Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fertility Forums Dictionary and Usage Guide


If you have ever visited an online discussion board for women trying to get pregnant, you will see that there are apparently an incredible number of individuals spending an impossible amount of time scrutinizing every bodily symptom and agonizing over a variety of signs and omens.  Because much of the trying to conceive process involves waiting and watching, and it can be somewhat lonely especially if the people in your life don’t know what you are up to in your private time, an online community has built up around this whole experience and there are many places you can go to discuss at length any aspect of fertility, conception, and pregnancy (for example, Fertility Friend, Baby and Bump, and JustMommies among many others more specific and more general).  Although so far I have only started to explore the world of trying to conceive, there also seem to be similar communities for women who are expecting and parents with infants too. 

But if you are just exploring this online community for the first time, you might find yourself completely overwhelmed by the odd terminology and unintelligible acronyms used by this society.  Although I am a bit of a newbie to this whole world myself, I have been a lurker for a while and have picked up on most of the commonly-used jargon.  But it took a lot of searching and context clues before I could read even the most straightforward posts at first.  To help you get past that initial learning curve, below you will find a guide to the basic terms you need to know to successfully read through a post on these discussion boards/forums (as well as an introduction to some of the general online jargon you might need to know). 

Status:


  • TTC = trying to conceive.  This is the process of actively attempting to achieve conception.  It usually involves more than just giving up using contraceptives and is an active process (as opposed to NTNP, see below).
  • NTNP = not trying not preventing.  As opposed to TTC, this is a passive way of achieving pregnancy.  Individuals in this category have ditched contraceptives but aren’t doing anything special to try to get pregnant.  These are the people to whom the oft-quoted statistic “it can take a fertile couple up to a year to get pregnant” applies. 
  • WTT = waiting to try.  These folks are planning to have kids and often have a specific date in mind to start trying to get pregnant, but for one reason or another are currently putting conception attempts on hold.  Reasons range from financial concerns to waiting for a current child to reach a certain age to waiting for a reluctant spouse to feel ready.


Sex:


  • BD = baby dance.  Having sex with the hope of conceiving (see also BMS).
  • DTD = do(ing) the deed.  Having sex more generally.  On fertility forums, this usually means having sex with the hope of conception but could also refer to sex when pregnancy is not at all expected/intended.
  • BMS = baby making sex.  Sex intended to result in pregnancy.


Fertility Monitoring:


  • O = ovulation (see also OV).  When the dominant follicle ruptures and releases an egg from one of a woman's ovaries and begins to travel down the fallopian tube.  Once ovulation occurs, the egg will only live for 12-24 hours and conception must occur during this time frame (but note that sperm from acts of intercourse that occurred up to several days before ovulation can still be alive in a woman's body and waiting to fertilize the egg once it is released).
  • OV = ovulation.  Can also be used as a verb (e.g., "I OVed on CD 12).
  • CD = cycle day.  The day in a given menstrual cycle, counting up from the first day of a menstrual period (which is counted as CD 1).  
  • DPO = days past ovulation.  The number of days it has been in the current menstrual cycle since ovulation occurred.  This number is typically an estimate, since neither OPKs nor BBT charting can perfectly identify the day of ovulation (although a temperature shift is thought to be a fairly reliable indicator that ovulation occurred the day before). 
  • Fertile window = the several days during which a woman is most likely to conceive if sperm are introduced into her body.  There is debate about the length of this window, but it certainly includes the few days before ovulation and the day of ovulation.  
  • BBT = basal body temperature. Technically, this is a person's lowest body temperature at rest, although for the purposes of fertility monitoring it is really an approximation of BBT as measured after a solid block of sleep usually at the same time each morning.  For women, this temperature fluctuates depending on the presence of certain hormones in the body.  During menstruation, a woman's hormones all reach their lowest point and body temperature drops.  Just following ovulation, a woman's progesterone levels increase dramatically causing a spike in BBT that persists throughout the second half of her menstrual cycle until the next menstrual period (see also charting).   
  • Charting = The practice of monitoring BBT throughout the menstrual cycle to detect ovulation and identify the fertile window.  Keeping a personal chart over the course of several months allows a woman to determine the cycle days on which she is typically fertile and can also help to identify any problems with ovulation.  Perhaps its most useful feature for women who are TTC, however, is to confirm that ovulation has occurred (following a sustained temperature shift) which indicates that additional baby making sex is no longer needed during the present cycle. 
  • OPK = ovulation predictor kit.  A type of test that is intended to help women identify when they are about to ovulate.  The type most commonly referred to on discussion boards is urine-based test strips that detect high levels of luteinizing hormone, although the term may also refer on occasion to a fertility microscope (which detect a high concentration of estrogen in saliva or cervical fluid).  There are a variety of brands of these test kits, ranging in cost, and most are meant to be used for several days in a row (once or more times per day) during the estimated most fertile time of a woman's cycle.  For the urine-based tests, a woman can expect to ovulate within 12-36 hours from the time that the test becomes positive (although in some cases the LH surge may be detected but ovulation does not follow, or occurs after a second surge some days later).  A positive test is most commonly indicated by a test line that becomes as dark as the control line after exposure to the woman's urine, although some tests indicate a positive result in other ways (e.g., smiley face).  For fertility microscopes, a positive test (indicated by a ferning pattern observed in the dried saliva or cervical fluid) indicates an increased level of estrogen in the body which is a symptom of approaching ovulation.  However, there is more variance on this type of test between the time of the positive result and the time of ovulation.  Some women can see a positive test up to 5-6 days before ovulation while others never see a positive result.  Use over repeated cycles may be required for a woman to accurately predict the relationship between a positive result and her ovulation using a fertility microscope.
  • LH surge = luteinizing hormone surge.  A rapid increase in the hormone that triggers ovulation, which is itself first initiated by a substantial increase in levels of estrogen.  Most OPKs are designed to help detect this surge, which may last between 4 and 48 hours.  Women with a very brief LH surge may have a difficult time detecting the LH surge using OPKs.
  • POAS = pee on a stick.  The act of taking a urine-based fertility or pregnancy test.  The same term applies even if the specific test involves dipping a strip in urine rather than peeing directly on it.  The acronym is versatile and can be used to indicate any verb tense (e.g. "I POAS last week and got a BFN" or "You should definitely POAS first thing tomorrow!").  See also, POAS addict.
  • POAS addict = someone who is obsessed with taking urine-based tests.  Rather than being frustrated by a string of negative or ambiguous test results, this type of person loves the additional data provided by each OPK or pregnancy test.  A POAS addict will often take multiple inexpensive tests in a single day, and will almost certainly start testing for pregnancy well before a positive result is likely.  The term is typically only used self-referentially (e.g., "Since I started using OPKs, I've become a total POAS addict"), as the neurotic tendencies implied by the term could potentially be offensive if used to describe another person.
  • AF = aunt flow.  Monthly menstrual period or, in some cases, the withdrawal bleed that occurs during the placebo week while taking hormonal contraceptives.  Women who are TTC dread the appearance of AF and spend a considerable amount of time analyzing potential symptoms of its approach, including temperature changes, PMS symptoms, and cramps (although many premenstrual symptoms can also be early pregnancy symptoms). 
  • ICs = internet cheapies (e.g., Wondfo).  OPKs or pregnancy tests that can only be purchased online and are typically quite inexpensive compared to store-bought tests.  This type of test is usually purchased in large quantities (25-100 per pack) and are much more utilitarian-looking than the more heavily-marketed tests.  Although they do not offer any smiley faces to indicate a positive result and may be more error-prone, these tests are typically quite accurate and are also economical.  Additionally, their small size (usually just a few inches long and a quarter inch wide or less) and plain design make them much more discrete than the familiar test brands.  They are especially preferred by POAS addicts. 
  • PCOS = polycistic ovary syndrome.  A medical problem affecting as many as 10% of women that causes ovarian cysts, infrequent ovulation, and irregular menstrual periods.  Women with PCOS may find it much more difficult to conceive because they ovulate less frequently and at less predictable intervals.  There seems to be a large community of PCOS sufferers on the fertility message boards who provide mutual support and encouragement. 


Pregnancy:



  • TWW = two week wait.  The two weeks after ovulation before a pregnancy test is expected to be positive if conception did occur.  Women appear to spend the most time on fertility forums during this portion of their cycle (presumably before that they were occupied with BDing at every opportunity).  Popular activities during the TWW include debating the probability of conception this month and asking the community to scrutinize possible pregnancy symptoms, BBT charts, and various test results.  The consensus is that this is the most agonize part of the TTC process.  Although the term refers to a two week time span, many women on fertility discussion boards don't actually wait two weeks before testing.  Some test as early as 6 days after ovulation and are usually disappointed, while others wait until 10 DPO (the first date on which many early detection tests are somewhat successful at detecting pregnancy). 
  • HPT = home pregnancy test.  Any kind of test that can be used at home by a woman to determine pregnancy, including familiar brands such as Clear Blue as well as internet cheapies.  These tests function like urine-based OPKs, but instead detect the presence of a hormone called hCG.  Because hCG is only present in the body in tiny amounts in a non-pregnant woman, any visible test line indicates pregnancy on an HPT (unlike OPKs which require a test line that it is as dark as the control line to be considered a positive result).  Although not designed for this purpose, some women also use urine-based OPK tests to detect pregnancy, because evidently hCG and LH are chemically quite similar.  Note that the relationship does not go the other way, however--pregnancy tests cannot be used to detect the LH surge.
  • BFP = big fat positive (see also, BFN below).  A positive pregnancy test result (whether by HPT or blood test conducted by a medical professional). 
  • BFN = big fat negative.  A negative pregnancy test result--an outcome most feared by women who are TTC.
  • Squinter = a positive pregnancy test result that is so faint it can only be seen by squinting or holding the test in a certain light or at a specific angle.  Often what is hoped to be a squinter is later revealed to be an evap line instead (see below).  Positive pregnancy test results that happen very early in terms of days after ovulation are often this type of result (followed by a stronger positive some time later that confirms it was not an evap instead). 
  • Evap (line) = a visible test line on a pregnancy test that does not indicate pregnancy and happens when the test line becomes more visible or colors slightly as the liquid evaporates.  An evap line is more likely to appear on a test that is scrutinized after the time span the test instructions allow (e.g., the instructions say to read the results after 5 minutes, but the evap line is only visible after 20 minutes).  Unfortunately, both a squinter and an evap line can appear after the allowable test time.
  • Chemical pregnancy = a pregnancy that results in a positive pregnancy test but is miscarried very early, usually around the time of the next expected menstrual period.  Accurate early pregnancy tests have only recently made it possible for chemical pregnancies to be detected.  In the past, almost all chemical pregnancies occurred without a woman's knowledge.  Although they are not unusual, recurrent chemical pregnancies could indicate a medical problem such as a hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency, or luteal phase defect. 
  • Angel baby = most commonly, an embryo that was miscarried very shortly after implantation.  Presumably the term has a religious origin, referring to a soul that was brought into being and then immediately called up to heaven.  This is a term for the fertilized ovum that results from a chemical pregnancy (see above).


General:


  • OP = original poster.  The person who initiated a discussion topic on the message board.  Used as a way to refer to the person who posted the question or topic without knowing his or her name. 
  • PP = previous poster.  A person who posted on the message board before the current poster (often the person who posted most recently).  
  • DH = dear husband.  Refers to the writer's husband.  This is general message board jargon.  The term (and others like it, see DD and DS below) allows posters to use an anonymous placeholder instead of the individual's name while also indicating that person's relationship to the poster.  Some prefer to use initials or nicknames instead of the generic DH.    
  • DD = dear daughter.  See DH above.  Can also be modified to refer to multiple daughters.  In this case, DD1 would refer to the first born daughter, DD2 to the second, etc.
  • DS = dear son.  See DH and DD above.


Miscellaneous:


  • OCs = oral contraceptives.  Methods of pregnancy prevention that involve taking hormone pills by mouth (e.g., The Pill).  Many women on fertility forums have recently stopped using OCs and are now trying to get pregnant. 
  • Baby dust = a blessing and a common valediction or signoff.  Baby dust is the presumed mystical substance that is present in the atmosphere when a woman is able to conceive (conceptually similar to Tinkerbell's pixie dust, which grants magical abilities).  Often accompanied by the adjective "sticky", which indicates that the baby dust in question is particularly potent (e.g. "Wishing you all lots of sticky baby dust this month!").  The term can be applied prior to conception attempts (that is, before ovulation in a given month) or after during the two week wait or just prior to taking a pregnancy test (apparently baby dust's magical properties allow it to defy the natural conception timeline).  Wishing someone baby dust is the fertility forum equivalent of saying "Good luck".  The writer may also wish baby dust upon herself, as long as others are included in the blessing as well. 

There are so many terms out there and they vary from board to board so no one person can know them all.  What popular fertility forum slang am I missing?  Do you have any corrections or updates? Please share a comment below and I will add to my list as needed.   

P.S., This is what I'm doing during my first TWW.  Wishing sticky baby dust to all who read this post (but if you don't want it, feel free to send it someone else's way)!

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