Tuesday, October 5, 2010

IVF Inventor Wins the Nobel Prize

In 1978, the first in-vitro fertilization baby - Louise Brown - was born to a couple that had been trying to conceive for nine years and had thought it would never happen due to blocked fallopian tubes. Thirty two years later, over 4 million couples have used IVF to successfully conceive and become parents. And finally, this year British biologist Robert G. Edwards - pioneer of IVF - is being recognized with the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine.

Professor Edwards spent 20 years determining how human eggs matured and which hormones regulated maturation.  He discovered when human eggs could be fertilized and when they could be transfered back to the uterus. He and gynecologist Patrick Steptoe preformed the first IVF procedure on Lesley and John Brown. IVF had been tried on people before, but never before resulted in a successful pregnancy. But because of the work of Robert Edwards, Lesley and John Brown were able to become pregnant and parent a child.  They and all the subsequent IVF parents have Edwards to thank for their babies...its about time he was recognized for this stupendous achievement!

So, from me and everyone else in the TTC community... Congratulations, Professor Edwards!

Read more about Robert Edwards and the nobel prize on the Seattle Times Website.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pregnancy Test Information

If you're trying to get pregnant, the first thing you need to do is get all the information on pregnancy tests.

The most affordable way to test for pregnancy is to preform a home pregnancy tests. These test strips detect levels of hormones in your urine that build up as the pregnancy develops. They are highly accurate, very affordable, and available online and in drugstores and markets in two different forms.

Types of Pregnancy Tests
The first form involves collecting urine in a cup, and dipping the test strip in the urine. You can buy pregnancy home test strips here for as low as $0.50 each!

The second form is called "midstream" tests. They are a little more expensive, but allow you to test your urine without bothering to collect it in a cup.  This is what trying-to-conceive women often call POAS - or Pee On A Stick... Buy midstream pregnancy tests here for as low as $1.80 each.

When to Test
No matter which test format you decide to go with, you can start testing as soon as 6-8 days after conception, though tests become more accurate, the more time has passed.  Other brands of tests may be less accurate than the ones linked to here.

If You Test Positive
You need to speak with your doctor right away. Your doctor can take blood based pregnancy tests to confirm the result. Early care from your doctor will help keep you and your baby healthy.

If You Test Negative
You may still be pregnant. The hormone that home pregnancy tests detect builds steadily as the pregnancy continues. Test again in a few days or a week, if you still haven't had a period.

Information on how to use pregnancy test can be found here: http://www.early-pregnancy-tests.com/inpregtesstr.html

I hope this answered some of your questions... Good luck testing for pregnancy!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Home Birth vs Hospital Birth

"Should most births be viewed as a natural life process, or should every delivery be treated as a potentially catastrophic medical emergency?"

This is the question asked by the film The Business of Being Born.  This documentary followed the stories of women giving births in different settings, and explored the controversial issue of who women should turn to when a baby is on the way. 

If you're new to the subject, here's a quick background. Back in the day, doctors or midwives would come to the mother-to-be's home and assist with the birth from there. Giving birth at home has titanically declined in the 20th century.  According to the wikipedia page for Home Births,  50% of births in the US were home births in 1938.  Today, that number is down to less than 1%.  In Japan, home births accounted for 95% of births in 1950, but only 1.2% in 1975. (That's quite a change, in just 25 years! It's a wonder hospitals were able to adapt!)  Now, its common practice to go to the hospital to give birth - most insurance companies only cover hospitalized births - and telling your friends and relatives you're planning on having your baby at home might even get a few raised eyebrows. 

But there is a growing trend of women choosing to go the home birth route.  This tends to be a very polarizing subject - many people on one side saying doctors know best, and as many on the other side saying doctors are in it for the money, not the patients. If you're feeling ambitions, scan through some of the comments on this CNN blog post for a glimpse at different people's opinions. Reviews of the hospital experience vary from glowing to horrific. 

While it is agreed in both camps that women should receive thorough prenatal care and give birth in a hospital if there is any risk of complications, thats about where the agreement ends. Pro home-birthers say hospitals provide, at best, an uncomfortable, unpersonalized experience where the nurses and doctors try to get you in and out ASAP, at worst a restrictive, germ-filled places where nurses try to push you into procedures you don't want. On the other hand, one pro hospital woman claimed that unexpected post-birth complications could have killed her if she wasn't in hospital, and plenty of others say their hospital experience was easy, relaxed, and just fine. 

So assuming you're on the road to a normal delivery without foreseeable complications, what factors should you take into account before making a decision on where to give birth? Ask yourself the following questions - they might provide that extra guidance that you need!

First off, where are you most comfortable? 
Would you rather have the familiarity of home and the company of family or the reassurance of having that medical safety net there for you, just in case? Labor is a long process and it is important no matter where you choose to be that you feel comfortable and confident throughout. 

Can you find a doctor/midwife that you feel confident about?
Try interviewing a few different healthcare professionals before you make your decision. It will help you get a feel for how much personal attention each person is able to give you throughout the prenatal and delivery process.

How much can you afford?
When interviewing your doctors and midwives, ask for estimates of the cost of home birth or hospital birth. Call your insurance company and ask how much of hospital delivery they will cover, and if they cover home delivery too. You may find one option to be much more affordable than the other!

How far away is the nearest hospital?
If you're considering home birth and live in an isolated area, consider how much time it would take to get to a hospital in case something unexpected comes up during delivery. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Egg Donation - Dangerous and Unregulated

In the world of trying-to-conceive there are plenty of discussions about how to promote the health of developing babies, even if they're conceived through IVF. But if the eggs for IVF are coming from a donor, the mother-to-be and fetus might not be the people at the greatest risk in this situation. 

A new documentary, Eggsploitation, interviews three women who have nearly died because they decided to be egg donors. Egg "donation" is a booming market. Donors are offered thousands of dollars for their eggs - in 2008 it was a $38 million dollar industry.  But when young women agree to sell their eggs, enticed by altruism or cash incentives, they are uninformed and poorly screened.  Donors are treated like a supply source - mined for resources then forgotten - not like patients who have undergone extreme medical procedures, and not nearly enough research has been done for this business to be as widespread as it is.

Case in point, the drugs that egg donors inject are not FDA approved to be used as ovarian hyper-stimulants.  According to this article about the documentary :
"In clinical studies using Pergonal for ovarian hyperstimulation, 2.4-5.5 percent of women developed complications," noted Dr. de Solenni in her testimony. "Similarly, the FDA's data on Lupron, another drug used for ovarian hyperstimulation, records a death rate of .5 percent."
"Complications", huh?  

Calla Papademas, one of the women interviewed in Eggsploitation, suffered "complications".  She was offered over $50,000 for her eggs and so began the procedure in great health, hoping to make some easy money.  In the end, she had brush with death, was in a coma for several days, had a stroke, suffered brain damage and permanent pituitary failure.  The egg collection facility gave her $750 for an uncompleted donation and denied all responsibility. Because she did not complete the donation cycle she is not considered an "egg donor" and so her health problems are not reported with the risks of egg donation.  

Hear her story from her own mouth:

This is seriously messed up. Its appalling that the government has not stepped in to regulate this multi billion dollar industry. If you're considering getting egg donations, ask yourself if its worth putting a young woman's life at risk before you go through with it... 

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Pregnancy Misconceptions

Women out there seem to have a lot of misconceptions about their own bodies and the process of pregnancy.  I read around different blogs and articles and see especially a lot of concerns about bleeding during pregnancy, and people wondering if they could have gotten pregnant sometime before their last period.

Well I found a really thorough answer on this blog that I wanted to share. The question was:

"When is it normal to bleed during pregnancy?
When and how much are you suppose to bleed during pregnancy? I know some women bleed at the beginning. I might have had two periods, but I guess I could mistake them for bleeding. I don’t think I am pregnant, but it is possible."

And the best answer was given by contributor "Juzz":

"If you are pregnant, you have probably heard about other women who have their periods during pregnancy. This story seems to cycle throughout the generations and is almost an urban legend now. Everyone seems to know someone who has a friend who got their period during their pregnancy!

Many women can experience episodes of bleeding and spotting during pregnancy. Bleeding is especially common in the first trimester and about 30% of pregnant women experience bleeding during this time. Although fewer women bleed during the second and third trimesters, spotting is still possible and not all that uncommon. However, though this bleeding may resemble menstruation, it actually is something different altogether.
Why You Can’t Get Your Period During Pregnancy
Your period is caused by your menstrual cycle. During this cycle, your body releases hormones, which send signals to your reproductive organs to perform certain actions. An increase in your hormones causes your ovaries to release an egg that travels from your ovaries through your fallopian tubes. Meanwhile, a protective layer of blood and tissue thickens along the walls of your uterus. If this egg is not fertilized, your hormone levels will drop, signaling to your body that it is time to shed the lining that built up in your uterus. This is what causes your period.
During pregnancy, your body is completely focused on providing for your baby. Your brain sends signals to your ovaries to stop the menstrual cycle in order to give your baby the proper environment to grow. As a result, instead of dropping, your hormone levels will continue to rise for the next nine months. This helps your uterus prepare for the growth and nourishment of your baby.
If your body continued to have regular menstrual periods while you were pregnant, it would be shedding the uterine lining that helps nourish your baby every month. Biologically speaking, this wouldn’t make much sense. Therefore, the spotting or bleeding during pregnancy many women experience is caused by something other than their period.
Decidual Bleeding
One of the most common causes of period-like bleeding during pregnancy is called decidual bleeding. Sometimes, during pregnancy, your body’s hormones can get out of whack, causing you to lose parts of the lining of your uterus. This is especially common in the early stages of pregnancy, before the lining has completely attached to the placenta. While it can be troublesome to think about shedding part if your uterine lining, decidual bleeding is generally not thought to be a health threat to you or your baby.
There are a number of other reasons why bleeding during pregnancy may occur. Most of them present little health risk to you and your little one. However, bleeding can sometimes indicate a complication with your pregnancy. If you are pregnant, it is important to be aware of your bleeding. If you experience any abnormal bleeding at any point during your pregnancy, contact your health care provider immediately."
Love it! Couldn't have said it better myself. The summary of it all is "Light bleeding during first trimester = very normal, heavy bleeding or regular period = possible problem or no pregnancy".  Hope that clears things up!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Andropause and Testosterone Replacement

Have you ever heard of "andropause"? Its essentially the male equivalent of menopause - older men's bodies produce lower levels of testosterone. Though linked with sexual dysfunction, its a more serious issue that is also tied with fatigue and depression...and it occurs much less often.

An article on business week called Low Testosterone in Older Men Less Common Than Thought sheds light on the problems of how to diagnose and treat andropause:
Many men have been taking testosterone supplements to combat the perceived effects of aging, even though it's not clear if taking these supplements help or if they're even safe. The result has been mass confusion, not only as to whether male menopause exists but also how to treat it.
 "A lot of people abuse testosterone who shouldn't and a lot of men who should get it aren't," said Dr. Michael Hermans, an associate professor of surgery in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and chief of the section of andrology, male sexual dysfunction and male infertility at Scott & White in Temple, Texas.
Its sad (and a little scary) that men are eager to sign up for testosterone replacement therapies before there is research to support these treatments.  And its strange that there isn't more research done, since male sexual health seems to get so much attention from the pharmaceutical companies.

Read the full article and know what you're getting into before getting hormone replacement treatments!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Stress and Male Fertility

What does a healthy sperm look like?

I love the above illustration. It very clearly illustrates abnormalities to look for when analyzing semen quality (using a home sperm test). Since anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of all couples infertility cases are caused by male factor infertility, its important to understand what healthy sperm look like, and what you can do to improve sperm quality if your little swimmers aren't up to snuff.

I found this article on www.healthyfellow.com and thought it was interesting enough to share:

Stress is an inevitable part of every day life. But new research from the University of California, Berkeley offers one more reason for men to better manage it. When stress hormones, such as cortisol, increase in the male body, it leads to a subsequent decrease in another hormone called gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH is made in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and it plays a role in the production of key hormones (luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone) that can affect the quality and quantity of sperm. This stress/fertility link has been fairly well established in years past. (1,2,3)
Now, scientists have discovered another way by which stress can negatively impact male reproductive health. It appears that glucocortiocoids (stress hormones) also instigate the manufacture of a substance called gonadotropin inhibitory hormone (GnIH). This alteration in brain chemistry encourages a further decline in GnRH and the sex hormones necessary for proper sperm activity and production. Another consequence is a decline in sex drive caused by a drop in testosterone levels. (4)
A study published in June 2009 demonstrated an encouraging effect of an herbal extract called Withania somnifera. This herb goes by the common name of Ashwagandha. It plays a major role in Ayurveda, the Indian healing tradition. Ashwagandha seems to address various problems associated with male infertility. Namely, it is believed to provide a stress-modulating effect, a boost in antioxidant protection and a favorable shift in sex hormone levels. 
I've posted before about how yoga can help boost fertility, but people usually assume this applies only to TTC ladies.  Research shows that male fertility can also benefit from the stress-reducing qualities of a good yoga workout/meditation session. The article also mentions antioxidants being of utmost importance to male fertility, antioxidants like Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E.  If you're worried that you're not getting enough of these, consider a fertility vitamin rich in antioxidants, such as FertilAid for Men.

Read the rest of the article here.  Good luck, and don't stress!