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Archive for the ‘OI’ tag

Is Your Biological Clock Running Out?

By David Kreiner, MD

January 10th, 2014 at 10:35 pm

 

image courtesy of photo stock/freedigital photos.net

Tears start to course down the cheeks of my patient, her immediate response to the message I just conveyed to her. Minutes before, with great angst anticipating the depressing effect my words will have on her, I proceeded to explain how her FSH was slightly elevated and her antral follicle count was a disappointing 3-6 follicles. I was careful to say that though this is a screen that correlates with a woman’s fertility, sometimes a woman may be more fertile than suspected based on the hormone tests and ovarian ultrasound. I also said that even when the tests accurately show diminishing ovarian reserve (follicle number), we are often successful in achieving a pregnancy and obtaining a baby through in vitro fertilization especially when age is not a significant factor.

These encounters I have with patients are more frequent than they should be. Unfortunately, many women delay seeking help in their efforts to conceive until their age has become significant both because they have fewer healthy genetically normal eggs and because their ability to respond to fertility drugs with numerous mature eggs is depressed. Women often do not realize that fertility drops as they age starting in their 20s but at an increasing rate in their 30s and to a point that may often be barely treatable in their 40s.

A common reason women delay seeking help is the trend in society to have children at an older age. In the 1960’s it was much less common that women would go to college and seek a career as is typical of women today. The delayed childbearing increases the exposure of women to more sexual partners and a consequent increased risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease with resulting fallopian tube adhesions.

When patients have endometriosis, delaying pregnancy allows the endometriosis to develop further and cause damage to a woman’s ovaries and fallopian tubes. They are more likely to develop diminished ovarian reserve at a younger age due to the destruction of normal ovarian tissue by the endometriosis.

Even more important is that aging results in natural depletion of the number of follicles and eggs with an increase in the percentage of these residual eggs that are unhealthy and/or genetically abnormal.

Diminished ovarian reserve is associated with decreased inhibin levels which decreases the negative feedback on the pituitary gland. FSH produced by the pituitary is elevated in response to the diminished ovarian reserve and inhibin levels unless a woman has a cyst producing high estradiol levels which also lowers FSH. This is why we assess estradiol levels at the same time as FSH. Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) can be tested throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and levels correlate with ovarian reserve. Early follicular ultrasound can be performed to evaluate a woman’s antral follicle count. The antral follicle count also correlates with ovarian reserve.

By screening women annually with hormone tests and ultrasounds a physician may assess whether a woman is at high risk of developing diminished ovarian reserve in the subsequent year. Alerting a woman to her individual fertility status would allow women to adjust their family planning to fit their individual needs.

Aggressive fertility therapy may be the best option when it appears that one is running out of time. Ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination, MicroIVF and IVF are all considerations that speed up the process and allow a patient to take advantage of her residual fertility.

With fertility screening of day 3 estradiol and FSH, AMH and early follicular ultrasound antral follicle counts, the biological clock may still be ticking but at least one may keep an eye on it and know what time it is and act accordingly.

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

Did you realize that aging is not the only factor in the biological clock race? Did you know that certain conditions, like endometriosis, can play a part, too?

 

Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?id=10049499

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Infertility and National Prematurity Awareness Month

By Tracey Minella

November 19th, 2013 at 10:53 am

 

photo credit: praisaeng/freedigitalphotos.net

Infertility is a disease. Its course often follows a common progression. It often starts with the abandonment of what turns out to have been unnecessary birth control. It then progresses through a repeated series of monthly disappointments until charts, thermometers, and the “chore-mentality” move into the bedroom. ObGyn intervention becomes an RE referral. A battery of tests and invasive procedures follow. Sometimes there’s Clomid. Maybe even ovulation induction with IUIs. Possibly, there’s IVF.

It’s no wonder that most infertility patients are so caught up in the all-consuming grind of simply trying to get pregnant, that they don’t think past getting that positive pregnancy test. They don’t think that…after all that time and sacrifice…something could threaten that hard-earned pregnancy.

It’s National Prematurity Awareness Month. And there is no better time to focus on what you can do to reduce your chances of having a premature baby than before you become pregnant.

It’s not always known why babies are born prematurely, but according to the Mayo Clinic*, some risk factors can include:

  • Pregnancy with twins, triplets or other multiples
  • Problems with the uterus, cervix or placenta
  • Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
  • Poor nutrition
  • Some infections, particularly of the amniotic fluid and lower genital tract
  • Some chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Being underweight or overweight before pregnancy.

 

According to the CDC**, some of the symptoms or warning signs of pre-term labor include:

  • Contractions (the abdomen tightens like a fist) every 10 minutes or more often.
  • Change in vaginal discharge (leaking fluid or bleeding from the vagina).
  • Pelvic pressure—the feeling that the baby is pushing down.
  • Low, dull backache.
  • Cramps that feel like a menstrual period.

If you are doing IVF, one of the things you may want to consider to reduce your chances of prematurity is having a single embryo transfer (“SET”), if your doctor feels you are a good candidate. Doing so virtually eliminates your chance of a multiple pregnancy. In addition to the safety considerations for mother and baby, SET at Long Island IVF offers financial incentives, including free cryopreservation and reduced rates for subsequent frozen embryo transfers. Click here for more information about Long Island IVF’s Single Embryo Transfer Program. http://bit.ly/WpzCvv

As an IVF mom of two preemies myself, let me acknowledge that very often, babies arrive early for reasons beyond our control. Sadly, the outcomes are not always happy. But knowledge is power, so control what you can, watch for the signs, and listen to that little voice if you feel something is amiss. And remember that the vast majority of these hard-earned pregnancies do turn out just fine.

*http://mayocl.in/HWaNGz

** http://1.usa.gov/IdCytZ

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

Do you worry about prematurity? If so, would you consider SET to reduce the chance of a multiple pregnancy?

Photo credit: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/agree-terms.php?id=100141619 /praisaeng

 

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Infertility Podcast Series: Journey to the Crib: Chapter 27: A Dozen Embryos, Who Will Stop This Madness?

By David Kreiner MD

August 12th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

 

Welcome to the Journey to the Crib Podcast.  We will have a blog discussion each week with each chapter.  This podcast covers Chapter Twenty-Seven: A Dozen Embryos, Who Will Stop This Madness? You, the listener, are invited to ask questions and make comments.  You can access the podcast here: http://podcast.longislandivf.com/?p=133

A Dozen Embryos, Who Will Stop This Madness?

When I wrote this chapter, the news of the day was that an IVF clinic had transferred 12 embryos.  In fact, it was learned weeks later that this was a hoax.  However, in the wake of Octomom, where 8 embryos were transferred, I felt there was still an important lesson to be learned especially since insurance companies often insist that a patient try multiple cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI) before covering IVF… if they cover it at all. 

 

In fact, gonadotropin hormones in conjunction with IUI offers a 35% risk of multiple pregnancy including a 5% risk of triplets or more.  After obtaining six fetuses after one such cycle, I became very wary of offering gonadotropin IUI cycles to my patients.

 

Yet, this is what our insurance companies are covering rather than the safer IVF where only 1 or 2 embryos can be transferred at a time.

 

When we do an IUI, as many eggs that ovulate can implant resulting in a high risk multiple pregnancy.  I believe that it is not until we discourage the use of gonadotropins without IVF by offering a regulated covered alternative will we eliminate these risky multiples.

 

Until then, all of us including society, the government, insurance companies and employers are to blame for letting these dangerous multiple pregnancies occur.

 

* * * * * * **  * * * *

Was this helpful in answering your questions about multiple pregnancy risks in IUIs and IVF?

Please share your thoughts about this podcast here. And ask any questions and Dr. Kreiner will answer them.

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Don’t Jostle Your Ovaries

By Tracey Minella

February 10th, 2013 at 12:58 pm

It takes a strong woman to go through infertility treatment. And sometimes, in our headstrong, full-speed-ahead-with-blinders-on mode, we feel we’re unstoppable. Invincible, even. But we are not.

With some areas of Long Island blanketed in over two feet of snow, there is a potential danger to infertile women in treatment… snow shoveling. You are not invincible. Do not shovel snow if you are currently in a treatment cycle, have just completed a cycle, are in the two-week waiting period for results, or are pregnant. You must be gentle to and mindful of your ovaries.

When you take injectable medications for IVF (or ovulation induction) to stimulate your ovaries to produce multiple follicles… instead of the single monthly follicle you may otherwise have produced… one of the reasons the doctors monitor you so closely with blood work and sonograms is to reduce the risk of ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome, or “OHSS”.

When you stimulate the ovaries, they temporarily swell a bit in response, which is expected. OHSS in its mild form can be uncomfortable, but usually resolves on its own. Fortunately, severe OHSS cases are incredibly rare. But in the 1-2% of those cases, patients may experience symptoms including rapid weight gain, abdominal pain, vomiting, and shortness of breath. Pregnancy hormones can worsen OHSS. So, it is important to report any of the above symptoms to your RE as soon as possible, before or after your retrieval or transfer (or IUI). For more info on OHSS, see http://mayocl.in/Xv5NsP

Most women know not to do anything that could be harmful to a developing baby, but they don’t often realize the potential risk certain activities can pose to their stimulated, or recently retrieved, ovaries. Play it safe. Don’t jostle your ovaries.

So put the snow shovel down, ladies. And, leave the vacuum alone while you’re at it, too.

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

Have you ever done anything strenuous while stimulating? Have you ever experienced OHSS?

 

Photo credit: Peter Griffin @ http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=29815&picture=shovel-snow

 

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Is Your Biological Clock Running Out?

By David Kreiner MD

December 4th, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Tears start to course down the cheeks of my patient, her immediate response to the message I just conveyed to her. Minutes before, with great angst anticipating the depressing effect my words will have on her, I proceeded to explain how her FSH was slightly elevated and her antral follicle count was a disappointing 3-6 follicles. I was careful to say that though this is a screen that correlates with a woman’s fertility, sometimes a woman may be more fertile than suspected based on the hormone tests and ovarian ultrasound. I also said that even when the tests accurately show diminishing ovarian reserve (follicle number), we are often successful in achieving a pregnancy and obtaining a baby through in vitro fertilization especially when age is not a significant factor.

These encounters I have with patients are more frequent than they should be. Unfortunately, many women delay seeking help in their efforts to conceive until their age has become significant both because they have fewer healthy genetically normal eggs and because their ability to respond to fertility drugs with numerous mature eggs is depressed. Women often do not realize that fertility drops as they age starting in their 20s but at an increasing rate in their 30s and to a point that may often be barely treatable in their 40s.

A common reason women delay seeking help is the trend in society to have children at an older age. In the 1960’s it was much less common that women would go to college and seek a career as is typical of women today. The delayed childbearing increases the exposure of women to more sexual partners and a consequent increased risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease with resulting fallopian tube adhesions. When patients have endometriosis, delaying pregnancy allows the endometriosis to develop further and cause damage to a woman’s ovaries and fallopian tubes. They are more likely to develop diminished ovarian reserve at a younger age due to the destruction of normal ovarian tissue by the endometriosis. Even more important is that aging results in natural depletion of the number of follicles and eggs with an increase in the percentage of these residual eggs that are unhealthy and/or genetically abnormal.

Diminished ovarian reserve is associated with decreased inhibin levels which decreases the negative feedback on the pituitary gland. FSH produced by the pituitary is elevated in response to the diminished ovarian reserve and inhibin levels unless a woman has a cyst producing high estradiol levels which also lowers FSH. This is why we assess estradiol levels at the same time as FSH. Anti-Mullerian Hormone (AMH) can be tested throughout a woman’s menstrual cycle and levels correlate with ovarian reserve. Early follicular ultrasound can be performed to evaluate a woman’s antral follicle count. The antral follicle count also correlates with ovarian reserve.

By screening women annually with hormone tests and ultrasounds a physician may assess whether a woman is at high risk of developing diminished ovarian reserve in the subsequent year. Alerting a woman to her individual fertility status would allow women to adjust their family planning to fit their individual needs.

Aggressive fertility therapy may be the best option when it appears that one is running out of time. Ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination, MicroIVF and IVF are all considerations that speed up the process and allow a patient to take advantage of her residual fertility.

With fertility screening of day 3 estradiol and FSH, AMH and early follicular ultrasound antral follicle counts, the biological clock may still be ticking but at least one may keep an eye on it and know what time it is and act accordingly.

* * * * * * * *** *

Do you wish you started trying to conceive earlier than you did? Do you wish you saw a reproductive endocrinologist sooner? Do you have any advice for others?

 

Photo credit: Peter Kratochvil http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=14919&picture=your-are-late

 

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Does Infertility Treatment Cause Autism?

By Tracey Minella

April 4th, 2011 at 12:00 am

April is National Autism Awareness Month. So with the epidemic of autism in the spotlight, the question is looming out there like the proverbial elephant in the room: Does infertility treatment increase the chances of having a child with autism? And the answer, like many answers about what may cause autism, is: Nobody knows for sure.

What we do know is that autism is a neurological condition that affects approximately 1 in every 110 children born. It often causes speech and developmental delays, impaired social functioning and difficult behavioral issues. Often, the children present with impaired gross and fine motor skills, or gastrointestinal issues, as well. There is no known cure for autism, but there are many interventions and therapies that can improve the quality of the child’s life…especially if implemented early and aggressively… and some people do claim to have “recovered” their child.

The reason they refer to autism as a “spectrum” is because each diagnosed child is so different. And their disabilities can range from mild to severe. That is also why it is so difficult to find a cure. But although progress is made each day, there is still so much we don’t know.

As an IVF mom of two, with one child having autism, this is an issue close to my heart.

In the interest of full disclosure, there was a study from the Harvard School of Public Health in May, 2010 that examined a possible link between the use of ovulation inducing drugs and autism. In the study, women who took OI drugs had an almost two times greater chance of having a child with autism than women who did not take OI drugs.

Don’t be afraid of that last statement. While it initially sounds alarming, the numbers in reality are still quite small and the researchers themselves freely admit that more research is needed before this possible link can be confirmed. When you are starting with such a small figure as a 2% chance for autism without fertility meds, doubling those odds still brings you to only a 4% chance with fertility meds…and that’s presuming those findings were conclusive, which they were not.

Even if further research were to someday confirm a connection between these fertility treatments and autism, "the risk would appear to be small, with patients using OI drugs having a 4% chance of having a child with autism, compared to a 2% chance for women who did not use fertility drugs."* http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722467

It’s important to note that the study’s lead researcher, Epidemiologist Kristen Lysall, stressed that these “very preliminary” observations were “insufficient to warrant a change in current clinical practice and should not be used to cause undue anxiety in women who’ve undergone such treatment.”*

That’s prudent advice…especially since many of the factors associated with autism happen to be associated with infertility patients in general. For instance, in the general population autism is more common in cases of advanced maternal and/or paternal age, multiple births, premature babies and low birth weight babies…and it just so happens that those factors are more often seen in the IVF population of new parents than in the general population of new parents. We tend to be older parents; we have more multiple births which sometimes result in preemies or low birth weight babies.  So who can say definitively that it’s the meds?

The bottom line is that fertility meds, just like vaccines, are just one of many, many factors that researchers will…and should…investigate in the search for the cause and cure of autism. They’ve been researching a possible cancer link for decades, too. That’s what they do. And it’s a good thing.

Rest assured that if the day ever comes when they make conclusive findings and recommend changes in OI/IVF protocol, your RE will let you know. Until that time, it’s just important to keep the findings in perspective, especially when they are just in the preliminary stages. And, as always, express any concerns or questions you may have to your practitioner.

* * * * * * *

Does this preliminary report concern you?

If your risk of having a baby with autism was someday confirmed to go from a 2% chance without fertility treatment to a 4% chance with fertility meds, how would that affect your decision to proceed with fertility treatment?

*Daniel M. Keller, Medscape Today, May 26, 2010

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