Signs of Infertility

Signs of Infertility

If you want to have kids someday, it’s a good idea to get to know your body. Issues with fertility can begin anytime after puberty. The CDC confirms that approximately 6.7 million American women are unable to conceive or unable to carry a baby till term. Infertility affects men as well. These are just symptoms, but if enough of them do apply to you, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make an appointment and see your OB GYN.

Your periods are super irregular or you don’t have them at all  

If your period is off a few days, that can be normal. Remember, a lot of factors can affect the timing of your period. Things like stress, diet and exercise can make it fluctuate. However, if you’re totally skipping periods for months at a time or it just shows up unexpectedly, then it can cause some concern. Periods happen after ovulation, so if you don’t have your period, then you may not be ovulating. You need ovulation to conceive a child.

Your periods are painful

We all have suffered some nasty cramps or bloating. However if your pain level is off the charts like suffering from pain during sex, abnormal vaginal bleeding, rectal pain, or you’ve noticed blood in your urine or bowel movements, that could mean you have undiagnosed endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition were your uterine lining grows outside of the uterus and makes it incredibly difficult to have a child.

You’ve suddenly developed severe acne

I’m not talking about a few pimples before you start your period. If you have severe acne, it could mean that your hormone levels are off. Irregular hormone levels might be an indicator that you have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), which could make it difficult to have children. One in ten women in the US have PCOS.

You’re gaining weight for no clear reason

Unexpected weight gain is another sign of PCOS. PCOS means you have high levels of androgens and it also means you’re resistant to insulin. This makes most women who suffer from the hormonal disorder gain weight despite not changing their diets or levels of activity. So if you seem to gain weight for no reason — especially if this wasn’t always the case for you — get it checked out.     

If you do have fertility concerns, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor. It is very common for women to have fertility problems, you are not alone.

Postpartum Fertility: What are the facts?

Postpartum Fertility: What are the facts?

Ready for another? Want to wait? Here is what you need to know

Having a baby is a wonderful thing, but how does your fertility change afterwards? Or does it not change at all? Whether you plan on extending your family or want to wait, you need to take these facts into consideration. As we all know, fertility can be a tricky subject, so let’s be informed. That way you can make the best choice for you!

Fertility can resume one month after giving birth

If you’re not planning on having another child anytime soon, you’re probably going to need contraception sooner than you thought. On the other hand, if you do want another baby, you can do whatever is best for your situation. Keep in mind other factors like breastfeeding and age. The older you are, the more difficult it’ll be fertility-wise. Be sure you’re informed about what that might mean for you. Remember: everyone is different.  

Breastfeeding can stall fertility…kinda.

According to Dr. Alan Copperman, Director of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, breastfeeding may temporarily decrease the chance of conceiving. That said, it is still possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding. The reason it may be stalled is that, while you’re breastfeeding, your body releases a hormone called prolactin which inhibits secretion of other hormones necessary for ovulation and fertility. How long it stalls your fertility depends on the overall health and habits of the mother.

If you’re planning for another child, just make sure your body and mental health are in check. Whatever choice you make, be sure you’re aware of all of your options and consult your OB GYN or fertility specialist.  

Worried IVF is too Expensive? Try these Methods!

Worried IVF is too Expensive? Try these Methods!

We all know IVF costs thousands of dollars, but before you go there make sure you’ve looked at all your options.

Many assume that women who need fertility treatments will automatically need IVF. Fortunately, that is not the case.

There are other alternatives before you need to bring out the big bucks:

  • Ovulation induction
  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
  • Reproductive Surgery

Ovulation Induction

This basically means timed intercourse. Women have ovulation periods when they are most fertile. However, without ovulation, pregnancy isn’t possible. Luckily there are meds that release the hormones necessary to get your body into that state. The most common one is called Clomid. Clomid typically costs less than 25 dollars, and is one of the safest and most researched methods that deal with infertility.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

This is also known as artificial insemination. If you’re having trouble conceiving due to male factor infertility or unknown causes, this would be a good option for you. IUI is when sperm is inserted directly into the uterus via a catheter. Typically the couple is taking fertility meds at this point, which could cause more than one egg to mature. So it is recommended that you get an ultrasonography, a procedure where medical providers can view the ovaries, to reduce the risk of multiple births. This procedure can vary from 1-2,000 dollars, depending on the fertility center and insurance.

Reproductive Surgery

This kind of surgery is used to correct anatomical abnormalities for both men and women. It is usually done with conditions like endometriosis or for men with a vasectomy. For women with endometriosis, the success rate for this option is fairly low. The cost can range between 1,700 to 5,000. It all depends on the complexity of the issue you are addressing.

Be sure to look at the “cheaper” options before resorting to IVF. Having a baby can be hard, so let’s try to be as easy on your wallet as possible.

Fighting the Stigma: African American Infertility

Fighting the Stigma: African American Infertility

It’s hard enough going through infertility, do we really need to add stigma?

Infertility is never an easy situation to go through. It can be stressful, painful and expensive. For African American women, there is an added factor of stigma and embarrassment, and it needs to end.

According to Fertility for Colored Girls, here are the top reasons why colored women don’t seek treatment:

  • Lack of emotional support
  • Cost and access to infertility support services
  • Lack of education and awareness

And the number one reason is shame and fear. Infertility rates are higher for certain ethnic groups, but no one is talks about it. Women need to be educated about their bodies, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of them. Colored women have a higher chance of dealing with uterine fibroids, blocked fallopian tubes, obesity and advanced age, specifically women over 35. The issue with age is that, the longer you wait, the higher chance of something going wrong. This applies to everyone.

Infertility is already stigmatized and suffering in silence doesn’t make the pain any easier to deal with. Shame and fear carry an immense weight on women. It is usually assumed that all women can carry a child, and no one wants to feel like the outsider. As we all know, that is far from true.

Dr. Desiree McCarthy-Keith is one of the front advocates for ending the stigma of infertility in African American women. She is an African American reproductive endocrinologist, one of the few in the country. McCarthy-Keith was named Black Health Magazine’s Most Influential African American Doctors. She also wrote the book, “Hold On To Hope, Stories of Black Women’s Fertility, Faith and Fight to Become Mommies” and is the founder of “Fertility for Colored Girls”. In other words, she is a wonderful source of information and she is doing everything she can to change society’s views.

Her blog, Fertility for Colored Girls, and Broken Brown Egg are blogs made for African American women going through infertility issues. These blogs are fighting to end the stigma and for you to know that you are not alone. Don’t be ashamed, it will get  in the way for seeking the treatment you need and deserve.

The Struggle Against Endometriosis

The Struggle Against Endometriosis

One woman’s fight against the odds

Endometriosis is a very painful disease. It is a chronic pain condition that affects your fertility, along with symptoms that disrupt moments in your day-to-day life. Endometriosis is caused by uterine tissue growing outside of the uterus and onto other internal organs such as the fallopian tubes. The cause of this is still unknown. Endometriosis affects one out of every ten women. This story of Sabrena Cunningham will give those suffering women hope that life could get better.

 

Symptoms

Symptoms can include extremely long and painful cramping, long menstrual cycles, and infertility. The earlier the diagnosis the better. That way, if you do want to have children, you can take the measures necessary. It is very difficult to have children if you have this condition so be sure to take measures under a physician’s care.

Normally the treatment for endometriosis is a hysterectomy, which would mean removing all reproductive organs.  For Sabrena Cunningham, a hysterectomy wasn’t an option. She was determined to have children and wasn’t going to let endometriosis stop her from achieving that.

 

Success is possible!

Cunningham and her husband consulted fertility specialists, and she had a procedure to clear out her reproductive organs. She had an endometrial ablation, a procedure that removes some excess lining of the uterus. As the struggle continued with no luck, the couple was in the last phase before in vitro fertilization when Sabrena got pregnant. Their fertility specialist informed them that the method they were using only had a 18% success rate. In the end, the Cunninghams added two beautiful boys to their family.

Sabrena urges young women to get diagnosed as early as possible. If you want to be a mom, you should be informed about your body. It is recommended to be informed before you take action to bring another human into the world.         

 

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.

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.

10 Tips to Improve Your Diet While Trying to Conceive

10 Tips to Improve Your Diet While Trying to Conceive

Studies show ‘fertility diets’ can have a positive impact

For many couples who are trying to conceive (TTC), the period before pregnancy can sometimes be the most stressful. Many women often wonder if their daily habits can help or hinder their chances of getting pregnant. According to experts of the Nurses’ Health Study, the commonly discussed “fertility diet” can be effective -if you follow 10 easy-to-follow tips for enhancing your chances of fertility. While the diet is not guaranteed to help everyone— women experience infertility due to a wide variety of reasons—it has been proven to help boost their chances in small ways, making it ranked as the 10th best overall diet by U.S. News and World Report.

  • The research behind the report includes staggering percentages proving the benefits of switching to the diet when trying to conceive.
  • The recommendations include a wide variety of healthy tips, ranging from dietary changes, weight control, and exercise habits.
  • The results can include a decrease in infertility, along with other benefits for giving birth to a healthy baby.

The Research

Delving into the Nurses’ Health Study

The main benefit of the “fertility diet” is increased ovulation, which coincides with increased chances of pregnancy. Overall, the study relayed that a 66% lower risk of anovulatory infertility, along with a 28% lower risk of various other instances of infertility, correlated to women following the “fertility diet.”

According to Christy Brissette, president of 80 Twenty Nutrition, “This was a cohort study, meaning the women were followed over time and links were made between what they reported eating and their fertility. As such, the findings aren’t cause-and-effect, but they are healthy recommendations that could be helpful in boosting fertility.”

Overall, the recommendations of switching your daily diet to one consisting of whole grains, healthy fats, full-fat dairy, and a higher amount of fruits and vegetables has its proven benefits to improving and maintaining chances of a successful pregnancy.

 

The Recommendations

10 tips for increased fertility

Among the ten top tips, the number one recommendation is to avoid trans fats while consuming more unsaturated vegetable oils instead.  Vegetables can also provide protein and iron in place of unhealthy red meats.  Other swaps when TTC include switching to whole milk to enrich your body with whole-fat dairy, and eating slow carbs instead of refined carbs such as white bread. General advice from the study includes taking a multivitamin, drinking lots of water, managing a healthy weight (maintaining a 20 to 24 BMI), and staying active to keep both your menstrual cycle and fertility odds on track.

 

The Results

Will the diet work for you?

Successful results from the diet include a decrease in refined carbs reducing ovulatory infertility, along with a multivitamin decreasing chances of birth defects.  However, due to the countless reasons for a woman’s infertility, the diet may not cover all aspects.  The diet has been proven to help boost fertility amongst disorders such as polycystic ovary syndrome, but will remain ineffective for other reasons, such as sperm defects.

Regardless of your fertility situation, these simple steps can help put you on the right track for a healthy pregnancy!

A New Bracelet Can Help Women Who Are Trying to Become Pregnant

A New Bracelet Can Help Women Who Are Trying to Become Pregnant

Fertility TestAva, a medical technology company, teamed up with researchers from the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland to test whether or not their bracelet can help women with highly irregular menstrual cycles become pregnant. For instance, women whose cycles fall outside the range of 24 to 35 days long would qualify for this study. Read on to find out how this technology works!

  • Sensory technology and clinically tested algorithms will determine the time frame during which a user is fertile.
  • The bracelet is supposed to be worn every night, during which its sensory technology detects certain physiological parameters on the user.
  • Women with PCOS will be participants in the study.

An Introduction to the Project

50 women in total will be monitored over the course of the trial. According to Dr. Brigitte Leeners, the lead investigator of the clinical trial, the bracelet will “measure various noninvasive parameters, which are related to the hormonal cycle and ensure high measurement quality” in these test subjects. The team already has a large databank on information regarding normal cycles, and would like to use their algorithm to gather an equally high prediction quality for those with irregular cycles.

What Makes it Unique

Physiological data such as the user’s skin temperature, movement, sleep patterns, pulse, and breathing rate are gathered by the bracelet. Leeners explains that this method is “different than other methods where you measure temperature just once. With this method, you have a whole series of data of different vital signs, which improves your prediction quality.”

Once this data is gathered, it is sent to an app on the user’s phone and analyzed to determine the user’s fertile window. Leeners explained that, “When you go to sleep, you put on the bracelet, and we get more than 3 million data points per night.”

This technique benefits women with irregular cycles, as they can not rely upon the traditional method of checking their temperature for surges indicating ovulation when they wake up every morning.

How Women with PCOS Will Benefit from This

Infertility and irregular menstrual cycles are commonly caused by PCOS. Dr. Kathleen Wyne, an endocrinologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline that “It’s one of the very common causes of infertility, and it’s something that women don’t always hear about until they come up with a fertility issue.” She went on to say that “women who have PCOS often have problems getting pregnant, and once they do get pregnant, they’re more likely to have a miscarriage, especially in the first or second trimester.”

However, up and coming cycle tracking technologies may help women with PCOS become pregnant. Wyne said that “When I trained, all we could do was the basal body temperature, but now, you’ve got some really cool technologies that can track your temperature and other things while you sleep, send it to an app, and tell you your patterns.”

It’s amazing how technology can revolutionize people’s lives. More women are now given the chance to have a baby.