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New Tool to Help Decide if IVF is For You

New Tool to Help Decide if IVF is For You

Univfy Helps Women Decide Their Next Step

A new company, Univfy, emerged in 2009 to help predict the possibility of a woman getting pregnant while on IVF. Its founder, Dr. Marlene Yao, is an obstetrician-gynecologist who noticed that some women end up spending tens of thousands of dollars on IVF and are never able to conceive.

Around 12% of women between the ages of fifteen and forty-four have trouble conceiving, and many turn to IVF. A single round of IVF can cost as much as $23,000, and can be hard on a woman’s body. Additionally, many have to go through multiple rounds before they are able to conceive.

  • Univfy is a new fertility tool that helps women decide whether or not IVF is for them
  • With machine learning technology, it is constantly improving
  • IVF, while often rewarding, can also be expensive and stressful and Univfy helps women make that difficult decision

 

What does Univfy do?

Dr. Yao wanted to find a way to predict how likely a woman was to get pregnant from IVF, and likened her method to a FICO score, which is a financial risk assessment for loans. So she works with IVF clinics across the United States to calculate women’s chances of pregnancy.

12 centers are currently using Univfy, but 50 more are set to start during 2018.

 

How does it work?

Univfy has machine mapping technology that assesses the likelihood of an individual conceiving during three cycles of IVF. It uses a lot of data to calculate this, including the prospective mother’s body-mass index (BMI), her age, her hormone levels, and her partner’s fertility.

In an interview with CBS MoneyWatch Dr. Yao explains why she chose to use machine learning, “Without using machine learning, using traditional statistics, you would have to set up a threshold or cutoff — different programs use different criteria: Your age has to be under 38, or your BMI has to be under 35, or your ovarian age has to be under a certain amount. So there would be all these cutoffs so that program could be viable. But then, only 10 percent to 15 percent of people will qualify.”

Machine learning technology means that as more and more clinics continue to use Univfy it will continue to become more accurate and will be able to help even more women decide if IVF is the correct path for them.

 

How does this help?

It gives women an idea of whether or not IVF is worth the price and the changes to their body. While IVF can be an amazing procedure for some, for others it just doesn’t work, for whatever reason. Dr. Yao’s program can help those women decide whether or not to go through with it or to consider other options, such as adoption or surrogacy.

It also helps IVF clinics calculate refunds, if a woman decides to go through with the procedure and is not able to become pregnant.

If you’re considering IVF, Univfy is a great tool to help make your decision–but of course, so many factors go into the whole fertility process that you should also consult with your doctor every step of the way!

 

What Makes a Good or Bad Egg?

What Makes a Good or Bad Egg?

Girl holding egg

In approximately 15 percent of instances where couples are unable to conceive, the reason behind their struggle is unknown. Could it be because of “bad” eggs?

A study on female mice that occurred at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and in the Division of Biological Sciences at UC San Diego could help explain some cases of infertility.

Cook-Andersen said this was definitely at least partially responsible for the mice’s infertility. It’s important for genes to be “turned off” in order for cells to advance to the next stage of development.

Researchers have identified a protein in mice that must be present in eggs in order for those eggs to develop. The protein is called ZFP36L2, or L2 for short. Without it, the eggs appear normal, but they cannot be fertilized by sperm. Female mice who do not have L2 in their eggs ovulate and are in all other ways healthy, but they cannot produce offspring.

Humans also have the L2 protein, so this discovery offers a new place to seek answers about infertility. Heidi Cook-Andersen, assistant professor of reproductive medicine and biological sciences at UC San Diego and physician at the UC San Diego-affiliated Reproductive Partners Fertility Center-San Diego, works with couples struggling to conceive. She says it can be very frustrating for everyone. Fertility tests come back normal and there just seems to be no answer as to why. However, there are still many important elements about fertility that have yet to be discovered, and L2 is one of them.

L2 is important because it activates decay of mRNA in cells when they are no longer needed. It is also needed for normal blood cell development.

To determine what effect L2 has on eggs, Cook-Andersen and her team worked with female mice who were engineered to completely lack the L2 protein in their eggs. These mice were set up with fertile male mice and were studied for 6 months. In that time, they didn’t have a single pup. However, at the same time, female mice with eggs rich in L2 produced pups regularly.

But why? The team found that the L2 deficient eggs were unable to undergo a crucial transcription silencing process that occurs during the final stages of egg growth. The conversion of genes was supposed to “shut off,” but they didn’t.

L2 and mRNA decay evidently play key roles in global transcriptional silencing. In the future, the research team plans to study L2 in humans. Now, they’re using the mouse study to learn more about global transcriptional silencing and to identify additional factors required to make a good egg.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Joins the Growing List of Women Having Babies in Their Forties

Sen. Tammy Duckworth Joins the Growing List of Women Having Babies in Their Forties

 

Senator Tammy Duckworth

Sen. Duckworth is the first U.S. senator to have a baby while serving

The Democratic senator from Illinois is having a baby at 49 years old. This will be her second child. Nowadays, it has become more common for women her age to conceive a child.

  • In 2016, the percentage of women who have ever given birth was higher than it was ten years earlier.
  • In a way, the country’s fertile and business cycles are interrelated.
  • Chances of health complications for your baby increase as you grow older.

 

These older women are reversing a 40-year-old trend

According to a research study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 86% of women ages 40 to 44 were recorded to have been mothers in 2016, whereas only 80% of women in this age group had children back in 2006. “Not only are women more likely to be mothers than in the past, but they are having more children,” the report said.

One interesting statistic that the report found was that most women in this age group who have never married have still had a baby. There has been a rise in women who have never wed by the end of their childbearing years. Among them, a majority have at least one child.

 

The economy may be related to the rise and fall of birth rates

“The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage,” said the Pew report. “Given these social and cultural shifts, it seems likely that the postponement of childbearing will continue.”

In terms of why women may wait to have children, one reason is that their desire to focus on their career. Also, houses are expensive, and couples are inclined to wait and save for a down payment before starting a family. Senator Duckworth herself wrote on Twitter that, “I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent, and my daughter Abigail has only made me more committed to doing my job and standing up for hard-working families everywhere.”

 

There are health risks that come along with having a baby later in life

The chances of having a baby with Down Syndrome increase from 1 in 100 at age 40 to 1 in 30 at age 45. Mothers who give birth in their 40s also have a higher chance of having to go through C-sections because of complications, low birth weight, and stillborn babies. According to the Mayo Clinic, women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy if they conceive after they are 35.

It is important to note that you are not alone if you decide to have a child at a later age. There are plenty of resources available to help you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your physician if you have any questions or concerns regarding your pregnancy.

Coping with Cervical Cancer and its Effect on Fertility

Coping with Cervical Cancer and its Effect on Fertility

Stork and baby

 

A cervical cancer diagnosis often brings a mix of emotions and questions to a woman’s mind. Patients often have concerns over the effect their treatment plan will have on their fertility. Here are some important points to consider when figuring out a treatment plan with your physician.

  • Educating yourself on different treatment options that could be available to you is key in helping you advocate for a plan that will best preserve your fertility.
  • Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation may all impact your ability to conceive.
  • Emotional support will be critical during this time.

 

Be aware of all treatment plans that could be available to you

It is important to educate yourself on any alternate treatment plans that you could be qualified for. Doing so will give you a strong foundation upon which to advocate for a treatment plan that will have the highest chance of protecting your fertility. Also, do not hesitate to ask any questions about your treatment plan to your physician. Since individual cases vary, this is your best source for obtaining the most information about your own case. This will also help you form a strong and supportive bond between you and your physician.

 

Common treatment plans may affect your fertility

Surgery is often used to treat cervical cancer. Depending on the size of your tumor and the stage of cancer you are in, chemotherapy and/or radiation may also be included in the treatment plan. A hysterectomy, the partial or complete removal of the uterus, will prevent a woman from being able to bear children. If the cancer is caught early enough, a radical trachelectomy may be performed. The cervix is removed, but the uterus remains. So the woman may still be able to become pregnant and give birth via cesarean section.

It is important to note that chemotherapy and radiation can also affect fertility. Certain chemotherapy drugs can harm the eggs inside a woman’s ovaries. This results in reduced or complete infertility. They will also distort a woman’s menstrual cycle even after treatment has finished. The ovaries and uterus may also become damaged from radiation.

As a result, women hoping to start a family will often look into egg or embryo freezing before starting treatment. Once it is over, they may either use their eggs to carry a child themselves or use a surrogate to help start a family.

 

Make sure you have all the support you can get during your treatment

Going through cancer treatment will inevitably be difficult. Counseling professionals, such as oncology social workers and therapists, are available. CancerCare offers counseling over the phone and the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) helps connect you with professionals who are experienced with working with these types of cases in your area. Support groups are also available for women going through treatment.

 

Remember that you are not alone. Your physician, family, friends, and any professional help you choose to seek out are here for you. Do not hesitate to reach out to them.

7 Period-Tracking Apps for Monitoring Your Fertility

7 Period-Tracking Apps for Monitoring Your Fertility

Stay on top of your cycle with the best from the app store

Predicting when your period is coming can be a nuisance, but thankfully today’s technology can help you stay on top of your cycle!  Staying on top of your cycle can help your fertility odds, but even if you aren’t planning on having a baby, it can simply help to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  

According to the Founder and President of Cycle Technologies, Leslie Heyer: “Period tracking can be powerful and is empowering… Period trackers give women a better sense of what’s going on with their bodies, and help them know when their periods are likely to come next. And with new technologies and approaches, I think we’re finding that it also gives us a lot of actionable information.” Heuer is a founder of Dot, one of our examples.  We’ve listed the top seven best apps, and highlighted a few of best below:

  1. Dot
  2. Spot On
  3. Pink Pad
  4. Clue
  5. Period Tracker
  6. Glow
  7. Eve

 

Dot

Dot stands for Dynamic Optimal Timing, and its main goal is to help plan or prevent pregnancy. By logging your period start dates, the app tells you if your conception rate is low, medium or high, as well as detailing any conception risks for that day in your tracked cycle. Dot helps you plan or prevent pregnancy based on the lengths of your menstrual cycles.  Like many other apps, it can also log any period symptoms, mood changes, sexual activity, and other cycle-related health patterns.

“The app uses an advanced algorithm to identify a woman’s pregnancy risks and gives her that information in such a way that she can use it to meet her reproductive goals,” says Heyer, “It can also see patterns in a user’s cycles and identify potential health issues that could affect fertility.”

 

Spot On

Spot On is another period tracking app, but holds the unique title of being created and operated by Planned Parenthood.  Along with giving you even more access to Planned Parenthood’s resources, the app specializes is logging your period details in conjunction with your birth control method that regulates it. Regardless of if you choose the pill or an IUD, Spot On takes your preferred method into consideration for its calculations.

 

Period Tracker

There are certainly no added frills with our next pick’s title, as the staple Period Tracker app specializes in logging just about every symptom you can think of, including cramps, spotting, bloating and headaches. For each symptom, it prompts you to “label them as mild, moderate, or severe”, along with adding any medications you may be taking and writing notes for each of your details.  Period Tracker is widely recognized as easy to use: just tap the large “Period just started!” button and it will take care of the rest!

 

Glow

Last but not least, the period tracking app Glow includes all of the features mentioned for other apps, including tracking symptoms, logging sexual activity, evaluating medications, and more. An added bonus, however, is that it includes added features for women undergoing fertility treatments such as IVF or IUI. It also has the special feature of uploading your data to allow you to email yourself a PDF copy of your ovulation results so you can share it with your partner or doctor if needed.  Glow also has a sister app, called Glow Nurture, that specializes in pregnancy.

Our other mentions include Pink Pad (which includes an online chat community with other women), Clue (which is gender-neutral in its theme), and Eve (which uses emojis to track both period and sex details).  Whichever app you decide to choose, these are all a step in the right direction for healthy fertility check-ins!  All are free in the app store, so it won’t hurt to try them all out to find the right fit for you.

Crazy Vagina Advice Throughout History

Crazy Vagina Advice Throughout History

The most absurd cures and recommendations, ranked from mildly strange to absolutely cringeworthy

In a recent book, Dr. Lydia Kang and Nate Pederson detail some of history’s most grotesque antidotes. Unfortunately, some extremely questionable home remedies still occur today, but thankfully we have evolved from some of the more horrifying quick fixes.  Here is our list of old remedies from bad to worst, and we’ve highlighted a few below that need some gross explaining!  

12. Enduring a public spanking to supposedly increase your chances of fertility

11. Trying to cure a “wandering uterus” with different smells and scents

10. Using garlic on your vagina in order to measure fertility

9. Receiving a pelvic massage as a cure for hysteria

8. Using egg whites and mothballs as a tampon to cure any vaginal discomfort

7. Fumigating a vagina with a mix of marshmallows, barley flour, and more egg whites

6. Following the queen of France’s at-home recipe for a cure for infertility

5. Using leeches on your cervix as a solution to common menstrual cramps

4. Applying a taxidermy formula paste to your cervix to cure infertility

3. Using arsenic to shave your bikini line

2. Cutting your foot and bleeding during Medieval times to “make up” for a light period

  1. Spraying your vagina directly with Lysol to promote cleanliness

 

The mysterious “wandering uterus”

In Ancient Egypt, a “wandering uterus” was considered to be the main cause of a lot of gynecological problems.  The Ebers Papyrus—an Egyptian medical papyrus dating from 1550 BCE—recommended using either good or bad smells to promote a uterus to move.  Some examples include bringing foul-smelling feet near the woman’s nose so the uterus would shift downward.

 

Not just a cure for vampires

According to Hippocrates’ in Ancient Greece, a woman’s mouth and her vagina were connected by a “freeway.”  To make sure this pathway was clean and running smoothly, people would rub garlic on a woman’s vagina and then smell her breath to see if the odor had successfully travelled upwards through her body.  If they smelled garlic, it meant a healthy fertility rate.

 

A toxic cure for infertility

Along with this garlic suggestion, Hippocrates listed a concoction of “red nitre, cumin, resin, and honey to be applied to a woman’s cervix as a cure for infertility.” The authors of the book speculate the red nitre could have consisted of either potassium nitrate or soda ash. Potassium nitrate was used to pickle corned beef, alongside manufacturing fireworks and gunpowder, while soda ash was used by Egyptians for mummification processes, similar to what is used for the taxidermy of hunted animals today. Apparently, the purpose of the toxic mixture was to “irritate the cervix so badly that it opened up for childbirth.”

 

The disgusting medieval s’more

Another certainly irritating remedy occurred in the Middle Ages in Italy, where a medicinal textbook known as the Trotula recommended “fumigating the vagina with a mixture of burned marshmallow, barley flour, and egg whites” to jumpstart a late period.  Of course, any attempts were futile, and this mixture did nothing besides potentially irritating the area.

 

Royal treatment

In mid sixteenth century France, the queen Catherine de Medici “drank the urine of a mare and then soaked her vagina with a mixture of manure and ground stag antlers.”  This strange elixir was concocted to increase chances of procreation, but definitely did more harm than good.

From Ancient Egypt to medieval Italy, these worrisome concoctions are just a few examples of the poor medical practices from our world’s past. We cannot stress enough that none of these solutions should ever be tried, along with other modern advertised at-home treatments. Consult your doctor about your fertility questions, but if this article was really of interest to you, check out Quackery on Amazon to read more!

How Does Being Overweight Affect Your Chances of Pregnancy?

How Does Being Overweight Affect Your Chances of Pregnancy?

BabyHave you been trying to achieve pregnancy for what seems like an eternity? It’s taking forever, or at least longer than everyone else, and you’re scratching your head in wonder. What is everybody else doing that you aren’t? Are you doing something wrong?

There are a plethora of explanations out there as to why you could be experiencing difficulty conceiving, from alcohol, to smoking, to any bizarre disease.

One crucial answer to your fertility questions could be weight. Experts say although being overweight doesn’t make it impossible to conceive, it does make it harder. Being overweight not only affects your fertility, but it can impact your male partner’s, too. Rachel Eisenberg, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida, says that carrying too much fat alters the natural production of hormones, which in turn affects your chances of conception.

For men, being overweight can decrease semen and testosterone production. Erectile dysfunction is also linked to obesity. For women, it can decrease the rate of ovulation, which causes periods to become irregular, which then affects your eggs. It’s a domino effect. “Overweight women are also more at risk for miscarriages and failed In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures due to the eggs not being produced properly,” Rachel Eisenberg explains.

She says it’s still possible to become pregnant if you’re overweight, but losing weight can drastically ease the process. Healthy ways to lose weight include exercising more, adopting a healthier diet, eating smaller portion sizes, and tracking your menstrual cycles and ovulation through kits.

Eisenberg also recommends seeing a fertility specialist if you’ve been trying to conceive for over six months and remain unsuccessful. “It’s also important to get tested for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) to check if your ovaries are enlarged or if there are cysts present that could be affecting your fertility,” she says.

PCOS is known to cause weight gain in women. Eisenberg says, “PCOS is a disease characterized by an increase in male hormones and abnormal insulin levels which lead to irregular cycles. Correcting the insulin may allow a woman to ovulate and succeed at getting pregnant. Exercising also helps increase the chances of women with PCOS getting pregnant because it causes weight loss and helps naturally regulate hormone levels.”

If you suspect you may have PCOS, or you want to know if there is anything else you can do to help yourself lose weight or become more fertile, Eisenberg suggests seeing a specialist for treatment and to see if you need any medications.

If you are able to conceive and are overweight, can you still have a healthy pregnancy and baby? Eisenberg says you absolutely can. She advises checking your vitamin levels, eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, drinking enough fluids, and exercising.

Being overweight does affect you and your partner’s fertility, but taking care of your bodies, tracking ovulation, and trying to be the healthiest you possible is a great way to jump on the track towards a baby.

How Frequent Flying Affects Menstruation and Fertility

How Frequent Flying Affects Menstruation and Fertility

Girl on plane

Long days on a plane or constant travel can easily wear you down. As women, our reproductive systems are sensitive to stress, and traveling may cause a lot of it. There’s the adjustment to different time zones, changes in diet and routine, and lack of sleep, just to name a few. Can all of this baggage disrupt your period and impact fertility? Read on, because experts and frequent fliers have some answers and advice for you.

Periods

How does flying affect periods?

The act of flying doesn’t actually have an impact on menstruation. Rather, it’s the stress of travel itself. Dr. Anita Mitra, an NHS gynecologist and evidence-based blogger, reminds us that voyaging from place to place straight up messes with your routine. Having your daily cycle disrupted could in turn have a significant impact on the two primary hormones that regulate women’s periods: melatonin and cortisol.

Even a change as subtle as waking up early one day and sleeping late the next can influence your melatonin levels, so it’s no surprise that a switch in time zones could have an effect on your monthly cycle.

As for cortisol, a hormone that is linked to stress, sprinting to your departure gate or sitting tensely in traffic can spike your levels. Even sleeping in a foreign bed can cause some upset. Dr. Mitra says, “There is an evolutionary basis for why this kind of stress affects our cycles. If you’re in ‘fight or flight’ mode, your body doesn’t know whether it has the energy to waste on having a period. We don’t fully understand the brain-uterus connection, but we know that the brain is the first link in the hormonal chain that produces a menstrual cycle.”

Fertility

When cortisol and melatonin levels fluctuate, so does the window in which you’re fertile. This window generally lasts for 6 days of a 28 day cycle. This shifting of ovulation then causes our periods to come early, late, or not at all.

Is there anything to be done about it?

Not really. A disruption to your period is normal if you’re traveling a lot or going through a chaotic time in your life, so don’t be stressed out (That might even make things worse). If you’re still worried, you can always try tracking your monthly cycles with apps or kits.

If you’re a flight attendant or a frequent flier who is trying to get pregnant and traveling less simply isn’t an option, talk to a doctor or fertility specialist about the implications of spending a lot of time in the air.

Michaella from ‘Bringing Up Bates’ Discusses Fertility Treatment

Michaella from ‘Bringing Up Bates’ Discusses Fertility Treatment

The sister of 18 siblings updates us on her journey for a child

The reality show follows the larger-than-life Bates family of Rocky Top. Together, husband and wife Gil and Kelly Jo Bates raise their family of 19 children, plus five sons and daughters-in-law, and six grandchildren.

During the January 11th episode of “Bringing Up Bates,” Michaella Bates Keilen revealed that she and her husband have been working with a fertility specialist for a year now. The Keilens have been married since August 2015, and their fertility struggles have gone back to season six of the show.

  • Michaella’s sister, Erin Bates Paine, and mother, Kelly Jo Bates, discovered this on their trip to Chicago to visit the young couple.
  • The couple is still waiting for answers to their fertility problems.
  • The cost of using a specialist has taken a toll on their bank account.

A Trip to Chicago

The couple recently obtained a new rental house in Chicago, and during Erin’s visit, she asked how the couple’s fertility journey was going. Even though they live in Chicago, the couple plans to go to East Tennessee again for another test. In terms of their struggles with getting pregnant, the couple has both good days and bad days.

“Perspective changes a lot when I focus on what I do have. Brandon’s gracious…he prays with me. He leaves me notes and roses, and he’ll wake up early and get coffee, just lets me know that he cares…that helps a lot, but at the same time, I just, there’s days I cry a lot, and there’s other days that I don’t seem to be fazed. We just take walks and have fun together, so it’s a lot of back and forth.”

Still Waiting for Answers

According to Michaella, “The whole journey to find an answer and just see what might be the problem is very emotional. I think we’ve tried all of the major tests, and there’s one more procedure that I want to have done, and then after that, just take a break and enjoy each other and maybe start this journey again later if we don’t have an answer.”

Financial Tolls

Fertility specialists can be quite pricey, a phenomenon that the Keilen’s are painfully aware of. Michaella says that their own has cost quite a lot of money.

The couple’s struggles are shared by many others who are having issues becoming pregnant. Hopefully, this episode will let other couples know that they are not alone.

Will This One Simple Trick Increase Your Fertility?

Will This One Simple Trick Increase Your Fertility?

pregnant woman outsideDoctors are learning more about the importance of nutrition when trying to conceive. A recent study published in Human Reproduction studied the importance of iodine for women who are trying to get pregnant.

  • Iodine is important for fertility and pregnancy.
  • There are a lot of great sources for iodine, like potatoes and strawberries.
  • Neonatal vitamins can help ensure you’re getting everything you need.

 

What is iodine?

Iodine is an essential mineral, and a deficiency can affect the thyroid. Pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant are especially affected. This study showed that almost 45% of United States women may have some sort of iodine deficiency. Some symptoms of iodine withdrawal include swelling of the neck, unexpected weight gain, heavy or irregular periods, fatigue, and hair loss.

What can result from an iron deficiency?

A deficiency in iodine can lead to a 46% drop in a woman’s ability to conceive each menstrual cycle. This means that women with an iodine deficiency are half as likely to be able to get pregnant.

Also, once you are pregnant, it is important to make sure to get enough iodine in your diet. A lack of it can lead to stillbirths. Infants with an iodine deficiency can experience stunted growth and brain development.

What should I do?

There are a lot of great sources of iodine that you can incorporate into your daily life. “Given that diet is the main source of iodine for our patients — seafood, salt, some fruits and vegetables, like potatoes, cranberries and strawberries to name a few — we advise our patients to take prenatal vitamins, which include iodine, at least three months prior to conception,” advised Dr. Tomer Singer. Dr. Singer is the director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility care at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

So, follow Dr. Singer’s advice and make sure you’re eating foods that will be healthy for both you and a baby, and help supplement your iodine levels with prenatal vitamins. The researchers who led the study specifically warn any vegans and vegetarians to ensure that they’re eating enough foods with iodine and checking in regularly with their doctors.

While this study was not designed to look at the impacts of iodine on fertility, it did find some correlation. There are lots of delicious foods that can help keep iodine levels up naturally, such as yogurt, eggs, and seaweed! Pick up some neonatal vitamins, and check in with your doctor to see if iodine levels may be an issue for you.