AndrogensAndrogens are a group of hormones that regulate reproductive activity and male characteristics by binding to androgen receptors. Androgens play a crucial role in sexual health, metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and can even impact bone density and cardiovascular health. Testosterone is the most common of androgens.
AndropauseAndropause (commonly known as the "male menopause") describes decreases in male hormone levels, including testosterone defficiency, androgen defficiency, and late-onset hypogonadism. Men can develop depression, loss of sex drive, and erectyle dysfunction as a result of andropause.
Artificial InseminationArtificial insemination is a fertility treatment that introduces sperm into a female's uteris or cervix with the goal of achieving pregnancy through in-vivo (in the body) fertilization. Two approaches exist in artificial insemination: intrauterine insemination (IUI) and intracervical insemination (ICI).
Assisted reproductive technology (ART)Assisted reproductive technology (ART) refers to medical procedures to address infertility. According to the CDC, ART includes all fertility treatments in which eggs and embryos are handled (such as in vitro fertilization). However, many in the fertility field also consider intrauterine insemination (IUI) and medicated cycles to be ART.
AsthenospermiaAsthenozoospermia (also known as asthenospermia) is an infertility condition in which a person has reduced sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to move). Reduced sperm motility decreases the chances of the sperm fertilizing the egg in the female reproductive tract. Asthenospermia is one of the most common causes of male-factor infertility, along with oligospermia (low sperm count).
AzoospermiaAzoospermia is a medical condition where there is zero sperm in the male ejaculate. This condition can be obstructive or non-obstructive. While obstructive azoospermia refers to a blockage or disconnect that prevents sperm from entering the ejaculate, non-obstructive azoospermia refers to a condition that impairs sperm production in the testis.
Clinical PregnancyClinical pregnancy is a pregnancy that has been confirmed by both the presence of elevated levels of hCG (pregnancy hormone) and an ultrasound to visualize the gestational sac or heartbeat. Simply put, clinical pregnancy confirms there are clinical signs of the fetus that can be seen or heard. Typically, the earliest clinical signs can be detected five weeks into pregnancy.
Congenital absence of the vas deferens (CAVD)Congenital absence of the vas deferens (CAVD) is a condition wherein the vas deferens, the duct that delivers sperm from the testicles to the urethra, does not develop properly prior to birth. There are two types of CAVD conditions: unilateral (CUAVD), or one side, or bilateral (CBAVD), or both sides. Those with CAVD are typically able to create sperm, but due to the absence of the vas deferens, are unable to transport it into the semen, causing azoospermia.
Cystic FibrosisCystic fibrosis is a progressive, genetic disease, causing lung infections and the persistent loss of lung functions. Most men with cystic fibrosis are infertile due to the absence of the sperm canal (also known as CAVD). As a result, those with cystic fibrosis may turn to assisted reproductive technology (ART) to have genetic children.
Donor Insemination (DI)Donor insemination is a procedure where donor sperm is used to acheive pregnancy. This method typically refers to intrauterine insemination (IUI), but can also include intravaginal or intracervical insemination. Heterosexual couples may turn to donor insemination in cases where the male partner suffers from fertility issues, such as azoospermia or asthenospermia. This is also a common option for same-sex female couples.
Egg RetrievalEgg retrieval is one of a few steps completed during in vitro fertilization (IVF) or egg freezing. Once the ovarian follicles (containing eggs) have been identified and measured to ensure they are mature, the retrieval can take place. Using ultrasound guidance, a thin needle is inserted through the walls of the vagina to retrieve the eggs. The eggs are then removed through a suction device connected to the needle.
Endocrine DisruptorEndocrine disruptors, as the name suggests, are chemicals that interfere with the body's hormones. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs are linked to reproductive, developmental, and brain problems along with cancer and metabolic disease. EDCs can be found in household products such as plastic bottles, detergents, and food. Endocrine disruptors have proven to be harmful to animals, but limited research exists to causally link them to health problems in humans.
Epididymo-OrchitisEpididymitis is the inflammation of the epididymis, the tube located at the back of the testicles that is responsible for storing spem. Epididymitis-orchitis, by contrast, refers to the swelling of the testes and epididmis. This condition may affect people of all ages, but is prevalent between the ages of 14 and 35. Epididymitis and orchitis can be caused by bacterial or viral infection or trauma to the genitals.
Erectile DysfunctionErectile dysfunction (ED), also referred to as "impotence," is characterized by the inability to sustain an erection long enough for sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can be caused by a number of factors including cardiovascular disease, low testosterone levels, diabetes, stress, anxiety, and more.
Fertile WindowThe fertile window is the period during which a person can get pregnant. This window is the day an egg is released from the ovaries (ovulation) and the five days beforehand. This time period offers couples looking to conceive the best chance of getting pregnant naturally.
FertilizationFertilization is the process in which an egg joins with a sperm. Typically, this takes place in the fallopian tube. If the fertilized egg successfully makes its way past the fallopian tube and into the uterus, it will hopefully implant into the uterine wall and begin developing as an embryo.
GametesGametes are an organism's reproductive cells and have also been referred to as "sex cells." Male gametes are called sperm; in females, they are called "ova" or egg cells. Gametes are haploid cells, which means that each cell carries one copy of each chromosome. These reproductive cells fuse with other haploid cells during fertilization in organisms that reproduce sexually (such as humans).
HormonesHormones are chemical messengers produced by the endocrine system that serve as chemical messengers throughout the body. Hormones regulate the body's processes, like hunger, reproduction, and sexual desire, by communicating with their target cell(s).
InfertilityInfertility is defined as the inabiity to get or stay pregnant after 6–12 months of unprotected sex. Infertility is a "functional" diagnosis, meaning that it is based on the outcome — a lack of pregnancy — as opposed to specific lab tests. However, diagnostic testing can help provide an explanation for what is causing or contributing to infertility. Typically, male fertility is evaluated by a semen analysis (SA), which highlights sperm motility, morphology, and concentration.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is an in vitro fertilization procedure typically used to address severe male-factor infertility, such as poor motility. During ICSI, a single sperm cell is injected directly into the cytoplasm of the egg to accomplish fertilization. Once fertilization occurs, the embryo typically grows in the laboratory for up to six days.
Kallmann syndromeKallmann syndrome is a genetic disorder that causes a condition known as hypogonadotropic hypogonadism (HH), in which very little sex hormones are produced. Kallmann syndrome is typically diagnosed at puberty due to a lack of sexual development, and affects fertility. Kallmann syndrome also causes an impaired sense of smell.
Kartagener's syndromeKartagener's syndrome is a rare autosomal or "single gene" genetic disorder, and is a type of primary ciliary dyskenesia. In other words, the flagella and cilia — finger-like projections on the outside of cells — do not move as they should. This disorder is characterized by the mirror-image reversal of internal organs (situs invertus totalis) and can lead to neonatal respiratory distress; frequent lung, sinus, and ear infections; and infertility.
Klinefelter syndromeKlinefelter's syndrome (also known as "47 XXY") is a chromosal condition in which a biological male is born with an additional copy of an X chromosome. This condition typically leads to infertility as well as small and poorly functioning testicles. In many cases, however, Klinefelter's syndrome is extremely difficult to detect and may only be diagnosed deep into puberty or adulthood.
MiscarriageA miscarriage is defined as the loss of a fetus before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Miscarriages typically occur in the first trimester of a pregnancy (prior to week 13). Miscarriages can happen for a variety of different reasons, ranging from genetic and chromosomal issues within the embryo to underlying conditions.
OligospermiaOligospermia is the medical term for low sperm count. "Ligo" is the Greek term for little. Oligospermia refers to having less than 15 million sperm per millimeter of semen. Those with oligospermia have a reduced chance of fertilizing an egg and getting pregnant naturally.
OvulationOvulation is the process in which a mature egg is released from the ovary. Ovulation is driven by a complex series of reproductive hormones and processes. A person is most fertile in the days leading up to ovulation, known as the "fertile window." Ovulation typically occurs halfway through the menstrual cycle, but the exact date depends on the length of the cycle.
ProstaglandinsProstaglandins are a group of lipids that function similarly to hormones and manage processes including inflammation and blood flow. They are created during a chemical reaction at the site of an injury, and produce contractions during labor. Prostaglandins also play a role in maintaining erections.
Recurrent miscarriage (RPL)Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (also known as "recurrent miscarriage" or "habitual abortion") is defined as three consecutive pregnancy losses prior to 20 weeks from the last menstrual cycle. Recurrent Pregnancy Loss can be caused by genetic or chromosomal issues as well as structural problems of the uterus.
Reproductive endocrinologistA reproductive endocrinologist is a medical specialist in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). A reproductive endocrinologist is an OB/GYN with advanced training in hormones, the science of fertility and the mechanics of conception, including sperm, eggs, male and female anatomy, and the relationship between pituitary and reproductive hormones.
Retrograde ejaculationRetrograde ejaculation is when semen flows back into the bladder, instead of emerging through the penis, during an orgasm. Therefore, very little semen will come out despite climax (hence why it's sometimes referred to as a "dry orgasm"). Retrograde ejaculation can have an adverse effect on fertility as sperm does not make its way into the partner's reproductive system.
Secondary infertilitySecondary infertility refers to the inability to get pregnant after previously giving birth to one or more children. This condition shares many similarities with primary infertility, including possible causes: impaired sperm production, ovulation disorders, endemetriosis, and uterine conditions.
Semen analysis (SA)Semen analysis (also known as "sperm count test" or "male fertility test") is an evaluation of a person's sperm and semen. This test determines the quality and the quantity of sperm, including key factors that will play a direct role in the fertilization of the egg such as motility (movement), concentration (density), and morphology (size and shape).
Sperm DNA fragmentationSperm DNA fragmentation refers to the degree of abnormal genetic material (DNA) within sperm. High levels of damaged or degraded sperm DNA can contribute to male infertility, IVF failure, and miscarriage. Sperm DNA fragmentation can be caused by a number of factors including illness, injury, and lifestyle choices that cause oxidative stress.
SpermicideSpermicide is a contraceptive substance that stops sperm from moving and/or kills it. This substance is typically inserted into the vagina before penetrative sex, ensuring that sperm will not make its way into the uterus for potential pregnancy. Spermicide can be used alone orin combination with other birth control methods (like condoms).
TeratozoospermiaTeratospermia (also known as "teratozoospermia") is a condition characterized by abnormal sperm morphology — meaning that many of a person's sperm are the incorrect size, shape, or structure. Abnormalities could include a defect in the head, midpiece, or tail of the sperm. Teratospermia may have an adverse effect on fertilization, and can be related to genetic traits, chronic diseases, alcohol and drug use, and obesity.
Testicular BiopsyTesticular biopsy is a surgery done to remove a piece of tissue from the testicles. This tissue is then analyzed in a laboratory and can be used to diagnose the condition of a lump in the testes, identify causes of infertility, or obtain sperm for in vitro fertilization (IVF).
VaricoceleVaricocele is a medical condition in which the veins within the scrotum become enlarged. Approximately 15% of people with testes will experience a varicocele, but it doesn't always affect fertility. In some cases, the inflammation and increased heat caused by varicocele can lead to decreased sperm quality and low sperm production. This condition can lead to an inflamed testicle, typically on the left side, and is usually formed during puberty.
VasectomyA vasectomy is a medical procedure to prevent pregnancy. During a vasectomy, the vasa deferentia (or vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the penis) are cut and tied to block sperm from getting into the semen. Vasectomy reversal surgery can undo a vasectomy, reconnecting each tube, but reversals are not guaranteed to be successful and vasectomy should be considered a permanent procedure.
Y-chromosome microdeletions (YCM)Y-chromosome microdeletions (YCM) is a family of genetic disorders caused by missing genes in the Y-chromosome, and are common in infertile men. This condition directly affects sperm production and can lead to conditions such as oligospermia, azoospermia, and teratospermia.