New Hope Given To Women Struggling To Conceive

New Hope Given To Women Struggling To Conceive

Article on women with endometriosis struggling to conceive provided by Science Daily and the University of Southampton.

Southampton researchers have found new insight into why some women have difficulty falling pregnant.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition affecting around 10 per cent of women and is associated with chronic abdominal pain, irregular periods, and lowered fertility.

In order to become pregnant a woman must produce a mature egg. Maturation occurs in fluid-filled structures called follicles in the ovary. The mature eggs are then released to become fertilised however eggs in women who have endometriosis are affected by a very hostile uterine environment that lowers fertility. It is assumed that the egg itself, before it is released, is not affected by the endometriosis.

However, in a collaborative study between researchers at the University of Southampton and Princess Anne Hospital’s Complete Fertility Centre, it was found that egg quality is severely compromised in endometriosis.

Published in Scientific Reports, the study found that the ability of the egg to mature was blocked by endometriosis, and furthermore that eggs could suffer serious damage by exposure to follicular fluid from women with endometriosis.

Dr Simon Lane, Research Fellow at the University of Southampton who led the study said: “We believe these results could have clinical implications for many women struggling to fall pregnant. We found that fluid from the follicles of patients with endometriosis was found to block egg maturation by generating free-radical chemicals called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) in the egg, which damaged their DNA. This damage caused the egg not to mature, and hence it could not be fertilized. More research is now needed to investigate whether the damage caused by endometriosis is treatable or preventable.”

The study involved taking immature mouse eggs and incubating them in follicular fluid taken from women who have endometriosis, in vitro. The researchers examined the amounts of ROS that were generated and the ability of the egg to mature. They found the follicular fluid from women with endometriosis resulted in higher amounts of ROS.

The research team believes that the effects of endometriosis on maturing eggs could be prevented by antioxidants. During the study the team analysed the effects of two antioxidants. Resveratrol, which is found in the skins of grapes and berries and Melatonin, a compound released during sleep, were added to the fluid and were shown to reverse the negative effects; ROS levels decreased and more eggs were able to mature.

Ying Cheong, Clinical Director of the Complete Fertility Clinic and Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Southampton, added: “Endometriosis is strongly associated with infertility and up to 50 per cent of women who require infertility treatment have it. Struggling to have a baby can be terribly upsetting for a couple, so this new research gives some hope to people. It is very encouraging to see the possibility of the damage being prevented by antioxidants but more work is needed before we can put our results into practice.”

Positive Patient Results Using the INVO Procedure

Positive Patient Results Using the INVO Procedure

Article Courtesy of PRNewswire and INVO Bioscience

MEDFORD, Mass. and SAN ANTONIO, Nov. 18, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — INVO Bioscience, Inc. (OTC: IVOB), a reproductive medical device company who was granted FDA clearance for the first Intravaginal Culture System, the INVOcell™, and Reproductive Medicine Associates of Texas (RMATX) today announced positive results of their initial eleven patients to receive the INVO™ procedure using the INVOcell device.

Dr. Francisco Arredondo of RMATX announced that he has nine (9) clinical pregnancies out of his first eleven (11) patients who have received the INVO procedure for treatment of infertility, or an 82% clinical pregnancy rate.

“I am extremely pleased with the results of the INVO procedure, and the patients have been very receptive to this new procedure,” commented Dr. Arredondo. “Patients perceive it as more organic and natural. We see very high quality embryo’s using the INVOcell, which has resulted in high pregnancy rates.”

Dr. Arredondo has been using the INVOcell in conjunction with a low ovarian stimulation protocol at 40% reduced cost compared to traditional IVF.
Dr. Arredondo is among the first physicians to adopt the INVO procedure in his practice. His team began a startup company in South Texas specifically focused on increasing the access to underserved communities due to economic barriers. S.M.A.R.T. IVF (Simple. Mindful. Affordable. Reproductive. Technology.) opened its doors in McAllen, Texas in October 2016.

Dr. Arredondo continued, “S.M.A.R.T. IVF is looking to increase the access to the dream of a family to people that before were unable to achieve due to cost barriers. We want to democratize fertility care.”

The patented INVO Procedure, is a fertility treatment that streamlines care, contributing to lower treatment costs compared to traditional IVF. Unlike conventional infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), where the eggs and sperm develop into embryos in a laboratory petri dish, the INVOcell utilizes the women’s body as a natural incubator making it an in vivo procedure. The INVO fertility treatment in clinical studies produced live birth rates equivalent to traditional IVF while adding the benefits of a more natural, simpler and lower cost treatment.
“INVO Bioscience is thrilled to be partnering with Dr. Arredondo at RMATX, and we are exceedingly impressed with his very high clinical pregnancy rate,” commented Katie Karloff, CEO of INVO Bioscience.

Is Egg Freezing the Answer?

Is Egg Freezing the Answer?

By Elena Trukhacheva, MD, MSCI, President and Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine Institute (www.teamrmi.com)

Like dueling banjos, the beat goes on in reproductive medicine regarding women having babies later in life and egg freezing as an option for postponing childbearing, but how do the two connect? And how don’t they?

“Egg Freezing is one of the most innovative technologies available to our patients,” says Elena Trukhacheva, President and Medical Director for Reproductive Medicine Institute (www.teamrmi.com), with offices throughout Chicagoland.  “While it certainly can ‘buy’ some time, particularly in the cases of fertility preservation prior to chemotherapy, which can affect the quantity and quality of eggs; egg freezing should not be used as a ‘blank  check’ to delay childbirth. Using eggs frozen at a young age gives women a greater chance to conceive later in life, when they might not be able to get pregnant otherwise. However, the risks of pregnancy increase with age – the chances to have pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and some other serious medical complications of pregnancy go up.”

Another problem is that if pregnancy is not achieved from previously frozen eggs, a woman will reach an age where no more eggs will be available.  To address this, we recommend freezing about 10 mature eggs to have a fair chances of having a child, and about 20 matures eggs if the plan is to have 2 kids. However, there are individual differences – and for some women, this number may not be sufficient.

“Ideally, eggs that are frozen for social reasons, such as professional or personal issues, should be used as soon as the situation allows,” says Dr. Trukhacheva.  “It is not intended to enable a lengthy delay in determining the right time to conceive, but rather to use as soon as a woman’s social situation allows for a baby.”

Dr. Trukhacheva concludes that Egg Freezing CAN be the answer to bridging the gap of necessary medical treatment that can reduce the quality or quantity of eggs, or as a short term stopgap for personal or professional reasons.

“There is never an ‘ideal’ time when one is entirely ‘ready’ to have a baby,” says Trukhacheva.

“Egg Freezing can buy some time, but that time should be finite in the eyes of the potential parent, despite what technology may have to offer.”

“The Climb” by Hilariously Infertile

“The Climb” by Hilariously Infertile

The Climb

Written By: Hilariously Infertile

A little while ago I posted this GIF to my social media pages with the caption:

 IVF is like climbing Everest . . . And then this happens.

Truer words were never spoken.  When you are going through infertility treatment you feel like you are in a constant uphill climb. Getting out of bed in the morning and not crying — climb. Getting dressed in clothes that fit too tight because of the weight gain – climb.  Choosing clothes that feel comfortable because of the sensitivity of your stomach – climb.  Going to work, forcing a smile – climb. Everything is a test to measure your climbing ability.

Some days you’re not climbing at all, you’re just hanging on. You are not moving forward, onward, upward. You’re not moving backward, you are just hanging on for dear life, waiting to summon the energy to keep climbing again. Some days it feels like the whole world is against you, like everybody (and everything) is actually working to keep you down.  Hitting every red light on your way to work after the morning clinic visit, breaking a heel, spilling something on your outfit — on a typical day, these things would be annoying but manageable. When you’re going through infertility, these little annoyances are exponentially worse — everything is magnified, overwhelming and unbearable.  But you hang on, you might not keep climbing that day, but you hang on.

While hanging onto the mountain things happen, life happens. The gif is all too true. A huge force comes and knocks you off the mountain and stops your forward climb — most often, a negative pregnancy test result.  This is heart wrenching and can shatter your will.  Not only are you not pregnant, you now have to get up and start that dreadful climb all over again. Do you have the energy? Do you have the endurance? Can you handle it?

YES. You are strong. You can do more than you think and definitely more than you give yourself credit for. Infertility doesn’t define you. You are still a daughter, a sister, a wife, a friend. You can start that climb again, brace yourself for the cuts and bruises, but you will hang on. Eventually — when you least realize it — you will suddenly be through the clouds. The air will clear. The sun will shine brightly, and you will feel its warmth on your face. You will reach the summit, and all those months (or years) of climbing will feel like a thing of the past.  You can then focus on the sun drenched smiles of life with the newest member of your family.  Keep climbing ladies! We are here to support you.

A big thank you to Hilariously Infertile for this great article!

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Stress-induced changes in maternal gut could negatively impact offspring for life

Stress-induced changes in maternal gut could negatively impact offspring for life

Article on stress provided by Ohio State University and Science Daily.

Prenatal exposure to a mother’s stress contributes to anxiety and cognitive problems that persist into adulthood, a phenomenon that could be explained by lasting — and potentially damaging — changes in the microbiome, according to new research in mice.

When pregnant mice were exposed to stress in the study, it appeared to change the makeup of the bacteria in both their guts and placentas, as well as in the intestinal tracts of their female offspring, researchers at The Ohio State University found. And those microbial changes lasted into adulthood.

On top of that, the mice with stressed mothers struggled in tests aimed at gauging anxiety and cognitive health compared with female offspring of mice that were not stressed during pregnancy. And markers of inflammation increased in the placenta, the fetal brain and the adult brain of the offspring while a supportive protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) decreased.

“More and more, doctors and researchers are understanding that naturally occurring bacteria are not just a silent presence in our body, but that they contribute to our health,” said Tamar Gur, the lead researcher and assistant professor of psychiatry & behavioral health, neuroscience and obstetrics & gynecology at Ohio State.

“These mice were more anxious, they spent more time in dark, closed spaces and they had a harder time learning cognitive tasks even though they were never stressed after birth.” Gur presented the study on Nov. 14 in San Diego at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.

Previous studies have found associations between maternal stress in both animals and people to later mental health and behavioral problems in their offspring. This study could begin to explain what’s at play in that relationship.

“We already understand that prenatal stress can be bad for offspring, but the mystery is how,” said Gur, a psychiatrist who is a member of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center’s Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research.

Gur said microbes from a mother’s gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts are the first to colonize in a developing fetus (and in newborns). That makes the bacteria an interesting potential explanation of why and how stress before an animal or person is born could prompt mental illness that can last a lifetime.

This study is pointing to alterations in the microbes that live in the placenta and outlines changes found in the placentas of fetal mice that had stressed mothers.

Gur and her colleagues found significant microbial changes to the placentas of the female offspring of stressed mice. They also found alterations in inflammation and growth factors in the placenta, pointing to changes in how the microbes were influencing important dynamics before birth.

And in the female offspring of the stressed mice, the researchers found a lower ability to learn and higher anxiety-like behavior compared to the offspring of non-stressed mother mice. Gur said the team found interesting changes in the male offspring as well, but the details of that part of the study are still in the works.

Gur said she wants to know more about the links between the brain and the bacteria that live in the gut, and she and her colleagues have plans to expand their investigation to pregnant women and their babies. Perhaps one day the work will lead to knowledge about how probiotics could help mitigate the effects of stress and the downstream repercussions, but it’s too soon now to say if they would have any impact, she said.

The stressed mother mice underwent two hours per day for seven days of restraint meant to induce stress. For comparison, the researchers left another group of pregnant mice undisturbed during gestation. Gut bacteria were assessed using fecal samples from the mice.

Gur stressed that the message here is not that mothers are to blame should their children suffer mental illness later in life. Rather, she said, this scientific development presents an opportunity to talk more about the importance of mental health in general and during pregnancy.

“As a psychiatrist who treats pregnant women, if you’re stressed, anxious or depressed, I think pregnancy is a prime time for intervention,” Gur said. “And what’s good for mom is good for the baby.”

The study was supported by the March of Dimes and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Other researchers who worked on the study were Michael T. Bailey, Lena Shay, Sydney Fisher, Adidti Vadodkar and Vanessa Varaljay.

Zika could cause infertility in men according to U.S. research

Zika could cause infertility in men according to U.S. research

Article on Zika and Infertility provided by Laura Alvarado and Reuters.

(Reuters) – A study of mice infected with Zika showed the virus caused lasting damage to key cells in the male reproductive system, resulting in shrunken testicles, lower levels of sex hormones and reduced fertility, U.S. researchers said on Monday.

So far, the findings are only in mice, but the result is worrisome enough to warrant further study because of possible implications for people, said Dr. Michael Diamond of Washington University in St. Louis, whose research was published in the journal Nature.

“It has to be corroborated,” Diamond, a professor of pathology, immunology and molecular microbiology, said in a telephone interview.

Much of the global effort to fight Zika has focused on protecting pregnant women from infection because of the grave implications for their unborn children.

Zika infections in pregnant women have been shown to cause microcephaly, a severe birth defect in which the head and brain are undersized, as well as other brain abnormalities.

Previous studies have shown that Zika can remain in semen for as long as six months. But little is known about whether prolonged exposure to the virus in the testes can cause harm.

To study this, Diamond and colleagues injected male mice with Zika. After a week, the researchers recovered infectious virus from the testes and sperm, and they found evidence of viral genes in certain cells of the testes. But overall, the testes appeared normal compared with other lab mice.

After three weeks, however, the differences were stark. The testes in the Zika-infected mice had shrunk to a tenth of their normal size, and the internal structure was destroyed.

“We saw significant evidence of destruction of the seminiferous tubules, which are important for generating new sperm,” Diamond said.

The researchers also found that Zika infects and kills Sertoli cells, which maintain the barrier between the bloodstream and the testes and foster sperm growth. Sertoli cells do not regenerate.

That raises the specter of long-lasting damage.

“The virus is infecting a site which doesn’t really renew if it gets damaged. That is the problem,” Diamond said.

Tests of testicular function showed sperm counts, sex hormones and fertility had dropped. Infected mice were four times less likely to impregnate a healthy female mouse than healthy males.

“This is the only virus I know of that causes such severe symptoms of infertility,” added Dr. Kelle Moley, a fertility specialist at Washington University and a study co-author.

There is no vaccine or treatment for Zika. Reuters/ Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen

Exercise During Pregnancy May Reduce Markers Of Aging In Offspring

Exercise During Pregnancy May Reduce Markers Of Aging In Offspring

Article on Exercise During Pregnancy provided by Science Daily and the American Physiological Society.

Exercise during pregnancy may be as effective in protecting the next generation from age-related health risks as efforts made during the offspring’s own adulthood, new research suggests. Kevin Pearson, associate professor at the University of Kentucky Department of Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences, will present preliminary findings on the long-term effects of physical activity during pregnancy at the American Physiological Society’s Integrative Biology of Exercise 7 meeting in Phoenix.

Oxidative stress is damage to the body caused by an accumulation of unstable molecules called free radicals. The buildup of free radicals decreases resistance to stress and increases the risk of obesity and age-related and chronic disease. Reducing oxidative stress can help lessen the risks of conditions such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The research team examined markers of oxidative stress, inflammation and insulin sensitivity in mice that were born to mothers who were exercised while pregnant. The offspring of the exercised mice had better stress resistance and improved insulin sensitivity, even into adulthood, than those born to sedentary mothers.

“To date, caloric restriction has been the most reproducible and promising intervention to improve these outcomes. An intense and expanding area of research is focused on discovering other short-term or easily achievable interventions that can have long-lasting beneficial effects,” the researchers wrote.

The results of the rodent studies also have implications for human health. “Our findings highlight pregnancy as a sensitive period when positive lifestyle interventions could have significant and long-lasting beneficial effects on offspring metabolism and disease risk,” wrote the research team.

Could assisted reproduction reduce birth defects for older women?

Could assisted reproduction reduce birth defects for older women?

Article on assisted reproduction provided by Science Daily and the University of Adelaide.

Babies born to women aged 40 and over from assisted reproduction have fewer birth defects compared with those from women who conceive naturally at the same age, according to new research from the University of Adelaide.

This is contrary to widespread belief that the greater risk of birth defects after assisted conception is due to the frequent use of these services by older women.

The researchers believe this could point to the presence of more favourable biological conditions in IVF (in vitro fertilization) specific to pregnancies in older women – but they’re currently working to determine the exact cause.

Published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (BJOG), the research is based on data of all live births recorded in South Australia from 1986-2002. These include more than 301,000 naturally conceived births, as well as 2200 births from IVF and almost 1400 from ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).

The average prevalence of a birth defect was 5.7% among naturally conceived births, 7.1% for the IVF births, and 9.9% for the ICSI births, across all age groups.

In births from assisted reproduction, the prevalence of birth defects ranged from 11.3% at its highest for women less than age 30 using ICSI, down to 3.6% for women aged 40 and older using IVF. For natural conceptions, the corresponding prevalence across age groups was 5.6% in young women, increasing to 8.2% in women aged 40+.

“There’s something quite remarkable occurring with women over the age of 40 who use assisted reproduction,” says lead author Professor Michael Davies from the University of Adelaide’s Robinson Research Institute.

“We know from our previous studies that women who undergo assisted reproduction have an increased rate of birth defects compared to women who conceive naturally. We also know that among women who conceive naturally, the rate of birth defects increases exponentially from age 35 onwards. Therefore, it was widely assumed, but untested, that maternal age would be a key factor in birth defects from assisted reproduction.

“However, our findings challenge that assertion. They show that infertile women aged 40 and over who used assisted reproduction had less than half the rate of birth defects of fertile women of the same age, while younger women appear to be at an elevated risk.

“For women treated with IVF and ICSI combined, the greatest age-related risk of birth defects was among the young women, at or around 29 years of age. With a prevalence of 9.4%, their risk was more than double the rate of 3.6% observed for the patients aged over 40, and significantly higher than for fertile women of the same age, at 5.6%,” Professor Davies says.

Professor Davies says these results could have broader implications for infertility treatment, if researchers can understand why older women do better on assisted reproduction: “There is some aspect of IVF treatment in particular that could be helping older women to redress the maternal age issues we see among natural conception, where we observe a transition at around the age of 35 years toward a steadily increasing risk of birth defects. We don’t know what that is quite yet – it could be an aspect of hormonal stimulation that helps to reverse the age-related decline in control of ovulation.

“More research is desperately needed in this area to understand why this is occurring, and whether it could be adapted to both fertile and infertile women in future to prevent birth defects, which continue to be a major cause of death and disability in the first year of life globally,” he says.

Professor Davies says the research also uncovered that ICSI – which currently accounts for about 70% of all assisted reproduction treatments world wide – is “particularly adverse if a woman has never had a pregnancy.” These women had a birth defect rate of 11%, compared with 6.2% of women with a previous birth who used ICSI.

New sperm research could lead to cut in infertility rate

New sperm research could lead to cut in infertility rate

Article on sperm research provided by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Today sees the start of National Fertility Awareness Week (31 October — 6 November, 2016) and with infertility affecting about one in six people, a team of mathematicians, bioengineers, computer engineers and clinicians are working on a system that could identify which sperm are able to successfully deliver their cargo of DNA to the egg.

The University of Birmingham research, funded through an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Healthcare Technologies Challenge Award, could then lead to better treatment decisions that would save distress and expense and lead to more healthy births.

Infertility treatments such as IVF are currently hampered by imprecise diagnostics, with the monitoring of sperm not utilising cutting edge technology.

However that could soon change, with the team hopeful of creating a new system which would utilise phase-contrast imaging to observe sperm before analysing them mathematically.

This could then lead to a better way of identifying which sperm have the attributes required to successfully fertilise the egg, and an improvement in the advice provided to couples going through fertility treatment.

Project Lead Dr Dave Smith, from the University of Birmingham, says he hopes the work could lead to new equipment that could be used in andrology clinics to identify the condition of sperm and what treatment or lifestyle changes are required.

He said: “Unfortunately infertility is a common problem, with male infertility accounting for about half of all cases. The problem is that the diagnostic methods used at the moment are quite coarse and there aren’t good enough tools to deal with it either.

“That has a very big knock-on effect because IVF is very expensive, not everyone can have the treatment, and it can be very gruelling, especially for the female partner.

“We hope this could tell you not just core statistics about sperm such as swimming speed, but which ones have the ‘right stuff’ and which ones are swimming efficiently and are correctly formed.

“We want to provide a new way of looking at cells, what infertility is and what a cell should be able to do.

“The long-term impact could lead to a better use of resources for treatments such as IVF and hopefully improved success rates. We would be able to give people the right kind of advice on lifestyle choices, so for example if smoking is damaging sperm quality we can identify that and advise the patient accordingly.”

EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “This research demonstrates the significance of the work being undertaken by the winners of our Healthcare Technologies Challenge Awards.

“The impact of the work could have a wide range of important implications, from allowing for better analysis of sperm to reducing the distress caused by infertility issues and improving the advice that can be offered to couples trying to conceive.

“These Healthcare Technologies Challenge Award winners are our future research leaders who will be instrumental in ensuring the UK can meet 21st century healthcare needs and thrive as a healthy nation.”