in male fertility-, biologists, analysts, genetists, etc.

DNA fragmentation:

A study performed to assess the integrity of the genetic material (DNA) of the sperm. If fragmentation or degeneration of the ejaculated sperm exceeds 15%, the male reproductive capacity can be at risk.


Hormones stimulating the cellular activity in the ovaries and testicles. They are vital for any individual to reach sexual maturity and be able to maintain it.

Pituitary gland (hypophysis):

Endocrine gland located at the base of the brain. It secretes FSH, LH and other hormones involved in growth, development and fertility.


Reproductive cells (female eggs and male sperm) whose fusion creates a new individual.


Substance secreted by special cells located in organs like endocrine glands. Hormones act like chemical messengers on the regulation of metabolic processes -like the menstruation- in the whole body.


It is a clinical test intended for diagnostic or surgical purposes. It consists on the introduction of an optical system through the cervix to allow for the inspection of the inner part of the uterus and diagnosis of anomalies.

Hysterosalpingography (HSG):

Radiologic procedure to inspect the uterine cavity and the patency of the fallopian tubes. It is performed during the first half of the menstrual cycle and entails the injection of contrast medium into the uterus under ultrasound monitoring. On filling the uterine cavity and the fallopian tubes, it shows the morphology of these structures providing relevant diagnostic information. This test is generally performed in women before undergoing Artificial Insemination.


Endocrine gland located at the base of the brain controling certain functions like body temperature and hunger as well as hormone secretion by the hypophysis.


Increase in the levels of prolactin hormone in the blood. It is a cause of infertility.

Blighted ovum:

A pregnancy where neither yok sac nor embryo are visible resulting in spontaneous abortion. A chromosomal abnormality is the most frequent cause that prevents the formation of an embryo.


Health problem also called erectile dysfunction caused by the absence of blood flow to the penis which prevents men to attain and maintain erection. Occasional impotence is a normal problem. However, if it prolongs over a long period, it should be treated by a specialized andrologyst.

Artificial Insemination:

It is an Assisted Reproduction technique. It consists of placing into the female womb semen from the partner or from a donor which has been previously capacitated and prepared in the lab. In this way, fertilization occurs “naturally” inside the female body.


A couple’s difficulty to carry pregnancy to term. In these cases, pregnancy is achieved, but terminates in abortion prior to birth.

Primary Infertility:

Describes a childless couple who achieves pregnancy, but this pregnancy stops before birth.

Secundary Infertility:

After a normal pregnancy and birth, a couple cannot achieve a new full-term pregnancy.

In Vivo:

It literally means “in the body” as opposed to in the lab.


An expression meaning “in a glass”, that is, in a test tube.


Embryo adhesion to the uterus walls (endometrium) where the embryo develops into a foetus.


Intra Citoplasmatic Injection of sperm. It consists of the introduction of one sperm into an egg. This technique is specially indicated for males with low semen quality or quantity and, also, for azoospermic patients.


Luteinizing hormone that increasing towards the middle of the menstrual cycle produces ovulation of the mature egg. It is produced in the pituitary gland.

Semen washing:

The semen samples produced by men infected with HIV, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C undergo this process to remove these diseases and use the samples safely in assisted reproduction without jeopardizing the mother and foetus’ health. The absence of the mentioned diseases is confirmed via nested-PCR (a test used to detect any trace of the virus with almost 100% accuracy)./p>


It is a surgery performed with the use of an optical system inserted in the navel which provides direct visual access to the female reproductive system. It is used for the removal of ovarian cysts or uterine myomas and for diagnosis and treatment of hydrosalpinx.


Normal process of cellular division occurring in the embryo to increase its number of cells.

Uterine myoma:

Benign tumor growing in the muscular tissue that can affect reproductive capacity depending on the size and location in respect to the endometrium.


Monthly bleeding occurring when the mature oocyte has not been fertilized which, in turn, produces discharge of uterine tissue. The beginning ot the menstruation indicates the start of a new menstrual cycle. It happens monthly from menarche to menopause.


The cease of the menstruation. It generally occurs between 40 to 45 years of age..


The beginning of menstruation at puberty or first menstruation that can start between 11 and 15 years of age.


A type of cellular division occuring only in the ovaries and testicles which produces the formation of eggs and sperm.

Müllerian malformations (bicornuate uterus, uterine septum, etc.):

Congenital malformations of the uterine morphology deriving from alterations in organogenesis during the period of intrauterine life of women.


A semen sample that meets the most relevant requirements: volume, concentration, motility and morphology. A normozoospermic sample does not guarantee male paternity.


Female reproductive cells (gamets) produced in the ovaries. On birth, an ovary contains between one and two million eggs. Of this total number, only 400.000 or 500.000 remain at puberty. Only 400 or 500 of these will be ovulated, one each month, until menopause.


It is the rupture of a mature ovarian follicle that produces the release of an egg into the uterine cavity where it is picked by the fallopian tubes. This process generally takes place in the middle of the menstrual cycle.

Female reproductive cells. On birth, an ovary contains between one and two millon eggs. Of this total number, only 400.000 or 500.000 remain at puberty. Only 400 or 500 of these will be ovulated, one each month, until menopause.


It is a pathology characterized by low sperm count in the ejaculate. Below 15 million of spermatozoa per millilitre or under 39 million spermatozoa in total in the ejaculate according to World Health Organization.


Irregular menstrual cycles.

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS):

Uncommon syndrome that can occur during ovulation induction or during the application of assisted reproduction techniques. Symptoms are increased ovarian size, fluid accumulation, abdominal distension and weigh increase.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (POS):

Frequent syndrome caused by endocrine alteration. It can be associated with obesity, anovulation, acne, facial hair, etc. It can be a cause of sterility.


Diagnostic test used to measure sperm concentration, motility and morphology performed to rule out or find possible alterations.


Spermatozoa and seminal secretions ejaculated during orgasm in males.

Basal body temperature (BBT)

Normal body temperature. Normal body temperature can vary, from 96°F up to 98°F, but it increases half a degree or one full degree in the moment of ovulation. Women could measure their basal body temperature daily to identify the day of ovulation.

Fallopian tubes:

They are the ducts leading from the ovaries into the uterus. Fertilization takes place here.


Male sexual hormone produced in the testicles and in the adrenal gland. It is responsible for the development of most of the physical traits of a male adult.


Male sexual organs. They are contained in the scrotum, secrete the male hormone (testosterone) and produce the male reproductive cells (sperm).


It is a pathology producing low sperm morphology in the ejaculate. Below 14% of normal morphology according to Kruger test.


It is a pear-shaped organ that holds and feeds the foetus all through pregnancy and produces strong and rhythmic contractions to expel the foetus on birth.


Dilation of one of the two veins transporting blood from the scrotum caused by a problem in the testicular valves. It is associated with male infertility.


It is a contraceptive surgery performed in men where the vasa deferentia are cut. Following vasectomy, the semen should not contain sperm.


It is a technique used to freeze eggs and embryos. It has implied a revolution in Fertility Preservation techniques, specifically for oocyte vitrification because it allows for the postponement of the reproductive capacity of a woman for as long as desired, keeping the same chances as in the moment of egg vitrification because the survival rates exceed 90%.