Terminology for her

Hertility Health

We provide you with access to information about your reproductive health whilst guiding you through your fertility journey, from couch to clinic.

ReProductive

When you are productive with your reproductive health, and make informed decisions when it matters, not when it’s too late.

AFAB

An acronym for “assigned female at birth”. This term refers to a person who was born with female reproductive organs but does not identify as this gender.

Cervix

The narrow, cylinder-shaped passage that forms the lower end of your uterus, and it is this area of tissue that separates the vagina from the rest of your uterus.

Cervical Fluid/Mucus

The fluid secreted by the cervix. It has two main roles; to prevent things from entering the uterus through the cervix, and to nourish and transport sperm through the cervix to the uterus. Throughout your cycle your mucus changes, due to fluctuating hormone levels, and can highlight how fertile you are.

Endometrium

The inner lining of your uterus, which thickens throughout your cycle and then sheds as you period.

Fallopian Tube

The path your egg follows once released from the ovary during ovulation, to the uterus, where it awaits fertilisation.

Ovary

The almond-sized gland that sits at the end of your fallopian tubes. Most are born with two ovaries, that produce and house your eggs until they are mature enough to leave in search of a sperm - AKA ovulation.⁠ Ovaries also produce primary sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone.

Pelvis

The bony structure located between the abdomen and legs, which supports the intestines and houses your bladder and reproductive system. Your pelvis is usually broader and wider to give you the ability to undergo pregnancy and childbirth.

Thyroid

A butterfly-shaped gland located at the front of your throat which acts as the conductor of your hormonal orchestra. It regulates your metabolism, heart and digestive function, growth and development and temperature.

Uterus

A muscular sac located between the bladder and the rectum. Throughout your monthly cycle, the inner lining of the uterus thickens with blood, in preparation for a fertilised egg to implant itself.

Vagina

The muscular canal that connects the vulva (the outer parts of your genitals) to the uterus. ⁠⁠

Menstruation

More commonly known as your period, this is the normal vaginal bleeding that takes place as part of your monthly cycle.

Microbiome

The genetic material of all the microbes that live on and inside the human body, such as bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. Some microbes help our bodily functions, like the good bacteria in our gut. The bad guys that can cause diseases are called pathogens. Studies show that some of the pathogens that cause STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can lead to infertility.

Ovarian Reserve

This refers to the number of eggs you have remaining in your ovaries. This number declines with age until you reach menopause. You each have a unique fertility curve, so everyone's ovarian reserve changes at a different rate.

Papanicolaou Test

AKA a pap smear is the test that involves collecting cells from your cervix to help detect cervical cancer or precancerous cells.

Adenomyosis

A condition in which the inner lining of the uterus breaks through the muscle wall. Its symptoms can include menstrual cramps, lower abdominal pain, bloating and heavy periods.

Endometriosis

A chronic condition where tissue similar to the lining of a uterus, decides to go wandering and grow in places outside of the uterus, such as the ovaries and fallopian tubes, causing pain.

Uterine Fibroids

Non-cancerous growths that grow in or around the uterus. As many as 1 in 3 will develop fibroids.

Hormonal Acne

Acne caused by a fluctuation of your hormones. Common during puberty, but can develop at any age.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea

A condition in which menstruation stops for several months due to a problem involving the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is in the centre of the brain and controls reproduction. This is typically linked with stress, weight loss and/or excessive physical exercise.

Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)

When the thyroid gland produces more hormones than your body needs. Symptoms include: nervousness, irritability, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, sensitivity to heat, irregular or fast heartbeat, weight loss and twitching or trembling. Thyroid problems can also affect your fertility.

Hypothyroidism (Underactive Thyroid)

When the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. Symptoms include: tiredness, weight gain, depression, being sensitive to cold, dry skin and hair and muscle aches. Thyroid problems can also affect your fertility.

PCOS

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder affecting 1 in 10 people with ovaries. Named after the appearance of the tiny fluid-filled follicular sacs in the ovaries, that house your immature eggs. Thought to be caused by an increase in androgens and a sensitivity to insulin.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

A severe form of PMS that can include symptoms such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. It affects around 5-10% of those who menstruate.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

The name given to the symptoms you experience in the weeks leading up to your period. Linked to the changes in your hormones during the menstrual cycle the symptoms of PMS include: feeling anxious/upset/irritable, fatigue or insomnia, bloating and abdominal pain, spots and also breast tenderness. However, these symptoms differ for each person.

Recurrent Miscarriage

Defined as 3 or more consecutive pregnancy losses and affects around 1% of couples trying to conceive.

Combined Pill

Made up of a hormone combo of oestrogen and progestin (a synthetic form of progesterone) to stop your body from ovulating and thickening the cervical mucus so no sperm can get through it.

Condoms

Often made from latex, condoms are placed over the penis before sex to prevent sperm from entering the vagina. They are the only option that prevents both pregnancy and STIs.

Diaphragm

Made from silicone, it is placed high inside the vagina to cover the cervix and prevent sperm from entering. Often used with spermicide (a cream that kills sperm).

Injection

An injection containing the hormone progesterone is administered into the bottom every 3 months to prevent the release of an egg from the ovaries.

IUD (Intrauterine device)

AKA the copper coil. a hormone-free form of contraception which must be inserted into the uterus by a doctor or nurse. The T-shaped device releases copper, which alters your cervical mucus making it more difficult for sperm to reach your eggs.

IUS (Intrauterine system)

A hormonal version of the coil, which releases small amounts of the hormone progesterone. This thickens the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix, and also thins the lining of the womb so an egg is less likely to be able to implant itself.

Implant

A soft piece of plastic that is inserted under the skin in your arm. It releases progesterone to prevent ovulation and in turn prevents pregnancy.

Mini Pill

The progesterone-only contraceptive pill that must be taken every day (no breaks). This thickens the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to move through the cervix, and also thins the lining of the womb so an egg is less likely to be able to implant itself. It also suppresses ovulation, but not consistently.

Patch

A square sticker that is placed on the arm allowing the skin to absorb both oestrogen and progesterone, preventing ovulation from occurring. The patch is changed once a week.

Ring

A soft, plastic ring that is placed into the vagina, where it releases oestrogen and progesterone to suppress ovulation. You leave it in for 21 days, then remove it and have a 7-day ring-free break.

Cycle Length

A cycle is counted from the first day of your period (day 1) to the first day of the next period, the following month.

Follicular phase

The first phase of your cycle beginning on the first day of your period and ending on the day of ovulation. During your period the pituitary gland produces Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) which tells the ovaries to prepare an egg for ovulation. This is the time for the eggs to mature until one is grown-up enough to flee the nest.

Luteal Phase

The time between ovulation and before the start of menstruation, when the body prepares for a possible pregnancy. As your egg rides off into the sunset, it leaves behind Corpus Luteum or CL. This produces progesterone, a crucial hormone for keeping a pregnancy, but once the progesterone-pumping CL disintegrates, this phase ends.

Period/Menstruation

A normal vaginal bleed that occurs as part of your menstrual cycle. Each cycle, your body prepares for pregnancy and the lining of your uterus builds up to accommodate the implantation of an embryo, if implantation does not occur, the uterus lining sheds through the cervix as your period.

Proliferative Phase

After your period, the lining of your uterus begins to build itself back up again, to make a cosy place for an egg to implant itself.

Ovulation

The process of an egg fleeing the ovary and making its escape through the fallopian tube in search of its mate - the sperm - in hopes of fertilisation. Ovulation typically occurs at about day 14 of an average 28-day cycle.

Secretory Phase

The uterine lining produces chemicals that will either help support an early pregnancy or get the lining ready to break down and trigger your period if pregnancy doesn’t occur.

Spotting

A light vaginal bleed involving small amounts of blood, that happens outside of your regular periods.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

The name given to the symptoms you experience in the weeks leading up to your period. Linked to the changes in your hormones during the menstrual cycle the symptoms of PMS include: feeling anxious/upset/irritable, fatigue or insomnia, bloating and abdominal pain, spots and also breast tenderness. However, these symptoms differ for each person.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

A severe form of PMS that can include symptoms such as depression, anxiety and even suicidal thoughts. It affects around 5-10% of those who menstruate.

Carrier Screening

A type of genetic test that can tell you whether you are a carrier for certain genetic disorders. It can be carried out before or during pregnancy, and can inform you of your chances of having a child with a genetic disorder.

Product of conception (POC) Test

An advanced analysis of foetal tissue to determine if chromosomal abnormalities are present following a pregnancy loss.

Hormone

A chemical made in a gland in one part of the body. The hormone travels through the blood to another part of the body, where it helps other cells do their job.

Sex hormone

A hormone that affects and is made by the reproductive (sex) organs.

Androgens

A group of hormones that play a role in “male” traits and reproductive activity. Don’t be fooled by the name, as they are found in all sexes, with the principle androgens being testosterone and androstenedione.

Progesterone (PRG)

Produced by the ovaries, placenta and adrenal glands, progesterone is one of the primary sex hormones for those AFAB. Its main function is to regulate the lining of the uterus to provide your fertilised egg with a place to settle.

Oestrogen/Estrogen (E2)

The primary sex hormone for those AFAB, which is mostly produced by the ovaries. Oestrogen is responsible for setting your cycle in motion and keeping everything in check.

Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)

A protein hormone produced by the granulosa cells in the follicle that surround your immature eggs. It’s close links to your eggs make AMH a good predictor of your ovarian reserve.

Prolactin (PRL)

Made by the pituitary gland in the brain, prolactin is named after its important role in producing breast milk. However, it's also shown to have over 300 functions throughout our bodies. Out of balance prolactin can affect period regularity and also fertility.

Testosterone (T)

The hormone thought to be responsible for ‘male’ characteristics. But, it’s also produced in lower amounts by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Most testosterone made in by the ovaries transforms into primary sex hormone, oestrogen.

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Produced in the pituitary gland in the brain, TSH helps to regulate the production of your thyroid hormones by the thyroid gland - the conductor when it comes to regulating the body’s metabolism.

Sex-Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

A glycoprotein that is produced in the liver. SHBG is admittedly rather clingy, catching sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone in a big bear-hug to stop them in their tracks. This is to regulate your hormones, mopping up any overspill.

Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

A hormone that is produced by the pituitary gland and helps control your menstrual cycle. Once released it stimulates the ovaries to produce your eggs.

Luteinising hormone (LH)

A hormone that is produced and released by the cells in the pituitary gland. It is crucial in regulating the function of your ovaries and in ensuring an egg is released each month.

Thyroxine (T4)

One of two hormones produced by the thyroid. T4 is the inactive form of the hormone which is then converted into T3 by your liver and kidneys and controls your metabolism, heart and digestive function.

Triiodothyronine (T3)

The active form of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine (T4) and it mostly produced from the conversion of T4 in your liver and kidneys. Both T4 and T3 affect a whole host of systems in the body, including the metabolism, heart and digestive function.

Anti-TPO

TPO is an enzyme normally found in the thyroid gland and plays an important role in the production of thyroid hormones. Anti-TPO antibodies are the most common anti-thyroid autoantibody present in thyroid diseases.

Anti-TG

Thyroglobulin (TG) is a protein made by cells in the thyroid. Anti-TG antibodies can be a sign of damage to your thyroid gland caused by the immune system.

Hirsutism

A condition found in women and ABFABS that results in excessive growth of dark or coarse hair in a “male-like” pattern eg. on your face, chest and back.

Heavy Bleeding

Defined as either losing over 16 teaspoons (80ml) of blood during your period, having to change your sanitary products every hour and or your period lasting for more than 7 days

Hormonal Acne

Acne caused by a fluctuation of your hormones. Common during puberty, but can develop at any age.

Feeling cold often

Feeling cold often could be the symptom of a hormonal imbalance or problems with your thyroid.

Fatigue

Feeling tired often can be indicative of certain reproductive health or hormonal conditions.

Increased hunger

Feeling hungry often can be indicative of certain reproductive health or hormonal conditions, such as thyroid problem.

Hair thinning/loss

Experiencing hair thinning or loss can be indicative of certain reproductive health or hormonal conditions. It is a common symptom of PCOS and Hypothalamic Amenorrhea.

Hot flushes

A creeping feeling of intense warmth that quickly spreads across your whole body and face. They typically last for a few minutes, and are often linked to decreased oestrogen levels.

Irritability

When you are likely to become frustrated or upset easily. Hormonal imbalances can sometimes cause feelings of irritability.

Vaginal dryness

When your vagina is less lubricated than “normal”. It is often caused by a change in your hormone levels.

Pain during intercourse

Any regular pain or discomfort during or after sex. There are several possible explanations, such as endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), fibroids and more.

Dark skin patches

Dark skin patches A symptom of PCOS, in which patches of darkened skin appear around the neck, under the arms and around the groin area. This is often caused by heightened levels of insulin and/or androgens in the blood.

Bleeding between periods

Also known as intermenstrual bleeding. The term used for irregular and unexpected bleeds, in between your “normal” menstrual cycle. Irregular and unexpected bleeds could be the symptom of a reproductive health condition or an undiagnosed problem elsewhere.

Night sweats

This when you sweat so much, that your night clothes and bedding are soaking wet, even if where you’re sleeping is cool. This can be a symptom of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause.

Weight gain or trouble losing weights

There are many different explanations for gaining weight or finding it difficult to lose weight, however sometimes it could be explained by a hormonal imbalance. These symptoms are common in those who suffer with PCOS or an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).

Egg Freezing

A fertility preservation method that involves freezing one or more unfertilised eggs to store them for future use.

Embryo Freezing

Eggs that have been fertilised using IVF, and are then frozen and stored to remain healthy and used in the future.

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

The process in which a frozen embryo from a previous cycle is used in a new cycle. This takes place following an unstimulated cycle and involves careful monitoring and preparation of the lining of your uterus, ready for the transfer of frozen embryos.

Infertility Surgery

Certain conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids or blocked fallopian tubes that affect your fertility, can be treated with surgery. These can include laparoscopy (small keyhole surgery) causing less scarring, hysteroscopic surgery using a small telescope through the cervix and conventional surgery, using “bikini line” cut.

In-Vitro Fertlisation (IVF)

A form of fertility treatment which involves an egg being fertilised by sperm outside of the body, ie. in a test tube or a petri-dish.

IVF for lesbian couples

A treatment option for couples in which sperm is not present. Using traditional, natural or mild IVF treatments alongside a sperm donor, can optimise chances of fertilisation and pregnancy.

IVF for single women

A treatment option for single women looking to become parents. Using traditional, natural, or mild IVF treatment alongside a sperm donor, can optimise chances of fertilisation and pregnancy.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

The most common and successful form of treatment for male infertility. The treatment is the same as IVF, but instead of mixing sperm with eggs to fertilise, an embryologist will inject a single sperm into an egg to maximise the chances of fertilisation.

Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI)

A form of fertility treatment which involves placing the sperm inside a woman’s uterus, close to the fallopian tubes to increase chances of conceiving.

Medical Fertility Preservation

The process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm, or reproductive tissue so that a person can use them to have biological children in the future, due to medical factors. This can include people undergoing cancer treatment, people that have suffered a severe injury, or trans people looking to undergo hormone treatment or reconstructive surgery.

Mild IVF

A form of stimulated IVF in which lower doses of hormones are given for a short period during your own natural cycle, with an aim to collect up to 10 eggs. The focus is the quality, as opposed to the quantity of the eggs and embryos.

Natural Modified IVF

During this process, medication is given for 3-4 days to block ovulation from occurring (before egg retrieval), and a small dose of stimulation hormone is given to support the follicle (egg). The aim is to collect naturally selected eggs.

Natural IVF

The closest IVF process to natural fertilisation, involving egg retrieval that is aligned with your natural cycle with no fertility drugs or injections throughout the process. The focus here is also on the quality of the eggs collected.

Ovarian tissue freezing

A fertility preservation option if you are unable to freeze your eggs and for younger girls who have not started ovulating.

Pre-conception care

The opportunity for you and your partner to improve your health before trying to conceive. Methods can include changing your diet and health regime or introducing supplements to minimise health risks for you and your unborn baby.

Social Fertility Preservation

The process of saving or protecting eggs, sperm, or reproductive tissue so that a person can use them to have biological children in the future, due to social factors. This can include people not wanting a family now, but preparing for the future, knowing that age plays a large role in their fertility.

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