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Archive for the ‘Causes of Infertility’ Category

September is PCOS Awareness Month

By David Kreiner MD

September 1st, 2017 at 9:05 am

, via Wikimedia Commons”]

By Anne Mousse (Own work) [CC0

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or “PCOS”,  is the most common hormonal disorder of reproductive age women, occurring in over 7% of women at some point in their lifetime.  It usually develops during the teen years.  Treatment can assist women attempting to conceive, help control the symptoms and prevent long term health problems.

The most common cause of PCOS is glucose intolerance resulting in abnormally high insulin levels.  If a woman does not respond normally to insulin her blood sugar levels rise, triggering the body to produce more insulin.  The insulin stimulates your ovaries to produce male sex hormones called androgens.  Testosterone is a common androgen and is often elevated in women with PCOS.  These androgens block the development and maturation of a woman’s ovarian follicles, preventing ovulation resulting in irregular menses and infertility.  Androgens may also trigger development of acne and extra facial and body hair.  It will increase lipids in the blood.  The elevated blood sugar from insulin resistance can develop into diabetes.

Symptoms may vary but the most common are acne, weight gain, extra hair on the face and body, thinning of hair on the scalp, irregular periods and infertility.

Ovaries develop numerous small follicles that look like cysts hence the name polycystic ovary syndrome.  These cysts themselves are not harmful but in response to fertility treatment can result in a condition known as Ovarian Hyperstimulation syndrome, or OHSS.

Hyperstimulation syndrome involves ovarian swelling, fluid accumulating in the belly and occasionally around the lungs.  A woman with Hyperstimulation syndrome may become dehydrated increasing her risk of developing blood clots.  Becoming pregnant adds to the stimulation and exacerbates the condition leading many specialists to cancel cycles in which a woman is at high risk of developing Hyperstimulation.  They may also prescribe aspirin to prevent clot formation.

These cysts may lead to many eggs maturing in response to fertility treatment also placing patients at a high risk of developing a high order multiple pregnancy.  Due to this unique risk, it may be advantageous to avoid aggressive stimulation of the ovaries unless the eggs are removed as part of an in vitro fertilization procedure.

A diagnosis of PCOS may be made by history and physical examination including an ultrasound of the ovaries.  A glucose tolerance test is most useful to determine the presence of glucose intolerance and diabetes.  Hormone assays will also be helpful in making a differential diagnosis.

Treatment starts with regular exercise and a diet including healthy foods with a controlled carbohydrate intake.  This can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and reduce the risk of diabetes.  It can also help you lose weight if you need to.

Quitting smoking will help reduce androgen levels and reduce the risk for heart disease.  Birth control pills help regulate periods and reduce excess facial hair and acne.  Laser hair removal has also been used successfully to reduce excess hair.

A diabetes medicine called metformin can help control insulin and blood sugar levels.  This can help lower androgen levels, regulate menstrual cycles and improve fertility.  Fertility medications, in particular clomiphene are often needed in addition to metformin to get a woman to ovulate and will assist many women to conceive.

The use of gonadotropin hormone injections without egg removal as performed as part of an IVF procedure may result in Hyperstimulation syndrome and/or multiple pregnancies and therefore one must be extremely cautious in its use.  In vitro fertilization has been very successful and offers a means for a woman with PCOS to conceive without a significant risk for developing a multiple pregnancy especially when associated with a single embryo transfer.   Since IVF is much more successful than insemination or intercourse with gonadotropin stimulation, IVF will reduce the number of potential exposures a patient must have to Hyperstimulation syndrome before conceiving.

It can be hard to deal with having PCOS.  If you are feeling sad or depressed, it may help to talk to a counselor or to others who have the condition.  Ask your doctor about support groups and for treatment that can help you with your symptoms.  Remember, PCOS can be annoying, aggravating even depressing but it is fortunately a very treatable disorder.

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Do you suffer from PCOS? Do you have any advice to share for other “cysters”?

 

Photo credit:

By Anne Mousse (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEchographie_pelvienne%2C_aplio_toshiba_ssa_700_5_2004_03_detail.jpg

 

 

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Important Infertility Insurance Coverage Issues for the LGBT Community in New York

By Tracey Minella

June 22nd, 2017 at 8:31 am

From Stonewall to date, the LGBT community has always had to fight for rights equal to those of the heterosexual community, often in an atmosphere of “us against them”. Persistence has always paid off…eventually. As we’ve seen from winning battles on openly serving in the military with the repeal of “Don’t ask. Don’t tell” and the legalization of same-sex marriage (#LoveWins), we can move mountains as a community united.

 

The latest major gay rights fight involves insurance coverage for infertility treatment in New York.

 

The subject of mandated infertility insurance coverage in New York State has been in the news lately, but before addressing an important pending bill that could positively impact the infertility insurance rights of all New Yorkers– heterosexual and non-heterosexual– we must examine and understand the existing obstacles to LGBT infertility treatment coverage.

 

Currently, New York State has a mandate which requires coverage for infertility treatments. It’s one of only 15 states to do so, which sounds promising, but it’s not. With so many existing definitions, restrictions, qualifications, and loopholes, the mandate in its current form does very little to benefit New York’s infertile heterosexual couples– and does even less for non-heterosexual couples or single women who need advanced reproductive technologies in order to start their families.

 

Some of the major problems with the current New York State infertility coverage mandate include:

 

  • It does not cover in vitro fertilization (“IVF”), but only applies to intrauterine inseminations (“IUIs) and other low-level/less successful infertility treatments, which are also riskier in terms of causing a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets, etc.);
  • Small group employers can opt out of having to provide this coverage;
  • Insurance carriers may impose certain restrictions and rules that impact the employees’ ability to access the benefits.

 

Some insurance carriers that do offer IVF require both heterosexual and non-heterosexual couples to undergo 6-12 unsuccessful IUI cycles before moving on to IVF treatment (6 IUIs if the woman is over 35, or 12 IUIs if under 35, though some require less).

 

In addition to the above multiple-failed-IUIs prerequisite for IVF coverage, the employee must satisfy the insurance carrier’s definition of “infertility”. “Insurance companies define ‘infertility’ as the inability to conceive after one year of frequent, unprotected heterosexual intercourse, or six months if patient is over the age of 35″.

 

Applying this definition to heterosexual couples merely costs them 6-12 months of time before moving onto IVF treatment—provided they can somehow prove they’re doing it often enough and without protection. And while up to a year of time wasted really is a big deal to all infertile folks, the impact on non-heterosexuals and single women is far worse.

 

When applying this definition to a same-sex couple or a single woman, they not only lose valuable time, but they also lose money that a heterosexual couple would not. Because for same-sex couples or single women to meet the current definition of “infertility”, they would have to undergo six or 12 months of IUI with donor sperm treatments — in many cases, at their own expense –just to prove their infertility so that they could qualify for covered infertility treatments.

 

This issue was thrust into public view when two lesbian couples in New Jersey filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the language of the New Jersey insurance mandate “discriminates based on sex and sexual orientation”.

 

There is also disparity among insurance companies with respect to requiring authorizations for IUIs, requiring IUIs with donor sperm prior to approving infertility treatment, and coverage for the cost of donor sperm or thawing the sperm. In addition, companies offer different levels of coverage, which may be dependent upon copayments, deductibles and other restrictions on certain services like embryo cryopreservation, embryo storage, Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis or Pre-implantation Genetic Screening (“PGD” or “PGS”) of embryos, and more. To further complicate matters, even within the same insurance company, there are different individual plans that are chosen by the employer which provide different benefits coverage and different qualifications or benefits structure.

 

That’s why Long Island IVF assigns each patient a personal financial counselor to help guide them through the complicated insurance process to maximize any benefits to which they may be entitled.

 

Despite the obstacles that currently exist, there is good news to report and even more promising change on the horizon.

 

As a result of New York Governor Cuomo’s mandate to New York State insurance companies, they may no longer exclude same-sex prospective parents or single prospective parents from infertility coverage. While this is a victory, the sticking point for true reform and open access to appropriate infertility coverage for both heterosexual and non-heterosexual patients requires a redefinition of “infertility” and direct access to IVF.

 

There have already been noticeable changes in policies and the provision of coverage for IUIs with donor sperm in same-sex couples, presumably collectively-driven by Gov. Cuomo’s mandate, along with the New Jersey lawsuit, and forward-thinking, large-scale employers like Facebook and Google now offering high-end infertility insurance coverage for egg-freezing services. But the bottom line is that until a patient meets the “infertility” definition, they still have to self-pay.

 

That’s why we need the definition of ‘infertility’ to change. And we need access to IVF, which is the more successful treatment in terms of a singleton birth outcome.

 

And it is within our grasp right now.

 

As this article is being written, a bill that would revolutionize the infertility insurance law in New York for the benefit of heterosexuals, same-sex couples, and single women is awaiting consideration by the Senate after having passed in the Assembly this week.

 

The Senate Bill S.3148A known as the “Fair Access to Fertility Treatment Act”, or (“FAFTA”), if enacted, would not only mandate coverage for IVF treatment, but it would change the application of the definition of “infertility” to:

 

“a disease or condition characterized by the incapacity to impregnate another person or to conceive, as diagnosed or determined (I) by a physician licensed to practice medicine in this state, or (II) by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse in the case of a female 35 years of age or older.”

 

According to Long Island IVF co-founder and reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. Daniel Kenigsberg, who has been advocating for the passage of the FAFTA bill, “the current mandate’s specific exclusion of coverage for IVF has resulted in much emotional and financial cost spent on inferior or inappropriate treatments which ARE covered by the mandate when, for over 50% of infertile couples, IVF was the best or only treatment.” He further notes that “IVF is far safer in terms of reducing multiple pregnancy risk than less successful and often inferior treatments like ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI). There has been waste and needless sacrifice for insured couples denied IVF.”

 

It is time for both the heterosexual and the LGBT communities to get active and push our respective representatives to pass this legislation. You can find your local senator here or can access their phone number here. Armed with Senate Bill number S. 3148A, a simple phone call expressing your support of the bill may make all the difference. It takes less than one minute to help support this latest gay rights fight for fair access to appropriate infertility treatment and insurance coverage. Do it now.

 

There has never been a better time for non-heterosexuals to fulfill their dream of parenthood. If you would like more information on the many available LGBT family-building options, we encourage you to join Long Island IVF and our partner, The LGBT Network, on June 29, 2017 for a special free seminar entitled “Building Families in the LGBT Community”. Pre-register here.

 

This progressive legislation not only opens the door to IVF access for all, but it changes the definition of infertility to one that encompasses everyone, regardless of sex or sexual orientation. Instead of “us against them” it’s “one for all”. Its passage would put everybody suffering from the disease of infertility one giant step closer to our common dream of parenthood– and maybe, just maybe, a step closer to us all being one united community.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

By David Kreiner MD

March 1st, 2017 at 12:20 pm

 

photo: Ryan McGuire/gratisography.com


I don’t have to tell you that endometriosis can be a very painful illness and that it can cause infertility. It is often a reproductive lifelong struggle in which tissue that normally lines the uterus migrates or implants into other parts of the body, most often in the pelvic lining and ovaries. This leads to pain and swelling and often times difficulty conceiving.

If you have endometriosis, you are not alone. Five to ten percent of all women have it. Though many of these women are not infertile, among patients who have infertility, about 30 percent have endometriosis.

Endometriosis can grow like a weed in a garden, irritating the local lining of the pelvic cavity and attaching itself to the ovaries and bowels. Scar tissue often forms where it grows, which can exacerbate the pain and increase the likelihood of infertility. The only way to be sure a woman has endometriosis is to perform a surgical procedure called laparoscopy which allows your physician to look inside the abdominal cavity with a narrow tubular scope. He may be suspicious that you have endometriosis based on your history of very painful menstrual cycles, painful intercourse, etc., or based on your physical examination or ultrasound findings. On an ultrasound, a cyst of endometriosis has a characteristic homogenous appearance showing echoes in the cyst that distinguish it from a normal ovarian follicle. Unlike the corpus luteum (ovulated follicle), its edges are round as opposed to collapsed and irregular in the corpus luteum and the cyst persists after a menses where corpora lutea will resolve each month.

Women with any stage of endometriosis (mild, moderate, or severe) can have severe lower abdominal and pelvic pain – or they might have no pain or symptoms whatsoever. Patients with mild endometriosis will not have a cyst and will have no physical findings on exam or ultrasound. It is thought that infertility caused by mild disease may be chemical in nature perhaps affecting sperm motility, fertilization, embryo development or even implantation perhaps mediated through an autoimmune response.

Moderate and severe endometriosis are, on the other hand, associated with ovarian cysts of endometriosis which contain old blood which turns brown and has the appearance of chocolate. These endometriomata (so called “chocolate cysts”) cause pelvic scarring and distortion of pelvic anatomy. The tubes can become damaged or blocked and the ovaries may become adherent to the uterus, bowel or pelvic side wall. Any of these anatomic distortions can result in infertility. In some cases the tissue including the eggs in the ovaries can be damaged, resulting in diminished ovarian reserve and reduced egg quantity and quality.

The treatment for endometriosis associated with infertility needs to be individualized for each woman. Surgery often provides temporary relief and can improve fertility but rarely is successful in permanently eliminating the endometriosis which typically returns one to two years after resection.

There are no easy answers, and treatment decisions depend on factors such as the severity of the disease and its location in the pelvis, the woman’s age, length of infertility, and the presence of pain or other symptoms.

Treatment for Mild Endometriosis

Medical (drug) treatment can suppress endometriosis and relieve the associated pain in many women. Surgical removal of lesions by laparoscopy might also reduce the pain temporarily.
However, several well-controlled studies have shown that neither medical nor surgical treatment for mild endometriosis will improve pregnancy rates for infertile women as compared to expectant management (no treatment). For treatment of infertility associated with mild to moderate endometriosis, ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination (IUI) has a reasonable chance to result in pregnancy if no other infertility factors are present. If this is not effective after about three – six cycles (maximum), then I would recommend proceeding with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Treatment for Severe Endometriosis

Several studies have shown that medical treatment for severe endometriosis does not improve pregnancy rates for infertile women. Some studies have shown that surgical treatment of severe endometriosis does improve the chances for pregnancy as compared to no treatment. However, the pregnancy rates remain low after surgery, perhaps no better than two percent per month.

Some physicians advocate medical suppression with a GnRH-agonist such as Lupron for up to six months after surgery for severe endometriosis before attempting conception. Although at least one published study found this to improve pregnancy rates as compared to surgery alone, other studies have shown it to be of no benefit. The older a patient is, the more problematic post surgical treatment with Lupron will be as it delays a woman’s attempt to conceive until she is even older and less fertile due to aging.

Unfortunately, the infertility in women with severe endometriosis is often resistant to treatment with ovarian stimulation plus IUI as the pelvic anatomy is very distorted. These women will often require IVF in order to conceive.

Recommendations

As endometriosis is a progressive destructive disorder that will lead to diminished ovarian reserve if left unchecked, it is vital to undergo a regular fertility screen annually and to consider moving up your plans to start a family before your ovaries become too egg depleted. When ready to conceive, I recommend that you proceed aggressively to the most effective and efficient therapy possible.

Women with endometriosis and infertility are unfortunately in a race to get pregnant before the endometriosis destroys too much ovarian tissue and achieving a pregnancy with their own eggs becomes impossible. However, if you are proactive and do not significantly delay in aggressively proceeding with your family building, then I have every expectation that you will be successful in your efforts to become a mom.

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Do you suffer from endometriosis? How has it impacted your fertility journey? Do you have any advice for others who are suffering?

 

 

Photo credit: Ryan McGuire at http://www.gratisography.com/

 

 

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The Difference Between Genetic Carrier Screening and Comprehensive Chromosome Screening

By Satu Kuokkanen, MD, PhD

June 6th, 2016 at 12:35 pm

image: cooldesign/ freedigitalphotos.net

Many infertility patients want to know the difference between genetic carrier screening and comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS), as well as why we perform these screening tests.

 

Genetic carrier screening refers to testing of one or both partners for a large scale genetic carrier status of select conditions that often result in severe early childhood diseases in their offspring. Some examples include cystic fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, and spinal muscular atrophy.  It is important to know that these devastating conditions are rare in the general population; however, some of them cluster in certain ethnic backgrounds or geographical regions.

 

Most diseases tested are inherited in recessive fashion, which essentially means that a person will need to have two mutated copies of the gene (one inherited from each parent) to actually get that disease. On the other hand, the carrier status by definition indicates that a person has only one mutated gene of the disease in their genome (DNA) and therefore will never contract the disease, but can pass this mutated gene to their offspring. This situation becomes particularly problematic if both partners are carriers for the same condition because, in such case, each of their offspring will have 1 in 4 or 25% risk of getting that disease. Thus, genetic carrier screening attempts to identify parental carrier status prior to pregnancy to avoid conception with a fetus with severe disease(s).

 

If both parents are carriers for the same genetic condition, the couple can proceed with in vitro fertilization (IVF) in combination with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (often referred as PGD) to essentially weed out affected embryos. Performed on the embryos created after fertilization, PGD tests the embryos for specific gene mutations, prior to transferring any embryos back to the woman’s uterus.  Theoretically, in such scenarios 1 in 4 of the embryos are affected and the rest should be unaffected for the tested condition. The unaffected embryos are transferred to the female partner’s uterus in the hope of establishing a healthy pregnancy.

 

On the other hand, Comprehensive chromosomal screening (CCS), also known as preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) refers to the testing of an embryo’s numeric chromosome component and can be done as part of IVF whether a couple is concerned about genetic diseases or not. Normal female chromosome component is 46, XX and male 46, XY.  Some conditions typically screened for through CCS are Down’s syndrome (extra chromosome 21) and Turner syndrome (missing chromosome X).

 

When CCS is elected, embryos are cultured to day 5, the blastocyst stage, allowing biopsy of a number of cells from each embryo.  The numeric chromosome component of each embryo is then analyzed, thus providing the selection of embryos with normal chromosome numbers for transfer. The improvement in pregnancy rates with CCS makes an elective single embryo transfer a feasible option for many patients, thereby avoiding multiple pregnancies and associated adverse maternal and fetal effects.

 

Importantly, the patients who need genetic carrier screening for specific gene mutations, such as cystic fibrosis, can have their embryos simultaneously analyzed for CCS from the same biopsy.

 

In addition, CCS includes the sex chromosomes: X and Y. When the chromosome screening results of the embryos are available, the information on sex chromosomes becomes optional for patients. Patients can either elect to transfer embryos of a particular gender or may decide not to know the gender of their embryos.

 

As the field of genomics continues to evolve, the ongoing research and clinical trials will provide more information on how and to what extent CCS and other tests can be applied to improve IVF outcomes and establish healthy pregnancies for our patients.

 

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Have you considered genetic carrier screening or comprehensive chromosome screening?

 

 

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6 Potential Causes of Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL)

By Satu Kuokkanen, MD, PhD

May 2nd, 2016 at 11:31 am

image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/ freedigitlaphotos.net

Experiencing a pregnancy loss is always devastating for individuals hoping to establish or expand their family. Patients describe a range of grieving emotions related to the loss of a person they never had a chance to meet, love and share the future.  This grieving process may last anywhere from few weeks up to several years.  Not surprisingly, I have heard from many patients that one of the most difficult coping times was around the expected due date of the pregnancy that they miscarried.

 

It may be somewhat comforting for patients to know that they are not alone. In fact, miscarriage is the most common pregnancy complication and it affects 1 in every 6-8 confirmed pregnancies, that’s 12-15%. The risk of miscarriage increases with maternal age. While women younger than 30 years old have a 10-12% risk of pregnancy loss, the risk is four fold higher for women in their 40’s. Identifying a potential cause may help with the emotional impact of the pregnancy loss whether it is isolated or recurrent loss.

 

Recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is diagnosed after a woman has had two or more consecutive miscarriages and RPL affects 1 in 20 couples who are attempting to conceive. While isolated miscarriages are commonly due to chromosomal and genetic abnormalities, other factors are responsible for RPL. These factors vary depending on the gestational age of the pregnancy loss. Evaluation of potential RPL causes is important in determining whether therapy is available to the patient.

 

6 Potential causes of RPL:

 

  1. Congenital and acquired structural uterine factors. A uterine septum, a partial or complete division of the uterine cavity, is the most common congenital structural uterine abnormality.  Uterine septum and bicornuate uterus (“heart shaped womb”) have been linked to RPL. Acquired structural uterine pathologies that distort the normal uterine cavity include endometrial polyps that are skin tag-like growths of the uterine lining, fibroids that are affecting the uterine cavity, and intrauterine scarring that can develop after surgical procedures, such as dilatation and curettage (also known as D&C).  Radiology studies of the uterus with saline ultrasound (‘water sonogram”) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are standard methods to evaluate the womb.

 

  1. Chronic endometritis is inflammation of the uterine lining. This condition is diagnosed by sampling of the uterine lining with an endometrial biopsy or D&C.

 

  1. Structural chromosome abnormalities of the parents is a rare but known cause of RPL. A simple blood test of both parents to assess numeric and structural chromosomal component (karyotype) is done.

 

  1. Abnormalities of blood clotting.  The well-known condition in this category is anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome (APAS) which women can acquire during their reproductive years. Anti-phospholipid antibody levels can be measured in blood for diagnostic purposes.

 

  1. Endocrine-related abnormalities include elevation in alterations in thyroid hormone secretion and diabetes with uncontrolled blood sugar levels.  Also, women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) appear to have heightened risk of pregnancy losses.

 

  1. Environmental and lifestyle factors have also been linked to an increased risk of miscarriages. Such factors may include maternal obesity, cigarette smoking, and exposure to environmental toxins. How these factors may impact pregnancy or pregnancy loss differs and is still being studied at the current time.

 

It is important to remember that, although painful, an isolated miscarriage may often be followed by a healthy and successful pregnancy. And that, RPL, while devastating, can be caused by a factor that may be treated with proper, specialized medical care. In either case, your dream of parenthood may still be within reach.

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Have you suffered one or miscarriages, been treated for an underlying cause, and gone on to have a successful pregnancy?

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Long Island IVF-WINNER: Best in Vitro Fertility Practice 2015 AND 2016

It is with humble yet excited hearts that we announce that Long Island IVF was voted the Best In Vitro Fertility Practice in the Best Of Long Island 2015 and 2016 contest…two years in a row!

The doctors, nurses, embryologists, and the rest of the Long Island IVF staff are so proud of this honor and so thankful to every one of you who took the time to vote. From the moms juggling LIIVF babies… to the dads coaching LIIVF teens…to the parents sending LIIVF adults off to college or down the aisles… to the LIIVF patients still on their journeys to parenthood who are confident in the care they’re receiving…we thank you all.

We love what we’ve gotten to do every day more than 28 years…build families. If you are having trouble conceiving, please call us. Many of our nurses and staff were also our patients, so we really do understand what you’re going through. And we’d like to help. 631-752-0606.

 

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Dr. Kreiner Hosts Talk on Fertility Preservation and Reproductive Options for the LGBT Community

By Tracey Minella

November 1st, 2015 at 1:24 pm

Dr. David Kreiner, reproductive endocrinologist and co-founder of Long Island IVF, is excited to be presenting an interactive lecture and Q&A session on Fertility Preservation and Reproductive Options for the LGBT Community at the 20th Annual Long Island LGBT Conference.

The conference will be held at the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, New York, on Tuesday, November 17th, from 8:30 am- 2:00 pm. The conference is sponsored by the LGBT Network and any questions or registration should be directed to them. Admission is free to SBU students and is available for $20-30 for other age groups.

Dr. Kreiner will introduce the medical options available to assist LGBT family-building with special emphasis on the importance on advance planning for fertility preservation. Topics will include:  donor sperm insemination, in vitro fertilization, reciprocal IVF, use of gestational carriers, and also fertility preservation in the transgender community. The social, legal, financial, and medical issues will be discussed.

Reproductive options for lesbian couples will also be discussed. The limitations and the workup for women wishing to donate eggs and/or carry a pregnancy will be covered. The legal, medical and financial issues involved with surrogacy and gestational carriers for gay male couples will also be addressed. In addition, the fertility preservation options available to transgender people prior to transitioning will be covered. If you are…or love…a member of the LGBT community, you won’t want to miss this information–packed seminar.

Long Island IVF has been a supportive provider of assisted reproductive family-building services for the LGBT community for decades. We recognize that your needs and rights to parenthood are universal, but that the approach to your care and particular fertility obstacles is unique. Our staff, some of whom are members of the LGBT community themselves, is sensitive to your needs and eager to help you build your family.

If you would like to attend Dr. Kreiner’s lecture, please register by contacting the LGBT Network. http://bit.ly/1N77BrP

 

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Do you have any questions you would like Dr. Kreiner to address either before or at the lecture? If so, please comment below.

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ASRM 2015: Looking Back and Moving Ahead “We Could Always Do More and Do Better”

By David Kreiner MD

October 18th, 2015 at 12:58 pm

It was fitting that this year’s national infertility meeting, the ASRM was held in Baltimore, the city where the recently deceased Dr. Howard W. Jones Jr. first trained and rose to prominence in the field of reproductive medicine.  In the 1950′s and during his career at Johns Hopkins, he was involved in the controversial biopsy of cervical cancer patient, Henrietta Lacks, which led to the most widely utilized and researched cell line of all time.  Thereafter, he became an expert in genetic disorders and reproductive developmental issues that led to his opening the first transgender surgery clinic.  Remarkably, however, “Dr. Howard” (as we students called him) is best known for work he performed after his retirement from Hopkins when he moved to Norfolk and started the first IVF clinic in the Western Hemisphere resulting in the birth of the country’s first IVF baby, Elizabeth Carr, in 1981.

 

My first ASRM (called the American Fertility Society at the time) meeting in 1983 was a showcase of this brand new technology of IVF despite a success of 10% in the best clinics. Reproductive surgery was still more successful than IVF so there were presentations by the premier microsurgeons, laparoscopists and hysteroscopists who were demonstrating the latest advances that were becoming available as instrumentation had improved and laser had become a tool of the reproductive surgeon.  IVF was performed laparoscopically and ovarian stimulations were being performed with some variation of human menopausal gonadotropin, Pergonol, derived from the urine of menopausal women and Clomid.

 

In 2015, we reviewed the impact of social media in the opening presidential lecture urging members of the Reproductive Science community to spread the word about reproductive technology advances and utilize social media tools to educate the public.

 

In this meeting, it was now recognized that the LGBT community needed to become a special interest group within the ASRM with focus on alternative family-building that was available not just to lesbian couples but to gay male couples and transgenders.

 

With the successful fertilization and subsequent pregnancies achieved through egg freezing, fertility preservation for women undergoing cancer treatment, gender reassignment or aging prior to a time when they are ready for motherhood is now available. The technology of egg freezing thrusts upon women important new options to be considered (often on an urgent basis) when preparing for chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy or surgery… or simply before aging does irreversible damage to one’s fertility.

 

There was an Acupuncture symposium that presented research demonstrating improved success with IVF when utilized twice a week for at least 4-5 weeks prior to retrieval, before and after transfer.  The use of the mild male hormone, DHEA, was discussed in yet another symposium as a potential benefit to patients with diminished ovarian reserve to optimize number of eggs and embryos and improve pregnancy rates.

 

Elective freezing of embryos to transfer in a non-stimulated cycle and embryo-banking combined with complete genomic sequencing of the embryos to selectively transfer only healthy embryos has demonstrated improved success of IVF. And aside from the increased cost and time involved, it appears to be the ideal approach to IVF today.

 

I think Dr. Howard would be happy with these developments in the field and the direction the society is going both towards a more efficient and safer treatment and to widening its scope to be inclusive of the LGBT community.  Though typical of Dr. Howard, he always thought we could do more and better.  Weeks before his death, he called my friend and former fellow, “Richard S”.  He complemented him on his great work but complained to Richard that he wasn’t measuring some hormone or factor that Dr. Howard thought needed to be checked in Richard’s research…

We have come a long way in the 32 years that I have been active in ASRM. I’m proud that Long Island IVF has always been on the cutting edge of reproductive medical technology with programs and practices already existing for this year’s most popular ASRM topics, including social media, LGBT-focused and friendly alternative family-building, egg-freezing, complete genomic sequencing aka PGS (pre-embryo genetic screening), and acupuncture. Let it never be said that the work is done and that we are satisfied with the status quo.  As Dr. Howard would say, “we could always do more and do better”.

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Have you considered using any of these latest technologies or programs in your family-building plans?

 

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Infertility and the Wrong Path Taken

By David Kreiner MD

September 22nd, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Image credit: wpclipart.com


A day of atonement is when people reflect on the choices they’ve made and the goals they’ve set and ponder things like what mistakes or wrong decisions they may have made that have led them down a path they did not intend to take. Sometimes, mistakes may have landed patients on the path of infertility.

Dr. Kreiner examines a common situation he encounters where poor decisions…or indecision…on behalf of patients and their GYNs leads them down a path they certainly did not intend…

A friend of mine was complaining to me about the trouble he got into with his homeowner’s association because he did not hide his empty garbage cans in his garage but left them behind his cars in front of his house.  It was 20 feet from the curb, he claimed, still distraught that he should have been scolded for breaking the rule.  “I didn’t know”.  That phrase, “I didn’t know” clicked in my brain as a recurrent declaration from the frustrated patients who I see every day.

My infertility practice is filled with patients who spent years of their lives all the time assuming that their fertility would be there when they were ready.  Some even mentioned their failed attempts at conceiving to their gynecologist who may have reassured them or if it were a more aggressive clinician, he may have put them on Clomid for 3 to 6 months.  Meanwhile these women got older, many over 40 not realizing that time was chipping away at their fertility.  “They didn’t know”.

A fertility screen is a good way to assess annually what is happening to your fertility independent of your age.  This is accomplished by getting day 2 or 3 FSH and estradiol levels as well as an ultrasonographic antral follicle count.  An AntiMullerian Hormone level can be checked at any point in the cycle and likewise reflect the relative number of eggs left giving some reassurance about a person’s remaining fertility.

What do I as a reproductive endocrinologist who sees the damage done by this benign neglect on a daily basis do to wake people up to the fact that fertility is a temporary state that needs to be taken advantage of when the time is right?  Today, doctors can take ovarian tissue/eggs from a child or adult to preserve her fertility prior to fertility-robbing cancer treatments.  In fact, egg freezing technology is now here for the healthy women who want to preserve their fertility. It’s become acceptable therapy with ever increasing success and lack of problems being noted. Ask your Long Island IVF doctor about egg freezing.

Patients who are not in a position to execute their reproductive rights while they are still fertile should consider egg freezing when they do not have a partner to share in conception.  With a willing and available partner, freezing embryos is another viable option.

But without question, couples who are ready to start a family, should seek assistance from a reproductive endocrinologist who specializes in helping those such as yourselves build your families.  Even when not covered by insurance, there are affordable options such as minimal stimulation IVF, grants, and studies that make the process within reach of most people in need.   So do not become another victim to “I didn’t know”.  Take action, see a reproductive endocrinologist and get on the right path to building that family of your dreams.

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Have you considered egg freezing? Do you wish you had?

 

Photo credit: http://www.wpclipart.com/travel/more_road_signs/road_signs_2/crossroads_sign.jpg

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5 Popular Misconceptions Regarding Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

By Dr. Joseph Pena

June 22nd, 2015 at 11:23 am

 

via WikipediaCommons pubdomain”]

By Schomynv [CCo


Myth #1 – “If I have irregular periods, I have PCOS”.

Women with irregular menstrual periods are often unaware of the reason for their menstrual irregularity.  Many women are placed on hormonal contraceptives (i.e. birth control pills) by their gynecologist to regulate their menstrual periods and prevent an overgrowth of the lining of the uterus that may lead to cancer if left unchecked.  Some women are told they have PCOS as this is the most common etiology for irregular menstrual periods (4-7% of women of reproductive age, ~60-85% of anovulatory women), while others are not given a specific reason for their irregular menstrual periods.

While there is no universally accepted definition for PCOS, there are a few expert groups which have generated diagnostic criteria.  The Rotterdam Consensus Criteria (2006) requires two of the three signs/symptoms of PCOS (hyperandrogenism, irregular menstrual periods, polycystic-appearing ovaries on pelvic ultrasound) to be present for the diagnosis to be made.  The Androgen Excess Society (2006) requires hyperandrogenism plus one of the other two signs/symptoms (irregular menstrual periods, polycystic-appearing ovaries on pelvic ultrasound).  The hyperandrogenism criteria may be satisfied by either the presence of hirsutism (excessive hair growth) or elevated androgen levels, such as testosterone.  However, both criteria recommend excluding other possible causes of these signs and symptoms.  The differential diagnosis of someone with irregular menstrual periods and/or hirsutism is listed in the table below.

Differential Diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
—  Thyroid disease (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism)—  Prolactin/Pituitary disorders

—  Nonclassical congenital adrenal hyperplasia (Nonclassical CAH)

—  Androgen-secreting tumor (ovary, adrenal gland)

—  Exogenous androgens

—  Primary hypothalamic amenorrhea (stress-related, exercise-related, eating disorders, low body weight)

—  Central nervous system tumors/disorders

—  Primary ovarian failure

—  Cushing syndrome

—  Insulin-receptor defects

 

The proper evaluation of a woman with irregular menstrual periods and confirmation of PCOS is important because this affects treatment (e.g. combined hormonal contraceptives for PCOS, thyroid hormone replacement for hypothyroidism, corticosteroid replacement for nonclassical congenital adrenal hyperplasia, surgery for androgen-secreting tumor, etc.), as well as determining future fertility treatment (e.g. clomiphene citrate for PCOS, dopamine agonist for hyperprolactinemia, in vitro fertilization using donor oocytes for ovarian failure, etc.).  Thus, it is important for women to ask their physicians for a diagnosis for their irregular menstrual cycles.

 

Myth #2 – “Regular menstrual periods means I’m ovulating”.

The menstrual bleeding that occurs in a woman with inconsistent or absent ovulation is more likely due to breakthrough bleeding rather than post-ovulation withdrawal bleeding.  Thus, vaginal bleeding cannot be assumed to be an indication of ovulation in these women.

In addition, while many women and some clinicians use a history of regular menstrual cycles as a predictor of normal ovulatory function, ~40% of normally-menstruating women who exhibit hirsutism (excessive hair growth) are, actually, not ovulating and may be classified as having PCOS or other diagnosis associated with hyperandrogenism.

 

Myth #3 – PCOS is an ovarian cystic problem.

PCOS is an endocrine disorder of androgen excess with defined diagnostic criteria as noted above in Myth #1.  The determination of “the polycystic ovary (PCO)” (in contrast to the syndrome, PCOS) is defined in the table below.

Determination of polycystic appearing ovary (PCO)
—  In one or both ovaries, either:—  >12 follicles measuring 2-9mm in diameter

—  Increased ovarian volume > 10 cm3

—  If there is a follicle > 10mm in diameter, scan should be repeated at a time of ovarian quiescence in order to calculate volume/area

—  Presence of one PCO is sufficient for diagnosis

 

From the table above, it can be seen that PCO does not refer to and is very different from clinical ovarian cysts, both physiologic (e.g. corpus luteum) and pathologic (e.g. endometrioma, dermoid tumor), which tend to be larger in size.

The characteristic PCO emerges when a state of anovulation (lack of ovulatory cycles) persists for any length of time.  ~75% of anovulatory women will have PCO.  Since there are many causes of anovulation, there are many causes of PCO (e.g. PCOS, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, hyperprolactinemia, hyperandrogenism, type 2 diabetes mellitus, eating disorders, etc.).   PCO is the result of a problem with the normal functioning of the ovaries, and not necessarily from a specific individual cause.

Last but not least, PCO is not necessarily a pathologic abnormality.  Up to 25% of women who menstruate and ovulate normally will demonstrate PCO on ultrasound.

 

Myth #4 – “PCOS does not occur in thin or normal-weight women, or in women without excessive hair growth”.

While obesity and hirsutism (excessive hair growth) are relatively common in women with PCOS, with a prevalence of 20-60% and 30-80%, respectively, there are many women with PCOS with neither feature.  Again, referring to the diagnostic criteria for PCOS (see above in Myth #1), the presence of obesity is not necessary.  Hirsutism is just one manifestation of hyperandrogenism.  The other is biochemical, such as elevated androgen levels in the blood.  Certain ethnic backgrounds (e.g. Asians) may genetically not manifest hirsutism despite elevated androgen levels.  Thus, being thin or of normal weight and showing no signs of excessive hair growth does not necessarily eliminate PCOS as a diagnostic possibility.  Other common (but not necessarily required) features of PCOS are listed in the table below.

FEATURES OF POLYCYSTIC OVARY SYNDROME

PREVALENCE

CLINICAL
     Hirsutism (excessive hair growth) 30-80% (depends on ethnicity)
     Acne 15-20%
     Androgenic alopecia 5-10%
     Obesity 20-60%
     Anovulation 90-100% (depending on definition)
     Oligo/amenorrhea (irregular/absent menses) 50-70%
OVARIAN
     Polycystic appearing ovaries 70-80%
BIOCHEMICAL
     ­ LH/FSH 35-95%
     ­ free testosterone 60-80%
     ­ total testosterone 30-50%
     ­ DHEAS 25-70%
METABOLIC
     hyperinsulinemia 25-60%

 

 

Myth #5 – “Irregular menstrual periods due to PCOS is only a problem when trying to conceive.”

Obesity, irregular menstrual periods, and elevated insulin levels are common features of PCOS and significant risk factors for the development of an overgrowth of the lining of the uterus (endometrial hyperplasia), which may lead to cancer, if left unchecked.  It is not surprising then that women with PCOS are at an increased lifetime risk for developing endometrial hyperplasia and cancer of the lining of the uterus.  Thus, it is essential for a woman with PCOS who is currently not interested in conceiving, to discuss with her gynecologist the best option for her to decrease her risk for developing endometrial hyperplasia/cancer.   Options that might be considered include the use of [low-dose combined] hormonal contraceptives (e.g. the pill, transdermal patch, vaginal ring), progesterone-only pill, progestin IUD, and/or withdrawing with progesterone at regular intervals.

Women with PCOS are also thought to be at increased lifetime risk for developing type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease (abnormal cholesterol and other lipids, high blood pressure).  Regular screening for pre-diabetes or diabetes (with a 2-hour glucose tolerance test or fasting glucose level), body mass index, fasting lipid profile, and metabolic syndrome risk factors is essential to possibly help improve mortality and morbidity in such individuals.  Early intervention with lifestyle modification (diet, exercise, weight loss) and pharmacological treatment if needed (e.g. insulin-sensitizing agents, statins) may help to accomplish this.

Thus, PCOS is more than simply a problem of infertility.  It is a condition which should be discussed with one’s physician (gynecologist, primary physician, endocrinologist) even when one is not actively trying to conceive.

 

By Schomynv (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

By David Kreiner MD

March 24th, 2015 at 10:34 pm

 

photo: OhMega1982/ freesigitalphotos.net


I don’t have to tell you that endometriosis can be a very painful illness and that it can cause infertility. It is often a reproductive lifelong struggle in which tissue that normally lines the uterus migrates or implants into other parts of the body, most often in the pelvic lining and ovaries. This leads to pain and swelling and often times difficulty conceiving.

If you have endometriosis, you are not alone. Five to ten percent of all women have it. Though many of these women are not infertile, among patients who have infertility, about 30 percent have endometriosis.

Endometriosis can grow like a weed in a garden, irritating the local lining of the pelvic cavity and attaching itself to the ovaries and bowels. Scar tissue often forms where it grows, which can exacerbate the pain and increase the likelihood of infertility. The only way to be sure a woman has endometriosis is to perform a surgical procedure called laparoscopy which allows your physician to look inside the abdominal cavity with a narrow tubular scope. He may be suspicious that you have endometriosis based on your history of very painful menstrual cycles, painful intercourse, etc., or based on your physical examination or ultrasound findings. On an ultrasound, a cyst of endometriosis has a characteristic homogenous appearance showing echoes in the cyst that distinguish it from a normal ovarian follicle. Unlike the corpus luteum (ovulated follicle), its edges are round as opposed to collapsed and irregular in the corpus luteum and the cyst persists after a menses where corpora lutea will resolve each month.

Women with any stage of endometriosis (mild, moderate, or severe) can have severe lower abdominal and pelvic pain – or they might have no pain or symptoms whatsoever. Patients with mild endometriosis will not have a cyst and will have no physical findings on exam or ultrasound. It is thought that infertility caused by mild disease may be chemical in nature perhaps affecting sperm motility, fertilization, embryo development or even implantation perhaps mediated through an autoimmune response.

Moderate and severe endometriosis are, on the other hand, associated with ovarian cysts of endometriosis which contain old blood which turns brown and has the appearance of chocolate. These endometriomata (so called “chocolate cysts”) cause pelvic scarring and distortion of pelvic anatomy. The tubes can become damaged or blocked and the ovaries may become adherent to the uterus, bowel or pelvic side wall. Any of these anatomic distortions can result in infertility. In some cases the tissue including the eggs in the ovaries can be damaged, resulting in diminished ovarian reserve and reduced egg quantity and quality.

The treatment for endometriosis associated with infertility needs to be individualized for each woman. Surgery often provides temporary relief and can improve fertility but rarely is successful in permanently eliminating the endometriosis which typically returns one to two years after resection.

There are no easy answers, and treatment decisions depend on factors such as the severity of the disease and its location in the pelvis, the woman’s age, length of infertility, and the presence of pain or other symptoms.

Treatment for Mild Endometriosis

Medical (drug) treatment can suppress endometriosis and relieve the associated pain in many women. Surgical removal of lesions by laparoscopy might also reduce the pain temporarily.
However, several well-controlled studies have shown that neither medical nor surgical treatment for mild endometriosis will improve pregnancy rates for infertile women as compared to expectant management (no treatment). For treatment of infertility associated with mild to moderate endometriosis, ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination (IUI) has a reasonable chance to result in pregnancy if no other infertility factors are present. If this is not effective after about three – six cycles (maximum), then I would recommend proceeding with in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Treatment for Severe Endometriosis

Several studies have shown that medical treatment for severe endometriosis does not improve pregnancy rates for infertile women. Some studies have shown that surgical treatment of severe endometriosis does improve the chances for pregnancy as compared to no treatment. However, the pregnancy rates remain low after surgery, perhaps no better than two percent per month.

Some physicians advocate medical suppression with a GnRH-agonist such as Lupron for up to six months after surgery for severe endometriosis before attempting conception. Although at least one published study found this to improve pregnancy rates as compared to surgery alone, other studies have shown it to be of no benefit. The older a patient is, the more problematic post surgical treatment with Lupron will be as it delays a woman’s attempt to conceive until she is even older and less fertile due to aging.

Unfortunately, the infertility in women with severe endometriosis is often resistant to treatment with ovarian stimulation plus IUI as the pelvic anatomy is very distorted. These women will often require IVF in order to conceive.

Recommendations

As endometriosis is a progressive destructive disorder that will lead to diminished ovarian reserve if left unchecked, it is vital to undergo a regular fertility screen annually and to consider moving up your plans to start a family before your ovaries become too egg depleted. When ready to conceive, I recommend that you proceed aggressively to the most effective and efficient therapy possible.

Women with endometriosis and infertility are unfortunately in a race to get pregnant before the endometriosis destroys too much ovarian tissue and achieving a pregnancy with their own eggs becomes impossible. However, if you are proactive and do not significantly delay in aggressively proceeding with your family building, then I have every expectation that you will be successful in your efforts to become a mom.

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Do you suffer from endometriosis? How has it impacted your fertility journey? Do you have any advice for others who are suffering?

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