Why is it so Hard to Talk About Fertility?

Why is it so Hard to Talk About Fertility?

women workingHave you seen the viral marketing campaign #SaytheFWord around recently and wondered what’s going on? Even if you haven’t, it’s a new and important part of the fertility movement, not some weird way to encourage people to curse more.

Celmatix, which is a biotech company that focuses on women’s health, recently ran an extensive survey about fertility. They found some alarming trends in how women feel scared to talk about the subject of fertility with their friends and even sometimes with their partners. In fact, they found that one in five women who have a miscarriage don’t even tell their partners about it!

Also, 75% of women who are considering or even actively involved in fertility procedures don’t tell their friends about it.

Things like this contribute to the culture of shame around fertility and make it even more difficult for women who are undergoing fertility issues or who are unsure about other parts of their journey to get the help they need. That’s why viral campaigns like #SaytheFWord are so important.

They give women a chance to speak out about the issues that are impacting their lives, even when they don’t always have words for how difficult it can be. So get out there and talk about your journey if you feel comfortable with it, or at least take a moment to appreciate how much the social internet is letting us share all of the difficulties and joys that were often kept quiet and private before!

You can also take Celmatix’s pledge here. If you do, they donate $1 (up to $25,000) to the charity of your choice! Not only is Celmatix looking out for women’s reproductive health, they’re also helping make the world a better place one small step at time.

Transgender Youth Preserve Fertility Before Transitioning

Transgender Youth Preserve Fertility Before Transitioning

For many years, transgender people were forced to accept the potential loss of their fertility after transitioning. However, thanks to recent advancements in assisted reproductive technology, transgender patients may be able to preserve their fertility early on in their treatments.

  • Fertility counseling for transgender patients
  • Consequences of preserving sperm and eggs before transitioning
  • Future advances in fertility technology

 

Fertility counseling for transgender patients

Several years ago, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital began incorporating discussions regarding fertility and family planning into counseling sessions for transgender and gender nonconforming youth. The hospital drew its counseling strategies from its fertility preservation program for pediatric cancer patients. However, out of 105 transgender adolescents who went to Lurie Children’s Hospital, only 13 chose to see a fertility specialist for a formal consultation. Out of those 13, only five had their sperm or eggs frozen.

The British Fertility Society recommends that medical providers discuss fertility treatment with patients transitioning from female to male. When appropriate, they should have their eggs or ovarian tissued as early as possible in treatment. The ethics committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommended that all patients should be offered options for fertility preservations before transitioning.

 

Consequences of preserving sperm and eggs before transitioning

Looking into fertility treatments a decade or more before actually conceiving can be difficult for transgender patients even with the help of counseling. Fertility procedures and storage fees can cost thousands of dollars and are not usually covered by insurance. The invasive and intimate aspects of the procedure in which the sperm and eggs are retrieved can magnify patients’ feelings of gender dysophoria. This is a condition in which a person is in conflict with his or her physically assigned gender and that with which he or she identifies with.

Kacey Cabanban, a junior at Michigan State University, recalled that retrieving his eggs was one of the most uncomfortable moments of his life. However, now that they are no longer inside him, he only sees them as a tool for reproduction.

 

Future advances in fertility technology

Some transgender youths will freeze tissue from their ovaries or testes for later use. This method is still considered experimental. Scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine recently created 3-D printed bioprosthetic ovaries that allow mice to ovulate, give birth, and nurse their offspring. The original research goal is to restore fertility in cancer survivors, but this too could benefit transgender patients in the future.

Of course, it is important to remember that there are different forms available to patients such as adoption and surrogacy. Biological parenthood is just one option.

Women Diagnosed with Chronic Conditions Need More Fertility Information

Women Diagnosed with Chronic Conditions Need More Fertility Information

Australian study concludes that we are still too uninformed

An Australian study reports that women with chronic diseases like cystic fibrosis receive inadequate information about fertility. A key finding was that women with chronic illnesses were more likely to report younger pregnancies, unintended pregnancies, and abortions. A lot of women with chronic diseases assume that their condition prevents them from having children. Therefore, a lot of them do not use contraception and have unwanted pregnancies as a result.

This mentality also works its way into women not meeting with a fertility specialist to discuss tools to manage their fertility. Dr. Sara Horton says “It is likely that women’s consultations with a healthcare provider are focused on managing or treating their disease and, therefore, women with a chronic illness may not be receiving pertinent or timely advice about managing their fertility.”

Horton also believes that women with chronic conditions need fertility information that relates to their specific condition. It is essential to have all of the facts about your body before trying to get pregnant.

Old Wives Tales About Pregnancy

Old Wives Tales About Pregnancy

Jamaican Folklore has some interesting things to say about fertility

Before the discovery of science and modern medicine, our ancestors had a different way of interpreting our medical conditions. Pregnancy was definitely not excluded. Jamaica has some superstitious things to say about fertility and pregnancy, and hey, don’t think it’s bogus because who knows what may happen.

Lizard Pregnancy Test

According to folklore, a true sign of pregnancy is if a lizard jumps on you. As silly as it sounds, some people in rural Jamaica still hold to this belief.

Fish Dreams

If you dream about fish, that means either you or someone you know is about to be pregnant. According to Renee Lewis, her grandmother warned her that she “dream sea fish” and Renee got pregnant three weeks later.

Dirt and Ashes

We all know that pregnant women get weird cravings. Have you ever heard someone craving dirt and ashes? If you’re all of a sudden craving those things, you may have a bun in the oven.

These also extend to the baby’s personality…

Climbing Over Fences

Some believe that if a pregnant woman climbs over a fence, the baby will turn out to be a thief.

Pregnancy Photos

Sorry Instagram moms. According to legend, if a woman takes photos of herself while pregnant, her child’s eyes may be crossed when he/she is born. Beware!

Learning more about cultures before modern medicine gives you a little taste of what life was like and teaches you something new.

Why is Overeating While Breastfeeding a Negative Risk?

Why is Overeating While Breastfeeding a Negative Risk?

A new study done with mice suggests mothers who overeat while breastfeeding may have children who have a higher risk of becoming obese and going through puberty early.

Early puberty can be a perilous situation. It may lead to experiencing diabetes or reproductive issues later on in life.

The research from the study was presented at ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting that took place in Chicago.

Lead researcher Mengjie Wang, a graduate research assistant at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences in Toledo, Ohio, said, “Formula feeding is well known to increase the risk of obesity in children. Our findings suggest, however, that when breastfeeding mothers do not eat a moderate and healthy diet, there can also be increased risks of various health problems in the offspring, including obesity, diabetes, advanced puberty and reduced fertility.”

She reiterated that this idea must be studied in humans to know whether it applies to our species.

Wang also noted that rates of early puberty are increasing all over the world. “Childhood obesity, a common health issue, is one of the risk factors for early puberty,” she said. “Previous evidence from animals has revealed that post-weaning overeating advances the timing of puberty, but we lack knowledge of how nutrition before weaning influences metabolism and reproduction.”

To test how obesity affects the timing of puberty, Wang gave one group of mice a high-fat diet starting from the date they gave birth and began breastfeeding their young until they weaned their pups.

She gave a second group of mother mice a regular, healthy diet for the same amount of time.

Wang found that overfeeding the mice during the breastfeeding period can cause obesity in the pups, which significantly alters the start time of their puberty. She concluded, “These results show that the breastfeeding phase is a critical window that influences when puberty happens.”

Later on when they reached adulthood, the pups underwent fertility tests. It was found that females had decreased litter size and both sexes had impaired pregnancy rates and increased risk of developing diabetes.

These results reinforced Wang’s conclusions that childhood obesity causes advanced puberty and metabolic disorders in adulthood. She said, “Correct treatment and follow-up are both important for patients with early puberty. Patients with early puberty should be aware that other health problems may arise after they become adults.”

Stem Cells Restore Hope for Fertility in Early Menopause

Stem Cells Restore Hope for Fertility in Early Menopause

They call it regenerative medicine for a reason!

sad woman

Stem cell therapy, also known as “regenerative medicine,” is already known for treatment of damaged tissue and diseased cells. Recently, the Endocrine Society reported a study that suggested stem cell therapy could also help restore fertility to women suffering from premature ovarian failure. Premature ovarian failure is synonymous with early menopause. Not only does it shorten the fertility window for women, but it also heightens the risk for many health conditions.

Even in its early stages, the ROSE trial has reported optimistic results from its first two participants. The trial follows two women in their 30s who were diagnosed with premature ovarian failure for the course of a year. The stem cells were taken from each of the participant’s own posterior iliac crest (back of the pelvis) bone marrow and injected into her ovaries. Well, I should say ovary–the right ovary was injected with stem cells, and the left was injected with saline as a control.

Here’s a quick timeline of what happened:

  • 3 months: The participants observed a significant increase in estrogen.
  • 6-7 months: The participants began menstruating again. Keep in mind that this is years after their last period.
  • 1 year: The effect of the stem cells are still prevalent.

None of these women have gotten pregnant yet, but the increase in estrogen and near disappearance of menopausal symptoms hint at the possibility of restoring fertility. Even better, the safety studies conducted by the research team found no complications or negative side effects associated with the stem cell therapy. The researchers are recruiting new participants with the intention of observing them for longer than a year.

Everything You Need to Know About In Vitro Fertilization

Everything You Need to Know About In Vitro Fertilization

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) has been increasing in popularity and success since the 1970s. If you’re thinking of using IVF as a fertility treatment, you may have some questions. Is it right for you? What are the chances of it working?

Here are some important things you should know about IVF before deciding to begin treatment.

1.IVF can be time-consuming

When you think about the process, this makes sense. IVF occurs when eggs are removed from a woman’s ovaries, fertilized outside of the body, and then replaced inside the womb. Before the actual procedure even takes place, clients go through weeks of medications and checkups. In total, IVF can take around 4-5 weeks.

2. IVF can be expensive

The cost for the entire treatment – which includes scans, egg collection, embryology, and embryo transfer – can be pricey. The exact cost depends on your specific treatment circumstances. Make sure you ask a clinic for a full breakdown of costs before you decide to start.

3. IVF can be stressful

The shots can cause some uncomfortable side effects, the influx of hormones can make you feel moody, and the strain of wanting the treatment to work can take a toll on you, mentally and physically. Just remember: there are many steps in the IVF process, and in order to ensure the best chances of it working, you need to take care of yourself during every one of them. Take time for yourself – that’s just as important as the other steps!

4. IVF is the most effective way for infertile couples to achieve pregnancy

It typically takes more than one cycle of treatment for most women to become pregnant. Experts say typically, there is a 20-30 percent chance of having a baby after one cycle, but a 45-63 percent chance after three. The odds increase the more cycles you go through. IVF has the highest success rate for many patients, so undergoing treatment cycles that are tailored to your specific needs may be your best bet to finally get pregnant.

5. IVF may cause a multiple pregnancy

Having quadruplets or a higher number of multiples are rarely the result of IVF. However, the chance of having twins or triplets increases from 3 percent in natural conception to 33 percent with IVF treatment. This is because more than one embryo can be placed in the womb to better the chances of pregnancy.

Have more questions about IVF? Be sure to talk with a specialist!

Guilty Pleasures That Tank Your Fertility

Guilty Pleasures That Tank Your Fertility

They say it’s the “little things”…


You’ve probably heard that you should start 
healthier habits once you’re pregnant, but if you’re having trouble conceiving, you may want to start even earlier. These little things may be interfering with your fertility:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Diet
  • Stress


Smoking

It’s bad for you regardless, but it also reduces your fertility. Smoking raises your chance of subfertility up about 60% for both men and women. For women, smoking can also move menopause up by 1 to 4 years, which means a shorter limit for the biological clock. Miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy also becomes more likely. For men, smoking has been associated with less concentrated sperm and slower more deformed swimmers. Together, couples who smoke may need up to twice the fertility treatments that nonsmokers would’ve needed.

 

Alcohol

Daily alcohol consumption of two or more drinks gives you about a 60% higher chance of subfertility. Several studies have also shown less success with 4-8 drinks per week. Remember: alcohol is never really safe when you’re planning for pregnancy–every drink counts!

 

Caffeine

Sorry, caffeine junkies. More than 200 mg per day could increase the risk for miscarriage, which decreases the chance of having a healthy pregnancy during any cycle by about 45%. For reference, a standard eight-ounce cup of coffee has between 80-95 mg of caffeine and a shot of espresso has about 64 mg. Tea has much less caffeine than coffee (at least half as much or lower) but still adds to that 200 mg count, so keep that in mind as well.

 

Diet

Studies have shown lower fertility for obese women compared to those at a healthy weight. But, whether you’re overweight or not, what you eat will matter when you try to conceive. As health and fitness fanatics probably tell you: processed foods are bad for you. Not specifically because of the higher chance for weight gain, but because certain ingredients could be interfering with your fertility. Try to focus on fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains; and avoid foods with possibly high mercury content like fish. Also, consider taking folic acid supplements to prevent neural tube defects.

 

Stress

Even if you’ve been having trouble conceiving, don’t be discouraged! To be fair, it’s a bit unclear on whether or not stress interferes with fertility treatment, but stress generally has a negative impact on your overall well-being. A few activities that could help minimize stress include meditation, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, or just talking out your concerns with a good support system.

In short, what you consume can impact your fertility. Though old habits die hard, you may want to consider getting rid of some of these guilty pleasures in order to conceive.

How to conceive: new ideas for sex ed classes

How to conceive: new ideas for sex ed classes

 

In many countries including the UK, sex ed classes are offered to school age children in order to inform them about the reproductive cycle, STIs and oftentimes cautionary lessons on how not to get pregnant.  Now, however, some doctors are actually advising these classes also teach girls how to get pregnant, as statistics show that 1 in 7 couples have difficulting conceiving a child later in life.

  • Current statistics and research show the benefits of informing future parents about the difficulties of conception.
  • An organized group developed a plan of action to bring this education to schools so less people will remain confused about fertility.

 

Current statistics

According to an article by British site RT, teen pregnancy rates have dropped immensely, falling to half the rate of a few decades ago.  In addition—like the United States—UK women are now having children later, which correlates to higher chances for infertility.  The main concern with these statistics, however, is the misconceptions surrounding fertility treatments, as studies have shown that “a third of women thought that up to a fifth of babies each year were born as a result of IVF or donor insemination because of difficulties conceiving naturally” when in actuality the correct percentage was a fiftieth. This type of inaccuracy can prove problematic when people start to believe infertility is not too big of an issue.

 

A plan of action

Based on statistics such as those listed above, the article cites that a group of experts “have told the government that the traditional focus on contraception and preventing teen pregnancy can lead to many young girls assuming that they can conceive as soon they want to.”  This call for action may account for changes in the new sex ed classes beginning in 2019.

One of the major advocates for these new changes includes the Fertility Education Initiative (FEI), who argues that “the syllabus should look at the nature of fertility, right from puberty to menopause.”  Going in depth on choices that affect pregnancy, new technologies and mental health are all new details they promote studying. One member Jessica Hepburn argues that students growing up have heard vague things about fertility practices but in the end “…[They] don’t really understand what these things entail, the costs or the limits of the science.”

As we continue to open the conversation about fertility, keep a lookout for more schools adopting new practices in these discussions!

How Effective is the Calendar Method?

How Effective is the Calendar Method?

Spoiler: The calendar method only sometimes works

The calendar method, also known as the rhythm method or fertility awareness, involves planning your sex life around your menstrual cycle. Avoid sex during ovulation–that sounds easy enough, right? Well, not really, according to statistics

If you’re considering the calendar method, here’s what you have to know.

 

How effective is the calendar method?

To be fair, the calendar method is almost as effective as the pill–but only with perfect use! During its safest, the calendar method is 98.2% effective. But, with typical use, it’s between 76-88% effective. That means between 12 to 24 women out of 100 using the calendar method will get pregnant on average.

 

What does “perfect use” mean?

Perfect use not only entails strict dates for your frame of ovulation, but also a strictly regular period. For example, even if your period is relatively regular but fluctuates between a couple days early or late, it’s more difficult to predict exactly when ovulation begins and ends. If you have unprotected sex during that supposedly “safe” date, you may have a problem.

 

How do I implement the calendar method?

There are actually four ways to implement the “calendar method.” Also, not all of them require calendars:

  1. The temperature method involves taking your basal temperature using an actual basal thermometer first thing in the morning. When you’re ovulating, your body temperature rises slightly to about 97-99 degrees. Without the exactness of a basal thermometer, your temperature could be misread. If you don’t do it first thing in the morning, your body could cool down before your resting body temperature has been accurately recorded.
  2. With the cervical mucus method, you need to examine your discharge (aka the ooze in your panties or cervical mucus). When you’re ovulating, your discharge is supposed to look and feel similar to egg whites. You need to keep track every day of the look and consistency of your discharge, which is a little more subjective than the exact numbers you would record with the temperature or actual calendar method.
  3. The actual calendar method means tracking your period using a real calendar. Record when your period starts even if you’re just spotting (because that counts!) and note when it ends.

    The standard days method is a variation of this method that involves tracking your menstrual cycle for several months to determine whether or not the range falls between 26-30 days, and then attempting to predict your ovulation days based on some math.

The best way to use the calendar method, also known as the symptothermal method, is to use the temperature, cervical mucus, and calendar methods combined. All three together rank closer to “perfect” use.

No matter how you’re tracking your period, Planned Parenthood recommends tracking your menstrual cycle for at least six periods before using the calendar method in order to be as familiar with your own cycle as possible. That would be six months with either no sex or using non-hormonal methods of birth control. Keep in mind that hormonal methods would mess with your cycle before you even finish observing it.

Which, by the way…

 

Have you ever thought about how much sex you could actually have if you exclusively use the calendar method?

With about one week of ovulation and another week of menstruation, that leaves about two weeks in a month in which you could have sex. So you would have to decide: do you have time for that? Well, some people combine methods. For example, some women use condoms during ovulation week.

But if you were looking for a reliable, easy birth control option, the calendar method isn’t it. Most doctors suggest other forms of birth control methods before the calendar method because of both its high risk of unwanted pregnancy and lack of STI protection.