The International Glossary on Infertility and Fertility Care, 2017

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  • Fernando Zegers-Hochschild
  • G. David Adamson
  • Silke Dyer
  • Catherine Racowsky
  • Jacques de Mouzon
  • Rebecca Sokol
  • Laura Rienzi
  • Arne Sunde
  • Schmidt, Lone
  • Ian D. Cooke
  • Joe Leigh Simpson
  • Sheryl van der Poel

STUDY QUESTION: Can a consensus and evidence-driven set of terms and definitions be generated to be used globally in order to ensure consistency when reporting on infertility issues and fertility care interventions, as well as to harmonize communication among the medical and scientific communities, policy-makers, and lay public including individuals and couples experiencing fertility problems?

SUMMARY ANSWER: A set of 283 consensus-based and evidence-driven terminologies used in infertility and fertility care has been generated through an inclusive consensus-based process with multiple stakeholders.

WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: In 2006 the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART) published a first glossary of 53 terms and definitions. In 2009 ICMART together with WHO published a revised version expanded to 87 terms, which defined infertility as a disease of the reproductive system, and increased standardization of fertility treatment terminology. Since 2009, limitations were identified in several areas and enhancements were suggested for the glossary, especially concerning male factor, demography, epidemiology and public health issues.

STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: Twenty-five professionals, from all parts of the world and representing their expertise in a variety of sub-specialties, were organized into five working groups: clinical definitions; outcome measurements; embryology laboratory; clinical and laboratory andrology; and epidemiology and public health. Assessment for revisions, as well as expansion on topics not covered by the previous glossary, were undertaken. A larger group of independent experts and representatives from collaborating organizations further discussed and assisted in refining all terms and definitions.

PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: Members of the working groups and glossary co-ordinators interacted through electronic mail and face-to-face in international/regional conferences. Two formal meetings were held in Geneva, Switzerland, with a final consensus meeting including independent experts as well as observers and representatives of international/regional scientific and patient organizations.

MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: A consensus-based and evidence-driven set of 283 terminologies used in infertility and fertility care was generated to harmonize communication among health professionals and scientists as well as the lay public, patients and policy makers. Definitions such as 'fertility care' and 'fertility awareness' together with terminologies used in embryology and andrology have been introduced in the glossary for the first time. Furthermore, the definition of 'infertility' has been expanded in order to cover a wider spectrum of conditions affecting the capacity of individuals and couples to reproduce. The definition of infertility remains as a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy; however, it also acknowledges that the failure to become pregnant does not always result from a disease, and therefore introduces the concept of an impairment of function which can lead to a disability. Additionally, subfertility is now redundant, being replaced by the term infertility so as to standardize the definition and avoid confusion.

LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: All stakeholders agreed to the vast majority of terminologies included in this glossary. In cases where disagreements were not resolved, the final decision was reached after a vote, defined before the meeting as consensus if passed with 75%. Over the following months, an external expert group, which included representatives from non-governmental organizations, reviewed and provided final feedback on the glossary.

WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: Some terminologies have different definitions, depending on the area of medicine, for example demographic or clinical as well as geographic differences. These differences were taken into account and this glossary represents a multinational effort to harmonize terminologies that should be used worldwide.



Original languageEnglish
JournalHuman Reproduction
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)1786-1801
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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