Ava is a wearable fertility-tracking device — and it’s coming to Europe

Ava is a wearable fertility-tracking device — and it’s coming to Europe

Article by Hannah Roberts about wearable fertility tracking device provided by Business Insider. 

Tracking fertility isn’t easy, but it can be, says Lea von Bidder, co-founder of wearable fertility tracking company Ava.

Ava’s £199 (€249, $199) sensor bracelet, worn only at night, tracks changes across nine physiological parameters, like heart rate and temperature, and uses them to monitor the user’s menstrual cycle in real time.

The Swiss medical technology company, which last month raised $9.7 million (£8 million) in a Series A funding round, is expanding into Europe in January after launching in the US in July. Most of the money will go into data science and clinical research, the company said.

Unlike period-tracking apps such as Clue, Ava doesn’t rely on any data inputted by the user, Bidder told Business Insider, allowing it to be more accurate.

“Inputting your menstruation and from there guessing when your next ovulation is going to be is, in the end, a guessing game … it only knows the end point, not what your body is doing before menstruation. Especially if you have a very irregular cycle, or a slightly irregular cycle, which most women have,” Bidder said.

Instead of relying on user-inputted data, Ava works by tracking nine physiological parameters through the bracelet — such as heat loss, pulse rate, and temperature —and links changes in these parameters to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle (specifically estrogen and progesterone). It then syncs this data to the app, notifying the user of their “conception probability.”

“This is crucial,” Bidder told Business Insider because it “helps us detect the very beginning of the fertile window and not just the end as, for example, urine or temperature tests [traditionally used to track fertility] potentially could … That’s why women who currently use us like us so much because it’s easier and way earlier, so couples have time to prepare, enough time to book a romantic weekend away and to make use of the full fertility window.”

Ava’s app shows the user their physiological data it tracks using the bracelet and uses this to track fertility. Ava

Results from the device’s first clinical trial at the University Hospital of Zurich showed that the bracelet detected an average of 5.3 fertile days per cycle with 89% accuracy — in total women have six fertile days and 70% of pregnancies happen within three of them, Bidder said.

And Bidder thinks Ava’s bracelet and technology were way overdue: “What we are doing right now should have been around when Fitbit started to become significant. We are just trying to catch up with the technology. As a modern woman who is traveling around, working, for her to be forced to start taking her temperature with a thermometer every morning at 6 am is a bad situation.”

The FDA-registered company has so far presented at medical conferences on the relationship between changes in temperature and heart rate (two of the nine physiological parameters its bracelet detects) and hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, Bidder said.

Ava wants to be more than just a fertility tracker

Ava sees itself not just as a fertility tool, but as a women’s health company. And its ambitions reflect that.

Ava sees itself as a women’s health company, not just a fertility tracker. Ava

Bidder told Business Insider: “We want to accompany women throughout all their different life stages, be it trying to get pregnant, being pregnant, contraception, or menopause … There are so many phases in your life where the hormonal changes in your life make a big difference. And all of those areas are the areas we want to get into.”

“We’ve seen a lot of women in their twenties who are not trying to get pregnant buy the bracelet just because they have a huge urge to start understanding their body better and figure out why they feel a certain way at the end of their cycle,” she said.

More articles on fertility research: 

Rejuvenating The Chance of Motherhood?

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What My Pregnancy Loss Taught Me About Joy

What My Pregnancy Loss Taught Me About Joy

Article by Becky Trejo about her personal reflection on pregnancy loss provided by Verily. 

Around my thirtieth birthday, my husband and I fell in love with the idea of expanding our family. We thought of names and personalities, imagined quirks and bad habits. We dreamed of sons and daughters.

We tried and tried. We waited. We tried. We tried again.

Each month, hope and disappointment came and went. We charted temperatures and cervical fluids, visited specialists and took test after test.

We found a few small complications, but we kept getting the same answer: “Nothing much to worry about. Just try it again.” So we did. But along the way, our hearts wore out. We were exhausted and fragile.

And then we found out we were pregnant.

After two long years, we were pregnant. A missed period, sore breasts, nausea, and smelling things from a mile away had gotten our hopes up. Maybe this was it!

Then the cramps and bleeding started. It was the heaviest, most painful cycle I had ever had. After a week, I visited my doctor. The nurse was the first to suggest it. She said that, based on my symptoms, my body was most likely “rejecting a pregnancy.” Then she said what I would hear over and over again from many well-meaning friends: “What good news to get pregnant in the first place!”

But all the air had left the room. My throat closed up. I wanted to cry. I wanted to yell. The shock was the only thing keeping me upright. Sitting alone in the examination room, without tests or proof and still waiting to see the doctor, I knew she was right. Something was broken.

My doctor was kind and reassuring. She told me that an astonishing number of women miscarry without realizing it, and encouraged us to keep trying. Every part of me wanted to skip past this hard part and try it again; to pretend that, since I didn’t hear a heartbeat or watch arms and legs wiggling, this wasn’t a heartbreak, it wasn’t too large of a pregnancy loss.

But that’s not how it goes when you’ve tried, waited, prayed, and wept tears of desperation for this. That first week, I slept more than I’ve slept in my entire life. I didn’t work, didn’t talk. Weeping was all I could manage. My husband told our families and later our friends. He made space for his grief and even for all of the mine.

At first, I wanted to erase the past two years of longing, disappointment and loss. In my hurt, I was tempted to close myself off and replace the pain with numbness. But our miscarriage was too much to sidestep; the only way out was through.

Then somehow, slowly, and without my permission, all my giving up and giving in turned into healing. With time, getting up in the morning became easier. Daily routines fell back into place, but there was also something new.

In our brokenness, living became a distinctly spiritual practice for me. My faith breathed life into all the places I was sure would die. I thought my bitter cries and prayers of lament might drive me deeper into my pain. Instead, they buoyed me. I was surprised to find that all the things I believed about God, love, and hope could stand up to our suffering.

It sounds like a platitude, but bearing that pain woke me up to so much comfort, too. Nothing silenced the ache in my heart, but as I let myself feel the hard edges of this season, beauty snuck in the unlikeliest places: on the coattails of friends coming by with dinners, in between lines of Scriptures, in embraces, prayers and words of encouragement.

Before our infertility struggle and miscarriage, I kept joy at arm’s length. I thought if it doesn’t last, why embrace it? Now, joy’s fleeting nature became my reason to embrace it. Knowing now that we would only get four weeks with our long-awaited child before I miscarried, I wish I hadn’t delayed in taking the pregnancy test. I wish I had seen a plus positive and savored each day until the end. I can’t go back. So going forward, I’m determined to scrape joy out of every crack and crevice and store it up for the thin times. I want to keep getting my hopes up.

I want to be alongside every pregnant woman in my life, delighted by each kick she feels and every mother I know weeping with empty arms. Yes, there is so much pain in our story, but there is tenderness, too. In time, our perspective adjusts enough to see both.

If I had known our story before we lived out the heartache and loss, I would have asked to change it. Sometimes, on hard days, I still might. But mostly, I want to be brave enough for suffering, remember what happiness tastes like, and keep the faith that I’ll find it again.

More Articles on Fertility Support: 

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No Proven IVF- Breast Cancer Link, Doctors Say

No Proven IVF- Breast Cancer Link, Doctors Say

Article by Miriam Falco about whether the hormones required for IVF accelerate breast cancer provided by CNN. 

(CNN) – E! News anchor Giuliana Rancic’s efforts to conceive have been the central theme of her reality show “Giuliana and Bill.” On Monday she revealed she has to postpone her next round of IVF after her new fertility expert insisted she get screened for breast cancer, even though she is only 36 years old.

Rancic said, on the Today Show, that her doctor told her “I don’t care if you’re 26, 36. I won’t get you pregnant if there is a small risk you have cancer. If you get pregnant, it can accelerate cancer. The hormones stimulate the cancer.”

Her doctor may have been taking the step as a precaution.

“There’s no evidence for a link between breast cancer and infertility treatment,” says Dr. Eric Widra, who chairs the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology. A 2005 study looked at a possibility, but the study authors concluded a link to breast or ovarian cancer had not been found.

Dr. George Sledge, co-director of breast cancer treatment at Indiana University’s Simon Cancer Center, says there are no real data to show that IVF accelerates breast cancer. “Not having a child and infertility in itself increases the risk for breast cancer,” he says. Sledge isn’t familiar with Rancic’s medical history, but he says the younger you are when you have your first child, the less likely you are to have breast cancer.

“Breast cancer at 36 is rare, and it’s fortunate for her that it was detected early,” says Widra, a physician at Shady Grove Fertility in Washington, D.C. However, he doesn’t agree with Rancic’s doctor that women in their 20s or 30s should get a mammogram before starting IVF. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends the same guidelines as the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology; he says: Begin screening at the age of 40, unless there’s family history.

But it appears things can vary from clinic to clinic. Dr. Andrew Toledo, a fertility specialist at Reproductive Biology Associates in Atlanta, says in his clinic, “We want a baseline mammogram (for our patients) between 35 and 40 unless they have a family history.”

Rancic had previously undergone two rounds of IVF. The second did result in pregnancy, which ended in a miscarriage. She says she plans to try to get pregnant again after having surgery this week and undergoing six weeks of radiation treatment.

Sledge, who is the past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, says the use of estrogen in general in women who’ve had breast cancer makes doctors nervous because some cancers are fueled by hormones.

But Widra says women who have completed their cancer treatment can try to get pregnant again, typically five years after they have been disease-free. Widra, who is not familiar with Rancic’s particular case, points out that even after surgery and radiation, breast cancer patients may need to undergo even more treatments, like taking the drug tamoxifen, which can reduce the risk of breast cancer coming back by blocking the activity of estrogen in the breast if the breast cancer is fueled by estrogen — not all cancers are.

When a woman tries to get pregnant after undergoing breast cancer, her treatment needs to be individualized, says Dr. Mitch Rosen, director of the Fertility Preservation Center at the University of California-San Francisco. He says he sees many patients facing this question and he says it’s incredibly important that women receive proper counseling. “It depends on your cancer, your age, what kind of cancer you have,” he says. If a woman has the type of tumor that is fueled by estrogen, tamoxifen (or other hormone-disrupting drugs) need to be taken for five years.

If a cancer patient is 22, Rosen says he would recommend she wait the full five years before trying to get pregnant. If she’s 38, for example, getting pregnant gets harder with age — then, he says, he would probably recommend taking the hormone-blocking medication for two years, taking a break to get pregnant, and then resuming the drug for three more years.

If a patient has a type of cancer that is not dependent on hormones to grow, then surgery and radiation are usually followed by chemotherapy to kill any lingering cancer cells.

In those cases, Rosen says he recommends that his patients wait at least six months, better a whole year, before trying IVF again, just to reduce the possibility of birth defects caused by the cancer treatment.

Patients need to talk to their doctor and be made aware of the risks and options, so they can be comfortable with their decision on when and whether they should undergo IVF again.

More Articles Around Fertility News

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This Specific Type Of Exercise Improves Men’s Fertility

This Specific Type Of Exercise Improves Men’s Fertility

Article by Anna Almendrala about exercise and the impact on male fertility provided by The Huffington Post. 

If you’re a man who spends a little more time on the couch than you want to admit, and you’re planning to start trying for a baby soon, here’s some advice: Exercise could significantly improve the quality of your sperm.

Specifically, moderate steady state cardio like jogging could improve your sperm’s speed, shape, and volume, according to a new study published in the journal Reproduction.

How different exercises affected the quality of men’s sperm

A six-month study among 261 previously sedentary men in Iran found that those who were randomly assigned to start exercising on a treadmill improved the quality of their sperm regarding volume, sperm count, motility and morphology (shape and size). All the men in the study were assigned to do either moderate intensity continuous training (running at medium speed for 30 to 45 minutes, three to six days a week), high-intensity continuous exercise (running vigorously for one hour on the treadmill, three days a week), high intensity interval training (alternating minutes of sprints and walks for 20 to 30 minutes) or no exercise at all.

All exercising groups significantly decreased their weight, body fat percentage and waist circumference. But men who had been assigned to do moderate intensity continuous training managed to improve their sperm quality the most, and also enjoyed the exercise’s effects longest.

“Our results show that doing exercise can be a simple, cheap and efficient strategy for improving sperm quality in sedentary men,” said lead researcher Behzad Hajizadeh Maleki in a press release.

The moderate intensity group improved their semen volume by more than eight percent. Their sperm motility was 12 percent higher; morphology grew 17 percent, and they had 22 percent more sperm cells on average compared to the control group, which did no exercise.

But a week after exercise stopped, sperm count, shape, and concentration dropped back to normal levels. Motility returns to its previous rates after one month.

The research didn’t examine why moderate continuous exercise might be the best kind of exercise for improving sperm quality, but Maleki hypothesized that it exposed the testes to less stress and inflammation than the other exercises.

The truth about male infertility

Infertility is often thought of as a woman’s health issue, but male infertility causes 30 percent of all cases, according to the American Pregnancy Association. About 8 percent of sexually experienced men under 45 have seen a fertility doctor for help conceiving, reports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those who sought medical help, 18 percent were diagnosed with male factor infertility. Fourteen percent had sperm problems, while six percent had a varicose vein in their testes that overheats sperm.

In addition to not being able to conceive, emerging research suggests that poor sperm quality may also include an increased risk of miscarriage. Exposure to smoking, illegal drug use, heavy drinking and environmental toxins can negatively affect sperm quality, as can medical conditions like diabetes, cystic fibrosis, infection or treatment with chemotherapy and radiation.

There are ways to treat male factor infertility, but they are often expensive and invasive. That’s why lifestyle changes like exercise are often the first step men should take to improve sperm quality, says Dr. Jesse Mills, director of the Men’s Clinic at the University of California, Los Angeles.

In a video published in July, Mills says men should keep their laptops off their laps and avoid saunas, hot tubs, and hot yoga to prevent heating up their testicles. Men should also emphasize vegetables and fruits in their diet, and surprisingly, a little bit of coffee (just two or three cups a day) may also help improve motility.

Of course, not every sperm problem can be solved with exercise.

“It’s important to acknowledge that the reason some men can’t have children isn’t just based on their sperm count,” Maleki said. “Male infertility problems can be complex and changing lifestyles might not solve these cases quickly.”

Couples under the age of 35 who have not been able to conceive after a year should seek medical treatment, while older couples should ask for help after just six months. If the couple already has known pre-existing conditions that could affect fertility, such as inconsistent periods or recurrent miscarriage, they should consider seeking help right away.

Maleki now hopes to research whether exercise improved sperm is better at fertilizing eggs.

More Articles on Male Fertility: 

Mobile Male Fertility Testing Now Available

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12 Things That Could Be Messing With Your Guy’s Sperm

Mind-Body Program Helps Couples Facing Infertility

Mind-Body Program Helps Couples Facing Infertility

Article by Jennifer Nejman Bohonak on how a mind-body program at Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI) can help infertility provided by Massachusetts General Hospital.

Leslee Kagan, MS, FNP, runs a program at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine (BHI) at Massachusetts General Hospital that teaches couples how to use mindfulness, gratitude, meditation and cognitive skills to reduce stress and improve the quality of their life. Many are undergoing treatments, including in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Many women struggling with infertility have likely experienced the chemical cascade of stress that the body produces. Exactly how this impacts fertility is unclear. Medical interventions can help both female and male infertility, but programs that address the emotional toll are more difficult to find, Ms. Kagan says. This is where the BHI can make a difference in a couple’s outlook.

By working effectively to better manage stress and enhancing self-care, women feel they are doing all they can to maximize their chances of having a baby, Ms. Kagan says.

Learning Long-Haul Skills

Infertility is a common occurrence in the United States and a health issue for both men and women. About 12 percent of women between the ages of 15 to 44 years old have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The eight-week program at BHI offers individual time with Ms. Kagan and group sessions. Partners are invited to two of the group sessions.

The group meetings combine education and skills training in a group setting where women can share their experiences and support one another. They are also taught how to recognize and change negative thinking patterns.

As a result, women regain a sense of control and acquire a set of skills that allow them to better manage the demands of treatment and can support them through any life struggle. Ultimately, their resiliency is enhanced.

Infertility and Pressure 

Tara Tehan, RN, participated in the BHI program in 2012. She entered the program after having miscarriages and a failed attempt at IVF. The Mass General nurse remembers feeling isolated and wanting to connect with other women facing similar challenges.

She hoped she would become a mother, but as time dragged on, it became difficult for her to stay optimistic. She knew her biological clock was running out and felt her pathway to motherhood was limited.

From Ms. Kagan, Tara learned to step back and consider the sources of pressure on her. “I can’t control this,” Tara began thinking. “What will be, will be.”

Tara began to meditate each day. When stressed, she would imagine sand gliding through her toes at the beach. She formed bonds with women in the group. When she worried that she would never get pregnant, Ms. Kagan refocused Tara on her mind-body skills.

Accessing Inner Resources

“The skills are what maintain you for the long-haul,” Tara says. “Infertility treatment is such a stressful process.”

After four cycles of IVF, Tara became pregnant. Her pregnancy was difficult. She delivered early at 31 weeks at Mass General, but felt better able to handle it because of what she learned from Ms. Kagan.

Her son, Nolan, is now a healthy 2-year-old. And she has kept in touch with other women who went through the program at the same time as her. Through the years, many of the women have formed friendships and support systems that outlast the program. Some return as mentors to help new groups.

“This program is a wonderful way of teaching people how to access their own inner resources for healing,” Ms. Kagan says. “It’s incredibly magical to see how people can change their lives in eight weeks.”

Philanthropy Can Help

Philanthropy could help women attend the program. Individual sessions with Ms. Kagan are covered by insurance, but group sessions are not. Additional funding could help more women attend the program and also support research into mind-body interventions and the effect on pregnancy rates.

To make a donation to support the program, please contact us. To find out about enrolling in the program, please visit our web site.

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Rejuvenating The Chance of Motherhood?

Rejuvenating The Chance of Motherhood?

An article by Karen Weintraub about a start-up company (OvaScience) giving women over 40 new hope provided by MIT Technology Review. 

Last April, Omar and Natasha Rajani rented a hall, invited 130 guests, and hired a magician to entertain the little ones. In Natasha’s family, first birthday parties are major celebrations. And the Rajanis, who live in Toronto, felt particularly enthusiastic because for a long time they weren’t sure they’d ever be able to throw one.

Natasha, 35, struggled for four years to get pregnant. She and Omar, 40, tried naturally at first; then they used hormones, which led to an ectopic pregnancy, in which the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus—usually in the narrow fallopian tube—and must be removed. Then more hormones. Then in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nothing worked.

Natasha’s obstetrician next offered an unusual option: the couple could try a new method meant to improve the odds of IVF, provided by a Boston-area company called OvaScience. The approach called Augment (for Autologous Germline Mitochondrial Energy Transfer), is so far available only in Canada and Japan.

(OvaScience hasn’t yet sought approval from U.S. regulators). It required the doctor to gather cells from one of Natasha’s ovaries and harvest their mitochondria—the tiny power plants that fuel our cells. These extracted mitochondria would then be injected into one of her eggs along with her husband’s sperm, and the embryo would be transferred to her uterus during a standard IVF procedure. According to OvaScience, the extra energy from the ovarian mitochondria would give her egg a boost, promoting fertilization.

“What Natasha and I liked it was it was kind of like self-treatment,” says Omar. “We thought that it was something that was safe, and it was almost like the body treating and healing itself. We were very, very excited about the opportunity to try it.”

In the round of IVF that Natasha had after trying the new procedure, she got pregnant with a boy, Zain, now almost two. It doesn’t matter, the ­Rajanis say, whether Augment was the reason for the successful pregnancy. All they know is that it felt like a miracle. They have a toddler with an always-sunny disposition—“He’s just an absolute joy of a child,” Natasha says—and two more frozen embryos that might one day become his siblings.

Whether Augment made the difference in Zain’s conception could have far-reaching implications for how we think about both infertility and aging. Infertility affects more than 10 percent of American women—a number that is rising as many women wait longer before considering parenthood. Female fertility starts to decline after age 35. Among women who turn to assisted reproduction techniques such as IVF, only 40 percent of attempts by those under 35 result in a live birth, while 2 percent of those among women over 44 do—largely because of a dwindling number of eggs and a decline in their quality.

Not only could OvaScience’s procedure help many women whose fertility has declined with age, but it would be one of the first successful efforts to slow the body’s relentlessly ticking clock, providing tantalizing clues for ways to halt aging more generally.

Company co-founder and Harvard University genetics professor David Sinclair says conquering the overall aging process is a matter of when not if. “We are at a point where we know how to extend lifespan in mammals, and now there’s a race to see who can prove that we can do this in humans,” Sinclair says. Female fertility, he says, is one of the first bodily systems to break down with age, and he sees reversing infertility as a gateway to reversing aging itself. The goal, Sinclair proclaims, is “to have revolutionary technologies like OvaScience available to everybody—and not to just treat fertility, but another 2,000 age-related diseases, from diabetes through Alzheimer’s.”

Despite Sinclair’s enthusiasm, it’s possible—even likely, some scientists say—that OvaScience’s procedure did nothing at all. For one thing, IVF is notoriously unpredictable. The Rajanis might have just gotten lucky the second time, just as they were unlucky the first.

More than a dozen interviews with experts in fertility and early development reveal little scientific justification for what was done to Natasha Rajani’s eggs and those of the 300 other women who have gone through the procedure, which costs an IVF clinic from $6,000 to $7,000. (The fee that clinics charge patients will vary.) The company harvests the mitochondria from what it believes are immature egg cells found in the ovarian lining; the idea is that these so-called egg precursor cells have fresher mitochondria than the aging, mature eggs. But there is little convincing evidence that they are what ­OvaScience says they are: cells with the power to turn into eggs. And even if such egg-­precursor cells exist and their mitochondria are more youthful than those in a woman’s eggs, does it prove that such an energy boost can improve fertility?

“There is very little data supporting the benefit of these procedures, and often the biological rationale is incoherent,” says Jacob Hanna, an expert in embryonic stem cells at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who reviewed ­OvaScience’s information at the request of MIT Technology Review. “I hope the company can provide robust data and experimentation on these approaches… It sounds more at the moment like voodoo, or alchemy.”

So is OvaScience leading a breakthrough in battling one of the most fundamental processes of aging, or selling false hopes with little scientific justification?

Youthful Marriage
The founding of OvaScience came about as a marriage of two of medicine’s most audacious and often controversial areas: anti-aging research and infertility research. The company accurately traces its precise origins to the work of the reproductive biologist Jonathan Tilly, now at Northeastern University in Boston. Beginning with a 2004 paper, Tilly has been challenging decades of scientific dogma that girls are born with their whole life’s supply of “primordial” egg cells, which will eventually mature into eggs. After puberty, this stock of eggs develops at the rate of about one a month, and it never renews. The decline in female fertility around 35 occurs as this supply dries up, and menopause strikes when the eggs run out. But Tilly’s research suggested—first in mice and then in people—that the lining of the ovary contains the makings of new supply. If Tilly is right about his conclusions, solving infertility might be just a matter of finding these egg precursor cells and triggering them to mature.

Sinclair says it was natural for him to collaborate with Tilly, who was then at Harvard. Tilly’s work touched on subjects that fascinated Sinclair: how the body ages and what might be done to slow that process. “I’d been trying to figure out what are the primary reasons we grow old and why don’t cells function the older we get,” Sinclair says.

Sinclair introduced Tilly to two biotech entrepreneurs, Rich Aldrich and Michelle Dipp, with whom Sinclair had previously run an anti-aging company called Sirtris Pharmaceuticals. That company was based on Sinclair’s research into sirtuins, proteins that may slow the aging process and can be activated by resveratrol, a compound most found in red wine. Sirtris was sold to GlaxoSmithKline in 2008 for $720 million (GSK closed down its Sirtris facility in 2013, absorbing the sirtuin work into its research efforts), and the biotech investors were looking for their next big play. When the potential partners asked Tilly how he might commercialize his research, ­Sinclair says, Tilly came up with the idea of Augment, using the precursor cells to rejuvenate aging eggs. (Tilly declined to comment for this story.) That was enough for the group to create ­OvaScience, where Dipp served as CEO until last summer.

Sinclair hypothesizes that mitochondria are crucial to aging. The idea is simple. Aging cells have old, slow mitochondria; young mitochondria equal young cells. Hence the Augment program to rejuvenate eggs with mitochondria from cells that are younger and more energetic. Sinclair has also cofounded two other companies, MetroBiotech of Boston and CohBar of Menlo Park, California, to develop drugs related to mitochondrial functions. CohBar hopes peptides made by mitochondria could be useful against diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s, among other diseases, while MetroBiotech is pursuing a therapy to treat diseases associated with malfunctioning mitochondria. It is testing a drug that boosts levels of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD, a compound involved in energy metabolism in the mitochondria. “The same molecules [in the drug] we think will treat aging itself,” Sinclair says, citing a 2013 paper his team published in Cell.

Sinclair’s interest in aging has become personal. Now 47 and working in a high-stress job at Harvard, he has time to exercise “barely more than once a week.” In addition to his academic and commercial duties, he also sits on the advisory board of InsideTracker, a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts; that uses levels of glucose, vitamin D, and other blood factors to determine a client’s “inner age,” as opposed to the historical one. In 2011, Sinclair says, he clocked in at 57, a decade and a half beyond his actual age. In July 2015, convinced he was going to die young, he upped his daily doses of resveratrol. He also added MetroBiotech’s NAD precursor, which has yet to be tested in people and is too expensive for anyone who’s not making it use.

Sinclair says InsideTracker’s aging markers now put him at 31. He’s lost the weight he’d been carrying since college and has been allowing himself to eat dessert again because his body can handle it. (Weight loss isn’t his goal, he says, but mitochondria are also responsible for burning fat, so weight loss “might be a side effect” of the treatment.) “The results in mice and my single-person experiment indicate that aging is more reversible than we thought,” he says.

Too Early
In a pristine lab overlooking a busy highway in the Boston suburbs, OvaScience researchers identify and count what they believe are egg precursor cells. This constitute, OvaScience says, about 6 percent of the cells on the surface of the ovarian cortex. In the Augment procedure, an IVF surgeon laparoscopically removes a section of this layer about half the size of a dime. The tissue is shipped to an OvaScience lab, where the mitochondria are extracted and sent back to the fertility clinic. Just before fertilization, the mitochondria are inserted into the egg alongside the sperm. Then IVF proceeds as usual.

Preliminary data suggests that the procedure improves fertility. In its latest study, released at a conference in November, OvaScience reported a 31 percent success rate among 75 patients who had undergone at least one previous round of IVF before trying Augment. It’s notoriously difficult to get right data on fertility clinic results, but in a 2015 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, British researchers found that about 30 percent of women are successful in their first round of IVF and 16 to 25 percent are successful in each subsequent round (without Augment). So if the results for Augment prove to be real, it increases success rates from about 20 percent to 30 percent per round—a significant, if modest, improvement.

However, those results only record the experience of Augment patients. As is the case in many early research studies, they were not compared with controls, so there’s no convincing evidence that the procedure made the difference. OvaScience expects to get data from two more trials, including about 300 patients, in the second half of 2017. However, ­OvaScience’s patents on the cells and procedures protect the company’s business interests and prevent outsiders from testing its protocol. So there have been no independent trials. I asked one scientist to examine and comment on OvaScience’s Augment research. After looking at the material the company had presented to me, he declined to say anything. There wasn’t any science to review, he said—just anecdotes.

OvaScience plans two other projects for these egg precursor cells. In a program it’s calling OvaPrime, the cells are extracted from the outer rind of the ovary, isolated, and then reimplanted into the main part of the ovary, where they are projected to mature into healthy, viable eggs. The procedure is designed to help women who don’t make enough eggs—about 30 percent of infertile women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The company is doing safety and feasibility trials now and expects to decide soon whether to pursue this approach commercially.

In another program, called ­OvaTure, OvaScience hopes eventually to perform IVF without hormones. Hormones are now needed to stimulate a woman’s body to release as many eggs as possible. But for many women, hormone injections are the worst part of IVF, with the potential to cause mood swings, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a slight risk of death. With OvaTure, the woman would have some precursor cells removed, and they would be coaxed in a lab dish to mature into fully functional eggs, all without hormones. The company, however, is still studying whether this technique will work.

These projects will largely determine just how significant OvaScience’s contribution to fertility and anti-aging science will be. Augment might have a limited effect even if the precursor egg cells are not actually capable of turning into eggs, as many scientists believe. And Stock says at around $7,000 per treatment, Augment is a good deal if it saves families from another round of IVF, which can easily run $10,000 to $15,000 per cycle. But the two more ambitious efforts, OvaPrime and OvaTure, will never work unless ­Tilly’s conclusions are right. His research was roundly criticized by colleagues in 2004, and his later publications did not erase the skepticism. Mice may very well have these egg precursor cells, several scientists say. But large, long-lived animals are quite different from mice regarding reproduction—and Tilly hasn’t yet convinced other researchers that women carry around cells capable of extending their fertility.

Still, more scientists are coming around to the possibility that egg precursor cells exist, says Evelyn Telfer, a reproductive biologist at the University of Edinburgh. Initially quite dubious of Tilly’s findings, she changed her mind after touring his lab, welcoming him into her own, and working with the egg-­precursor cells herself. “As with all things that are new, it takes the time to get into the consciousness of people,” says Telfer, who now collaborates with ­OvaScience. A small study she has recently finished suggests that egg precursor cells may help women regenerate their egg supply after experiencing a catastrophe, like chemotherapy for cancer. “It’s an observation we’ve made, and we have to do a lot more work to find out what these cells are doing to the ovary and why we see an increased number of eggs,” she says.

Regardless of what these cells are, the dozen scientists interviewed—most of whom didn’t want their names associated with the company—questioned the idea of using them to “rejuvenate” older eggs. It’s not scientifically obvious that adding extra energy to egg cells would make them more fertile.

Carol Hanna, a staff scientist at the Assisted Reproductive Technology Core Laboratory at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, says she and others in the field sincerely hope that Tilly’s science is accurate, but they feel it shouldn’t have moved so quickly to commercialization. “I think a lot of people fall in that middle—they want to believe it but haven’t seen that one piece of information that convinces them,” she says. Renee Reijo Pera, a reproductive and stem-cell biologist at Montana State University, is even blunter: “Almost everybody thinks that the commercial side of the whole enterprise got way out ahead of the science.”

In most areas of medicine other than fertility, it’s standard practice to prove that something works before offering it to patients. Regulations in many countries, however, allow fertility clinics to try a procedure first and test it years later. As a result, dozens of so-called add-on systems to IVF are available to women with very little scientific justification. Industry leaders defend this approach; the first test-tube baby would never have been born if there had been more regulations. But this lack of rigorous oversight also makes patients vulnerable to abuse, says Carl Heneghan, director of the University of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine. “The sheer number of treatments that are available tells you they all can’t work,” suggests Heneghan. “People will try anything. That’s where the problem starts.”

But there aren’t many alternatives available to infertile couples, says Jake Anderson-Bialis, a venture capitalist turned fertility advocate who cofounded the patient community FertilityIQ. International adoptions have become much more challenging; IVF is costly and puts women on a hormonal roller coaster, and buying another woman’s eggs if their own are too old can add $30,000 or more to that cost.

Anderson-Bialis says he doesn’t blame OvaScience for taking its products to market before the science is firmly established. The infertility business has always been that way. And in his view, the problem of infertility is so big that it justifies some risk-taking.

Improving the odds
This has been a busy few months for ­OvaScience. In 2016, the company signed on seven new clinics in Canada and Japan, bringing its total to nine worldwide. Harald Stock, who jumped from the board into the CEO’s chair in July, says company officials have begun speaking with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to explore what it would take to bring Augment to the market in the United States. He will soon decide whether to proceed with the OvaPrime and OvaTure programs. And the company, which had more than $130 million in cash as of September 30, decided to move away from its initial business plan of installing small labs in each of the clinics that use its products, instead relying on a centralized lab, which is cheaper and easier for quality control.

Launching a product and a company takes time and personnel, so Stock says he’s committed to moving slowly and deliberately. “We need to stay disciplined not to get overwhelmed,” he says. “We’re still a 100-some-person company and can’t be everywhere.” The company has chosen to build its business in Canada first because it can cover most of the country from just a few cities, Stock says, meaning there’s no need for a massive sales force. He’s waiting to start marketing until enough clinics have been trained so that anyone who wants Augment can get it.

IVF is a growing business. It’s projected to expand from about $10 billion today to $22 billion globally by 2020. Augment, he says, could help women who fail to get pregnant in the first round of IVF. A bigger prize for the company could be on its other projects. OvaPrime could make it possible for women who lack viable eggs to have biological children, he says. And anyone undergoing IVF would prefer to skip the hormones.

In the end, though, OvaScience’s market may not turn out to be colossal. IVF has been getting markedly better over the last few years. And freezing embryos and even eggs, which costs about the same as IVF plus an annual storage fee of $500 to $1,000, has recently made it much easier for women to preserve high-­quality eggs into their late 30s and 40s. It’s the age of the egg—not the woman—that seems to matter: women in their 40s fare just as well as younger women if the quality of their frozen eggs is high, says Hal ­Danzer, co-founder of the Southern California Reproductive Center, a fertility clinic in Beverly Hills, California. Freezing embryos, meanwhile, allows labs to select those that are most likely to succeed, and transfer them after the hormones needed to stimulate egg production have left the body.

Improved IVF success rates leave less room for Augment to shine. Still, boosting the odds even somewhat will entice some prospective parents. Danzer says his patients, many of whom put off parenthood for their careers, are desperate to get pregnant. He has referred several patients to clinics in Canada so they can try Augment, though when asked whether he’d use it in his clinic, he says: “I think it’s a little too early to tell.”

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Expert Advice on How to Start The New Year While Battling Infertility

Expert Advice on How to Start The New Year While Battling Infertility

Article by Lisa Rosenthal on how to start with new year while battling infertility provided by Path to Fertility. 

There are posts all over social media, Facebook, in particular, reminding us that not everyone is finding joy in the holiday season. Not everyone has holiday pictures of a loving family to post or stories to tell of the past year that makes them feel connected or happy.

Many of us with infertility feel gratitude. Joy and gratitude are not the same things though.  And knowing that there are many reasons in our lives to feel grateful about is one thing- feeling gratitude is something else. Knowing that we are blessed enough to be able to live inside, have running water, have a roof over our heads, and food in our bellies is not the same thing as feeling it. Numb is a feeling or lack of feeling that many of us associate with unsuccessful fertility treatment cycles. Numb from disappointment and sadness.

Yes, we know we should be grateful. And often we are grateful.

And that is not joy. That does not mean we are feeling celebratory.

Lisa Schuman, Director of Mental Health at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT) responded last year to a question sent to her regarding the writer’s lack of happiness. Ms. Schuman’s response?

“Who said you have to be happy?”

What a great and appropriate question.

Maybe happy is a bit much to expect when you’ve just had a failed cycle. Maybe joyous is a real stretch too.

Read Ms. Schuman’s complete answer below. And give yourself a break about how you “should” be feeling this holiday season.

How to Start Another New Year Without a Baby

Dear Lisa,

I am upset about going into the New Year without a baby.  As a matter of fact, I’m upset about getting a year older without a baby, watching my parents get older without a grandchild and getting invitations to the first birthday parties of my friend’s children.  I think about the “what ifs” all the time and regret that I didn’t start trying to get pregnant earlier.  The New Year doesn’t seem like a reason to celebrate for me.  I don’t want to be a stick in the mud, but I don’t know how to be happy.

Samantha

Dear Samantha,

First, who said you have to be happy?  You can be sad about your losses, in fact, it makes perfect sense.  Given the disappointment and hurt you have suffered, who wouldn’t feel upset, at the very least? Remember that all of your feelings are important, even the less appealing ones.  It’s also important to have positive experiences in your life while you are struggling through your journey to get pregnant.  So while you may not feel like attending the baby birthday parties or a big New Year’s Eve celebration, you may be able to think of something else to do that will be pleasant.  Maybe going to a movie or having dinner in a restaurant where it’s unlikely you will see a lot of children (late night dinners are usually best) or even a spa.  Finding pleasant experiences can get you out of the house, provide some pleasure and connection to your partner or friends and be beneficial to your overall state of mind.  And know that while you don’t need to be happy, that is not a permanent state of mind either.

Good luck on your journey,

Lisa

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12 Things Your Fertility Doctor Wants You To Know

12 Things Your Fertility Doctor Wants You To Know

Article by Hayley MacMillen about what your doctor wants you to know about female fertility provided by Cosmopolitan. 

Unless you’re actively trying to get pregnant, there’s a good chance you know more about what it takes to prevent pregnancy than to conceive. Whether you’re ready for a baby or think you might like to have one someday, health-care professionals say it’s time to learn. As Dr. Sharon Vorona – tells Cosmopolitan.com, “If you know that it’s something that you want in your life, then it’s good to have an understanding of the science behind ovulation and the factors that affect female fertility.” Ahead, ten things that you should know about pregnancy and trying to conceive, or TTC, right now.

1. If your period is irregular, you shouldn’t just brush it off. When you’re trying to conceive, your period is more than an annoyance: It represents the possibility of pregnancy. Over the first half of a 28-day menstrual cycle, the average length, your uterine lining thickens in case there’s an embryo for it to nourish while one of your eggs matures until it travels through the fallopian tube to your uterus. If the egg isn’t fertilized by sperm, it will break down and leave your body, along with that unused uterine lining – aka your period. “An irregular or infrequent period is going to reduce the number of opportunities that there are for you to get pregnant,” Dr. Vorona says. “Make a note of infrequent or irregular cycles, track them, and speak with your health-care professional. Understanding your ovulation cycle is crucial for understanding the optimum time to [try to] get pregnant and also how you can take steps to make it regular.” There are many reasons your period might be absent or irregular, including stress, disordered eating, extreme weight loss, overexercising, some medications, and hormonal imbalances. These are in and of themselves excellent reasons to see a doctor, whether or not you’re TTC.

2. Lifestyle plays a role in female fertility. You certainly can’t control every aspect of your fertility – environment and genetic background play a part in the development of conditions such as endometriosis, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune disorders, for example, all of which can affect it – but there are things you can do to up your chances of a healthy pregnancy. “Smoking cigarettes can impact your ability to conceive, and that includes secondhand smoke,” Dr. Vorona adds, as can excessive drinking and an unhealthily low or high weight. She doesn’t give hard and fast guidelines on what constitutes weight extremes for any one person – body mass index has its flaws as a measurement – but it’s worth noting that women who are obese (with a BMI of 30 and above) and underweight (with a BMI of 18.5 or less) are more likely than others to experience disruptions in their hormonal levels and menstrual cycles, which can make conception difficult.

3. Safe sex matters. “STIs like chlamydia and gonorrhea play a significant role in female fertility,” Dr. Vorona says. “If they’re untreated, they can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which means your fallopian tubes aren’t functioning as they should.” What’s more, sometimes these infections have no symptoms: “It’s one of those silent causes of infertility that a woman may be unaware of.” Consider this yet another reason to practice safe sex, get tested regularly, and treat any infections promptly. Another STI that can mess with your ability to conceive: HPV. Simply having HPV won’t negatively affect female fertility, but it can increase your chances of developing precancerous or cancerous cells in your cervix, which may. (Unlike gonorrhea and chlamydia, HPV isn’t curable, but there is a vaccine that’s recommended for girls and boys to protect against it.)

4. The single most important factor in female fertility is age. “A woman is born with all of the eggs that she’s going to have in her lifetime,” Dr. Vorona explains. “When she’s in her twenties, the majority of those eggs are going to be completely healthy … When a woman is in her forties, the vast majority of her eggs are going to be abnormal,” which means a heightened chance of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities. Female fertility ends five to 10 years before menopause, the average age of which is 51. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, most female fertility plummets sometime in their thirties: For every month that the average, healthy 30-year-old woman tries to get pregnant, she has a 20 percent chance of success, but for every month that the average, healthy 40-year-old woman tries, she has just a five percent chance.

5. If you’re trying to conceive, it’s supplement time. “Folic acid is something that you need to take to reduce the risk of your baby developing a neural tube defect,” or defect of the brain, spine, or spinal cord, Dr. Vorona says. According to the CDC, women should start taking 400 micrograms of this B vitamin a day basically as soon as they’ve decided they’re going to start trying for a baby, since most women are pregnant for a few weeks before they even know it and you want the fetus to be getting that folic acid from the start. Keep in mind that different people need different amounts: “Some medications, mean that you need to take a greater dose of folic acid, and so it’s definitely a good idea to see your health-care professional and go through your medical history and the medications that you’re taking to understand if you need a higher dose,” Dr. Vorona explains, “and if the medications that you’re on mean it’s safe for you to conceive or if they need to be changed.” Taking a multivitamin, meanwhile, has been shown to reduce the chances of miscarriage.

6. What you drink when you’re TTC matters – and that means both alcohol and caffeine. If you don’t smoke and you’re getting good sleep, nutrition, and exercise, you’re on the right track. Next, Dr. Vorona recommends cutting out alcohol, because it can be harmful to a developing fetus and again, most women don’t know they’re pregnant for the first few weeks. Another beverage you may want to reconsider: coffee. “There have been some studies that have talked about coffee consumption and how it impacts a couple’s ability to conceive and miscarriages,” Dr. Vorona says. A recent one found that a woman’s risk of miscarrying is higher if she and the person responsible for providing the sperm consume more than two caffeinated drinks per day in the weeks before conception. (Yes, a double-shot latte counts as two.)

7. Stress can affect female fertility. Every woman is different, but sudden stress, such as that you experience when a traumatic event occurs, can interfere with ovulation (have you ever been so strung out on something that your period was late?). Some research on longer-term stress does suggest that women who have it take longer to conceive, although causal links are less clear. Regardless, feeling stressed out all the time is no good for your health in general and can certainly make the prospect of having sex a lot less appealing – bad news if intercourse is the technique you’re using to try to conceive.

8. Most fertility apps and trackers don’t live up to their promises. Dr. Vorona cites a recent study that showed that of over 50 apps and websites that claim to help you track your fertility; the majority gave inaccurate information. Instead of relying on an app, you can begin by taking your notes about your menstrual cycle; Dr. Vorona says: “The ovulation cycle is going to vary from month to month for most women. Start at day one when your period starts and keep track of it, knowing how long it lasts and when your next period begins, and do that for a few months. See if there’s consistency regarding the length of each cycle, and calculate when you’re most likely to ovulate based on that.” You’re most likely to get pregnant on the day you ovulate and the three to five days beforehand, aka the lifespan of sperm. You can also monitor your basal temperature and cervical mucus: “Both of those can help you understand exactly when you’re ovulating and the time it’s best to have sex to conceive,” Dr. Vorona says.

9. If you’re under 35 and aren’t pregnant within a year of trying, see a professional; if you’re over 35, see a professional after six months. If you’re timing intercourse or insemination attempts with your ovulation windows (and you’re healthy, with no history of STIs, fibroids, or pelvic pain), try for a year before consulting a health-care professional for guidance and possibly testing, Dr. Vorona says. If you’re over 35 or have health issues, that period is reduced to six months.

Many providers cite this simple guideline because 35 is the age around which female fertility drops most rapidly and also so that couples don’t freak and shell out for pricey tests or treatments before there’s a need. One study of 346 healthy, TTC women with an average age of 29 found that 68 percent became pregnant within three months and 92 percent became pregnant within twelve months, and so the thinking is that if you’re not pregnant after one year, you’re part of a slim minority and there’s probably something going on other than just bad timing. Still, this is your body and your life: If you want to see a professional before the year mark, do it. “If someone under 35 is anxious before a year has passed, they should be encouraged to speak to their physician,” Dr. Vorona says. “Any decision about the commencement of treatment is between that patient and their healthcare professional.” Going in to counseling doesn’t mean you have to dive into fertility treatment right away, and a good provider can talk you through your concerns and medical history and flag possible conception pain points.

10. Insemination can help you get pregnant when intercourse isn’t working or isn’t an option. Some people go the insemination route when trying to get pregnant, for example, members of same-sex female couples. There are two options: Intracervical insemination (ICI) involves injecting semen onto the outer cervix, mimicking what happens during intercourse – think of the “turkey baster” method (although needleless syringes are more frequently used than actual turkey basters, and ejaculating toys such as POPDildo are growing in popularity). Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves injecting sperm into the uterus and leads to pregnancy more often that ICI. IUI is performed by a doctor rather than at home, as ICI can be.

11. Egg-freezing and in vitro fertilization are viable options, but they aren’t silverbullets. “As long as there’s an understanding that egg-freezing doesn’t guarantee that you can still start a family when you want to,” Dr. Vorona says, “it gives you an option and probably increases your chances versus not having them frozen and trying naturally. I just wouldn’t want people to think that it’s a cure-all and they can defer something and have a guaranteed response at the end.” The same goes for in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which fertilization happens outside the body and the embryo is transferred to the uterus. IVF’s success varies widely, but it’s around 33 to 36 percent of women between 35 and 37 (to say nothing of the cost of a single cycle, which can range from $12,000 to $17,000). “Fertility drugs and intrauterine insemination are the less extreme options before going to a more radical treatment,” Dr. Vorona says. The most common fertility drugs are clomiphene, which causes the brain to release hormones that stimulate ovulation, and gonadotropins, which directly stimulate the ovaries. They can help but also carry risks, mainly the risk of multiple births.

12. The sperm could be the reason if you have trouble conceiving. “It’s important to remember that 40 percent of cases of infertility are down to male infertility,” Dr. Vorona says. She says that gynecologists with whom she’s worked report that some female patients believe only women can be infertile, although this couldn’t be further from the truth: It takes two to make a baby, in more ways than one.

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Struggling With Infertility? Here’s Your Guide To Getting Through The Holidays

Struggling With Infertility? Here’s Your Guide To Getting Through The Holidays

Article by Chrissie Kahan on getting through the holidays with infertility provided by MindBodyGreen. 

We have arrived at the time of year when the focus turns to the holidays: decorations everywhere you look in stores, endless Christmas music on the radio, and commercials intended to warm your heart that are focused on family and holiday gatherings. However, if you are struggling with infertility, these things can trigger sadness and depression as they become endless reminders of the happy, holiday memories you are unable to create. I know because I’ve been there.

What can be equally draining are the holiday events and gatherings in which you know you are going to get the hundred-million-dollar question: “When are you going to have kids?” Before you fly off into a—justified—rage, as every person with infertility would absolutely condone, I’ve compiled a list of tried and true strategies that have helped me navigate holiday scenarios with more ease and grace.

1. You’ll be asked “the question.” Brainstorm a response ahead of time.

Brutal honesty

Your response truly depends on your comfort level with your situation and what you are willing to share. If you are like me, then you will respond with swift truth and reality. I immediately got sick of this question and just put our situation out there to stop the incessant line of questioning at each event.

Swift deflection

If you are not as comfortable or as forthcoming, which is absolutely OK, you can try giving a quick noncommittal answer to the question or stating something to the effect of “not yet” then walking away to leave them wondering.

Flippant humor

You can also use humor to deflect by stating something to the effect of “We’ll see, but until it happens we are having fun trying.” Practice saying it until you can convey the nonchalant attitude needed to deliver this statement. A wink and half smile at the end really finishes it off.

Spiritual timing

Or you can use the spiritual response: “Not yet, but we know God has a plan, so when it happens it will be in his timing.”

Denial, for now

If all else fails, you can go in the complete opposite direction and renounce wanting kids and listing all the reasons your life is better off without them. Although this one may throw the person asking off, you don’t mean it and no matter how much you try to convince yourself internally, the pain of infertility will still be there.

But no matter what you say, know two things: First, the person asking is usually just trying to engage in a conversation with you, and more often than not it’s with good, honest intent. They have no idea the inner turmoil this question causes. Just be prepared that no matter your answer, you will still get stories about how and when they conceived along with unwarranted advice. Second, give yourself permission to feel the gamut of emotions that go along with preparing to answer this question.

2. Know your triggers and find support.

The emotions of dealing with Infertility are ever present and during holiday gatherings; they can bubble over before you have a chance to settle them. So it is best to think ahead about your upcoming events to determine whether you want to go or want to skip out Four Christmases style…you know, before Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon can’t take their flight to Hawaii.

It’s important to know your triggers. For me it was seeing Aaron’s cousins who are newly pregnant, so I had to avoid their baby showers because it was just too much emotionally for me. But seeing their adorable kids during the holidays is also like a piercing knife through the heart. Thankfully, I had another cousin struggling with infertility, so we became life rafts to each other through all family events, checking in and commiserating about our feelings.

If you do go to an event, work out a code word with your partner so you have a quick out if your emotions get triggered and you need to leave. You know your family members and their varying personalities. Mentally prepare yourself for that before the event talking to your partner about how you will respond in certain situations. Then give yourself permission to leave and cry as needed but include your partner in how you are feeling. You are in this together, and chances are, they are also struggling through these situations.

3. Change the channel, literally.

Thanks to Netflix and the millions of channels available now, you don’t have to torture yourself with classic family holiday shows if that’s not leaving you feeling good. It’s OK to change the channel to avoid sappy, holiday movies if they upset you. On the flip side, if you want to watch a sappy movie and cry it out for a release, go for it. My advice? If you really feel like you need to watch a Christmas movie, there’s always Die Hard.

4. Treat yourself well.

Self-care is more important than ever during the difficulty of the holidays. Actively try to maintain a healthy mental balance. If you are feeling low, do whatever you need to reset: yoga, meditation, exercise, get a massage, buy yourself a treat, etc. This may sound hokey but is extremely important.

5. Make your own, new traditions.

In society there is an underlying implication that the holidays are synonymous with kids. It makes sense as I imagine Christmas is a lot more exciting with little ones around.

However, the holidays can mean and be whatever you want them to be. Start your own traditions. When my stepdad suddenly passed away five years ago, the holidays became devastating. My mom and I fled to her sunny condo in Florida during Christmas. Ever since then it has become a tradition to spend Christmas with friends there, lounging by a water view and palm trees. It’s been a nice change of pace that helps us cope in the face of heavy grief.

This year after having a miscarriage, as well as losing the little girls we were trying to foster to adopt, I don’t think we’re going to continue to put up the decorations around the house, as I know it will do more harm than good. So we’ll come up with a brand-new tradition to feel excited about.

The most important thing I can tell you as you navigate these holiday land mine scenarios that can cause you to emotionally explode at any given time is that you are not alone. There are many other people out there also dealing with infertility who understand your pain. To hear our full story, check out our book, Navigating the Road of Infertility.

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Three Common Infertility Causes And How Women Can Overcome

Three Common Infertility Causes And How Women Can Overcome

Article by Sammuel Larson on the most common infertility causes provided by Parent Herald. 

It’s been said that every couple needs a child to make a family. However, many couples are experiencing problems with having a child which we call infertility.

As defined, infertility is the inability of a sexually active, non-contracepting couple to achieve pregnancy in one year. The problem lies either to the male, female or both of them.

Infertility means not being able to become pregnant after a year of trying. If a woman can get pregnant but keeps having miscarriages or stillbirths, that’s also called infertility.

Infertility is fairly common. After one year of having unprotected sex, about 15 percent of couples are unable to get pregnant. About a third of the time, infertility can be traced to the women while another third of cases, it is because of the men. The rest of the time, it is because of both partners or no cause can be found, Advanced Fertility says.

There are treatments that are specifically for men or for women. Some involve both partners. Drugs, assisted reproductive technology and surgery are common treatments. Luckily, many couples treated for infertility go on to have babies.

So, what are the common cause of infertility? Please read below.

First reason is ovulation problems. It occurs when eggs don’t mature in the ovaries or when the ovaries fail to release a mature egg. Ovulation problems are common in women with infertility. Possible solutions include managing body weight if it’s too low or too high, taking fertility drugs (with or without artificial insemination) and having in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Next is endometriosis and it is a condition that occurs when tissue normally found in the lining of the uterus (endometrial tissue) grows outside of it, usually in the abdomen or pelvis. Surgery to remove endometrial tissue or open blocked fallopian tubes, fertility drugs (with or without artificial insemination) and IVF are its possible solutions, Medicine Net notes.

Lastly, infertility may be due to the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition in which small follicles in the ovaries don’t develop into the larger, mature follicles that release eggs. It’s also characterized by hormone imbalances and unpredictable ovulation patterns.

To resolve this condition, lifestyle modifications are needed (like diet and exercise), clomiphene citrate, injected fertility drugs, ovarian drilling (a surgical procedure that can trigger ovulation) and IVF. In women with glucose intolerance, the diabetes drug metformin (Glucophage) can also help restore regular ovulation.

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