Male and female reproductive systems reflect a very dynamic underlying physiology. Physiology has been described as both the "science of health" and the "science of life." This is troublesome for reproductive physiology since much of what we consider reproduction is not essential for either. Individually, reproductive system problems such as infertility are neither life-threatening nor cause significant physiological dysfunction. While some may argue that infertility is not a disease, any impairment in reproductive function can lead to the extinction of a population or even a species. Female reproductive physiology has therapeutic importance for concerns ranging from adolescent entry into child-bearing years to pregnancy, infertility disorders, and menopause.
The phrase reproductive toxicology refers to the detrimental effect on either parental generation fertility or progeny development. The phrase developmental toxicology refers to the harmful effects on the developing organism from conception to sexual maturation; thus, developmental toxicology can be regarded a subset of reproductive toxicology. The word embryotoxicity refers to the harmful effects on progeny during the first trimester of pregnancy, between conception and the foetal stage, and is thus included in developmental toxicology and, by extension, reproductive toxicology. Finally, teratogenicity is described as structural deformities or disorders in children following embryogenesis and is regarded as a developmental toxicological effect.