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Monday, July 02, 2012
Male Infertility: Causes and Factors

For many couples trying to start a family, trouble with conception can bring a lot of frustration and heartache. When pregnancy doesn’t occur within a reasonable time period, the tendency is for the female partner to get evaluated for infertility. Yet, people often forget that problems with infertility can stem from both partners. Statistics show that in roughly one third of all infertility cases, the cause is related to the male partner. Another one third of all infertility cases involve causes in both partners.  Therefore, when a couple has been trying to get pregnant for at least a year without success, it is important to explore the possibility that male infertility is the underlying cause.


Causes of Male Infertility


Male infertility generally involves the function and motility of a man’s sperm. He may have a low sperm count, or his sperm don’t have high motility (movement) or for some reason cannot fertilize the woman’s egg. Common causes of male infertility are:

Low sperm count – Some men have very low sperm production. This can be due to a variety of reasons that may include:

•    Genetic defects or diseases

•    A history of infections

•    Treatment for some diseases (particularly cancer)

•    Damaged or undescended testicles

•    Over-exposure to certain environmental toxins (chemicals and pesticides)

•    Frequent exposure to high levels of heat (such as hot tubs or saunas)

Poor sperm function – Certain genetic defects or diseases can contribute to poor sperm function, as can diet and lifestyle. A man’s sperm quality can be damaged or diminished by:

•    Poor general health

•    Poor nutrition

•    Overuse of drugs, tobacco or alcohol

Poor sperm delivery – Sometimes men have structural blockages in their testicles, or they encounter problems with ejaculation, all of which can mean the sperm are not delivered to the woman’s egg.

Age – As with women, men become less fertile as they grow older. Men older than 40 years of age are likely to be less fertile than younger men.

Other Factors

Certain medications also may affect a man’s fertility. Additionally, if he has had a testicle removed due to illness, his fertility will be significantly lowered.


Treatments for Male Infertility


Many fertility clinics offer treatments or procedures that can help improve the health and function of a man’s reproductive system. There are generally three approaches to treating male infertility – drug therapy, surgery and assisted reproduction:

Drug therapy – Medications can be prescribed to improve hormone production or sperm production. Certain medications can also help fight antibodies that may be harmful or destructive to a man’s sperm.

Surgery – If there is an obstruction in the man’s reproductive tract, or if he has varicose veins in his scrotum (varicoceles) that are blocking sperm, surgical treatment may be needed.

Assisted Reproduction – Different treatments, such as sperm retrieval or sperm washing, can be used to assist with reproduction. A surgeon can retrieve a man’s sperm with a syringe for artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization. Sperm washing involves combining a man’s sperm with a washing liquid that isolates healthy sperm from materials in the semen which are prohibiting motility. There are also treatments available to improve the mechanics of erectile dysfunction, which can increase sperm delivery and, therefore, fertility for some men.


Go here to learn more about infertility treatments that work!


Monday, June 11, 2012
Infertile? Have You Considered an Egg Donor?

Every year, thousands of babies are born to otherwise infertile women who opted to use donor eggs to conceive a child. 

Using an egg donor may be a good choice if you are a carrier of genetic disease or are 40-something and no longer producing healthy eggs of your own – but are otherwise healthy enough to have a safe pregnancy and birth experience. But is it really the right choice? Read on to find out!


Things to Consider


If you choose to use a donor’s eggs or embryos to get pregnant, you will have a 50 percent chance of carrying to term and giving birth. If you use frozen embryos, the success rate drops down to 30 percent.

It is important to know that approximately 40 percent of pregnancies resulting from this process using donor eggs lead to multiples. If you are considering this option, be prepared for the possibility of giving birth to twins or triplets!

Also keep in mind that low birth weights and birth defects have a higher occurrence rate for women who have undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) and similar high-tech fertility treatments.


How It Works


If you are receiving eggs from a donor, you will have to take medications (usually the hormones Lupron, estrogen and progesterone) and undergo close medical monitoring before and during the entire IVF process.

You can select donor eggs or embryos from an anonymous donor or a friend or family member. You can choose for your partner's sperm or a donor's sperm to be combined with your donor's eggs in a lab dish, which will fertilize her eggs into embryos. Two to four of these embryos will then be implanted into your uterus using a small catheter during the IVF Procedure. You can take a pregnancy test two to three weeks after the embryos have been implanted in your uterus.


Success Rate


Most fertility clinics will not accept you as a candidate for the egg donation procedure if you are over 50, since older women are not as likely to have safe pregnancies. If you rely on your fertility clinic to find your egg donor, you will typically get a medically-screened younger donor – between 21-29 years old. This may be why the success rate for donor-egg IVF cases is generally twice as high as regular IVF in older women who are not using donor eggs.


Pressure on Your Pocket


Undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs or embryos can be very expensive. The cost of an egg donor cycle can typically range from $25,000 - $40,000. This is more expensive than standard IVF using your own eggs.  If you use your own eggs, one cycle of IVF typically ranges from $10,000 - $17,000. IVF coverage is generally not provided by most health insurance carriers, so you should expect to cover the cost yourself.


Thursday, April 26, 2012
A Baby of Your Own: When to Consider Surrogacy

Are you dreaming of becoming a parent, but are now past the prime age for child bearing? You are not alone. Many couples delay parenthood until their mid-30s or later and sometimes face the heartbreak of infertility and the challenge of undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) treatments. Some couples enjoy success after a few fertility treatments, while others aren’t so fortunate.


Infertility Can Happen to Anyone


In their quest to have a baby, celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic underwent several cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments without success. They also endured a painful miscarriage. The television couple, who star in the Style Network’s “Giuliana & Bill,” allowed the cameras to follow them on their sometimes painful journey toward parenthood.


They were embarking on another round of fertility treatments when Giuliana was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although Giuliana’s cancer treatment was successful and she is now cancer-free, she must continue taking medications that would not be healthy for a developing fetus. What next?


How Surrogacy Worked for Them


Despite their obstacles, Giuliana and Bill were still determined to become parents. After considering all their options, they decided to try gestational surrogacy. This form of ART involved using his sperm and her egg to be fertilized into an embryo and implanted into a surrogate’s uterus. Success!  Their child is due in summer 2012. Surrogacy allowed Bill and Giuliana to be the biological parents of the child, but ensured a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.


Finding a Surrogate


There are agencies that can match couples to an appropriate surrogate, if this is the route they choose. Bill and Giuliana used an agency that was recommended by their IVF physician. Couples may choose either traditional surrogacy or gestational surrogacy, as Bill and Giuliana did.


Traditional surrogacy is usually an option for couples when the woman has no eggs or her eggs are unhealthy (i.e. from disease or medical treatment). In this case, the child can be produced by the male partner’s sperm and the surrogate’s egg. The surrogate becomes pregnant after the male partner’s sperm is used to fertilize her egg and produce an embryo that the surrogate will carry and deliver. The baby will be genetically linked to the male partner of the couple, and also to the surrogate. After the baby is born, the surrogate agrees to give up the baby to the couple as the legal parents.


Gestational surrogacy is the more popular form of surrogacy, and typically involves using an egg and a sperm from the couple. With this method, IVF treatment is used to retrieve eggs from the intended mother. In some cases, the intended mother’s eggs were already retrieved and stored from previous IVF treatments. These eggs are fertilized with the intended father’s sperm in the laboratory to produce embryos. Some of these embryos are then implanted into the uterus of a gestational surrogate. The impregnated surrogate carries the baby to term and delivers it, immediately releasing the infant to its biological parents at birth.


In addition to Giuliana and Bill Rancic, other celebrity couples who have opted to use gestational surrogacy include Sarah Jessica Parker and Mathew Broderick. In 2009, a gestational surrogate successfully delivered their biological twin daughters, Marion and Tabitha.


To learn more about surrogacy, or to find a fertility specialist near you, click here!


Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Baby on the Way! Surrogacy Works for Giuliana and Bill Rancic

Infertility problems have caused a lot of heartbreak for television personalities Giuliana and Bill Rancic. After suffering through several failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments and a miscarriage, the celebrity couple is now expecting their first child together…via a gestational surrogate. What does that mean? The baby, due in late summer 2012, will be Bill and Giuliana’s genetic child. However, it is being carried to term by a surrogate mother to ensure a safe pregnancy and healthy baby.


The Rancics, who are currently starring in "Giuliana & Bill," their own reality show on the Style Network, have grappled with other health challenges as well. Giuliana was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, as she was undergoing another round of fertility treatments. Giuliana’s health scare, and her cancer treatment, sidelined their plans to get pregnant.


Bill and Giuliana explored other options for starting a family, including adoption. Bill explained that they chose to move forward with the surrogacy option as their “last stop,” and it worked! They found their gestational surrogate through an agency that was referred to them by their IVF doctor. The couple is thrilled to share their baby news after a rough journey to parenthood saying, “… if we can help others by sharing our story, then it's worth it."


Thursday, March 29, 2012
Female Fertility: Finding the Right Treatment

Are you trying to get pregnant and worried you may be infertile? If you answered “yes,” you are among the hundreds of women in America who are concerned about infertility and conceiving a child. Women facing fertility problems today have many more options for treatment than in the past. From fertility drugs to acupuncture, there are many choices. It can be a challenge to make the choice that is right for you. To help you find the right approach for you, we offer a brief overview of some fertility treatments available.


Some Fertility Treatment Options:


Fertility medications

Fertility drugs are used to regulate your reproductive hormones over a period of three to six months. The success rate ranges from 20 to 60 percent, and the drugs can increase your likelihood of having twins or multiples. There are also some associated side effects (hot flashes, cramping, bloating, etc.)



Surgery

If you have any blockages in your fallopian tubes, scar tissue, ovarian cysts or other issues that may be preventing conception, surgery can help fix those problems.  The success rate ranges from 40 to 60 percent for endometriosis or scar tissue treatments. The success rate for fallopian tube clearance treatments ranges from 10 to 90 percent.



In vitro fertilization (IVF)

IVF is generally used with fertility drugs that stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. These eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and placed together with sperm in a specially-prepared test tube until fertilization takes place. One to three embryos will be placed in the uterus after fertilization. The success rate for IVF ranges widely, from six to roughly 30 percent, depending upon the age of the woman receiving treatment. Women under age 35 have the best chances of conceiving with IVF or another assisted reproduction technology (ART) such as gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) or zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT).



Artificial insemination

Also known as intrauterine insemination (IUI), this procedure involves placing sperm directly into the uterus. This treatment is often used where there is a problem with cervical mucus or male infertility. Though lower cost than some of the other options, the success rate for IUI ranges from four to roughly 17 percent – not very high.



Other fertility treatment options to consider include alternative medicine modalities such as acupuncture and herbs, egg freezing and egg or embryo donation, sperm injection (ICSI) and surrogacy or gestational carriers.


Click here to find a fertility specialist and explore your options for fertility treatments.



Sources:

http://www.hfea.gov.uk/fertility.html

http://infertility.about.com/od/infertilitytreatments/a/basictreatments.htm


Wednesday, March 07, 2012
Natural Remedies for Fertility: How They Can Help

If you have been struggling to get pregnant, you might want to consider incorporating natural remedies like acupuncture or herbal medicine into your fertility treatment plan. There is evidence that these alternative approaches can help you conceive, particularly when used in combination with traditional fertility treatments.


Exactly how do these natural modalities help to improve conception when nothing else has worked? Acupuncture and herbs can encourage healthier function of the ovaries and entire reproductive system, including improved blood flow to the uterus. Acupuncture has been used to correct hormonal imbalances, reduce stress, strengthen the immune system, and even reduce some of the side effects caused by fertility drugs or treatments. Overall, these approaches help support balance and flow in the body’s systems – a balance that is necessary to facilitate good reproduction.


The ABC’s of Acupuncture and Fertility


If you decide to undergo acupuncture and herbal medicine in combination with other fertility treatments, you will most likely receive treatment for a few months before you begin the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor-egg transfer or other fertility method. Your fertility specialists will work with you to coordinate the timing of all your therapies for optimum effect.


Generally, you would receive acupuncture before insemination or embryo transfer. Some fertility specialists advise a woman undergo only 8-10 acupuncture sessions before initiating fertility treatment, while others feel these sessions can continue until a woman reaches her twelfth week of pregnancy. It is important to discuss with your specialists any potential risk for miscarriage through each stage of treatment.  Every individual has different medical needs, so you should work closely with all specialists on the team to tailor a fertility plan that is best for you.


Where Do Herbs Fit in?


Herbal remedies that are derived from a variety of plants and plant extracts can be prepared into special formulas that are tailored to suit your individual needs. Some of the herbs that are typically used to support fertility are Lady’s Mantle, Red Clover, Raspberry Leaf, Ginseng and Stinging Nettle, among others. These can be administered in the form of a pill, powder or tea. Remember that herbal remedies are a form of medicine, so you will need to ask your doctor about any potential risks and side-effects, or interactions with other medications you are taking.


When taken correctly, herbs can be beneficial to both men and women who are seeking to improve their chances for conception. Herbs may be prescribed by the licensed naturopathic doctor or acupuncturist on your team to help overcome fertility issues such as:



  • Poor egg quality

  • Sperm quality and motility

  • Hormonal imbalance

  • Uterine or ovarian health


Clinical reports that offer evidence for why herbs and acupuncture may help with fertility issues exist but are still few in number. There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence that the use of herbs and acupuncture are helping many people to conceive, and these remedies are gaining popularity as a complementary treatment to more traditional fertility treatments. In some cases, women have gotten pregnant during the first months of therapy with herbal medicine and acupuncture, before beginning a program of traditional fertility treatment.


Click here to find a fertility clinic near you, and to learn more about incorporating acupuncture or herbal remedies into your treatment plan.


Thursday, February 02, 2012
In Vitro Fertilization: What Contributes to Your Success

Many couples who find it difficult to conceive a child are resorting to fertility treatments, known as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). One of the most popular forms of ART is in vitro fertilization, or IVF. This method allows a couple to utilize the eggs of the woman and the sperm of the man, but carries out the fertilization process outside of the woman’s body – in vitro – in a glass laboratory dish. Once the woman’s egg has been fertilized with the man’s sperm via IVF, it is implanted in the woman's uterus.

While IVF is very popular, successful outcomes are not guaranteed. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which publishes an annual “ART Success Rate Report,” there are several factors that contribute to your success rate with in vitro fertilization. The general health of a woman and her partner will play major roles in their success with IVF, as will genetic factors. Additionally, a couple’s willingness to commit time, effort, money and emotional energy to ongoing or repeated treatment cycles will play a role. Here are some other factors that may contribute to your success with in vitro fertilization:



  • For the greatest in vitro success, age matters. Scientific data shows that women who undergo IVF treatments at a younger age have a greater chance of success. If you are aged 21-35 when you seek IVF treatment, you will have the greatest chance for getting pregnant and giving birth successfully.



  • Successful IVF relies on a woman’s response to fertility drugs. A woman’s body can be prepared for the IVF process with fertility drugs that help stimulate her ovaries. A woman must be monitored closely while she is taking the fertility drugs, and everyone responds to them differently.



  • The quality of your eggs and his sperm is paramount. For IVF to be successful, the woman has to produce several mature eggs, and the man’s sperm must have good motility and the ability to penetrate the egg.



  • The quality of your fertility clinic is important. According to the CDC, the experience and training of your fertility clinic staff and the services they provide can factor into your success. When choosing a clinic, find out which treatments they specialize in, and if they are experienced in helping patients who have your specific medical situation. You will also want to choose a clinic that has good rapport with patients and offers supportive counseling.



  • Your partner may need to consult with his doctor to rule out the possibility that he has male infertility stemming from other health issues. It is important to remember that the male partner’s health is not always fully examined when a couple is exploring the underlying causes of infertility. In fact, it is estimated that nearly thirty-five percent of all cases of infertility experienced by couples during their first attempt to get pregnant result from male infertility.


To find a fertility clinic in your area click here.


Sources:


http://www.cdc.gov/ART/index.htm


http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/index.htm


Thursday, November 10, 2011
Getting Pregnant After Tubal Ligation

If you've changed your mind after having your tubes tied and want to conceive, you're likely deciding between a tubal reversal procedure vs. IVF treatments.  But which option is best for you?


Tubal Reversal


A tubal reversal is a surgical procedure where the where the blockage in the tubes is removed and a doctor reconnects the severed tubes.  A tubal reversal gives patients about a 70 percent overall chance of getting pregnant--about twice as high as IVF treatments. However, if the tubes were cut too short, a reversal may not be possible. If tubal reversal is successful, a woman can get pregnant as many times as she’s naturally able and not have to rely on drugs and regular procedures like IVF.


IVF


If a women does not want to undergo surgery, she may opt for IVF treatments. The best candidate for IVF after tubal ligation would be a women who is producing healthy eggs and doesn’t have fallopian tubes damaged by scar tissue. Woman older than 38 who want to get pregnant may opt for IVF since tubal reversal is not always effective in older women when it comes to conceiving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an in vitro fertilization treatment after tubal ligation gives women about a 35 percent chance of getting pregnant. IFV is more expensive than tubal reversal, and if more than one attempt is needed, costs can really add up.

If you want to conceive again or for the first time but have had your tubes tied, consult with a fertility specialist in your area to see which option is right for you.


Thursday, November 10, 2011
Getting Pregnant After Tubal Ligation

If you've changed your mind after having your tubes tied and want to conceive, you're likely deciding between a tubal reversal procedure vs. IVF treatments.  But which option is best for you?


Tubal Reversal


A tubal reversal is a surgical procedure where the where the blockage in the tubes is removed and a doctor reconnects the severed tubes.  A tubal reversal gives patients about a 70 percent overall chance of getting pregnant--about twice as high as IVF treatments. However, if the tubes were cut too short, a reversal may not be possible. If tubal reversal is successful, a woman can get pregnant as many times as she’s naturally able and not have to rely on drugs and regular procedures like IVF.


IVF


If a women does not want to undergo surgery, she may opt for IVF treatments. The best candidate for IVF after tubal ligation would be a women who is producing healthy eggs and doesn’t have fallopian tubes damaged by scar tissue. Woman older than 38 who want to get pregnant may opt for IVF since tubal reversal is not always effective in older women when it comes to conceiving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an in vitro fertilization treatment after tubal ligation gives women about a 35 percent chance of getting pregnant. IFV is more expensive than tubal reversal, and if more than one attempt is needed, costs can really add up.


If you want to conceive again or for the first time but have had your tubes tied, consult with a fertility specialist in your area to find out which option is right for you.


Friday, October 21, 2011
Is There a Link Between IVF and Cancer? Doctors Say No.

E!'s Guiliana Rancic revealed on Monday that "through [her] attempt to get pregnant for the third time through IVF, [she] found out that [she] has early stages of breast cancer." She is just 36-years-old. She revealed the personal news to Ann Curry of the TODAY show.

It was her fertility specialist that recommended she get a mammogram, and it was through the breast screening that the cancer was discovered. Her doctor told her that he would not begin the cycle of IVF "if possibly there's a small chance that you have cancer because the hormones will accelerate the cancer," according to Rancic.

The news has drawn concern that there was some kind of connection between IVF and breast cancer. Two days later, Dr. Nancy Snyderman of the TODAY show told Curry that there is not a connection. "There's no known cause and effect," she said regarding the hormones used in IVF and birth control pills. "What we do know is that women who are older usually ask for IVF because they're having a harder time getting pregnant—and women who are older have a higher chance of getting breast cancer, so there is an age relation, but not a hormonal relation."


 


 


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