PCOS Glossary

This page contains a list of terms and definitions that you may find helpful or interesting.

Abortion

Spontaneous: A pregnancy loss during the first twenty weeks of gestation. Habitual: When a woman has had three or more miscarriages. Incomplete: An abortion after which some tissue remains inside the uterus. A D&C must be performed to remove the tissue and prevent complications. Missed: The fetus dies in the uterus but there is no bleeding or cramping. A D&C will be needed to remove the fetal remains and prevent complications. Therapeutic: A procedure used to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus can survive on its own. Threatened: Spotting or bleeding that occurs early in the pregnancy. May progress to spontaneous abortion.

Acanthosis Nigricans

A skin disorder marked by increased pigmentation or color, most frequently tan to dark brown or black, and most commonly seen on the back of the neck and in skin creases under arms, breasts, between the thighs and occasionally on the hands, elbows and knees. The darkened skin usually has a thickening described as velvety or rough to the touch and is a common symptom of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Acne

Another PCOS symptom, this skin condition linked to additional oil production in the hair follicle stimulated by overproduction of androgens (male hormones).

Acrochordons

Also known as "skin tags", tiny flaps of skin under the arms, around the neck or in the groin region are commonly found on PCOS sufferers.

ACTH

See Adrenal Corticotropic Hormone.

Actos (pioglitazone hydrochloride)

A drug that decreases insulin resistance in peripheral and hepatic tissue; it is in a class of anti-diabetic drugs called "thiazolidinediones" that are used in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

Adenosis

1.) Any disease of the glands. 2.) the abnormal development or formation of gland tissue. 3.) the presence in the vagina of multiple ectopic areas of glandular (columnar) epithelium.

Adhesion

Web-like growths of scar tissue that bind any of the pelvic organs to one another. This may be caused by surgery, injury or endometriosis and commonly causes pelvic pain.

Adnexa

The region of the pelvis that includes the ovary, fallopian tube and surrounding broad ligament. plural: adnexae

Adrenal Androgens

Male hormones produced by the adrenal gland which, when found in excess, may lead to fertility problems in both men and women. Excess androgens in the woman may lead to the formation of male secondary sex characteristics and the suppression of LH and FSH production by the pituitary gland. Elevated levels of androgens may be found in women with polycystic ovaries, or with a tumor in the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, or ovary. May also be associated with excess prolactin levels.

Adrenal Corticotropic Hormone (ACTH)

A hormone produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate the adrenal glands. Excessive levels may lead to fertility problems.

Adrenal glands

Located above each kidney, adrenal glands are comprised of an outer wall (cortex) that secretes important steroid hormones (aldosterone, cortisol, testosterone, estrone) and an inner portion (medulla) that produces epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. These hormones influence many vital functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, the way the body uses food, adapts to stress and expresses sexual characteristics.

Adrenocortical hormones

Hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex; e.g., cortisol, aldosterone and androgens (testosterone).

Aldactone (spironolactone)

A potassium sparing diuretic used in hirsutism, PCOS, congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, kidney disease, hypertension and in resistant cases of low potassium (hypokalemia). It is also used to counteract the effects of excessive adrenal aldosterone production (as from an adrenal tumor) which influences sodium retention, potassium excretion and blood volume.

Agglutination

Clumping together. Sperm may clump together due to infection, inflammation or antibodies.

AH, AZH

See Assisted Hatching.

AI

See Artificial Insemination, Donor Insemination, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

AID

Artificial Insemination Donor. See Artificial Insemination, Donor Insemination, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

AIH

Artificial Insemination Homologous/Husband. See Artificial Insemination, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI).

Alopecia

Baldness; this condition entails loss of hair, complete or partial, resulting from aging, genetic expression or some type of disease process. Male pattern baldness is a symptom of PCOS.

Alzheimer's disease

A progressive, neurodegenerative disease characterized by loss of function and death of nerve cells in several areas of the brain leading to loss of cognitive function including memory and language. It is the most well known type of dementia.

Amenorrhea

The absence of a menstrual cycle; either primary (failure to begin menstruating by age 16) or secondary (no menstrual cycle for 3 or more months in women who previously had a menstrual cycle).

Amniocentesis

A test where amniotic fluid is aspirated to test the fetus for genetic abnormalities.

Androgenic

Pertaining to the development of male characteristics, including body hair, the genital organs and muscle mass.

Androgens

Male sex hormones such as testosterone and DHEAS.

Andrologist

A physician-scientist who performs laboratory evaluations of male fertility. May hold a Ph.D. degree instead of an M.D. Usually affiliated with a fertility treatment center working on in vitro fertilization.

Androstenedione

An androgenic steroid produced by the testis, adrenal cortex and ovary. Androstenedione can be converted metabolically to testosterone and estrone (estrogen pathway).

Anemia

A low red blood cell count. This is caused by heavy menstrual bleeding or other blood loss. The most obvious symptom is fatigue.

Anesthetic

Drugs used to prevent pain during surgery or other procedures. A general anesthetic makes the person unconscious. A local anesthetic numbs the area where the surgery is to be performed. Local anesthetics may be combined with sedatives to make a person relaxed and sleepy but not unconscious.

Anovulation

The absence of ovulation.

Anteverted Uterus

Uterus that tips forward toward that bladder.

Antiovarian Antibodies (AOA, AVA)

Antibodies against ovarian targets. Such antibodies would bind to important functional sites in the ovary and granulosa cells and impair the normal response.

Antisperm Antibodies (ASA)

Antibodies are produced by the immune system to fight off foreign substances, like bacteria. Antisperm antibodies attach themselves to sperm and inhibit movement and their ability to fertilize. Either the man or the woman may produce sperm antibodies.

p> Antithyroid Antibodies (ATA)

Antibodies that interfere with thyroid functions, and thus with normal metabolism. They are also indicators for a predisposition of the patient to auto immunity which may involve additional autoimmune problems that interfere with the reproductive process such as ACA, APA, ASA.

Antral Follicle Cound

Resting follicles that are found on the ovary at the beginning of each menstrual cycle. They are approximately 2?8 mm in size. These can be an indication of the ovarian reserve of a woman. A high antral follicle count indicates that a woman has a large number of eggs remaining in her ovary, and sometimes PCOS. Low antral follicle counts show the opposite, that a woman may have a reduced number of eggs and therefore reduced fertility. Doctors can determine the number of antral follicles through a transvaginal ultrasound.

Artificial Insemination (AI)

Placing sperm into the vagina, uterus or fallopian tubes through artificial means instead of by coitus -- usually injected through a catheter or cannula after being washed. This procedure is used for both donor (AID) and husband's (AIH) sperm. This technique is used to overcome sexual performance problems, to circumvent sperm-mucus interaction problems, to maximize the potential for poor semen, and for using donor sperm. See Intrauterine Insemination.

Arteriosclerosis

Literally the hardening and thickening of the arteries. This condition, divided into three distinct variants, can occur due to build up of fat deposits (plaque) on the inner walls of arteries (atherosclerosis), calcification of the wall of the arteries (Monckeberg?s medial calcific sclerosis), or thickening of the muscular wall of small arteries and arterioles (arteriolosclerosis).

Asherman's Syndrome

A condition where the uterine walls adhere to one another. Usually caused by uterine inflammation.

Aspiration

Suctioning of fluid. For example, suctioning the fluid from a follicle to retrieve an egg.

Assisted Hatching (AH)

Assisted hatching occurs in the lab prior to the embryo transfer. Before the embryo can implant in the uterine wall, it must break out of its membrane. In some women, particularly older women, this membrane has become hardened, making it difficult for the embryo to hatch and implant. The technician will use a laser or a mild acid to thin the shell which then helps in the hatching.

Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART)

Several procedures employed to bring about conception without sexual intercourse, including IUI, IVF, GIFT and ZIFT.

Asthenozoospermia

Low sperm motility.

Atherosclerosis

A form of arteriosclerosis that occurs when fatty deposits called plaque cling to the interior walls of the arteries causing narrowing and blockages which can lead to heart attacks, stroke and embolism.

Autoimmune disease

Illness that occurs when body tissues are attacked by their own immune system. It is felt that estrogen in females may influence the immune system to predispose some women to autoimmune diseases. Examples of autoimmune diseases include Juvenile (Type I) Diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren syndrome, Hashimoto thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, Addison disease, vitiligo, pernicious anemia and pulmonary fibrosis.

Avandia (rosiglitazone maleate)

A drug that increases insulin sensitivity, it is in a class of anti-diabetic drugs called "thiazolidinediones" that are used in the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes.

AVA, AOA

See Antiovarian antibodies.

5 Alpha Reductase

An enzyme responsible for converting the hormone testosterone into its more active form, dihydrotestosterone.

Bacterial Vaginosis

It occurs when the normal balance of bacteria in the vagina changes and an overgrowth of some bacteria normally found in the vagina occurs. It is associated with infertility, miscarriage, pre-term birth, and low-birth weight babies.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

Your body temperature when taken at its lowest point, usually in the morning before getting out of bed. Charting BBT is used to predict ovulation. BBTs are not very reliable while taking fertility medications. Biphasic: A BBT pattern consistent with ovulation and the formation of the corpus luteum, which secretes progesterone. This hormone will elevate the basal body temperature about one-half degree during the latter half of the menstrual cycle. Monophasic: An anovulatory BBT pattern where the temperature remains relatively constant throughout the cycle. Triphasic: Similar to a biphasic BBT pattern, but adds a jump to a third level of temperatures around the time implantation should occur and may indicate pregnancy.

Benign

An abnormal growth that is not cancerous and will not spread to other areas of the body or threaten a persons' health or life.

Beta HCG Test

A blood test used to detect very early pregnancies and to evaluate embryonic development. A beta test usually refers to a quantitative hCG in which the units of hCG are counted, but it sometimes refers to a qualitative (yes/no) test that reads to an hCG level under 50 (level is lab dependent).

BG

See Blood Glucose.

Bicornuate Uterus

A congenital malformation of the uterus where the upper portion (horn) is duplicated.

Biguanides (metformin)

A class of drugs used to treat Type 2 Diabetes that affects production and absorption of glucose and insulin response.

Bio-identical hormones

A hormone that is biochemically and molecularly identical to the human hormone form and has been derived from plants.

Biphasic

Having two phases. Used to describe BBT charts that show a clear shift from the follicular phase (before ovulation) to the luteal phase (after ovulation).

Birth control

Birth control is the use of any practices, methods, or devices to prevent pregnancy from occurring in a sexually active woman. Birth control is also referred to as family planning, pregnancy prevention, fertility control, or contraception. Birth control methods are designed either to prevent fertilization of an egg or implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

Blastocyst

An embryo that has developed for five days after fertilization. At this point theembryo 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. A healthy blastocyst should hatch from the zona pellucida by the end of the sixth day. Within about 24 hours after hatching, it should begin to implant into the lining of the uterus.

Blastocyst Tranfer

Allowing in vitro fertilized embryos to reach blastocyst stage, usually 5 days, before transferring the embryos into the uterus.

Blastomere

A cell produced during cleavage of a fertilized egg.

Blighted Ovum

A pregnancy that stops developing very early on. The amniotic sac may only contain fluid and no fetal tissue when the miscarriage occurs.

Blood glucose

The main sugar that the body makes from food. It is carried through the blood stream to provide energy to all cells in the body.

Blood lipids

Lipids (fats in the blood), along with carbohydrates and proteins, are the main components of plant and animal cells. Lipids are easily stored in the body and serve as a source of fuel for energy production. Both cholesterol and triglycerides are lipids.

Blood pressure

A measurement of force and tension relating to the heart and vessels as blood is pumped to the body from the heart. The first number in a blood pressure reading, systolic, measures pressure when the heart contracts while the second number, diastolic, measures pressure when the heart relaxes.

Blood sugar

Also known as blood glucose, the main sugar that the body makes from food. It is carried through the blood stream to provide energy to all cells in the body.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

A key index for relating a person's body weight to their height. The body mass index (BMI) is a person's weight in kilograms (kg) divided by their height in meters (m) squared. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) now defines normal weight, overweight, and obesity according to the BMI rather than the traditional height/weight charts. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 27.3 % or more for women and 27.8 % or more for men, according to the NIH.

Bromocriptine (Parlodel)

An oral medication used to reduce prolactin levels and reduce the size of a pituitary tumor when present. This medication often causes dizziness and upset stomach and must be started with a small dose which is gradually increased as needed. This medication is equally effective when the tablet is placed into the vagina.

Buserelin

A long-acting GnRH available in Europe as a nasal spray and used to create the pseudomenopause desirable for reducing the size and number of endometriotic lesions. It can also be used to treat fibroid tumors, PMS, hirsutism, ovulation induction and for in vitro fertilization.

CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel)

A group of 14 tests that provide important information about the status of kidneys, liver, electrolyte and acid/base balance, blood sugar and blood proteins. A broad screening tool, the CMP is also used to monitor complications of diseases or side effects of some medications.

C-reactive protein (CRP)

One of the plasma proteins known as acute-phase proteins: proteins whose plasma concentrations increase (or decrease) by 25% or more during inflammatory disorders. CRP is a test of value in medicine, reflecting the presence and intensity of inflammation although an elevation in C-reactive protein is not the absolute diagnostic sign of any one condition. Inflammation is believed to play a major role in the development of coronary artery disease; markers of inflammation have been tested in respect to heart health. In a recent study, CRP was found to be the only marker of inflammation that independently predicts the risk of a heart attack.

Cancer

An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way and, in some cases, to spread (metastasize).

Candidiasis (Yeast)

An infection that may be uncomfortable and itchy and may impair fertility.

Cannula

A hollow tube like that used for insemination.

Capacitation

A process that sperm undergo as they travel through the woman's reproductive tract. Capacitation enables the sperm to penetrate the egg.

Carbohydrates

Primarily sugars and starches which constitute one of the three principal types of nutrients (carbohydrates, fats and proteins) used as energy sources (calories) by the body. Carbohydrates come in complex forms such as starches and fiber and simple forms such as sugars. Most sugars and starches are broken down by the body into glucose, a simple sugar that can be used to feed cells.

Cardiovascular Disease

A disease affecting the blood vessels or heart. Women with PCOS are at increased risk for early-onset cardiovascular disease.

Cerclage

A surgical stitch (suture) used to try to keep cervix tightly closed. Used for women with Incompetent Cervix.

Cervical Stenosis

A blockage of the cervical canal from a congenital defect or from complications of surgical procedures. See also cervix.

Cervical Mucus

A viscous fluid plugging the opening of the cervix. Most of the time this thick mucus plug prevents sperm and bacteria from entering the womb. However, at midcycle, under the influence of estrogen, the mucus becomes thin, watery, and stringy to allow sperm to pass into the womb. See also cervix.

Cervicitis

An inflamation of the cervix.

Cervix

The opening between the uterus and the vagina. The cervical mucus plugs the cervical canal and normally prevents foreign materials from entering the reproductive tract. The cervix remains closed during pregnancy and dilates during labor and delivery to allow the baby to be born.

Cervix, Incompetent

See Incompetent Cervix.

Cesarean section

The surgical removal of an infant from the uterus. Also called a C-section.

Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus)

A plant traditionally thought to suppress sexual excitability (hence the name "chaste"), current and historical evidence supports use in menstrual irregularities, PMS, insufficient lactation and other conditions associated with prolactin, dopamine and indirectly, progesterone dysfunction.

Chemical Pregnancy

A pregnancy where hCG levels are detected, but the pregnancy is lost before a heartbeat is seen on an ultrasound. This is a very early miscarriage -- often before the woman misses a period.

Chlamydia

A common bacterial sexually transmitted disease that can lead to Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.

Chocolate Cyst

A cyst in the ovary that is filled with old blood; endometrioma. Occurring when endometriosis invades an ovary, it causes the ovary to swell. Frequently, patients with large endometriomas do not have any symptoms. If the cyst ruptures or the ovary containing the cyst twists, emergency surgery may be necessary. Usually treatment can be carried out through the laparoscope.

Cholesterol

The body's most common type of steroid, it is crucial to the formation of Vitamin D, sex hormones (progesterone, estrogens and androgens), mineralocorticoid hormones (aldosterone) and glucocorticoid hormones (cortisol) and bile acids (for digestion of fat). It is carried in the blood stream as lipoproteins, e.g. LDL (low density lipoproteins) and HDL (high density lipoproteins). Cholesterol is also essential for cell membrane function.

Chromium

A trace mineral considered essential to health, it is linked to the production of glucose tolerance factor (GTF) which affects insulin binding receptors and thus, stability of blood glucose levels. It is also involved in carbohydrate and fat metabolism.

Chromium picolinate

A biologically active chromium salt containing three picolinic acid ligands that is used as a dietary supplement.

Chromotubation/Chromopertubation

This test is usually done in combination with a diagnostic laparoscopy. It involves injecting colored liquid through the fallopian tubes and watching the ends of the tubes for the dye. Spillage of dye indicates patent (open) tubes.

Chromosome

The structures in the cell that carry the genetic material (genes: DNA); the genetic messengers of inheritance. The human has forty-six chromosomes, twenty-three coming from the egg and twenty-three coming from the sperm.

Chorionic Villae Sampling (CVS)

An alternative to amniocentesis that can be done earlier in the pregnancy. It is a biopsy of the placenta that is used to check for genetic abnormalities in the fetus.

Cilia

Tiny hairlike projections lining the inside surface.

Cleavage

The series of cell divisions, or one of the cell divisions, of the fertilized egg that results in the formation of the blastomeres and changes the single-celled zygote into a multicellular embryo.

Clomid (clomiphene citrate, Serophene)

A drug used to treat infertility through its action on endocrine processes leading to ovulation.

Clomiphene Citrate (Clomid, Serophene)

A fertility drug that stimulates ovulation through the release of gonadotropins from the pituitary gland.

Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test (CCCT, CCT)

Clomiphene Citrate Challenge Test (CCCT, CCT) -- This test entails the oral (by mouth) administration of 100 milligrams of clomiphene citrate on menstrual cycle days 5-9. Blood levels of FSH are measured on cycle day 3 and again on cycle day 10. Elevated blood levels of FSH on cycle day 3 or cycle day 10 are associated with very low pregnancy. See "Clomid Use and Abuse."

COH

Controlled Ovarian Hyperstimulation.

Colposcopy

Use of a scope to examine the cervix for abnormal cells.

Conception

The fertilization of an egg by sperm that leads to the creation of a new being.

Condom Therapy

Therapy prescribed to reduce the number of sperm antibodies in the woman by using a condom during intercourse for six months or more and by the woman refraining from all skin contact with the husband's sperm. The woman's antibody level may fall to levels that will not adversely affect the sperm.

Cone Biopsy

A surgical procedure used to remove precancerous cells from the cervix. The procedure may damage the cervix and thus disrupt normal mucus production or cause an incompetent cervix, which may open prematurely during pregnancy.

Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia

A congenital condition characterized by elevated androgens which suppress the pituitary gland and interfere with spermatogenesis or ovulation. Women may have ambiguous genitalia from the excess production of male hormone.

Congenital Defect

A birth defect, acquired during pregnancy but not necessarily hereditary.

Conization

Treatment for abnormal or precancerous cells on the cervix in which a cone-shaped section of the cervix is removed.

Continuing Infertile

Someone who has gone through primary infertility, successfully given birth, and is trying for another child.

Controlled Ovarian Hyperstimulation (COH)

Using fertility medications to stimulate the growth of multiple follicles for ovulation. Also called Superovulation.

Corpus Luteum

A section of the ovary that produces progesterone and some estrogen. When fertilization occurs, the corpus luteum provides the progesterone required until the placenta is formed.

COS

See Controlled Ovarian Hyperstimulation.

C-Peptide

Is the connecting piece between insulin molecules. The C-peptide level can be used to gauge insulin production in the body.

C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

A plasma protein that can be a marker for inflammatory activity.

Cryopreservation

Freezing quickly and then storing, as in sperm, embryos, and, more recently, unfertilized eggs.

Cumulus Oophorus

The protective layer of cells surrounding the egg.

cul-de-sac (CDS)

A pouch formed by the space between the uterus and the rectum.

Cushing's syndrome

A complex condition caused by an excess of the hormone, cortisol. Common signs and symptoms include thinning of the skin, weakness, weight gain (especially in the trunk), easy bruising, hypertension, glucose intolerance, osteoporosis, facial puffiness and, in women, irregular menstrual cycles.

Cycle Day

The day of a woman's menstrual cycle. The first day (day 1) is when full flow starts before mid-afternoon.

Cyst

A fluid-filled sac.

Cystic Ovaries

Ovaries with a "string of pearls" or "pearl necklace" appearance with many (poly) cysts or fluid filled sacs. Ovarian cysts can be detected with a pelvic ultrasound.

Cytoplasmic Transfer

An extension of in vitro fertilization which takes the genetic material from a mother's egg and combines it with the cytoplasma of a donor egg. Two methods of cytoplasm transfer were developed, one which transfers a small amount of cytoplasm by tiny needle from the donor to the recipient egg, the other transfers a larger amount of cytoplasm which is then fused to the recipient cytoplasm with electricity. See Cytoplasmic Transfer article.

D&C

See Dilation and Curettage.

D&E

See Dilation & Evacuation

Danazol (Danocrine)

A synthetic androgen used to treat endometriosis. Suppresses LH and FSH production by the pituitary and causes a state of amenorrhea during which the endometrial implants waste away. Many women experience oily skin, acne, weight gain, abnormal hair growth, deepening of the voice and muscle cramps with this medication.

Day 1

The first day of a woman's cycle with menses in full flow (not just spotting). Flow should begin before mid-afternoon or the next day would be considered Day 1.

Days Post-Ovulation (DPO)

The number of days a woman is past ovulation. Counting begins the day after ovulation, so if ovulation is on Wednesday, Saturday would be 3 DPO.

Days Post-Transfer (DPT)

The number of days a woman is past embryo transfer. Counting begins the day after transfer, so if is on Monday, Friday would be 4 DPT.

DES

See Diethylstilbestrol.

DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)

A steroid produced mostly in the adrenal glands from cholesterol which is converted to the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone.

DHEA-S (Dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate)

A metabolite of DHEA.

Diethylstilbestrol (DES)

A synthetic estrogen prescribed in the 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s to women to prevent miscarriage. Many male and female fetuses exposed in utero to this drug developed numerous deformities including blockage of the vas deferens, uterine abnormalities, cervical deformities, miscarriages, and unexplained infertility. DES was banned in 1971 by the FDA in the U.S. for pregnant women. DES daughter/son: the daughter/son of a woman who used DES. Research is also looking into effects on DES grandchildren.

Dihydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEAS)

An androgen produced primarily by the adrenal gland. A high level suggests too much adrenal androgen output. See "Adrenal Androgens."

Dilation and Curettage (D&C)

A procedure used to dilate (expand) the cervical canal and scrape out the lining and contents of the uterus. The procedure can be used to diagnose or treat the cause of abnormal bleeding and to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.

Dilation & Evacuation (D&E)

A procedure in which the cervix is dilated and the baby and placenta are removed. D&E is used to describe two different procedures. One is similar to a D&C and uses more suction than scraping, and is performed on first trimester pregnancies. A D&E can also be used to describe a surgical removal of a fetus between 14-20 weeks gestation as an alternative to induced labor.

Direct Intra-peritoneal Insemination (DIPI, IPI)

Injection of sperm into the peritoneal cavity. A form or artificial insemination that may be used with low sperm counts and motility.

Direct Oocyte-Sperm Transfer (DOST)

Involves transvaginal retrieval of eggs from the stimulated ovary, just as in standard IVF. However, following retrieval, instead of inseminating the eggs with sperm and placing them into the incubator, the eggs are inseminated and transferred directly into the uterus nonsurgically two hours later. This allows the eggs to fertilize within the uterus, making it acceptable for women with damaged, nonfunctional or absent fallopian tubes, just as in IVF.

Dermoid Cyst

A dermoid cyst is mainly fat but can also contain a mix of different tissues. They are often small and usually don’t cause symptoms. Very rarely, they become large and rupture, causing bleeding into the abdomen, which is a medical emergency.

Diabetes

Refers to Diabetes Mellitus and its two main but different forms: Type I Diabetes (requiring insulin and also called Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or IDDM) and Type 2 Diabetes (adult onset or Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus or NIDDM). A chronic medical condition, Diabetes Mellitus is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia), which result from defects in insulin secretion or action, or both. Normally blood glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, which lowers the blood glucose level. When the blood glucose rises (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize levels. In patients with Diabetes Mellitus, the absence of or insufficient production of insulin causes hyperglycemia.

Diagnosis

The nature of a disease or the identification of an illness.

Dioxin

A toxic chemical found in some paper products, pesticide-treated food, leaded gas. Could be linked to endometriosis.

Disease

Illness or sickness often characterized by typical patient symptoms and physical signs.

Diuretic

Anything that promotes the formation of urine by the kidney.

Donor Egg

Eggs donated by one woman to another.

Donor Insemination

Artificial insemination with donor sperm. See Artificial Insemination, Intrauterine Insemination.

Doxycycline

A tetracycline derivative; an antibiotic that inhibits many of the microorganisms infecting the reproductive tract. Often used for treating ureaplasma infections. Many physicians find routine treatment with this antibiotic more cost-effective than performing multiple cultures on both the husband and wife looking for infection.

DPO

See Days Post-Ovulation

DPT

See Days Post-Transfer.

Dutasteride (Advodart, Duogen)

A drug used in the treatment of symptomatic benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), which acts to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to its more active form, DHT.

Dyslipidemia

Blood lipid abnormalities that are diagnosed when LDL ("bad") cholesterol is high, HDL ("good") cholesterol is low, triglycerides are high or a combination of these factors.

Dysmenorrhea

Painful periods.

Dyspareunia

Painful coitus.

Ectopic pregnancy

When an egg (ovum) is fertilized and begins to develop inside the fallopian tubes. This is a dangerous condition that can be fatal to a woman if left untreated.

EDD

See Estimated Due Date.

Egg (Oocyte)

The female reproductive cell.

Egg Donation

The act of donating eggs to someone else for use in attempting pregnancy through in vitro fertilization.

Egg Donor

A women who contracts to donate eggs to an infertile couple for in vitro fertilization.

Egg Retrieval

A procedure used to obtain eggs from ovarian follicles for use in several ARTs including in vitro fertilization, GIFT, and ZIFT. The procedure may be performed during laparoscopy or by using a long needle and ultrasound to locate the follicle in the ovary.

Embryo

The early products of conception; the undifferentiated beginnings of a baby; the conceptus.

Embryologist

A scientist who specializes is embryo development.

Embryo Toxic Factor (ETF)

An immune response against a woman may have against her own fetus in a pregnancy that may result in the loss of the pregnancy. Treatment is high doses of progesterone until the 16th week of pregnancy.

Embryo Toxicity Assay (ETA)

A combination of two procedures. The first involves maternal cell (lymphocyte) culture which is aimed at stimulating the lymphocytes using components of the human embryo (trophoblast) cell line, and the second is an embryo culture. These procedures are used to measure if the patient's lymphocytes secrete anything that be toxic to the embryo (test utilizes two-cell stage mouse embryos). Women who have been sensitized in the course of their earlier pregnancies or in any other mode, could amass an immune response against their own fetus in the following pregnancy, and end up losing it (in the implantation process or later in the first trimester).

Embryo Transfer (ET)

Placing an egg fertilized outside the womb into a woman's uterus or fallopian tube.

Endocrine Gland

An organ that produces hormones.

Endocrine System

All of the human body's hormone-secreting glands, including the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, adrenal glands and gonads (ovaries and testes), their receptors and intracellular pathways.

Endocrinologist

A physician who specializes in the study of hormones, their receptors and the intracellular signaling pathways they invoke and the diseases and conditions associated with them.

Endometrial ablation

The removal of the endometrium (lining of the uterus) using one of various methods, including laser, microwave, electric current, or heated fluid and freezing. This treatment is for heavy menstrual bleeding in order to permanently stop menstruation and prevent future pregnancies.

Endometrial Biopsy

A test to check for Luteal Phase Defect or Hyperplasia. A procedure during which a sample of the uterine lining is collected for microscopic analysis. The biopsy results will confirm ovulation and the proper preparation of the endometrium by estrogen and progesterone stimulation.

Endometrial Hyperplaysia

An overgrowth of the uterine lining (endometrial tissue).

Endometrium

The tissue that lines the uterus (womb). Cyclic hormonal changes influence the growth and subsequent shedding of endometrial tissue. Endometriosis is the growth of this tissue outside its normal confines.

Estradiol (Estrace, Climara, Estraderm, Menostar)

One of the main forms of estrogen, a sex hormone produced by the body, which influences reproduction and development of female secondary sex characteristics. Estradiol is also a medication prescribed for treatment of symptoms associated with menopause (hot flashes, vaginal dryness; dysfunctional (excessive and painful) uterine bleeding and contraception. The vaginal cream is prescribed for vaginal or vulvar atrophy associated with menopause. Its role in protecting against osteoporosis, heart disease and stroke is under question.

Estrogen

Female sex hormones (estrone, estradiol, estriol) that are formed in the ovary, the adrenal cortex, the testis and the foetoplacental unit with functions for both males and females. The estrogens play a role in reproduction and development of female secondary sex characteristics.

Estrone (E1)

A substance produced by the metabolism (metabolite) of estradiol (E2), a hormone synthesized primarily in the ovary.

Excision

The surgical removal of tissue.

FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone)

Produced by the anterior pituitary gland, FSH is a hormone with receptors in the testis and ovary and regulates reproductive function by promoting sex steroid production in both males and females.

Fallopian tubes

Tubes through which the egg passes from the ovary to the uterus.

Fasting Blood Glucose

A test to determine if blood glucose (sugar) levels are within a normal range following an overnight fast.

Fertilization

This typically occurs in the fallopian tubes of a woman shortly after ovulation when sperm has been deposited into the reproductive tract. The fertilized egg then moves down the tube and implants into the uterus, initiating a pregnancy. Occasionally the fertilized egg will implant outside of the uterus, such as in the cervix or fallopian tube, which is known as an ectopic pregnancy.

Fetus

The unborn offspring from the end of the 8th week after conception (when the major structures have formed) until birth. Up until the eighth week, the developing offspring is called an embryo.

Fibrinolysis

The process of breaking down blood clots (fibrin) through the action of several different enzymes.

Finasteride (Proscar)

Finasteride inhibits the enzyme necessary for the conversion of testosterone to DHT in the prostate. It is used to lower blood and tissue DHT levels and helps reduce the size of the prostate gland. In lower doses, it is used to treat hair loss.

Fish Oil, omega-3

Essential fatty acids, specifically eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found mainly in cold water fish and benefiting such conditions as macular degeneration, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, brain development in children and inflammatory conditions. Considered "essential" in that dietary intake is required.

Flaxseed

Flax is one of the world's oldest cultivated plants and researchers are currently investigating its many health benefits after discovering flaxseed can aid cancer prevention, cholesterol reduction and digestion. It also curbs appetite and helps to keep blood sugar stable. In addition to containing potassium, phosphorous, magnesium and calcium, its soluble and insoluble fibers promote intestinal health and regularity, due to its mild laxative effect. Like other sources of soluble fiber, it has been reported to also lower levels of LDL "bad" cholesterol. Flaxseed's most notable ingredient, lignans, are powerful antioxidants that are metabolized by bacteria in the colon into substances which possess anti-microbial and anti-cancer properties.

Follistim (follitropin beta)

A drug which uses the hormone, FSH, to stimulate ovarian follicular growth and treat infertility in women. It is used in combination with another hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), under careful patient monitoring.

Gland

A group of cells that secrete a substance for use in the body such as the thyroid gland. A gland could also be a group of cells that removes materials from the circulation such as the lymph gland.

Glitazones (pioglitazone hydrochloride)

The newest class of diabetes medications called the thiazolidinediones, which work by decreasing insulin resistance and increasing insulin sensitivity. Favorable effects on lipid levels (blood fats) in Type 2 Diabetes have been seen. Examples include Actos and Avandia.

Glucophage (metformin)

An oral medication that lowers blood glucose (sugar) by inhibiting production and absorption of glucose in the liver and intestine and promoting insulin sensitivity through peripheral uptake of glucose; used for treating Type 2 Diabetes.

Glucose

The simple sugar (monosaccharide) that serves as the chief source of energy in the body. Glucose is the principal sugar the body makes from proteins, fats and, in largest part, carbohydrates. Glucose is carried to each cell through the bloodstream. Cells, cannot use glucose without the help of insulin. Glucose is also called dextrose.

GnRH(gonadotropin-releasing hormone)

One of the hormones that regulates the female menstrual cycle.

GnRH agonists (gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists)

A group of drugs, which reduce a woman's estrogen levels, used to treat endometriosis and reduce the size of fibroids. These drugs prevent ovulation and cause an artificial menopause. They may cause symptoms similar to menopause and can also cause bone mineral loss, which can eventually lead to osteoporosis. For these reasons, GnRH agonists are most often a temporary treatment, used to relieve symptoms until other approaches can take effect.

Granulosa cells

A layer of cells capable of releasing estrogen and forming the wall of an ovarian follicle.

HDL Cholesterol (High Density Lipoprotein)

Also known as the "good" cholesterol, high density lipoproteins transport cholesterol from the body's tissues to the liver so that it can be eradicated in the bile. Combinations of lipids (fats) and proteins, lipoproteins are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood. The greater the level of HDL cholesterol, the lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

High Blood Pressure

Also known as hypertension; abnormally high pressure or tension measured as resistance in the arteries to the force of heart contractions resulting in pressure variances. Physical symptoms of high blood pressure may include sweating, palpitations, headaches, dizziness or weight loss.

Hirsutism

Excess hair growth on the face, chest, abdomen, thumbs or toes caused by overproduction or action of androgens (hormones influencing masculine characteristics i.e. testosterone). A symptom of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Hormone

A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin (HMG)

HMG is a naturally occurring hormone found in the urine of post menopausal women. It is collected, isolated and sterilized, then used in fertility treatment. It is mixture of lutenizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

Humegon (Menotropins-Injection)

A drug used in infertility treatment to induce ovarian follicular growth; requires subsequent use of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) to induce ovulation; also used to stimulate sperm production in men.

Hyperandrogenism

Increased levels of male sex hormones in women, specifically testosterone, androstenedione and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) leading to the development of masculine sex characteristics.

Hyperglycemia

Literally, too much (hyper) sugar (glykos) in the blood.

Hyperinsulimia

Elevated insulin in the blood.

Hyperlipidemia

High lipid (fat) levels in the blood.

Hypertension

Also known as high blood pressure; abnormally high pressure or tension measured as resistance in the arteries to the force of heart contractions resulting in pressure variances. Physical symptoms of high blood pressure may include sweating, palpitations, headaches, dizziness, or weight loss.

Hypertriglyceridemia

Abnormal elevation of triglycerides in the blood.

Hypothyroid

Deficiency of thyroid hormone which is normally made by the thyroid gland. This gland is located in the front of the neck.

Hysterectomy

The removal of the uterus. During a simple hysterectomy, only the uterus and cervix are removed. During a total hysterectomy, the uterus and cervix are removed along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Hysteroscopic resection

The removal of fibroids from the inner wall of the uterus, with a fiberoptic device called a hysteroscope.

IFG (impaired fasting glucose)

Fasting glucose measured in the blood at a value of 100 - 125 mg/dl; IFG is included in the term "Pre-Diabetes", a condition that occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with Diabetes.

IGT (impaired glucose tolerance)

The 2-hour blood glucose (measured 2 hours after drinking a solution of glucose) is between 140 and 199 mg/dl; also known as Pre-Diabetes

IVF (In vitro fertilization)

A procedure in which an unfertilized egg is placed in a Petri dish with sperm to attain fertilization. The embryo is either transferred to the uterus or frozen for future use.

Implants

Small, flat patches of endometrial-like cells growing outside the uterus.

Infertility

The inability to get pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse or the inability to carry a pregnancy to term. PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) is the leading cause of infertility.

Insulin

A natural hormone made by the pancreas that controls the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Insulin acts to move glucose into the cells and out of the blood through insulin receptors on the cell.

Insulin Resistance

The diminished ability of cells to respond to the action of insulin in transporting glucose (sugar) from the blood stream into muscle and tissue.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

A procedure where the embryologist directly injects a single sperm into the egg, therefore, causing fertilization. This may be helpful in cases where there is poor quality sperm from the male partner, or where there is an issue with the egg where fertilization can't occur due to changes in the membranes surrounding the egg.

Kidney

A pair of organs located in the right and left side of the abdomen which remove poisons from the blood. Regulates acid concentration and maintains water balance in the body by excreting urine. The kidneys are part of the urinary tract. The urine passes through connecting tubes called ureters into the bladder. The bladder stores the urine until it is released during urination.

LDL (Low-density lipoprotein

Lipoproteins are combinations of lipids (fats) and proteins and are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood.

LH (Lutenizing hormone)

One of several hormones produced in the anterior pituitary; in females associated with follicular maturation, onset of heat (or estrus) and egg release from the follicle. In males, it stimulates testosterone release from the testes.

Laparoscopy

A procedure that uses a fibreoptic device, called a laparoscope, to examine the inside of the pelvic cavity. The laparoscope is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen.

Laparotomy

Traditional abdominal surgery.

Leiomyomas

Medical term for fibroids.

Libido

Sex drive.

Lipid Profile

A group of tests often ordered to determine risk of coronary heart disease that includes total cholesterol, HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglyceride levels and lipid ratios.

Lupron (leuprolide acetate)

A pharmaceutical treatment which initially stimulates gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH produced in the hypothalamus) and with continuous therapeutic use acts to suppress sex steroid production in both the ovary and testes. Used in the treatment of precocious puberty in children.

Luteal phase

The second half of the menstrual cycle; the time between ovulation and onset of the next menses during which the corpus luteum develops and begins to secrete progesterone and estrogen and degenerates after 2 weeks in the absence of fertilization.

Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA)

The generic name for the pharmaceutical drugs Provera, Cycrin and Amen. It acts to inhibit release of sex hormones influencing follicular growth and ovulation. Used in contraception.

Menstrual

Pertaining to menstruation (the menses), as in last menstrual period, menstrual cramps, menstrual cycle, and premenstrual syndrome.

Metabolic Syndrome

Also known as Syndrome X, a group of risk factors that substantially increase the chances of developing coronary artery disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Characterized by central or abdominal obesity, high blood lipids (mainly high triglycerides and low HDL) hypertension and fasting blood glucose >110 mg/dL.

Metformin (Glucophage)

An oral medication that lowers blood glucose (sugar) by inhibiting production and absorption of glucose in the liver and intestine and promoting insulin sensitivity through peripheral uptake of glucose; used for treating Type 2 Diabetes.

Miscarriage

The spontaneous ending of a pregnancy by loss of the baby before the 24th week of pregnancy.

Myomectomy

The surgical removal of a fibroid.

Natural Progesterone

Naturally occurring hormone secreted by the corpus luteum of the ovary to promote pregnancy and also by the adrenal cortex in the glucocorticoid pathway; bio-identical hormone synthesized from plant origin used in hormone replacement therapy.

Neuroendocrine

Of a hormonal substance that influences the action and mechanisms of nerves.

Norethindrone acetate (Norethindrone)

A drug which acts by inhibiting follicular growth and development and ovulation by suppressing follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and Luteinizing hormone (LH). Indicated for the treatment of amenorrhea (secondary), endometriosis, and abnormal uterine bleeding which is due to hormonal imbalance.

Obesity

The state of being 20 per cent over one's ideal weight. Or, defined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30 (approximately 30 pounds) overweight. The BMI is a key for relating body weight to height and is based on a person's weight in kg divided by their height in meters squared. Obesity is frequently based on both behavior and genetics and increases significantly the risk of health problems such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart attack, stroke and certain types of cancer.

Oligomenorrhea

Infrequent or very light menstruation in a woman with previously normal periods.

Oligoovulation

Ovulating infrequently or irregularly. A woman usually ovulates, or releases a mature egg once a month (about halfway through her cycle). Oligoovulation is seen in women with irregular cycles, or very long cycles (more then 50 days) and makes it very difficult to track their fertile days if trying to conceive.

Oral Contraceptives

Birth control pills containing some combination of synthetic estrogen and progestin to inhibit ovulation thereby preventing pregnancy.

Oral Glucose Tolerance

A test to determine if blood glucose (sugar) levels are within a normal range following a fasting state and at intervals following ingestion of a drink containing 75 grams of glucose.

Ovarian cysts (polycystic ovaries, endometriomas, dermoid cysts, cystadenomas, functional)

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the ovary usually resulting from the growth of a follicle (functional), a fluid-filled cyst that contains an egg. Any fluid-filled sac growing on or in the ovary.

Ovarian drilling

A laparoscopic procedure in which the ovary is punctured 4-10 times resulting in a lowering of male hormones. The treatment is often used on women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).

Ovarian Wedge Resection

A surgical treatment for PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) whereby a section of the ovary containing cysts is removed.

Ovary

The female gonad. The ovary is one of a pair of reproductive glands in women. The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs (ova) and female hormones. During each monthly menstrual cycle, an egg is released from one ovary. This egg then travels from the ovary through a fallopian tube to the uterus. The ovaries are the main source of female hormones, which control the development of female body characteristics (breasts, body shape, and body hair). These glands also regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy.

Ovulations

The release of the egg from the ovary. The egg is released when the cavity surrounding it breaks open in response to a hormonal signal. Ovulation occurs around fourteen or fifteen days from the first day of the woman's last menstrual cycle. When ovulation occurs, the ovum (egg) moves into the fallopian tube and then is available for fertilization.

Oxalate

A substance found in plant foods (including many vegetables). Some women eat a low oxalate diet to treat vulvodynia.

BCPs (polychlorinated biphenyls)

Highly toxic chemicals, now banned in Canada, but still present in the environment. They were once used in inks, paint, and as additives when making plastics.

Pancreas

A multifunctional organ in the human body that has both exocrine and endocrine secreting capabilities. Exocrine secretion is enzymes involved in digestion of proteins and fats while endocrine secretion involves the hormones insulin, glucagon, somatostatin and pancreatic polypeptides among others.

Pelvic congestion

The dilation (swelling) of the veins in the pelvis, causing pressure and pain.

Perganol

Also called Repronex, one of a class of drugs called HMG (Human Menopausal Gonadotrophins) that stimulate the development and maturation of eggs in the ovaries. This drug is used in conjunction with HCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) which induces ovulation of the matured egg. A common side effect is ovarian enlargement.

Peritoneum

A thin membrane that covers the pelvis and abdomen walls, as well as the pelvic organs.

Physiotherapist

A health professional that treats disease and injury using physical methods (exercise and massage).

Polycystic ovaries

A symptom of PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). A condition whereby the ovaries contain at least ten cysts and are 1.5 to 3 times larger than normal ovaries.

Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD)

Another name for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), in addition to Sclerocystic Ovarian Disease, Stein-Leventhal Syndrome and Chronic Anovulatory Syndrome. It is the most common female endocrine (hormonal) disorder and is characterized by multiple abnormal ovarian cysts. The classic triad of obesity, hirsutism and irregular anovulatory cycles occurs in only one third of women with PCOS.

Pre-Diabetes

A condition characterized by blood glucose (sugar) levels that are higher than normal, but not high enough for a diagnosis of Diabetes.

Pregnancy (Pregnant)

The state of carrying a developing embryo or fetus within the female body.

Pregnyl

Also known by its generic name, Chorionic Gonadotropin, this drug is used as an intramuscular injection. HCG, Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone that stimulates the ovaries to produce progesterone and the testes to produce androgens. In some infertile women, it is used in combination with other medications to induce ovulation.

Profasi

See Pregnyl.

Progesterone

Progesterone is responsible for changes in the mucus and inner lining of the uterus. Progesterone prepares the endometrium for implantation of the embryo, and once an embryo implants in the endometrium, i.e., pregnancy occurs, progesterone helps maintain the pregnancy.

Progestins

Progestins are synthetic progesterone used in HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). See Progesterone.

Prolactin

Secreted by the anterior pituitary gland, this hormone stimulates milk production, in addition to maintaining the body's immune system. High levels of prolactin inhibit the release of other hormones from the anterior pituitary gland and therefore may interfere with ovulation, delay puberty and decrease fertility. Low prolactin may cause menstrual disorders and ultimately, insufficient lactation.

Prometrium

A "natural" progesterone, used in HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) that has been micronized or broken down for easier metabolizing. This synthetic progesterone is chemically identical to the progesterone made in the ovaries. See Progesterone.

Propecia

A medication used in men only to treat male pattern hair loss on the vertex (top of head) and anterior mid-scalp area (middle front of head). Propecia, also known as finasteride, inhibits the enzyme Type II 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to its more potent relative, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Women are cautioned not to handle crushed or broken Propecia tablets when they are pregnant due to the risk to a male fetus.

Provera

See medroxyprogesterone acetate.

Radiation

Radiation is rays of energy. Gamma rays and X-rays are two of the types of energy waves often used in medicine to diagnose or treat disease.

Receptor

A protein molecule on the surface or within a cell that binds to a specific factor, such as a hormone, drug or antigen.

Reproductive age

The years which a woman is able to conceive a child, from her first period until the onset of menopause.

Resection

The surgical removal of an organ or other structure.

Retrograde Bleeding

The backward flow of menstrual discharge through the fallopian tubes into the pelvis, during a woman's period.

Rosiglitazone

A thiazolidinedione drug that improves the sensitivity of the body to insulin. It is used in the treatment of diabetes and is a treatment for the insulin resistance of PCOS. The brand name is Avandia.

Roux-en-Y gastric bypass

Bariatric surgery that reduces the size of the stomach and causes poor absorption of calories, vitamins, and minerals. This procedure creates a pouch out of a small portion of the stomach and attaches it directly to the small intestine, bypassing a large part of the stomach and doudenum, or the initial portion of the small intestine.

SHBG (Sex Hormone Binding Globulin)

A protein that binds or attaches to a number of circulating hormones (e.g. testosterone, dihydrotestosterone and estradiol). Once the hormones are bound to it, SHBG regulates their presence in the blood stream and hence their activity. A decrease in SHBG indicates that a greater number of hormones are circulating in the blood stream thereby causing clinical symptoms of PCOS such as hair growth and male pattern baldness.

Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

A small palm native to the southeast U.S. recognized most for treating Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy in men. Recent research has shown saw palmetto to reverse hirsutism in females. The exact mechanism of action is unknown, although it may inhibit the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to its more potent relative, dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Sclerocystic Ovaries

Another name for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), along with Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), Stein-Leventhal Syndrome and Chronic Anovulatory Syndrome. It is the most common female endocrine (hormonal) disorder and is characterized by multiple abnormal ovarian cysts. The classic triad of obesity, hirsutism, and irregular anovulatory cycles occurs in only one third of women with PCOS.

Serophene (Clomiphene)

The brand name, along with Clomid, for a medication used to treat infertility. Clomid initiates a cascade of endocrine events which stimulates ovarian follicles and culminates in ovulation. Common side effects include enlarged ovaries, hot flashes, abdominal discomfort and visual disturbances.

Serum

The clear liquid that can be separated from clotted blood. Serum differs from plasma which is the liquid portion of normal unclotted blood containing the red and white cells and platelets. The clot is what makes the difference between serum and plasma.

Side effects

Problems that occur when treatment goes beyond the desired effect.

Sleep apnea

The stopping of breathing once or multiple times during sleep. Risk factors include certain physical characteristics (such as a large neck), smoking, alcohol use, obesity and diabetes. The last two which may account for the connection to PCOS. Sleep apnea is often the cause of snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches and irritability.

Spironolactone (Aldactone)

See Aldactone.

Statins

A type of drug that lowers LDL ("bad" cholesterol) by inhibiting HMG CoA reductase, the enzyme that manages the rate of cholesterol production. Statin drugs also enhance the capability of the liver to remove LDL-cholesterol already in the blood.

Stein-Leventhal Syndrome

Another name for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), in addition to Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD), Sclerocystic Ovaries and Chronic Anovulatory Syndrome. It is the most common female endocrine (hormonal) disorder and is characterized by multiple abnormal ovarian cysts. The classic triad of obesity, hirsutism and irregular anovulatory cycles occurs in only one third of women with PCOS.

Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

A perennial herb with many medicinal uses. The root of Urtica dioica is used medicinally to increase SHBG (sex hormone binding globulin). This serves to decrease the activity of excess hormones in conditions like PCOS and BPH.

Stromal tissue

Connective tissue cells of an organ that comprise its supportive framework.

Surgery

It is the branch of medicine concerned with diseases and conditions which require or are amenable by operative procedures. It is the work perfomed by a surgeon.

Syndrome

A set of signs and symptoms that tend to occur together and which reflect the presence of a particular disease or an increased chance of developing a particular disease.

Syndrome X

Also known as Metabolic Syndrome, a group of risk factors that substantially increase the chances of developing coronary artery disease and Type 2 Diabetes. Characterized by central or abdominal obesity, high blood lipids (mainly high triglycerides and low HDL) hypertension and fasting blood glucose >110 mg/dL.

Testosterone

The most potent of natural male hormones (androgens) that promote the development of male secondary sexual characteristics. Testosterone is also present in smaller amounts in females, where it is responsible for libido, energy, and mood. In women, testosterone is produced in the ovary, the adrenal glands and peripheral tissues. In men, testosterone is produced primarily in the testes.

Thiazolidinediones (TZDs)

A new type of drug used to treat Type 2 Diabetes by improving insulin sensitivity in adipose tissue (tissue comprised primarily of fat cells), liver and skeletal muscle. Examples include Avandia (rosiglitazone), Actos (pioglitazone), and Avandamet. Unlike other Diabetes drugs, these do not induce the pancreas to secrete more insulin.

Thyroid

Also known as the thyroid gland or pertaining to the thyroid gland. This gland is shaped like a shield.

Tomography

The process for generating a two-dimensional image of a slice or section through a three-dimensional object. Tomography achieves this remarkable result by simply moving an x-ray source in one direction as the x-ray film is moved in the opposite direction during the exposure to sharpen structures in the focal plane, while structures in other planes appear blurred. The tomogram is the picture. The tomograph is the apparatus. The tomography is the process.

Transvaginal surgery

Surgery where an incision is made inside the vagina. This type of surgery may be used to treat conditions that affect the bladder, such as cystocele or stress incontinence, or to remove a gallbladder.

Trigger

Something that either sets off a disease in people who are genetically predisposed to developing the disease, or that causes a certain symptom to occur in a person who has a disease.

Triglycerides

The major form of fat derived from food consumption. Triglycerides are also produced by the body. Elevated levels of triglycerides are associated with atherosclerosis.

Tumour

A mass of cells that may be benign or cancerous.

Type 2 Diabetes

Also known as insulin-resistant Diabetes, non-insulin dependent Diabetes, adult-onset Diabetes, late-onset Diabetes and maturity-onset Diabetes. This hyperglycemic condition occurs when insulin that is produced by the pancreas is unable to be used by the body due to the cells' resistance to insulin.

Ultrasound

A non-invasive diagnostic test using sound waves directed at a part of the body to create a picture of the organ's surface. Ultrasonography is also known as echography or sonography. A pelvic ultrasound is often used to diagnose PCOS.

Underweight

Weighing less than what is normal or healthy.

Urethral Syndrome

Pain and inflammation of the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body).

Uterine

Involving the uterus, as in uterine cancer or a uterine fibroid.

Uterine Cancer

Cancer of the womb (the uterus). Also called endometrial cancer . Cancer of the uterus occurs most often in women between the ages of 55 and 70 years. It accounts for about 6 percent of cancer in women. Women at elevated risk for uterine cancer include those who are obese, who have few or no children, who began menstruating at a young age, who had a late menopause, and women of high socioeconomic status. It is thought that most of these risk factors are related to hormones, especially excess estrogen.

Uterosacral Ligaments

Ligaments that attach the uterus and cervix to the base of the spine.

Uterus

The uterus (womb) is a hollow, pear-shaped muscular organ located in a woman's lower abdomen above the vagina. The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix; the broader, upper part is the corpus. The corpus is made up of two layers of tissue.

Vertical Banded Gastroplasty

Bariatric surgery that involves construction of a small pouch in the stomach, emptying through a narrow opening into the stomach and doudenum.

Virilization

Masculine appearance of a woman due to a high excess of male hormones, with voice pitch deeper, musculature prominent, significant male pattern hair loss, significant reduction in breast size, and excessive facial and body hair. Adrenal or ovarian testosterone secreting tumors or other rare types of androgen disorders may cause this condition. It is not common for a woman with PCOS to be virilized.

Visceral

Pertaining to the internal organs.

Waist Circumference

A measurement around the waist commonly used to assess abdominal fat.

Weight Loss

Weight loss is a decrease in body weight resulting from either voluntary (diet, exercise) or involuntary (illness) circumstances. Most instances of weight loss happen due to the loss of body fat, but in cases of extreme or severe weight loss, protein and other substances in the body can also be depleted.

X Chromosome

The genetic informtion from our parents are carried on chromosomes. The X chromosome is one of 23 chromosomes and is present in males (XY) and females (XX).

Y Chromosome

The genetic information specific to males is carried on the X chromosome. Women do not have a Y chromosome.

Zygote

The stage of developement where an egg has been fertilized but not yet divided. After the genetic information has merged and cell division happens, the structure is called an embryo.

Zygote Intrafallopian Transfer (ZIFT)

A procedure where fertilized eggs are placed into the fallopian tube of a woman. This procedure requires laparoscopy and has become less common in favor of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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