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IVF Glossary & List of Abbreviations

I used to believe that librarians were bad about overusing acronyms and abbreviations.  It is possible to have entire conversations behind the scenes at a library without using anything but abbreviations, Dewey reference numbers, and random letters of the alphabet.  IVFers are worse.  IVFers who spend time blogging about their health issues are the worst of all.  So, for those of you lucky enough to have never dealt with this shit personally (read: obsessively), I give you a list of common abbreviations and oddball medical terms you may not have run across before.  Those of you more in-the-know than I am, please feel free to correct me if I get anything wrong or spell something in a non-standard way.  I’m not an RE, or a Dr. or even an RN.  I’m just an infertile woman spending too much time online with Dr. Google.  (Who also happens to be an MSIS and and MLS.  Not to mention an IF IVFer undergoing ART with DE)

Adenomyosis – A condition in which endometriosis begins growing in the muscular walls of the uterus.  Usually precludes normal pregnancy.  Impossible to diagnose without an MRI.

Antral Follicle Count – Antral follicles are small, though visible via US, follicles that are indicative of the total number of follicles left available for an IVFing woman.  This count is typically taken on the 2nd or 3rd day of an IVF cycle.  Presumably, a woman with a high AFC will have more follicles available, overall, than a woman with a low AFC.

ART – Assisted Reproductive Technology.  Anything that isn’t, um, the old-fashioned method of baby-makin’.

Baby Aspirin – taken as a blood thinner.  Way more expensive if you buy it as a prescription than over-the-counter!

Beta HCG (also ß-HCG) – a quantitative hCG test that measures how much hCG is in the blood.

BFN – Big Fat Negative result on an HPT.  What we infertiles have seen a lot of.

BFP – Big Fat Positive result on an HPT.  What we’re all hoping to see.

Bravelle® – A hFSH taken as a subcutaneous injection.  It stimulates follicular maturation in women whose ovaries are basically healthy, but are unable to develop eggs.  Rumored to be made from the purified urine of post-menopausal nuns.  No, really.

Climara® – An estrogen-based medication, delivered in the form of a skin patch, to support the development of the uterine lining for IVF.

DHEA – DeHydroEpiAndrosterone is a hormone produced naturally in the body which converts to estrogen and testosterone and appears to have an influence on egg maturation and development.  In a way, it induces a modified form of PCOS, in that it can cause a “backlog” of eggs to ripen, which fail to release naturally.  This is still an experimental treatment, though preliminary studies are very encouraging.

Ectopic Pregnancy (also known as Tubal Pregnancy) – a pregnancy in which the embryo implants outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube, but occasionally in the ovary, or abdominal cavity.  If untreated, can lead to hemorrhage, shock, and death.

Endometriosis – Endometrium is the tissue that normally grows inside the uterus.  Endometriosis is a condition in which endometrium grows outside of the uterus.

FMU – First Morning Urine – HPTs generally require FMU since the concentration of hCG is higher in the early morning hours.

Follicular Cyst – The most common type of ovarian cyst, caused by follicles growing larger than usual and not rupturing to release the egg when ovulation does not – for whatever reason – occur.  Normally resolves on its own, with pain being the only symptom that presents itself.

FSH – Follicle Stimulating Hormone

Ganirelix acetate (also called Antagon) – prevents an LH surge by competing with native GnRH molecules, rather than via “down-regulating” the pituitary gland as does Lupron.  Typically used as part of a Lupron-free protocol for low responders like me.

GnRH – Gonotropin-releasing hormone

hCG – Human Chorionic Gonadotropin

hFSH – Human Follicle Stimulating Hormone.

HPT – Home Pregnancy Test.  Urine based, measures hCG.  Qualitative only – ie: You get a negative or a positive, but you don’t know how much hCG is present.

HSG – HysteroSalpingoGram – basically an X-ray of the uterus and fallopian tubes used to determine if fluid can move freely through the tubes, and to visualize the interior of the uterus to check for abnormal structure / growths.

ICSI – IntraCytoplasmic Sperm Injection – This is a micromanipulation technique used to inject an egg with a single sperm.  Used in cases of Male Factor Infertility.  The difference between going out (egg) and seeing if there’s anyone (sperm) you’d like to hook up with, and waking up in bed with your arranged marriage partner doing the deed while you wipe the sleep out of your eyes.

IF – Infertility

IVFIn Vitro Fertilization (as opposed to In Vivo Fertilization.)  Think petri dishes, and you’re pretty much there.

LH – Luteinizing Hormone

Lovenox® – is an anticoagulant used in cases of suspected clotting or immune disorders.  Made from the mucosa of pig intestines.  Not kosher.  Comes in a pre-loaded syringe that is annoyingly floppy, has a hard to remove the needle cover, and is irritatingly dull-tipped.  Makes you bruise like you’re made of rotten oranges.  Nasty.

Lupron® –  is a GnRH agonist used to suppress the pituitary gland and prevent premature ovulation.  It is taken as a subcutaneous injection.

Menopur® – Yet another hFSH taken as a subcutaneous injection.  It stimulates follicular growth and maturation.  Also pee based.

Methotrexate® – inhibits the metabolism of folic acid, which is necessary for DNA synthesis.  Because it only affects rapidly reproducing cells, it is used in treating leukemia, and other cancers.  Its main use (though still unregulated) is as an abortifacient.  In cases of ectopic pregnancy or missed miscarriage, it can safely expel the embryo without requiring surgery.

MFI – Male Factor Infertility.

Miscarriage – losing a pregnancy before 20 weeks of gestation.  Also called “Spontaneous abortion” which IVFers tend to object to.

Missed miscarriage – Embryonic death which is not immediately followed by the expulsion of the products of pregnancy from the uterus.

Pessaries – vaginal suppositories.  Progesterone and estrogen given as luteal phase support during IVF are generally administered in the form of capsules or tablets inserted vaginally.  Messy.

PGD – Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis – controversial procedure used to test embryos for genetic disorders.

PIO – Progesterone in Oil.  Injected intramuscularly (ass or thigh) after transfer of embryos.  Because both the administration of LH and the physical retrieval of eggs interferes with progesterone production, supplemental progesterone is typically given during IVF until 12 weeks or so of a successful pregnancy.  Doesn’t hurt as much as it looks like it should, though the bruising can get pretty spectacular.

POAS – Pee on a stick – to take an HPT.

Pre-natal vitamins – vitamins specially formulated to support healthy pregnancy.  Mine are grape-flavored and a welcome change from all my nastily bitter-tasting meds.

Prednisone – a synthetic corticosteroid taken orally as an immunosuppressant.

RE – Reproductive Endocrinologist.  Most IVF doctors hold a specialized degree in Reproductive Endocrinology.

Repronex® – Basically the generic form of Menopur®.  Not quite as purified, so it burns like a son-of-a-bitch going in, but works pretty much the same.

Retrieval – The procedure by which follicles are drained of fluid (and eggs).  The fluid is collected, eggs are separated out by an embryologist, who then attempts to fertilize and cultivate the eggs with provided sperm.  This is often performed with the patient under general anesthesia, as the ovaries are “drilled” into with a long needle inserted through the vaginal walls.  Ouch.

RhoGAM® – given to Rh-negative women before, during, or immediately after miscarriage or birth to prevent the production of antibodies once exposure to Rh-positive blood has occurred.

Rh-negative – a component of blood-typing.  If you lack the “D antigen” in your blood, you’re Rh-negative.  If your partner (and therefore, potentially, your baby) are Rh-positive, your immune system will begin producing antibodies which will attack your baby’s blood.  It typically does not affect the first pregnancy, but all subsequent pregnancies are at risk.

Transfer – The procedure by which 3- or 5-day old embryos are transfered from their cozy petri-dishes to an IVFing woman’s waiting womb.

Trigger shot – Massive dose of hCG given intramuscularly in order to trigger ovulation before retrieval.

Ultrasound (Sometimes abbreviated to US) – is a medical imaging technique used to visualize internal organs.  In IVF, the vaginal US is typically used to get the probe closer to the uterus and ovaries.  The probe is mounted on a wand which is inserted into the vagina and moved around.  Yes, it’s as embarrassingly intimate as that sounds.