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Archive for the ‘failed IVF’ tag

Infertility Support Through Blogging

By Tracey Minella

January 10th, 2013 at 10:53 pm

credit: adamr/freedigitalphotos.net

RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association, is a great source of information and resources for those suffering from infertility. One popular feature it offers is the annual “Bloggers Unite Program”. During National Infertility Awareness Week in April each year, there is a theme for infertility bloggers to blog about. In 2012, the theme was “Don’t Ignore Infertility”.

Infertility blogs are as different as their authors’ individual infertility experiences and personalities. They may be written by newbies or seasoned IVF veterans, by those who had easy success or those who suffered terrible losses. By those who adopted, who had multiples, or who chose to live child-free. By those who are frank, sarcastic, funny, reserved, or serious. In short, there is something for everyone.

These are the blogs featured in RESOLVE’s 2012 “Bloggers Unite Program”: http://bit.ly/UP0vcR Consider checking some out.

My blog post from April 25, 2012 on Long Island IVF’s blog, The Fertility Daily, is number 35 on page three of the list. Here is that blog, in full, below:

Don’t Ignore Infertility Support Available

There’s something wrong with me. I see infertile people.

As an infertility blogger and an IVF mom, my mission is to support the women still on their fertility journeys. To listen to them and, when the time is right, to share my own stories to give them strength to go on…or to let go.

And to remind them that their infertility journeys will come to an end. Some day. It may be the day a baby is born or adopted, or with an eventual decision to live child-free. But someday, all this stuff…the charting, injections, inseminations, blood work, retrievals, transfers, miscarriages, stillbirths, and two week waits…all the stuff that now makes up every moment of every day… will end. “Really”, I tell them. “Trust me”…

But I lied.

True, the infertility journey will end. But the infertility itself never goes away.

Most people don’t know that.

After six years… three IUIs, six fresh IVFs, a twin loss, OHSS, ovarian torsion, and countless other obstacles to happiness, then a seventh IVF, for two problematic, bed-rest, preterm labor, gestational diabetic pregnancies which each delivered 6 weeks early…I was sure I’d put infertility behind me. Shop’s closed. Time to let that little smokin’ piece of charcoal I call “my remaining ovary” rest in peace.

But infertility remains.

It’s like in those movies where people see dead people. Except I see infertile people.

It’s there in the faces of young married couples who have the careers, the houses, and the “fur babies”, but have no obvious reason not to have had children yet. The woman awkwardly avoids eye contact when someone unknowingly brings up children. Those of us who’ve been there see it. It is blindingly obvious—like infertile radar.

It’s there in our faces, too. It’s in the little nagging worries about whether the countless vials of injectable medications are going to come back to bite you some day, some way. Or in the resentment we feel about having children later…possibly a decade later…than fertile folks did– and the fear of having less energy to parent them the way they deserve, or of living long enough to see them settled.

I’ve seen division in the infertility world. Among the childless, you have the rookies and the veterans defined by the number of failed IVF cycles they’ve endured. Then you have the secondary infertility patients, often claiming to be resented by the childless for being “greedy” enough to come back for another child. Finally, you have the newly pregnant or newborn success stories– the envy of all. Harsh, but often true. The world can be ugly, and the infertile world is no exception.

When a patient passes into the success story group, something wonderful happens to them. But something sad happens, too. They get the boot. Like some kind of graduation rite, the new moms get ejected from the ranks of the infertile. Their infertile former friends think they’re different now. They think they’re just like all the other fertile folks.

You have a baby now. You no longer understand us.

Are you reading this and saying “So what? Bring it on. Just let me get pregnant and kick me out! I can’t wait until infertility is over!”

It’s not so easy to be a woman without a country. You don’t fit in with your old infertile friends who are still trying to conceive, but you also don’t fit in with the fertile people who, by their words and actions, often take the ease with which they conceived for granted.

Enter one of the best kept secrets of the infertility world… the survivor’s guilt.

Infertility will always be part of you. Even as you push your child on a park swing, you’ll be acutely aware of the sad, detached woman on the bench. You’ll always remember the date of your long-awaited positive pregnancy test and will often think of the waiting room and the people still waiting there. You may find you are far too overprotective of the child you worked so hard to have. That infertile radar is always on.  And your heart hurts for those still struggling…even if they’ve forgotten you.

I blog about infertility for the doctors who didn’t give up on me when I wasn’t an easy case, or an easy patient, or truth be told, much help to their success stats. I blog for the doctors who built my family. For today’s patients and the patients yet to come. Some of the drug names have changed, but the stories are all relevant and the support is heartfelt.  It didn’t feel right to just go on with my life after my journey ended.

Sadly, many IF bloggers gravitate only to blogs by women currently on their journeys. Of course, they are wonderful sources of support. But to overlook the value of informative commercial blogs or blogs by those whose journeys have ended is to overlook another source of support.

So, don’t ignore the infertility support that is available from those who’ve walked a mile in your stirrups. Don’t shun us because you think we don’t understand you anymore. Don’t lump us in with the fertile people just because our journey has ended. Take advantage of the fact that we want to focus only on you.

We are here to help and support you. We will never forget. Don’t ignore us.

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Do you read other infertility blogs? If so, which ones?

 

 

photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/search.php?search=computer&cat=

 

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Are “Child-less” and “Child-free” Living the Same?

By Tracey Minella

December 7th, 2012 at 12:07 pm

As a writer, I can see how other writers might use them interchangeably. But the infertile woman in me knows the difference. And it’s huge.

My infertility battle lasted several years, taking 6 fresh IVF cycles and many setbacks and losses before my daughter was born. My son came from my 7th fresh IVF.

Part of working through each lost cycle involved dealing with the nagging fear that… no matter how hard we fought, or where we found the money, or what we were willing to suffer through, or how long we were willing to wait…we could end up without a child. For us, that meant being childless.

And that thought was unbearable. Unacceptable.

In fact, the possibility of ending up childless after such a long, hard battle was a thought I could only allow to enter my mind for the briefest of moments. I pushed it away quickly, even forcefully, for fear that entertaining it for any length of time might make it real. My doctor didn’t sugar-coat the situation: I had only a 10% chance of conceiving…and that was with IVF.

I remember as cycles failed, agonizing over the decision of whether to repeat IVF or if it was time to consider adoption. While I was open to adoption, I stubbornly clung to the desire to carry my own biological child for longer than many others in my situation might. Although I didn’t feel any particular sense of “control” in doing IVF, I just personally felt more proactive doing IVF than waiting and hoping we’d be chosen for adoption. That was just me. I was so impatient.

I faced my bleak prognosis and my life in general, with blinders on… never believing I wouldn’t be a mom someday. Somehow. I would not be childless.

My desire to have a child was all-consuming. Those years robbed me of my usual self, leaving a bitter, oversensitive, judgmental woman behind. It was hard to be truly happy for those blessed with fertility, especially if they complained about anything. I couldn’t even respect the decision of those couples who actually chose not to have children. Without even knowing their reasons, I stereotyped them as self-centered and cold, preferring to indulge in the fine things without enough love in their hearts to share with a child. And I’d just about melt-down whenever there was news of babies being abandoned, beaten, or killed. (Still do.)

To go through life without parenting a child would simply be… less of a life. It would be child-less. I felt that way. And I imagine all infertile people in treatment do. Why else would we subject ourselves to all that we do to try to conceive? The ultrasounds, blood work and procedures. The plastic cups. So if at the end of our individual journeys, our arms are still empty, it is likely because an insurmountable obstacle has forced a child-less life upon us. Not because we suddenly chose to live a life without children.

Child-free people are the complete opposite of infertile people. While we often can’t wrap our heads around it, they have decided that they don’t want to have children. They want to live a life that is…free of children. That doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t like children; they just don’t want to parent them. The lack of a baby in their arms is by choice. It’s a preference that could be based on many different considerations. Hard as it can be at times, we should try to respect that choice, keeping in mind the ideal that all babies should be loved and wanted as desperately as we want to have them.

Child-free people with no regrets don’t feel a void in their lives. Child-less people likely always will.

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Do you think the terms “child-free” and “child-less” are interchangeable? Most of us understandably feel jealous at times when we see pregnant people. But how do you feel about those who presumably can have children, but purposely choose not to?

 

Photo credit: Petr Kratochvil Public domain pictures http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=10591&picture=empty-swing

 

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What a Difference a Year Can Make

By Tracey Minella

January 3rd, 2012 at 12:00 am

Today’s is not a post about losing weight, stopping smoking, or any other traditional New Year’s resolutions that we actually have control over keeping or not.

Today’s post is meant to take a burden off of you.

If you even celebrated New Year’s Eve this year, and raised a glass somewhere at midnight, you may have also made a resolution to get pregnant in the 2012. Bad idea.

Resolutions should be something that you can control. And if you are suffering from infertility and undergoing treatment…especially if you’ve suffered losses or have had failed cycles along the way so far…you know that building your family this way is largely out of your control.

Sure, you can get in shape, eat well, sleep more, kick bad habits, get a fertility workup by an excellent RE and have any recommended tests done, and take care of dental work so you don’t have problems once you’re pregnant. Those are all great, actionable, controllable resolutions.

But once you’re in treatment, conceiving a baby is no longer something for a resolution list. And to put it there is not being fair to yourself. It is putting more pressure on yourself to have a baby when you’ve handed control of that outcome to somebody else.

If you’re in treatment, whether you have a baby is not within your control. So having a baby should be your dream, not your resolution.

It took me seven miserable New Year’s Eves to realize this nuance when I did my many IVF cycles back in the dark ages when success rates were only 17%.

But on one of those miserable New Year’s Eves, my husband and I were snuggled in a local Bed and Breakfast, weary from yet another year of failed IVF attempts and lamenting our fate… as we gazed into the orange light bulb that was “burning” in our bedroom’s “fireplace”. Par for the course of our year.

The following New Year’s was different. We were as happy that year as we’d been miserable the previous six. Forty hours into 1998, and 6 weeks early, my water broke. I finally became a mother… after six years and six IVF cycles…on this day, 14 years ago. But I will never, ever forget the heartache that only one who has suffered on this journey really knows.

Be good to yourself this year. Resolve only to do what is in your control. Surround yourself with the best people to help you achieve what is not in your control.

And dream. Big dreams.

Because one year can make a big difference.

* * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *

Do you feel out of control of your family planning? How do you cope with those feelings?

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Are You Ready for Your IVF Results Phone Call?

By Tracey Minella

June 15th, 2011 at 1:32 am

So much is riding on it. It may be the one and only chance you’re taking at ART. Or the last shot after a long journey of less aggressive treatments. Or something in between.

Whatever your situation, the stakes couldn’t be higher emotionally, physically or financially.

The drugs are costly and worrisome despite what the studies say about their safety. The juggling of job or home obligations to accommodate the demands of sonos and labwork is time-consuming and stressful. Even the guesswork on when to have sex… so its not too close to the retrieval, yet not too distant so as to render the big day’s sample “stale”…is taxing.

And as hard as it is to take it each month when you realize you didn’t get pregnant again, there is no period more heart-breaking than the one that comes after the draining experience of a failed IVF. And there’s no other experience where an average couple can blow through their life savings in a single month or put themselves so far into debt that it may take them several years to repay. All on a gamble for a prize that is ultimately out of their control to obtain.

Yet the odds of IVF success are getting higher every day. And it’s precisely that fact that brings hope to every patient every time they do IVF…even when their personal situation reduces the odds in their case. No matter what, IVF gives you more hope than any non-IVF month. And during the long two week wait for results, hope can make you read those confusing signs and symptoms as being pregnant instead of not pregnant. It can even make you believe you could still be pregnant (which you can be) if bleeding has begun. IVF hope persists until the dreaded phone call kills it…instantly.

So when it fails, it’s beyond devastating. It’s important to be prepared for your results call.

I’ve actually done IVF seven times. No cryo cycles. Two negatives. A very positive that ultimately went very negative. Two more negatives. Two positives. In the beginning, we made sure we were together staring at the phone waiting for it to ring on results day. Perhaps we became jaded, or just less flexible with time off from work, but over time we weren’t as obsessed about being together for the call. 

So, I’ve gotten negative results with Adam and negative results alone; I got our first positive result (which ended badly) with Adam. I got our last two positive results without him but in such cool ways. One result was at the end of my very first day working for Dr. Kreiner as a medical assistant and he called me in to the office to tell me in person. So amazing! And the other result, four years later, I also got on the job, but this time I was the first to see it come over the fax from the lab!

For me, being alone for the call was probably more preferable, especially after negative results calls. But I’m weird that way. I came to expect a negative result just a bit more than I did at first, and I wanted to be able to fall apart completely if it was negative, without feeling even the teeniest bit that I had to hold it together at all so as not to further upset Adam. Plus I had dreamed up cute ways to tell him the news if it was positive…you know, the way normal women get to do when their husbands least expect it. If he was with me for the call, there went my cutesy surprise. Though being together for the first positive was a truly beautiful moment.

* * * * * * * * *  *  *  *

Are you prepared for your IVF results call? Where will you be? Will you be together? If not, how do you plan to share the news? If you’ve already done IVF, what did you do and what, if anything, would you do differently in a future cycle?

And if you want to do IVF, have you entered our contest to win a FREE Micro-IVF cycle?! It’s so easy. Just tell us the most shocking horrid thing some insensitive jerk said to you about being infertile. See the blog post from June 6th to enter.

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IVF Keepsakes, Funky Pee Sticks, and Other Weird Stuff

By Tracey Minella

June 2nd, 2011 at 12:00 am

I’ve got a treasure trove of IVF trinkets that puts Ariel’s cavern of thing-a-ma-bobs to shame.

Face it. There’s not much that’s good about IVF. It’s inconvenient, uncomfortable at times, expensive and stressful. Everyone else is out there making babies the good old fashioned, fun, free, and spontaneous way.

No need to be a poor unfortunate soul. As long as you’re stuck in this IVF boat, why not look at the bright side.

There’s a bright side?

Sure there is.

It’s all in the stuff you collect along the way. It’s not just the journal of your journey…which I highly recommended you keep so you can look back on all this one day. Or more importantly, so your children can stumble upon it in 40 years and see what you went through to have them, as they’re shipping you off to a home. Don’t miss the chance to save memories of this journey.

Take pictures. Stop and take a moment to remember the camera and ask a nurse to take a photo of you and your partner before your retrieval and transfer. Or take a photo of all your meds laid out on the table. Or of the syringe for your first injection. Hint: Be sure to copy and sonogram photos onto a permanent paper since sono paper fades over a long period of time…and if you don’t, you’re baby will disappear like those Back to the Future photos.

Take videos, too. Maybe you can catch the good news call on tape. Or set up your partner so you get his reaction on tape. Bring the camcorder for the retrieval and transfer, too, as it may be appropriate at certain points if the doc allows.

You would not believe how many hospital id bracelets I accumulated along my journey.  I have them starting from my first diagnostic laparoscopy, two D&Cs, through my 7 IVFs, one ovarian torsion/removal, two pre-term labor admissions, and …finally…two deliveries. I think of them as my war medals.

I also have enough of those hospital slipper socks to warm the feeties of the entire population of Haiti.

And those natural conceivers will never have anything as cool as the Petri dish IVF patients get to keep as a remembrance of their baby’s “first crib”.

Another thing I kept was my calendar where I noted every small daily detail of every IVF cycle. When I started, what my levels were, how many follicles, retrieval and transfer days, pregnancy test days, etc. I sure never thought I’d have 4 two year calendars in the end!

I even saved the clothes I wore to my successful retrievals and transfers. I saved empty prescription bottles and a single unused syringe and needle as a keepsake. Of course, I saved the outrageous pharmacy receipts. Positive pee stick? Got one in a baggie. (Eww, I know.)

So be on the look out for opportunities to save even the weird stuff along the way. Because some day, they will make great conversation starters.

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What ha

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Infertility, Puppies, and Karma

By Tracey Minella

May 20th, 2011 at 9:34 am

Can loving a puppy help you conceive?

I was empty inside. Years into my journey with no baby yet. I had just lost my mom suddenly. Left my job in the city and sunk into a deep depression. I literally wallowed in my grief all day long…over my mom who never became a grandma and over the baby that seemed beyond reach.

One evening, my husband forced me to accompany him to a Chamber of Commerce meeting which was being held at the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. He said I needed to get off the couch and be around people again. Had it really been four months?

Begrudgingly, I conceded.

So here I am… taking the tour with a bunch of networking strangers and thinking how this was the last place I wanted to be. Then came the puppies.

Just so happens, they had little Labrador puppies. I got to hold one. A fat little black one with long floppy ears.

That was it.

I couldn’t hold it close enough. It snuggled into my neck. I could feel its heart beating against me. The businessmen were scattered about a multi-leveled Japanese garden, so no one saw me bury my head in the puppy and dissolve into tears.

It was a turning point in my infertility journey.

I told my husband that night that we were going to raise one of those puppies for the Foundation. He said I was nuts. Every one of my friends agreed with him.

I had the puppy home two days later.

It’d be a one year commitment, I reasoned. All vet expenses paid. Free boarding at the Foundation whenever we needed, so we wouldn’t be tied down when we had procedures. Just had to feed it and raise it to have certain good habits which it would need as a working dog.

This was right on so many levels for us. I had a purpose again. I was doing a wonderful thing for a blind person. I had something little…well at least for a short time…to love and that loved me back unconditionally. I had a delicious little diversion. And I needed that for my mental health. It took away some of the stress.

Actually I had five diversions. My husband (the guy who said I was nuts) turned into Ralph Kramden of the Honeymooners. Remember him with the 3 shelter dogs claiming “they were over their limit”?

We had one or two dogs at a time for about 3 years. Coco, a petite little black Lab… who overlapped with each of the other dogs at some point… was with us the longest prior to being placed, having been abused by her prior puppy walker.

Yes, it was heartbreaking to give them back, but we always took a new puppy home the same day. And we got to meet each blind person who “our” dogs graduated with, and they were always so grateful to us. Everyone should experience a connection like that. It’s humbling.

These dogs were there to help me through failed IVFs, a miscarriage, and, finally to celebrate the happy phone call. I don’t think I could have gotten through such a long IVF journey without them to love while I waited for a baby. My husband feels the same.

We stopped puppy walking when I got pregnant, figuring it’d be too hard to put a young child through the heartbreak. Our last puppy, Pavarotti, went in for training that summer. But we missed the dogs. Maybe, once we got settled as new parents, we’d get a Lab of our own.

We hung the ornaments we’d gathered with our puppies’ pictures on them and prepared to celebrate our last Christmas alone before our baby’s January arrival. There was a knock on the door. Sitting there, with a jingle bell around her neck was Coco. The trainer was mumbling something about Coco not being happy in her work. All I knew was she was ours to keep!

Our daughter was born less than two weeks later. After giving back, we now received. Karma is a beautiful thing.

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How does your pet help you through the tough times along your journey? If you don’t have a pet, does this post make you want one?

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IVF, Stevie Wonder, and the Party Pooper

By Tracey Minella

April 6th, 2011 at 12:00 am


There’s a connection here. And it begins with IVF. Actually, with a failed IVF. In fact, the connection is stronger the longer you’re TTC and the more IVF cycles you do. There is something about the shock and disappointment of a failed IVF cycle that bursts the innocent bubble of optimism and expectation of the IVF newbie. And that shaken core syndrome is what feeds this connection.

Then comes the successful IVF cycle…at last. You’ve got the coveted sonogram photo. Seen the blinky heartbeat. Said your tear-filled goodbyes to the RE  as you’re off to the OB for the remainder of the pregnancy. But, certainly for the veteran IVFer,  there’s a lingering uneasiness amid the joy. Can’t quite put your finger on it.

Then the radio bellows these universally familiar lyrics:

“…Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin glass

Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past…”

And you realize that Stevie Wonder has a point. You have become very superstitious.

Newly pregnant after so long. Maybe after devastating losses. Is this a dream? How can I make this dream last? And then you resolve, either consciously or subconsciously, to do everything in your power to avoid tempting any bad fate. And that includes being wary of superstitions.

Now I’m not sayin you’re going to be leaping your hugely pregnant belly over every crack in the sidewalk, but just that you may be edgy on Friday the 13th…or when a black cat crosses your path…or if you spill salt. Little things like that. Or bigger things…

Like when it comes time, during the pregnancy, to choose a baby name, or decorate the nursery, or buy baby clothes and supplies, or plan a Christening.

Enter the party pooper.

Whether it’s based in religion or just common superstition, IVF patients are often paralyzed when it comes to addressing and enjoying all the wonderful moments of their hard won pregnancies. You fear that as soon as you let down your guard, something bad will happen.

As much as you may have dreamed of your own baby shower while suffering through so many of your friends’ showers, you may now feel a bit nervous about being showered with baby things before the baby arrives. Maybe that big Christening you’ve always dreamed of to celebrate the insanely long-awaited birth makes you uneasy now…especially since that fancy hall you chose needs to be reserved before the baby is born. And suddenly, you’re reluctant to open that 5 gallon can of pastel paint, huh?

Look, no one deserves to enjoy a healthy and safe pregnancy more than an IVF patient. We’ve certainly paid our dues and are ready to reap the reward. So, when your pee stick is positive and the happy reality finally sinks in, I urge you all to push back those unfounded fears and to take this advice from my good friend Stevie:

“When you believe in things that you don’t understand, you suffer…

Superstition ain’t the way…yea…yea…yea…yea”.

Oh and one more thing, ladies: Don’t let your husband talk your sleep-deprived, lactating, new mommy self out of that big Christening party if you want one. I did that. And I had to wait 8 years…until her First Communion…to have my big celebration party. And do you know what song I had the DJ play as she entered the room? “Isn’t She Lovely”, by none other than… Stevie Wonder! There wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

So I wish you all the best of luck for a healthy and happy future pregnancy. But just to be on the safe side, may a bird shit on your head as you leave the RE’s office with that sonogram in hand.

* * * *

What superstitions do you believe in that affect how you approach infertility treatments or pregnancy?

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TTC? Try Separating and Washing Your Sheets

By Tracey Minella and David Kreiner MD

March 18th, 2011 at 12:00 am

Not the ones you sleep on, silly. I’m talking about your sheets of cumulus cells. If you want to improve your chances for pregnancy, washing and separating these sheets of cells at the time of your IVF retrieval, and placing them in the dish with your embryos, may be just what the doctor ordered to get your pee stick to come back positive.

This revolutionary procedure is known as co-culture. Unfortunately, many IVF programs do not offer this pregnancy rate-boosting option. So, when seeking an IVF program, be sure to ask if co-culture is available.

Dr. David Kreiner of East Coast Fertility explains the benefits of this exciting and promising weapon in the IVF arsenal:

Successful IVF is dependent on many factors.  The quality of the egg and embryo, the placement of the embryo into the uterus and the environment surrounding implantation are all paramount to the ultimate goal of creating a pregnancy that leads to a live baby.

Typically, patients present with their own gametes so the genetics and pregnancy potential of the eggs and sperm is usually predetermined when patients first present to an IVF program.  As a specialist in REI and IVF, I have dedicated my career to optimizing those other factors that we may influence.

In the late 1990’s I recorded data on all my embryo transfers including distance the catheter tip was placed into the uterine cavity, number of cells and grade of the embryos, difficulty of the transfer, use of tenaculum etc.  I presented my results at the ASRM in 2000 that highlighted the two step transfer to the middle of the uterine cavity and replaced the tenaculum with a cervical suture when needed and this radically improved pregnancy rates.

The uterine environment has been optimized through screening for anatomic issues in the uterine cavity with a hydrosonogram to identify polyps, fibroids and scar tissue that may impede implantation.  Hormonally, we have supplemented patient’s cycles with progesterone through both vaginal and parenteral (intramuscular) administration as well as estrogen that we monitor closely after embryo transfer and make adjustments when deemed helpful.

The greatest improvement in pregnancy rates for the past several years however has been due to a “Culture Revolution” in IVF that is the media environment bathing and feeding the embryos.  All these advances have had a great impact on IVF success rates to the point that 50% of retrievals will result in a pregnancy.  Unfortunately, older patients and some younger ones have yet to share in this success.

Many IVF programs have reintroduced the concept of utilizing a co-culture medium to improve the quality and implantation of embryos. Co-culture is a procedure whereby “helper” cells are grown along with the developing embryo. Today, the most popular cell lines include endometrial cells (from the endometrium, or uterine lining) and cumulus cells from women’s ovaries.  Both cell lines are derived from the patient, thereby eliminating any concerns regarding transmission of viruses. Endometrial cells are much more difficult to obtain and process, while cumulus cells are routinely removed along with the oocytes during IVF retrieval.

Cumulus cells play an important role in the maturation and development of oocytes.  After ovulation cumulus cells normally produce a chemical called Hyaluronan.   Hyaluronan is secreted by many cells of the body and is involved in regulating cell adhesion, growth and development. Recent evidence has shown that Hyaluronan is found normally in the uterus at the time of implantation.

Co-culture of cumulus cells provides an opportunity to detoxify the culture medium that the embryos are growing in and produce growth factors important for cell development.  This may explain why some human embryos can experience improved development with the use of co-culture.

Preparation of co-culture cells starts with separation of the cumulus cells from the oocytes after aspiration of the follicles. These sheets of cells are washed thoroughly and then placed in a solution that permits the sheets to separate into individual cells.  The cells are then washed again and transferred to a culture dish with medium and incubated overnight. During this time individual cells will attach to the culture dish and create junctions between adjoining cells. This communication is important for normal development. The following morning, cells are washed again and all normally fertilized oocytes (embryos) are added to the dish. Embryos are grown with the cumulus cells for a period of three days to achieve maximum benefit.

Performing co-culture of embryos has improved implantation and pregnancy rates above and beyond those seen with the IVF advances previously described. More importantly, it promises to offer advantages for those patients whose previous IVF cycles were unsuccessful.

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Please Join Us Tonight: East Meets West Free Seminar!

By Tracey Minella

February 15th, 2011 at 12:00 am


There is something really radical going on in Plainview, New York tonight. It is called a free face-to-face, real live informational seminar on infertility. That’s right.   We’re talking personal connections here. Not a webinar. For free. (Did I mention the munchies?)

Tonight’s discussion is about combining Western and Eastern approaches in treating infertility. Like a one-two punch. Have you been trying to conceive without success? Maybe suffered one or more miscarriages? Is your day 3 FSH in the stratosphere? Have other programs told you to give up? Then this unique approach designed to increase pregnancy rates and possibly reduce miscarriage rates could be your answer. Imagine that!

The expert speakers are Dr. David Kreiner of East Coast Fertility and Acupuncturist Mike Berkley of the Berkley Center for Reproductive Wellness. Don’t you owe it to yourself to just check it out? When was the last time you could corner a RE or an acupuncturist and grill him ‘til you were satisfied? For free.

Still hesitant? Consider this scenario.

Picture two infertile friends and co-workers talking at the water cooler. One can’t get pregnant. The other can’t stay pregnant. One invites the other to a free seminar after work. It goes like this:

“But, I’m too tired after work. I just wanna go home.”

“Oh, c’mon. There’ll be munchies. It’s just two hours and maybe we’ll find the answers we’ve been looking for.”

“But, I hate those things. A conference room full of strangers. It’s probably just a big sales pitch about the same old, same old.”

“What if it’s not, though? I’ve never seen a seminar about combining these two approaches. I wouldn’t even know where else to look for an acupuncturist to talk to.  Maybe, just maybe, it can help us. It’s free. If I could avoid another failed IVF, it’s worth checking it out. Besides, we’ll be together.”

“Nah. I’m gonna pass, but you have fun. Sounds kinda hokey to me. Anyway, it’s freezing outside…”

Now let me ask you something. If you are the one left alone at the water cooler because your friend is on maternity leave, how are you going to feel about doing the easier thing tonight?

There will always be plenty of excuses not to go. Apathy, cold, tired, and depressed are powerful feelings to overcome. But remember, cutting edge opportunities in infertility treatment don’t present themselves every day. I promise you won’t have any regrets if you do go. Bring a friend.

Go on. Step away from your laptop. We’re waiting for you. (Hey, did I mention the munchies?)

Seminar begins tonight at 6:30 pm, until 8:30 pm, at:

East Coast Fertility, 245 Newtown Rd., Suite 300, Plainview, New York 11803

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If You Hug Me While I Pee on That Stick, Will I Get Pregnant?

By Tracey Minella

January 21st, 2011 at 12:00 am


Maybe I was too focused during that sex education talk in school on whether you could get pregnant from a hot tub. But I know I never heard that you could get pregnant from hugging someone. So, what gives?

Well, it’s true that there needs to be a meeting of egg and sperm, of course. And that part may happen the natural way or with ART. But there just may be more to the story.

If you’re trying to conceive and are feeling depressed and frustrated at the lack of control you have over your own fertility, the extra stress is not going to help. But there is something that you can try that won’t interfere with any part of your treatment plan, is totally safe, non-controversial, and it’s free.

Hugs. Preferably many of them.

Today is National Hugging Day, created in 1986 by Rev. Kevin Zaborney, who is the founder and copyright owner of the National Hugging Day Club TM. It is celebrated annually on January 21st. Check with him if interested in finding or forming a local chapter!

First, I thought of all the times I really needed a hug during my IVF cycles. Sometimes I got one from the nurses. Oftentimes from my husband. And once or twice… in moments of extreme crisis… I got one from the doctor. I remember the amazing healing power of that particular hug as it was not something normally shared between doctor and patient. I just dissolved into it. It was like a lifeline thrown to me at my lowest low.

Then, I thought of all the times I didn’t want anyone near me during my IVF cycles. And sometimes I still got hugged. Hugs are like that. They just happen when someone wants to help and comfort you… especially when words are not enough.

Hugging is comforting. Common sense tells us that. But is there science behind the benefits of hugging or touching?

Yes, it comes within the realm of psychosomatic medicine, defined by Wikipedia as “the study of the relationship between social, psychological and behavioral functions on bodily processes.” It deals with the influence of your mind over your body’s processes.

Touch has been studied and found to have a “beneficial influence” over many bodily systems sensitive to stress. [See PsychoSom Med 70:976-985 (2008) Influence of ‘Warm Touch’ Support Enhancement Intervention Among Married Couples on Ambulatory Blood Pressure, Oxytocin, Alpha Amylase and Cortisol, Holt-Lunstad, Birmingham, and Light, for full article or abstract.]

But enough of all that scientific stuff! Go out and hug someone today. I dare you. Then do it again. Better yet, get a hug from the person you need one from most. Make it a habit. Then come back and tell me how you felt. 

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