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EXCLUSIVE: Louise Brown Talks to Fertility Road Magazine

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Louise-Joy-Brown-talks-exclusively-to-Fertility-Road-Magazine

“I’m not a scientist. I try not to have an opinion on what is happening in IVF today. There will always be people criticising those who are doing something new. I think it is important to leave this sort of thing to the scientists so they can find ways of helping to solve the problems of the world.”

Louise Brown is effectively ground zero for in vitro fertilisation – proof of life and the technology that has brought science and nature together as one. But despite finding herself the centre of an unrelenting global media fascination – a demigoddess to modern fertility – the 35-year-old lives a quiet, unassuming life in Bristol. She’s just a normal girl.

In a rare and touching interview, conducted on the eve of her second child, Aiden, who arrived on August 14, Louise talks exclusively to Fertility Road about a life in the lens, her experiences in motherhood, and why building her own family has been such a profound experience.

Louise-Brown-Fertility-Road

The miracle of life has always amazed those who witness it, but the world’s collective jaw dropped on that joyous day – July 25, 1978 – when Louise Joy Brown became the first human to be born through in-vitro fertilisation.

Amid religious and ethical mutterings, nothing could drown out the joy that spread amongst parents Lesley and John and the rest of the Brown family. It was followed by a wave of unparalleled optimism from hopeful mothers-to-be and scientists who knew they were sitting at the steps of a biological revolution. The so-called ‘fathers of IVF’, obstetrician Patrick Steptoe and physiologist Robert Edwards, had proved that there is indeed life, and hope, after conventional conception fails.

And while scaremongers fretted that a baby born this way might not have had the same survival prospects as another conceived by entirely natural means, Louise, and five million others after her, are living proof that IVF is a stable, viable and life-giving solution. And on a planetary scale, it has been truly embraced.

Move forward to 2013 and Louise, now 35, is happily married, to Wesley Mullinder. Next year the couple celebrate a decade together as husband and wife. They conceived, naturally, their son Cameron in 2006 and amidst intense media attention, little brother Aiden arrived in the middle of August – fit, healthy, and ready to cement his own place in an incredible tale.

Louise-Brown-and-son-Cameron-Brown

“When I was born, in July 1978, it made headlines all around the world,” Louise begins. “Like many other childless couples, mum and dad had simply followed a process. They went to their local doctor and mum had an operation to try to unblock her fallopian tubes. That didn’t work and when she went back to the doctor, he referred her to the local health clinic.”

Back in the 1970s, blocked fallopian tubes were considered a finality – there simply wasn’t a second option for those who couldn’t conceive.

“The line was drawn and there was no chance of mum having a child, and that was that. But by chance, the doctor there had heard of some experimental work going on in Oldham, by two scientists, Steptoe and Edwards. Mum put herself forward and was accepted onto the programme, but it wasn’t until after she became pregnant she was told that the technique had never worked before.”

Within nine months, Lesley Brown had become a beacon of hope. “Mum’s story gave hope to millions of men and women all over the world that they could have a family,” Louise grins. “Before mum died last year she pointed out that without IVF she wouldn’t have had a single blood relative left in the world! This is the reality. It’s about keeping families alive.

“She did a remarkable thing, and for the remainder of her life received letters from other women desperate to ask questions… to know more about IVF.”

Four years after her birth, Louise was given a younger sister, Natalie, also conceived through IVF. By then, Natalie was the world’s 40th IVF baby. Then, in May 1999, her sister was the first IVF baby to give birth herself… to daughter Casey. It runs in the family.

Although the world responded positively to a scientific breakthrough that was to transform the very substance of nations and their communities, there were some who took moral objection to science’s impact on mother nature.

“People will always want to have their say,” Louise admits. “They’re welcome to their opinions – but look, I’m pleased to report that at 35 I am just a normal person with all the same health and life issues as everyone else! There are another five million or so IVF babies younger than me who are just like everyone else too!

“Yes, Bob Edwards and Patrick Steptoe and my mum and dad were all criticised when I was born, but sometimes it takes time to build knowledge and trust. Today, I think the vast majority of people see IVF as a completely normal thing to do if you can’t have a baby naturally. There were huge arguments about the morals behind creating a baby this way and fears that it could lead to all kinds of health issues, but it was all speculation. The success of IVF is now unquestioned, and its effects on families can never be put into words. Globally, we have embraced the hope it gives us, and that’s the most wonderful thing to see.”

Louise has found herself central to that hope. For decades she has adopted the iconic status usually only reserved for pop stars or actors. In the early days, the attention could be overwhelming, but after 35 years, she has come to accept it. Understandably, she rebels against the perception that she should immerse herself in the industry – Louise is, after all, a wondrous if involuntary product of others’ actions.

“I’m not a scientist. I try not to have an opinion on what is happening in IVF today,” she says. “There will always be people criticising those who are doing something new, but I think it is important to leave this sort of thing to the scientists so they can find ways of helping to solve the problems of the world. It is up to the politicians and the church leaders to talk about any other issues that come up as a result. I’ve just wanted to get on with living my life.”

Having built strong relationships with Steptoe and Edwards, Louise took their passing badly. Steptoe died in March 1988 but Edwards had the pleasure of attending Louise’s wedding in 2004. He died in April this year, aged 87. Her parents have both passed too – father John in 2006 and mother Lesley last year.

“Now the four people directly involved in my birth have moved on, I feel more responsible for keeping their memory alive,” Louise says. “My only regret is that because of the controversy it was a long time before Edwards and Steptoe were recognised for their amazing achievements and what they brought to the world.

“Edwards was awarded a Nobel Prize for the development of in-vitro fertilisation in 2010, by which time he was too frail to collect his award. He was knighted in the 2011 Birthday Honours List, despite the fact I was born in 1978! Compare that with the honours handed out liberally and hurriedly to sports stars from the 2012 Olympics!”

Yet while it took so long for academic appreciation, the world had already demonstrated that it had no intention of sitting still.

Little did they know it at the time, but the Browns, Steptoe and Edwards had sparked a revolution. As the world’s first ‘test tube baby’ (although she was actually conceived in a Petri dish), Louise was born a healthy 5lb 12oz – exactly the same weight of first IVF baby in the United States, Elizabeth Jordan Carr, who arrived just under three-and-a-half years later.

Some 32 years on, Israel now reports the highest rate of IVF in the world, with 1,657 procedures performed per million people per year; Iceland follows behind, and IVF (and ICSI) is now an internationally established branch of medicine.

In Belgium, new low-cost options are leading scientists to believe they can offer IVF 90 per cent cheaper than conventional treatment programmes, while some of the industry’s leading pioneers can be found in India, Barbados and Russia, places considered medical outposts back in 1978.

Louise remains something of a reluctant celebrity. It’s not hard to see why.

“Journalists try to get in touch with me all the time,” she sighs. “The press have written all kinds of rubbish about me over the years, especially in the early days when mum and dad were suddenly pitched into the world’s media spotlight. They had tried for 10 years for a baby. Incredibly, they were given one, but they just wanted to take me home and look after me.

“I understand why journalists want a story, and I don’t mind that, as long as they are polite. I have become used to the attention. My family toured with me to Japan and America when I was a baby but after that, it was clear I should be brought up in a normal way, and that’s what I’ve followed going forward. That’s just the same as any child of IVF or ICSI.”

Louise was told about her unique conception at the age of four, and Lesley and John showed her a film of the event that had been made by the Central Office of Information.

“It was rare then for any birth to be filmed, or for anyone to have such early pictures of a baby. There were no mobile phones and digital cameras to capture such events, as there are today.”

Today, Louise uses her ‘celebrity’ status to help promote IVF and enjoys connecting with women who, just like her mother 35 years ago, are desperate to have children. “In recent years I have been to IVF clinics in the UK, Brazil and Bulgaria and chatted to women who so want a child,” she smiles. “It has made me realise how lucky I was that I was able to conceive my two children by the conventional method. I have been very lucky in that respect.

“I think it is hard for the vast majority of people – me included – who had no real issues when getting pregnant, to appreciate everything that people who put themselves into an IVF programme go through. In a sense, I’ve seen both sides of it, but supporting people I know is something I must do.”

But away from it all, Louise really is just a regular girl. “I have a normal office job working for a shipping company in Bristol and my husband Wes is a nightclub doorman,” she says. It’s proof enough that her ‘normality’ is no different to anyone else’s.

And bringing up her own family is, naturally, the
most important thing, particularly now both her
parents have departed.

“I miss my mum and dad a lot and I have particularly missed mum in the course of being pregnant with Aiden,” she says. “Mum was fantastic with Cameron. Right up until she died, she looked after him in the afternoons when he came home from school, before I got in from work. Sadly she died before I knew I was pregnant with my second, but she’d be thrilled now.

“Mum certainly loved babies!”

Louise-Brown-and-mother-Lesley-Brown

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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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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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