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Archive for the ‘PCOS’ tag

PCOS: The Unwanted Pearl Necklace

By David Kreiner MD, and Tracey Minella

September 6th, 2012 at 7:49 pm

credit: maggiesmith/freedigitalphotos.net

There’s nothing at all sexy about PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. In fact, some women who suffer from PCOS are not only fertility-challenged (by tiny ovarian cysts appearing like a string of pearls on an ovarian sonogram), but may be cursed with any number of other annoyances, including facial hair and acne and extra poundage. How lovely.

Dr. Kreiner, of Long Island IVF explains PCOS, its affect on your ability to conceive, and the way it can be managed:

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?

 

 

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“Yo Mama’s So Fat…” and Other Reasons Infertile, Overweight Women Kill

By Tracey Minella and David Kreiner MD

January 5th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Didn’t these jeans fit me three weeks ago?

#@#*&%!!

Raise your hand if you made a resolution to lose weight this year…again. Or were you like me and just thought it but didn’t say it out loud… to avoid the snickering? C’mon, get that hand up, sister.

Tell me I’m not the only one out there who chomped down too many Christmas cookies, finished off too many fried latkes and zeppoles, and got hammered on gallons of eggnog. Really, I’m not the only one pulling out the “fat” clothes again, am I?

To a woman TTC, nothing is worse than being told you can’t have a baby without medical intervention…unless you’re then told you’re too overweight to have the treatments. That can hurt even more than those terrible fat jokes.

For me, depression and overeating Oreos went hand in…well… mouth. And the longer my infertility journey took… with the sorrows of miscarriage, failed IVFs, and an ovarian torsion to drown… the bigger the gap got in the back of my hospital gowns.

In a perfect world, we’d all be a healthy weight. None of us would be infertile, or have thyroid issues or diabetes, or PCOS, or just plain-old, depression-induced obesity to fill the void where our baby is supposed to be.

But the world is not perfect.

Fortunately, there are compassionate RE’s out there who are willing to give overweight patients the respect and the treatment they deserve. They’re just not easy to find. Maybe they even felt the sting of the public’s disdain for the obese on a personal level. Whatever their motivation, it’s worth the extra effort to find this kind of support on your infertility journey.

You need a doctor who is willing to potentially sacrifice his program’s IVF stats to make you a mom, because he believes he can do it…today…not after sending you home to lose those 20-30 pounds of extra weight first. Today.

Even if you are morbidly obese or have other health issues related to morbid obesity… and your treatment needs to be deferred for safety reasons until some of that weight is taken off…  there’s no reason to have to scale down to Cover Girl stickness in order to be treated. You can get a bun in your oven… and have some junk in your trunk!

Dr. Kreiner brings this prejudice and injustice to the forefront in his thoughtful, compassionate post:

The most shocking thing I’ve experienced in my 30 year career in Reproductive Endocrinology has been the consistent “resistance” among specialists to treat women with obesity. This “resistance” has felt at times to both me and many patients to be more like a prejudice. I have heard other REI specialists say that it is harder for women to conceive until they shed their excess weight. “Come back to my office when you have lost 20, 30 or more pounds,” is a typical remark heard by many at their REI’s office. “It’s not healthy to be pregnant at your weight and you risk your health and the health of the baby.” Closing the door to fertility treatment is what most women in this condition experience.

An article in Medical News Today, “Obese Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment Advised Not To Attempt Rapid Weight Loss”, suggested that weight loss just prior to conception may have adverse effects on the pregnancy, either by disrupting normal physiology or by releasing environmental pollutants stored in the fat. The article points out what is obvious to many who share the lifelong struggle to maintain a reasonable Body Mass Index (BMI): Weight loss is difficult to achieve. Few people adhere to lifestyle intervention and diets which may have no benefit in improving pregnancy in subfertile obese women.

The bias in the field is so strong that when I submitted a research paper demonstrating equivalent IVF pregnancy rates for women with excessive BMIs greater than 35 to the ASRM for presentation, it was rejected based on the notion that there was clear evidence to the contrary. Here’s the point I was trying to prove: IVF care must be customized to optimize the potential for this group.

Women with high BMI need a higher dose of medication. Those with PCOS benefit from treatment with Metformin. Their ultrasounds and retrievals need to be performed by the most experienced personnel. Often their follicles will be larger than in women of lower weight. Strategies to retrieve follicles in high BMI women include using a suture in the cervix to manipulate the uterus and an abdominal hand to push the ovaries into view.

Most importantly, a two-stage embryo transfer with the cervical suture can insure in utero placement of the transfer catheter and embryos without contamination caused by inadvertent touching of the catheter to the vaginal wall before insertion through the cervical canal. Visualization of the cervix is facilitated by pulling on the cervical suture, straightening the canal and allowing for easier passage of the catheter. The technique calls for placement of one catheter into the cervix through which a separate catheter, loaded with the patient’s embryo, is inserted.

Using this strategy, IVF with high BMI patients is extremely successful. With regard to the health of the high BMI woman and her fetus, it’s critical to counsel patients just as it is when dealing with women who live with diabetes or any other chronic situation that adds risk.

We refuse to share in the prejudice that is nearly universal in this field. It’s horrible and hypocritical to refuse these patients treatment. Clearly, with close attention to the needs of this population, their success is like any others.

Women who have time and motivation to lose significant weight prior to fertility therapy are encouraged to do so and I try to support their efforts. Unfortunately, many have tried and are unable to significantly reduce prior to conception.

What right do we have to deny these women the right to build their families?

It can be hard to deal with obesity and even more so when combined with infertility. If you are feeling sad or depressed, it may help to talk to a counselor or to others who have the condition. I advise you to ask your doctor about support groups and for treatment that can help you including fertility treatment.

Remember, though this condition can be annoying, aggravating and even depressing, seek an REI who is interested in supporting you and helping you build your family and reject those who simply tell you to return after you have lost sufficient weight.

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

Have you been turned away from an RE because you’re overweight or obese? Do you think that’s fair?

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Is Micro-IVF the Answer?

By David Kreiner MD

December 19th, 2011 at 9:08 pm


You’ve already crossed the bridge from “We’re going to get pregnant!” to “We need help…” But this other side looks filled with more obstacles, including expensive and risky fertility medications.

How far do you have to go just to have a baby?

Micro IVF (sometimes called MiniIVF) may be your answer.

The primary point of MicroIVF: fewer fertility drugs, less cost.

Plus you get additional benefits: decreased chances of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome and of multiple pregnancy.

Additionally, East Coast Fertility and Long Island IVF patients who choose MicroIVF can increase their savings if they also use our Single Embryo Transfer Program — embryo freezing, storage, and future frozen embryo transfers are free.

Why go Micro?

I learned long ago that pregnancies of twins, triplets, and more can bring heartache to what should be a joyous journey for fertility patients. So the ECF team has dedicated our practice to the achievement of safe, healthy pregnancies.

IUI or IVF?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often considered the first order of business for many infertility patients.

Sometimes called “artificial insemination,” the usual protocol — oral and injectable fertility medications to induce superovulation (of more than one egg in a cycle), followed by insemination via exam room procedure — is believed to be simpler and, therefore, less costly than IVF.

That’s just not true any longer.

The facts now are that success rates can be far better for IVF than for IUI, depending on the individual’s or couple’s cause of infertility. Many women undergo several IUIs before achieving conception.

Some infertility causes — pelvic adhesions/scarring, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, and severe male factor issues — will not respond to IUI but are treatable with IVF.

Even patients who would otherwise try IUI to get pregnant will find that choosing MicroIVF can result in cost savings and greater safety:

Micro IVF fee (current as of Dec 2011): $3900

ICSI (if required): $1000

Anesthesia (as requested): $550

IUI with hormone injections: $3500 to $4500

Is MicroIVF right for you?

Each patient’s case is considered carefully and individually. The following are conditions that might respond best to MicroIVF:

Young healthy women with PCOS or who otherwise produce many follicles

Women with pelvic adhesions or scarring, blocked fallopian tubes, or endometriosis

Couples with severe male factor infertility

MicroIVF really is a case of a little treatment going a long way! With it, you can access the world’s most successful assisted reproductive technology at far less cost.

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

Has this blog post changed your mind about the course of treatment you are taking (or planned to take)? Did you know about Micro-IVF and Single Embryo transfers prior to this post?

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“Yo Mama’s So Fat…” and Other Reasons Infertile, Overweight Women Kill

By Tracey Minella and David Kreiner MD

April 21st, 2011 at 12:00 am

Maybe murder is a bit extreme, but then again…

To a woman TTC, nothing is worse than being told you can’t have a baby without medical intervention…unless you’re then told you’re too overweight to have the treatments. That can hurt even more than those terrible fat jokes.

For me, depression and overeating Oreos went hand in…well… mouth. And the longer my infertility journey took… with the sorrows of miscarriage, failed IVFs, and an ovarian torsion to drown… the bigger the gap got in the back of my hospital gowns.

In a perfect world, we’d all be a healthy weight. None of us would be infertile, or have thyroid issues or diabetes, or PCOS, or just plain-old, depression-induced obesity to fill the void where our baby is supposed to be.

But the world is not perfect.

Fortunately, there are compassionate RE’s out there who are willing to give overweight patients the respect and the treatment they deserve. They’re just not easy to find. Maybe they even felt the sting of the public’s distain for the obese on a personal level. Whatever their motivation, it’s worth the extra effort to find this kind of support on your infertility journey.

You need a doctor who is willing to potentially sacrifice the program’s IVF stats to make you a mom, because he does believe he can do it…today…not after sending you home to lose loads of weight first. Today.

Dr. Kreiner of East Coast Fertility brings this prejudice and injustice to the forefront in his thoughtful, compassionate post:

The most shocking thing I’ve experienced in my 30 year career in Reproductive Endocrinology has been the consistent “resistance” among specialists to treat women with obesity. This “resistance” has felt at times to both me and many patients to be more like a prejudice. I have heard other REI specialists say that it is harder for women to conceive until they shed their excess weight. “Come back to my office when you have lost 20, 30 or more pounds,” is a typical remark heard by many at their REI’s office. “It’s not healthy to be pregnant at your weight and you risk your health and the health of the baby.” Closing the door to fertility treatment is what most women in this condition experience.

An article in Medical News Today, “Obese Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment Advised Not To Attempt Rapid Weight Loss”, suggested that weight loss just prior to conception may have adverse effects on the pregnancy, either by disrupting normal physiology or by releasing environmental pollutants stored in the fat. The article points out what is obvious to many who share the lifelong struggle to maintain a reasonable Body Mass Index (BMI): Weight loss is difficult to achieve. Few people adhere to lifestyle intervention and diets which may have no benefit in improving pregnancy in subfertile obese women.

The bias in the field is so strong that when I submitted a research paper demonstrating equivalent IVF pregnancy rates for women with excessive BMIs greater than 35 to the ASRM for presentation, it was rejected based on the notion that there was clear evidence to the contrary. Here’s the point I was trying to prove: IVF care must be customized to optimize the potential for this group.

Women with high BMI need a higher dose of medication. Those with PCOS benefit from treatment with Metformin. Their ultrasounds and retrievals need to be performed by the most experienced personnel. Often their follicles will be larger than in women of lower weight. Strategies to retrieve follicles in high BMI women include using a suture in the cervix to manipulate the uterus and an abdominal hand to push the ovaries into view.

Most importantly, a two-stage embryo transfer with the cervical suture can insure in utero placement of the transfer catheter and embryos without contamination caused by inadvertent touching of the catheter to the vaginal wall before insertion through the cervical canal. Visualization of the cervix is facilitated by pulling on the cervical suture, straightening the canal and allowing for easier passage of the catheter. The technique calls for placement of one catheter into the cervix through which a separate catheter, loaded with the patient’s embryo, is inserted.

Using this strategy, IVF with high BMI patients is extremely successful. With regard to the health of the high BMI woman and her fetus, it’s critical to counsel patients just as it is when dealing with women who live with diabetes or any other chronic situation that adds risk.

We refuse to share in the prejudice that is nearly universal in this field. It’s horrible and hypocritical to refuse these patients treatment. Clearly, with close attention to the needs of this population, their success is like any others.

Women who have time and motivation to lose significant weight prior to fertility therapy are encouraged to do so and I try to support their efforts. Unfortunately, many have tried and are unable to significantly reduce prior to conception.

What right do we have to deny these women the right to build their families?

It can be hard to deal with obesity and even more so when combined with infertility. If you are feeling sad or depressed, it may help to talk to a counselor or to others who have the condition. I advise you to ask your doctor about support groups and for treatment that can help you including fertility treatment.

Remember, though this condition can be annoying, aggravating and even depressing, seek an REI who is interested in supporting you and helping you build your family and reject those who simply tell you to return after you have lost sufficient weight.

* * * * * *

Have you felt prejudiced along your journey because of your weight? Do you feel that obese women should have to lose weight before TTC with IVF?

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When Infertility Arrives After a Baby: Understanding Secondary Infertility

By Dr. David Kreiner

August 9th, 2010 at 8:19 am

Sometimes my patients who have difficulty conceiving their second child feel like second class citizens in the infertility world. Unlike their infertile peers without a child they perceive that friends, family and even their doctor’s offices do not have the same sympathy and concern for them as they observe others without a child receive. I have had patients express guilt and anger in addition to the routine sadness often associated with the inability to conceive.

Those of you with secondary infertility need to know that you are not alone in feeling this way. My patients all express this alienation which exacerbates the depressing effects of infertility universally experienced among those affected. You have as much a right to fertility care as anyone else as well as the respect and care.

There are some unique characteristics to patients with secondary infertility that are worth discussion. Those of you who have had a caesarian section, ectopic pregnancy or abdominal surgery are more likely to have a tubal factor causing your infertility. Scar tissue can form that can obstruct, or displace a fallopian tube making it more difficult for the tube to pick up an ovulating egg or the fertilized egg to make it to the uterus.

Borderline sperm counts and endometriosis typically make it more difficult to conceive so that it is not unusual that it took longer than expected to conceive the first time and now you are not experiencing any success at all.

We perform a semen analysis and hysterosalpingogram and consider the potential benefit of laparoscopic investigation. Alternatively, if the semen analysis is not too bad and the HSG is normal, patients may benefit from insemination with hormonal stimulation. Otherwise, in vitro fertilization either with minimal or full stimulation will offer significantly superior success rates.

Facing secondary infertility may be as difficult emotionally as infertility for those without prior pregnancies. However, treatment options are available that are highly successful in delivering you the family of your dreams.

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“What do you think is the biggest change in reproductive medicine since you started?”

By Dr. David Kreiner

June 16th, 2010 at 8:42 am

The other day, I asked Dr. David Kreiner a few questions about his own personal take on the changes in reproductive medicine. Here is our conversation.

"What do you think is the biggest change in reproductive medicine since you started?"

"When I decided to specialize in reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) I was looking forward to being on the frontier of fertility medicine. The details of Reproductive physiology were being unraveled in real time and IVF had just reported its first successful pregnancies. In those days, microsurgery of the fallopian tubes was commonly performed by REIs as well as endometriosis and fibroid surgery. 

During my fellowship, surgery was a huge part of my training. I travelled to Nashville to train with one of the world’s experts in laser laparoscopy. I practiced my tubal microsurgery skills weekly on anesthetized rats in a plastic surgical lab. I assisted on reproductive surgery several cases every week throughout my fellowship.

Myself and other fellows performed research on basic reproductive physiology questions that had yet to be worked out.  Personally, my interest was polycystic ovarian disease and its relationship to weight gain. I studied male hormone production in the ovary and the adrenal gland before and after significant weight loss. I discovered that there was an inverse relationship between weight loss and male hormone production and that this was mediated through insulin. These were exciting times.

Today, discoveries in reproductive physiology are much more esoteric than it was when I was a fellow. Reproductive surgery, in particular tubal microsurgery and laser laparoscopy for endometriosis and adhesions is usually replaced with in vitro fertilization (IVF) which has become so much more successful, less invasive and therefore a preferable option. Most causes of infertility, if they are not successfully treated with ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI) can be overcome with IVF.

Today, we get excited about advances in preembryo genetic screening and diagnosis and contemplate the current and future potential of eliminating hereditary medical disorders".

"What are you the most proud of?"

"In the 1980’s when I was a fellow, IVF was grossly inefficient and we had to transfer multiple embryos to achieve a pregnancy. Consequently, triplets and quadruplets were not rare occurrences. In many programs, they constituted over 10% of all pregnancies. Today, we can often transfer one embryo at a time minimizing the risk of multiple pregnancies. We can freeze excess embryos so many patients need go through only one stimulation and retrieval and still have multiple transfers providing them with an excellent chance of conceiving a baby from their efforts.

What would you change about the field of reproductive medicine today if you had a magic wand?

I wish that REI was not a competitive business but purely a medical service". 

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