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Infertility Terms H to O

Hamster-oocyte penetration test: a SPA (Sperm Penetration Assay) that evaluates the ability of human sperm to penetrate an ovum. Sperm are incubated with hamster eggs, and normal sperm will penetrate an egg. If no penetration occurs, this correlates in our laboratory with a poor prognosis of spontaneous fertilization. The ICSI procedure can then circumvent this situation.

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG): a hormone secreted by the embryo that maintains corpus luteum function when pregnancy occurs. It is also used like a LH hormone to trigger ovulation.

Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG): FSH and LH hormones extracted from the urine of postmenopausal women and then injected to stimulate follicle recruitment and growth within the ovaries.

Hyperprolactinemia: overproduction of prolactin, the hormone responsible for breast milk production. It may be treated with bromocriptine (Parlodel or Dostinex). If left untreated, it can lead to ovulatory dysfunction (missed and/or irregular menses).

Hypothalamus: an area in the brain responsible for release of GnRH (Gonadatropin Releasing Hormone), as well as other hormones.

Hysterosalpingogram: a test done with x-ray and dye to assess the uterine cavity and patency of the fallopian tubes. A special dye is injected through the cervix and flows into the uterine cavity and through the tubes. If the tubes are not blocked, the dye will spill out of the tubes into the abdomen, indicating that the tubes are open. The uterine cavity also can be examined to rule out uterine size or shape abnormalities.

Hysteroscopy: a diagnostic test using a very small camera (hysteroscope) to assess the inner walls of the uterine cavity for fibroids, polyps, and scar tissue. A hysteroscope is inserted into the uterus through the cervix from the vagina to directly visualize the inside of the uterus. Removal of fibroids, scar tissue, and polyps may be performed in this way without having to operate on the abdomen.

Implantation: the process whereby a fertilized egg (zygote) attaches to the uterine lining.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): beneficial in the case of male factor infertility, where sperm counts are very low or fertilization was a prior factor with an IVF attempt. For the procedure, a single sperm is placed in the center of the egg with a microneedle.

In vitro: Latin for “in glass.” A term referring to in vitro fertilization or fertilization occurring in a dish as opposed to in the body.

In vitro fertilization (IVF): a technique used in women with blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, unexplained infertility and male factor causes. Fertility medications are given to mature multiple eggs. These eggs are then removed from the ovary and placed into a dish with sperm. Fertilization therefore occurs outside the body. There are variations of this procedure to accommodate different faiths and religious beliefs.

Intrauterine insemination: sperm are directly deposited into the uterus using one of many specialized catheters, bypassing the cervical mucus barrier.

Isolate wash: a complex wash used to separate sperm for insemination.

Karyotype: evaluation of chromosomes for their number, sizes and shapes. Abnormalities may generate explanations for recurrent pregnancy loss, premature ovarian failure, primary amenorrhea and low or absent sperm counts.

Laparoscopy: an outpatient surgical technique in which a five or ten mm narrow, lighted instrument is placed through the belly button to allow direct visualization of the ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes and peritoneal cavity. Various laser and microsurgical procedures can be performed through the laparoscope using additional small incisions at the pubic hairline.

Laparotomy: a surgical incision through the abdomen, typically four to six inches in length to allow direct visualization and correction of the reproductive structures. Typically recommended for removing large fibroids.

Luteal phase deficiency: the uterine lining fails to develop appropriately after ovulation. This condition is often treated with progesterone or ovulation induction medications.

Menopause: the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Occurs when there are no more oocytes in the ovaries. The average age of menopause is 50.

Menstrual cycle: please visit the “Menstrual Cycle” page of our Web site.

Microsurgery: fine, delicate surgery requiring magnification, often through the use of a microscope. It is used to reconnect tied tubes after sterilization or repair blocked fallopian tubes. Also used for sperm extraction.

Mycoplasma: an organism that has been associated with some types of infertility and miscarriages.

Oligomenorrhea: infrequent menses.

Oocyte: egg or ovum that is produced in the ovary.

Ovaries: paired, female sex glands where eggs are stored and estrogen and progesterone are produced.

Ovulation: the release of an oocyte from the ovary, usually occurring in the middle of the menstrual cycle.

Ovulation induction: medications/hormones such as Clomiphene Citrate or gonadotropins are used to stimulate the ovaries to produce estrogen and induce ovulation. It is used in conditions such as polycystic ovaries, oligomenorrhea, anovulation, endometriosis and male factor infertility.

Ovulation predictor kit: home urine test for LH, which is the signal to release that an egg will be released by the ovaries.