Information for the public

Terms explained

Artificial insemination

A procedure that involves directly inserting sperm into a woman's womb or cervix (the neck of the womb) to help her conceive.

Assisted reproduction

Treatments that enable people to conceive without having sexual intercourse. Methods include intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilisation (IVF), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), donor insemination and egg donation.

Body mass index (BMI)

The measurement used to define the range of healthy weight. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (that is, your height in metres multiplied by itself).


A thread-like structure found in cells that contains a person's genetic information in the form of genes.


A single course of treatment. In IVF a 'full cycle' is one in which embryos produced from eggs collected after ovarian stimulation are replaced into the womb within a few days of their formation, with any remaining good‑quality embryos frozen for use later. When these frozen embryos are used later, this is still considered to be part of the same cycle.


The female reproductive cell. A woman usually produces 1 egg in a normal monthly cycle.


A fertilised egg.

Fallopian tubes

The pair of tubes leading from a woman's ovaries to her womb. The fallopian tube is where fertilisation of the egg by a sperm takes place in natural conception.


A small sac in the ovary in which the egg develops.


Hormones that a woman can take to stimulate her ovaries to produce eggs. They can be given during ovulation induction and ovarian stimulation. In men they can be used to stimulate sperm production.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

A technique by which eggs are collected from a woman and fertilised outside her body. One or 2 of the embryos created are then transferred to the womb. If one of them attaches successfully, it results in a pregnancy.

Intracervical insemination

A procedure in which sperm is placed into a woman's cervix (the neck of the womb) to help her conceive.

Intrauterine insemination

A procedure in which sperm is placed inside a woman's womb to help her conceive.


A 'keyhole' operation done under general anaesthetic, in which the surgeon uses a very small telescopic instrument (a laparoscope) to examine or operate on an area in a woman's pelvis.

Multiple pregnancy

A pregnancy in which the woman is carrying more than 1 baby. Multiple pregnancies carry higher health risks for both the mother and the babies.

Ovarian stimulation

The use of gonadotrophins to stimulate the ovaries to produce more than 1 egg at once as part of IVF treatment.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

A potentially serious condition that occurs when the ovaries 'over‑react' to fertility drugs.


Two small organs in a woman's reproductive system which produce follicles and eggs.


See ovulation.


The process by which the ovaries produce eggs. In a woman's natural cycle, ovulation occurs when a mature egg is released from the ovary each month.

Ovulation induction

The use of fertility drugs to control or stimulate a woman's ovulation.


The fluid containing sperm that is produced by a man during ejaculation.


The male reproductive cell, which fertilises a woman's egg.

Surgical sperm recovery

A minor surgical procedure to obtain sperm from the testicles in men who cannot ejaculate or have a blockage in the flow of sperm from their testicles.

Ultrasound scan

A scan that uses high frequency sound waves to provide images of the internal organs.

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