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The Brighter Side of IVF Treatment

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IVF Treatment

Much of the media coverage around IVF focuses on the negatives of treatment: the artificial hormones; the exorbitant costs; multiple births – not to mention the emotional pressure that patients endure. But there are many positives aspects that rarely seem to be acknowledged. Here are just some of the ones that I encountered during my three cycles.

Finally feeling normal

When my husband and I embarked on our first IVF attempt we had been trying to conceive naturally for almost two years. While that might not seem like a very long time in the context of a lifetime, anyone who has struggled with infertility will know that it is a long time to live with the relentless cycle of hope followed by despair; of watching everyone around you get pregnant and wondering if it will ever be your turn; of avoiding baby showers and christenings; of masking your real emotions when a friend or acquaintance announces a pregnancy; of trying to imagine an alternative future to the one that you thought was a given.

Over time, infertility wears you down emotionally and physically, and can seriously affect your sense of self worth, your relationship, your friendships, and potentially even your job. It is normal to constantly question if you are being punished for something, or if you are causing the problem yourself by being so consumed with getting pregnant. Some people start to feel as though they are not normal; that there is something lacking in them; that they are not supposed to be a parent.

Even though it may be overwhelming and unfamiliar, many people experience a sense of relief when they begin attending a fertility clinic and looking at treatment options. After months of struggling in isolation, finally someone seems to understand their plight and has a scientifically proven way to help.

While, of course, it is important to prepare for the fact that fertility treatment might not work first time, those receiving treatment often feel that struggling to have a baby isn’t a problem they have to face alone anymore. By involving a medical team some of the burden is lifted, which can lead to a restored feeling of empowerment. Once investigations are underway, and pieces to the puzzle are identified, patients tend to feel a huge sense of relief that their inability to conceive can be attributed to medical factors, rather than something unknown.

The realization that you are not alone

Although you may feel embarrassed and overwhelmed, there is some comfort to be found in the waiting room at the fertility clinic, which will be full of people who are in exactly the same boat. Before I started talking openly to other infertility sufferers I genuinely imagined that my husband and I were alone in our struggle to get pregnant. I constantly analyzed people I knew, and strangers on the street, trying to decipher if they were like me beneath the surface – just wearing a mask on the outside, hiding their pain. Seeing no signs of their distress I came to the conclusion that everyone had had it easy except for us. Imagine my surprise when I later found out that many people I knew had also been on the same journey. I even bumped into people I knew at the clinic, a situation that, although awkward, also made me feel less alone. Although infertility is a very isolating experience, once you commence treatment you will come to realize that you are not as alone as you once thought, and it is a challenge faced by many couples and individuals alike.

Appreciating the miracle of life

People who struggle to conceive will often be told by well-meaning friends and family that it will be extra special when they finally do become parents, and I really believe that is true.

I’m sure that every parent appreciates what a miracle human life is when they first see their baby’s heart beating on a pregnancy ultrasound; when they feel it kick against its mother’s belly; and when they finally come face to face with its miniature proportions after it is born. However, an IVF patient gets an even deeper level of insight into how this miracle takes place, and can really appreciate the many different processes of the body that are needed to make that little life possible. As each one is broken down through the investigation process, and the complexity of the human reproductive system becomes evident, most will marvel that the human race has been able to reproduce so successfully.

The human side to IVF

While many people have a preconceived notion of IVF clinics as impersonal and anonymous, in my experience the doctors, nurses and embryologists that work in them are among the most compassionate and understanding medical professionals I have ever come across. In addition to those who experience it first-hand, some of the only other people who truly understand the pain, desperation and anger associated with infertility are those who work in the area.

I particularly remember being struck when our doctor on our third cycle told us how she had lost sleep due to anxiousness about us and our embryos. While I had always thought it was necessary for a doctor to try to remove themselves from any emotional connection to their patients, I realized that for people working in an area such as infertility it is virtually impossible. Although our doctor was dealing with patients like us every day of the week, she shared our anguish over our tiny developing embryos. This was even more incredible given that we had never actually met face-to-face and all of our communication had been through video conferencing.

Throughout the whole cycle I was overwhelmed by the good wishes we received from everyone with whom we came into contact at the clinic: from the patient assistants to the embryologist, who I only met for a brief second as he passed the embryos to the doctor performing the transfer, everyone seemed to be genuinely rooting for us, which made the process feel less clinical and more human.

The physical side is easier than expected

Even for those who are a bit squeamish about needles and internal exams, the physical side of IVF isn’t actually the worst part of it. In fact, most people find that they soon become immune to all the prodding and poking. I also found that, in comparison to other occasions where I have had blood taken or had an internal scan, my experiences in a fertility clinic were less uncomfortable and I felt like I was treated with a little bit more consideration.

Of course, it would be preferable if the whole treatment could be done without needles or drugs with strange side effects, but most women who have gone through treatment will agree that the physical side of it all does not stand out as the hardest part.

It’s not seedy

TV and movies, especially comedies, tend to portray the male side of IVF as somewhat seedy, painting images of men awkwardly trying to produce sperm samples with the aid of pornography. While magazines, and sometimes video material, are provided to help the male patient in what is a very unusual and stressful situation, the environment is in no way seedy. On the contrary, everything is handled with professionalism and consideration, and men are helped to feel relaxed and comfortable about what they need to do.

Some relationships grow stronger  

After many months, or even years, of timing intercourse to coincide with ovulation, and the emotional pressure and pain that comes from trying to conceive, most couples will admit that their relationship has suffered. While some couples find that the stress of IVF hampers their relationship further, others may experience a renewed closeness once the stress of trying to conceive naturally is removed. By temporarily putting the problem into someone else’s hands, many feel freed from the shackles of infertility and are able to focus on each other again. There are numerous things that can test a relationship and infertility is definitely one of them. Couples I know who have come out the other side of IVF treatment are among the strongest I know.

Watching the embryos develop

The clinic we attended for our third treatment cycle gave us access to time-lapse video imagery from the EmbryoScope, the incubator where our embryos were held. Every day we were able to log in via a customized link and see how our embryos were progressing. Watching their journey from fertilisation through to four, six and eight cells, and finally to blastocyst stage, was really special and gave us an amazing insight into how each and every one of us starts off our journey in life.

Witnessing the embryo transfer

When your embryos are ready to be transferred to your uterus, you can watch the proceedings on the ultrasound monitor. They are usually transferred using a catheter, which is inserted through the cervix and high up into the uterus. A brief flash of light can be seen as they leave the catheter and enter the uterus, hopefully to implant. Although the light comes from the liquid in which they are contained, since the embryos themselves are microscopic, being able to witness it at all is a very powerful moment that is unique to IVF.

Reduced chances of miscarriage

Thanks to advanced tests, such as Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), couples going through IVF can greatly reduce their chances of early miscarriage due to chromosomal abnormalities in the embryo, the primary cause of miscarriage in the first trimester. Anyone who has known the pain of miscarriage will appreciate the fear associated with the prospect of conceiving again only to suffer another loss. Although tests such as PGD are not offered as standard, they are available in many clinics and offer hope to patients who are in a high-risk category.

Five Million Born

According to the International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technology (ICMART), there have been approximately five million babies born via IVF since the treatment was first pioneered in 1978. As the majority of the parents treated are part of couples, it is safe to assume that IVF has helped almost ten million people around the world achieve their dream of becoming a parent.

Those who have never had to deal with infertility or involuntary childlessness will find it hard to truly understand how incredibly frightening and devastating it is to be told that you may never have your own biological child. Many of those affected will talk about how they feel as though their lives have been put on hold, how they feel like failures, and about how frightened they are about their future. In previous generations there was very little that could be done to treat infertility, and the history books are full of women who were cast out of society, abandoned by their husbands, or even murdered because of their inability to produce a child. Although we still have a long way to go before infertility is fully understood and talked about more openly by society, those five million babies are a reminder of how far we have progressed.

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Fertility 360

NEWS: Get access to adult photos of the Cryos sperm donors

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Adult Cryos Sperm Donors Photos

Viewing adult photos of Cryos sperm donors is now a reality. Visit dk.cryosinternational.com today and get access to the new feature.

At Cryos it is now possible to access adult photos of sperm donors on our website, thus adding another dimension to your search for the perfect donor.

The unique chance to see both childhood and adult photos of your sperm donor, provides you with a more comprehensive idea of who your sperm donor is and moreover of the features of your future child. We hope that this extra dimension will upgrade your experience making your decision of a sperm donor easier.

The 5-6 adult photos are taken by a professional photographer and are a part of the donors extended profile where you also have access to childhood photos, an audio recording of the donor’s voice, a handwritten message, an emotional intelligence profile, and finally our staff impressions of the donor, amongst other exclusive features.

The adult photos require special access on our website. Visit our website and find out more and get access to this new feature now.

Please note that the person in the photos is a model and not a Cryos donor.
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Fertility 360

Fertility And Sex: Why Her Orgasm Matters

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Why her orgasm matters

For many couples, trying to conceive can make sex feel less fun and more pressured. Instead of being an intimate and enjoyable experience, baby-making sex can start to seem like a finely choreographed routine. Often, the female orgasm is one of the first things to go, but the maleorgasm is not the only orgasm that matters when it comes to fertility.

Before I dive into discussing the potential benefits of the female orgasm for fertility, it’s important to note that reaching climax is not technically essential for conception. If you never, or rarely, achieve orgasm, don’t worry, you can still get pregnant! Around 1 in 10 women don’t experience orgasm, ever. What’s more, the exact nature of the female orgasm remains somewhat elusive. Some experience orgasm through clitoral stimulation, some through vaginal intercourse, some through both, and others through something else entirely, or not at all.

Even without reaching orgasm, sexual arousal is itself beneficial to fertility. Like an orgasm, arousal is, first and foremost, a good indication that sex is enjoyable. Sexual arousal and climax causes significant changes in your levels of neurotransmitters including noradrenaline, oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine, and serotonin. These ‘reward’ neurohormones help you bond to a sexual partner and make it more likely that you’ll have sex more often, thereby increasing your chances of conception.

Second, orgasm and arousal have a range of physiological effects that might aid conception, which I’ll discuss in a moment. And, third, sexual arousal and orgasms for everyone can help sperm-producing partners avoid feeling like they’re being used just for their sperm. In fact, some studies show that male partners who engage in cunnilingus prior to vaginal intercourse have greater sexual arousal and produce more semen!

HOW ORGASMS ENHANCE FERTILITY

The female orgasm can help relieve stress, and promote healthy circulation and balance in the body. Stress is a key cause of diminished libido and may also reduce the chances of conception by raising levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Conversely, good sex can help raise levels of oxytocin and the other neurohormones mentioned above. These help you to relax and bond to your partner.

Published in 1967, the author even went as far as suggesting that the increase in these hormones after orgasm help support conception by temporarily incapacitating you. Put simply, this ‘poleax’ effect means you’ll feel so relaxed that you’ll stay lying down, which may increase your chance of conceiving. Whether staying supine does make conception more likely is still under debate, but I’m all for promoting relaxation, so if this theory provides added motivation, go for it!

CERVICAL TENTING

There is some suggestion that orgasm affects the shape and function of the cervix. These effects, which may include cervical ‘tenting could enhance the likelihood of conception by promoting the movement of sperm into the uterus and beyond. If you are curious as to what your cervix looks like during different stages of your cycle, check out these photos.

THE ‘UP-SUCK’ THEORY

One of the main ways in which female orgasm has been linked to fertility is something called the ‘upsuck’ theory (or, sometimes, the ‘insuck’ theory). This theory proposes that the female orgasm causes uterine and vaginal contractions that actively draw semen up into the uterus and towards the fallopian tubes, thereby increasing the chances of an egg being fertilized.

Scientific evidence to support this theory is rather inconsistent, but there’s certainly no harm in trying! One proposed underlying mechanism of this theory is oxytocin-mediated uterine peristalsis, i.e. the same mechanism that causes uterine contractions during labour could be partially responsible for increasing the likelihood of conception. Indeed, some research has found higher pregnancy rates in women shown to experience this ‘insuck’ phenomenon.

SPERM RETENTION AND FERTILITY

More recently, one small study found that orgasm may increase sperm retention. This study involved women using a syringe to insert a sperm simulant (lube) prior to external stimulation to orgasm. As such, the study’s findings may be especially applicable to anyone undergoing artificial insemination (IUI).

The take-away: Chances are that if you orgasm 1 minute before or up to 45 minutes after insemination (whether artificial or otherwise), you will probably retain more sperm, which may increase your chance of conceiving.

IN CONCLUSION

To sum up, the female orgasm might enhance fertility in a variety of ways, but it isn’t essential to conception.

The take home message is that orgasm and sexual arousal itself have many benefits to fertility, partner relationships and stress relief. Don’t worry though, if you have a low libido, conception can still happen even in the absence of arousal and orgasm!

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Fertility 360

What Is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)?

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Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal imbalance that affects 5 to 10 percent of women of reproductive age across the world, and results in irregular or absent periods, acne, excess body hair and weight gain. It is also a major cause of infertility and yet is frequently misdiagnosed and often missed completely.

PCOS gets its name because under an ultrasound scan, the ovaries can look like a bunch of grapes, each one covered in what look like multiple cysts. In fact, these aren’t cysts at all, but are small, undeveloped follicles.

Symptoms

Not every woman with PCOS will get the same symptoms, but common signs to look out for include:

  • Few or no periods
  • Excess hair on the face or breasts or inside of the legs or around the nipples
  • Acne
  • Oily skin
  • Scalp hair thinning or loss (male pattern baldness)
  • Skin tags (known as acrochordons)
  • Skin discolouration (known as acanthosis nigricans) where the skin looks ‘dirty’ on the arms, around the neck and under the breasts
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Lack of sex drive
  • Weight gain especially around the middle of the body
  • Difficulty in losing weight
  • Cravings and binges
  • Irregular or no ovulation
  • Difficulty in becoming pregnant
  • Recurrent miscarriages

PCOS creates a vicious cycle of hormone imbalances, which has huge knock-on effects throughout the rest of your body. With PCOS, the problem often starts with the ovaries, which are unable to produce the hormones they should, and in the correct proportions. But linked to this is the very common problem of insulin resistance. Women with PCOS very often have difficulties with blood sugar levels which can cause weight gain and the excess insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce yet more testosterone. Half of all women with PCOS do not have any problems with their weight, yet they can still have higher insulin levels than normal.

How is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome diagnosed?

The most widely accepted criteria for the diagnosis of PCOS says that you should have two out of these three problems:

  • Infrequent or no ovulation
  • Signs (either physical appearance – hirsutism or acne – or blood tests) of high levels of male hormones
  • Polycystic ovaries as seen on an ultrasound scan

The Seven Nutritional Steps to beat Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

Good nutrition is the foundation of your health and you should never underestimate how powerful it can be. It is the fuel that provides you with the energy to live your life and it gives your body the nutrients it needs to produce your hormones in the correct balance. The better the supply of those nutrients, the more healthily your body will function.

The fundamental aim of my nutritional approach to PCOS is to target a number of areas simultaneously so that you get the maximum effect in the minimum amount of time.

Here’s how:

  1. Switch to unrefined carbohydrates (eaten with protein) and never go more than 3 hours without food to keep your blood sugar levels balanced
  2. Eat oily fish and foods rich in Omega 3s to help your body to become more sensitive to insulin so it can overcome insulin resistance
  3. Cut out all dairy products for 3 months to bring levels of male hormones under control
  4. Eat more vegetables and pulses to which helps control male hormones
  5. Cut right back on or cut out alcohol for 12 weeks to allow your liver function to improve
  6. Cut down on caffeine to give your adrenal glands a rest
  7. Cut down on saturated fats and eliminate trans fats to help control the potentially damaging inflammatory processes PCOS causes in the body

PCOS Symptons

Best Supplements for PCOS

The use of certain vitamins and minerals can be extremely useful in helping to correct Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, along with a good diet.

Chromium

Chromium helps to encourage the formation of glucose tolerance factor (GTF), which is required to make insulin more efficient. A deficiency of chromium can lead to insulin resistance.  It also helps to control cravings and reduces hunger. Can help to reduce insulin resistance associated with PCOS

B vitamins

The B vitamins are very important in helping to control the symptoms of PCOS. Vitamin B2 helps to burn fat, sugar and protein into energy. B3 is a component of GTF which is released every time blood sugar rises, and vitamin B3 helps to keep the levels in balance. Vitamin B5 has been shown to help with weight loss and B6 is also important for maintaining hormone balance and, together with B2 and B3, is necessary for normal thyroid function.

Zinc

Zinc helps with PCOS as it plays a crucial role in the production of your reproductive hormones and also regulates your blood sugar.

Magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral for dealing with PCOS because there is a strong link between magnesium levels and insulin resistance – the higher your magnesium levels the more sensitive you are likely to be to insulin.

Co-Enzyme Q10

Co-Q10 is a substance that your body produces in nearly every cell.  It helps to balance your blood sugar and lowering both glucose and insulin.

Alpha lipoic acid

This powerful antioxidant helps to regulate your blood sugar levels because it releases energy by burning glucose and it also helps to make you more insulin sensitive. It also has an effect on weight loss because if the glucose is being used for energy, your body releases less insulin and you then store less fat.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Omega 3 fatty acids taken in supplement form have been found to reduce testosterone levels in women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.

Amino Acids

Certain amino acids can be very helpful for PCOS as they can improve your insulin sensitivity and also can have an effect on weight loss.

N-Acetyl cysteine

In women with PCOS this amino acid helps reduce insulin levels and makes your body more sensitive to insulin. Study using NAC in women who were clomiphene resistant and had ovarian drilling.  After ovarian drilling, the women given NAC compared to a placebo showed a significantly higher increase in both ovulation and pregnancy rates and lower incidence of miscarriage.

Arginine

Arginine can be helpful in reversing insulin resistance. In one study, a combination of both arginine and N-acetyl cysteine were given to women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.  The two amino acids help to improve blood sugar and insulin control and also increased the number of menstrual cycles and ovulation with one women becoming pregnant on the second month.

Carnitine

Carnitine helps your body break down fat to release energy and can help improve insulin sensitivity.

Tyrosine

Tyrosine is helpful for women with PCOS who are overweight as it helps to suppress the appetite and burn off fat.

Glutamine

This amino acid is useful for helping with sugar cravings as it can be converted to sugar for energy and so takes away the need to eat something sweet.  It also helps to build and maintain muscle which is important for fat burning.

Branched Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)

BCAAs include three amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine. They are important in PCOS because they help to balance blood sugar and having good levels of these BCAAs can have a beneficial effect on your body weight

Inositol

A study used inositol (2,000mg) in combination with NAC (600mg), a significant increase in ovulation rates.

Having a good diet, regular exercise, controlling stress and taking key nutrients will help in getting your hormones back in balance and reducing the negative symptoms associated with PCOS.

More information can be found on www.naturalhealthpractice.com

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