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July 2009 Blog Archive

Friday, July 31, 2009
Infertility in the Workplace

Employers are becoming more aware that employees may be dealing with infertility issues. A woman who needs to leave early for fertility treatments or take time off for a fertility procedure are not faced with the same stigma as in years past. Infertility is a topic widely discussed in the media and in legislation. Discrimination laws and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act allow women more freedom to engage in infertility treatments without fear of harsh repercussions from employers.

"Many [employers] realize family life is important to employees and accommodate the treatment. And infertility is less of a workplace taboo these days; most bosses know someone who has been affected" reports the Wall Street Journal.

Employees planning to miss work for infertility treatments should inform their employer in advance so arrangements can be made. Most employers view infertility as a medical condition and can usually give the same accommodations as for those dealing with other medical conditions.

Thursday, July 30, 2009
Genetic Abnormality Screening

In a perfect world, genetic disorders would not exist. However, these abnormalities do exist and can often by transferred to children. To combat this from happening, preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) is used to genetically screen embryos for chromosomal abnormalities and remove those traits prior to uterine implantation. A new screening technique called Karyomapping may prove to be more efficient than PGD in screening for a larger variety of gene defects and chromosomal abnormalities.

Singularity Hub discussed some of the advantages to this new procedure. "Karyomapping can identify any one of the 15,000 genetic conditions we know of, and it can currently take as little as 3 days. The technique currently costs the same as traditional PGD (a few thousand dollars), but the price will likely drop soon, bringing it within reach for more and more families."

The long term effects of screening techniques such as Karyomapping or PGD have yet to be determined. It is possible that such screening may remove certain genetic traits from existence, such as Down Syndrome or even cancer. However, the ethical debate still exists on the extend that society should allow technology to alter natural conception.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Sleep Deprivation and Fertility

If you are dealing with the issue of infertility, don't lose sleep over it… literally. Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can decrease a person's natural fertility. A proper 8 hours of sleep a night helps maintain proper hormone levels in the body. The hormone leptin plays a larger role in fertility, and a lack of sleep triggers your endocrine system to decrease the leptin levels.

"Because the endocrine system controls all of the hormones in your body, women are adversely impacted when it fails to produce the necessary hormones such as leptin, which is required for regulating your appetite and weight. If you are not sleeping adequately, your leptin levels will tend to decrease, which may cause irregular ovulation; as well as, irregular or decreased menstrual cycles" reports the Examiner.

Women and men are suggested to get a full 8 hours of sleep every night in order to ensure proper endocrine system functioning. This will increase overall health, stress level, and should regulate your ovulation cycles.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Changing Views on Age

The public scrutiny of the "octamom" has put pressure for new regulations to restrict fertility clinics. One regulation under review is for the age of potential ART (assisted reproductive technology) patients. However, not all believe that giving fertility treatments to older women should be viewed as a negative. Women are remaining healthier longer due to changes in lifestyle, technology, and awareness.

"The 40- and 45-year-old of today is not the 40-year-old of the past. They're eating healthy, they are barely halfway through their life. It would be hard to say you shouldn't have a baby" says one physician to Mom Logic.

Although women are still healthier in their 40s than ever before, pregnancy still takes a toll on the body. Technology may allow for pregnancy later in life, but the human body is still limited on a natural level. These issues are all being addressed when creating new regulations for infertility treatments.

Monday, July 27, 2009
Paying for Donations

There is currently a cap on the amount of money an egg or sperm donor can receive in Britain. As a result, there has become an egg shortage in the UK leading many women to travel abroad to receive fertility treatments. The chairman of the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority is questioning the current policy and is calling for an increase in monetary reimbursement.

The concern is to keep women in the UK to address their fertility issues, where officials know safety regulations are in place. "My agenda is to try and keep assisted reproduction within our regulated area, not because I'm bossy, but out of concern for patient welfare" says the chairman to BBC News.

Another society chairman was quoted as saying the current price is an "insult to the time, effort, risk and long term implications donors take." The debate also calls for a larger reimbursement for egg donation, since the physical demands are much higher than that for sperm donation. The topic is currently under discussion and new policies may be drafted soon to help increase the supply for eggs and sperm.

Friday, July 24, 2009
Surrogacy Story

Couples unable to conceive a child are sometimes left with little options after fertility procedures continually fail. For those who refuse to give up on having a child, one option that is readily available is surrogacy. The most popular type of surrogacy is gestational, where a fertilized embryo from the couple is implanted in a surrogate.

One surrogacy success story belongs to the Tamen family, who tried several rounds of IVF without success and decided to use a surrogate. After their surrogate had been impregnated, the couple realized that they too were pregnant. The Tamens now have 2 sons that they described to the New York Times as "being raised as twins cooked in different ovens."

The couple keeps in touch with their previous surrogate and the boys refer to her as their "Aunt." However, not all relationships like these continue past the day of delivery. Babies born to couples by a surrogate are released to the new parents immediately after birth. It is suggested that both parties have separate legal counsel prior to the surrogacy in order to ensure a smooth transition of money and the child.

Thursday, July 23, 2009
Shedding the Light on Infertility

It has been hypothesized that the sun controls almost every aspect of life. In many ways this is true, but does the sun have control over fertility as well? Dr. Abraham Mayerson of Boston State Hospital believes so. He is studying the relationship between infertility and a lack of ultraviolet light.

According to the Examiner, he found that an increase in ultraviolet light led to a 120 percent increase in male hormone levels. Men were found to have higher testosterone levels in the summer as well when the sunlight and ultraviolet light are strongest. Dr. Mayerson researched recent birth trends, historical data, and observed animal behavior to draw his conclusions about sunlight and fertility.

Other doctors also see a relationship between ultraviolet light and fertility. According to the Examiner, doctors in Boston often prescribe light therapy to couples dealing with infertility. Couples using the therapy have been shown to have a higher rate of conception, so they report. Perhaps it may help those dealing with infertility to spend some extra time in the sun this summer.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009
A Beating Heart

A recent study may help determine the likelihood that a mother will miscarry. Researchers examined embryo heart rates and the direct relationship to miscarriages. Slow embryo heart rates have always been a sign of concern for mothers. Now scientists are getting closer to distinguishing the boundary between healthy and dangerous heartbeat counts as it relates to pregnancy.

The study leaders told Reuters, "This study was carried out to see if embryonic heart rate could be an added marker for potential viability...or, conversely, for potential miscarriage." In the study group, slower embryonic heart rates were seen to directly relate to higher rate of miscarriage.

Fetal heart rate above 130 beats per minute had a 92% chance of successfully being carried to full term. As the number of beats per minute increased, so did the success rate for a full-term pregnancy. Women undergoing fertility treatments, such as IVF, should be aware of this relationship and closely monitor fetal heart rate as a signal of success or failure of the procedure.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Reproductive Tourism

A new study conducted by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology has found that the Czech Republic is the most popular country for women looking to undergo ART (assisted reproductive technology) procedures. They have termed this as "reproductive tourism" and found that over 20,000 women travel across the globe each year for fertility procedures.

"The country boasts with very good results in the sphere; high-quality treatment is accessible and cheaper compared to other EU countries" says the study leader to a Czech new source.

Women choose the Czech Republic for a variety of reasons. Czech law is more lenient than other European countries in regards to fertility, leading to cheaper procedures and a larger number of available clinics. Also, Czech law also allows for egg donation where many other countries do not. Women looking to undergo these procedures travel outside their own country to conceive and then return home give birth. Reproductive tourism is a growing trend, causing many societies to take notice of the increased demand for these ART procedures.

Monday, July 20, 2009
Lifestyle Changes for Women

Women attempting to get pregnant have a variety of natural resources available to them to help increase fertility. A simple lifestyle change may be the causal factor leading to a successful pregnancy. The Examiner helps define some natural lifestyle changes suggested for women actively seeking pregnancy.

The first suggestion is to limit the caffeine and alcohol intake. Both these factors decrease fertility in men and women. Women are also told to stop smoking, as this decreases fertility and can possibly damage your chances of carrying a baby to full term. Watching one's diet is also very important. Vitamin E helps boost the body's natural fertility systems as well as herbal supplements. Women are also warned to look at the labels on their prescriptions. Many women do not realize that current prescriptions may hinder their ability to conceive.

As a behavioral change, women should decrease their stress level as well. Acupuncture, yoga, and exercise are all activities that may help. If these natural changes do not increase fertility after a year, women are suggested to visit a physician for more information on alternative procedures.

Friday, July 17, 2009
How Old Is Too Old?

As mentioned in my previous blog, the oldest living mother to undergo IVF died two years after giving birth at age 67. The age limit for a woman to undergo IVF is around 50 at most clinics, but is that age even too old? The medical community is in disagreement over this issue as more women are waiting until they are older to get pregnant.

"Women are waiting longer on average to begin having children in the last 20-30 years due to careers, education and other opportunities not traditionally available to women. As a result, more women are finding that natural conception has become increasingly difficult" reports the Examiner.

Women over 30 begin to experience a natural decline in their own fertility. When attempting natural conception at later ages, women experience difficulties and often turn to alternative forms of fertility treatments. Although pregnancy at 67 is a rarity, many researchers are concerned about society's trend to rely on science to conceive. Women putting off a family until later years are putting themselves at risk of not being able to conceive at all. Just as their fertility decreases, the success rate of IVF also decreases with age. These are important factors for women to consider when planning for a future family.

Thursday, July 16, 2009
Oldest Mom Dies

The oldest recorded mom to give birth after being artificially inseminated by IVF at 67 died this week, being survived by twin boys. These boys never had a chance to know their mother and are left to be cared for by distant relatives.

Sky News reported, "she had hormone therapy to 'rejuvenate' her uterus as she had gone through the menopause 18 years earlier. The arrival of her healthy babies made her the oldest woman known to have given birth."

The women lied about her age and told the Los Angeles clinic she was 55, which is the maximum age limit for single potential IVF candidates. She gave birth in late 2006 to her twins, only to die two years later of cancer. She used both donor eggs and sperm for her insemination. There is much controversy surrounding her death in regards to age limits for ART (assisted reproductive technology) procedures. Medical professionals are also re-examining the responsibility of fertility clinics to properly scan candidates.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
New Fertility Advancements for Cancer Patients

Persons about to undergo cancer treatments are often faced with difficult choices, one of which being their fertility. Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, take a harsh toll on the body and can often limit a person's reproductive ability. However, a new breakthrough may give hope to those dealing with cancer. A new study has shown hopeful prospects in being able to grow an unfertilized egg outside the body for preservation.

"By being able to take an immature ovarian follicle and grow it to produce a good quality egg, we're closer to that holy grail, which is to get an egg directly from ovarian tissue that can be fertilized for a cancer patient" stated the study director at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The hope of the study is to find a way to freeze unfertilized eggs from cancer patients to then thaw and fertilize at a later date. Today, freezing of fertilized embryos has the highest success rate. However, not all women know who they would like to have as their sperm partner prior to undergoing cancer treatment. This study is still in the early stages and they have yet to be able to mature the egg to a point where it could be fertilized, but they are getting closer

Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Alternative Fertility Treatments

As an alternative to traditional fertility treatments, clinics are offering a larger range of complimentary treatments ranging from yoga to spiritual guidance. These treatments help enhance traditional procedures and help individuals better cope with the stress involved with infertility.

"These holistic methods enhance medical treatment, improve reproductive function and create an overall better state of mind and health" explains Dr. Laurence Jacobs to Personal Liberty News.

The benefit to these alternative treatments is that they are relatively inexpensive in comparison to surgical procedures such as IVF. Nutritional counseling is also popular in fertility clinics for male infertility to boost sperm motility and count. Couples dealing with infertility should consider these alternative treatments as a viable option in conjunction to traditional procedures.

Monday, July 13, 2009
Increase Male Fertility

Male infertility is becoming a much more publicized as research continues on the subject. There are many treatment options available for men dealing with infertility once they have been diagnosed. The Examiner has also listed a few daily lifestyle changes that can be made which may help boost a man's fertility.

Men should avoid using lubrication during sex, as this may hinder sperm motility. If a lubricant is needed, the Examiner suggests a small amount of vegetable oil. Men should also limit their amount of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, including soda and coffee. Quitting smoking is also helpful in order to decrease the number of abnormal sperm produced. Having sex often has also been found to help increase male fertility. Regular ejaculations help increase sperm health and sperm count. Lastly, men should watch their diets and take extra nutritional supplements to boost their immune system.

Overall, a healthy man will have a higher probability of producing healthy sperm. Men need to take care of their body if they want to help their partner conceive. The responsibility of fertility no longer falls completely on the women, and men should actively be aware of how small lifestyle changes could play a part in conception.

Sunday, July 12, 2009
Diet and Male Fertility

New research from Spain shows that men who eat a healthier diet may also have healthier sperm. The men in the study who had diets high in carbohydrates, fiber, folate, and vitamin C were found to have a higher sperm count and greater sperm mobility.

"A healthy, well-balanced diet is not just important for preventing diseases like diabetes, high cholesterol, or hypertension, but it may be useful for preserving or improving your reproductive health too" stated Dr. Mendiola on Canada.com.

Eating right is important to whole body health. These new studies may give men the extra boost to eat fruits and vegetables to ensure maximum sperm health.

Sunday, July 12, 2009
Creating Sperm Cells from Stem Cells

Stem cell research is advancing year by year and has now been tested as a possible cure for infertility. A new study is being conducted to determine if human sperm can be created from stem cells. At this point, men who are found to be infertile are left with limited options. If human sperm can be genetically created from stem cells, men would be able to pass on their DNA to their offspring even without their own viable sperm.

A reporter from ABC News stated, " right now his research offers a proof of principle -- that it is possible to create sperm cells, even if they are not fully viable yet, using his technique. And it is the process of how sperm forms, not the sperm themselves, that can show how a variety of factors may contribute to infertility."

There are ethic questions that arise from stem cell research as well. In theory, DNA from any individual could be used to create a baby and researchers worry that couples could easily make babies that are "half Brad Pitt or Elizabeth Taylor". The sperm created thus far is not viable, and there will be many years before a trial could even be possible on a human.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009
Feng Shui and Fertility

Couples hoping to conceive often change their lifestyles in order to attain fertility. Couples with infertility issues often look to western medicine for procedures, such as in vitro fertilization. However, there are also aspects of eastern medicine that may be utilized as well. The Examiner.com examined different aspects of feng shui that may help couples enhance fertility.

Statues of dragons are suggested to be placed near a man's bedside to increase virility and fertility. Pictures of elephants and pictures of babies are also additions to the décor that may cure fertility issues. The Examiner.com also suggest keeping plants in your bedroom to invite life, allowing more sunshine in your home, and keeping your doorways clear of clutter.

Feng shui is used to create a positive environment for couples and to dispel negativity, which may hinder fertility attempts. Although these feng shui ideas are not scientifically tested, they are believed by many to hold powers over the human body and mind.

Monday, July 06, 2009
Hormone Deficiency Linked to Infertility

A hormone deficiency called congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) has been linked to infertility in both men and women. This condition is easily treated, but has been misdiagnosed for years by doctors nationwide. CAH results in an excess production of androgens, which interferes with ovulation and sperm count. Many women have undergone expensive fertility treatments to discover later that a hormone deficiency was the cause of their reproductive problems.

The New York Times reports that "not all fertility centers test for the disease, or they test for it only after they have tried other treatments. Some obstetricians are unaware of the disease and its effect on fertility."

CAH can also lead to shortness of stature, premature body hair growth, irregular menstruation, and acne. These symptoms have been wrongly attributed to premature puberty in many young girls, only to be corrected later. Once properly diagnosed, CAH is treatable and fertility may be restored.
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Genetic Testing for Fertility

A new study is being conducted in the UK to determine if there is a genetic "fingerprint" found in blood to determine fertility. If true, this test would tell women their likelihood of becoming pregnant with procedures such as IVF.

"There does seem to be a particular signature that goes with early human pregnancy. We're talking about a unique profile that has the potential to be used in future to predict IVF success or failure" stated study leader Dr. Cathy Allen.

IVF is not only expensive for women dealing with infertility, but can also be emotionally and physically damaging. Results of this new test may help women decide if using IVF will be worth the money, time, and stress.

Thursday, July 02, 2009
Increase Sex, Increase Fertility

A new study is being conducted in Australia to determine if having sex daily will help couples become more fertile. Yes, it seems intuitive that more sex will lead to a higher chance of pregnancy. But studies show that daily sex also helps reduce sperm damage.

According to an article by the examiner.com, "the longer sperm stays inside the testicles, the more likely it is to suffer from reactive oxygen species, DNA's number one enemy. By ejaculating daily, theoretically sperm should be healthier and more able to achieve conception."

Sperm that is healthy will have lower DNA problems and higher mobility. Couples should still monitor ovulation cycles, but this study may help couples prepare during the week prior to ovulation to increase the chance of conception.

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