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Fertility Tourism – Treatment Options For Women Over 40

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Treatment Options Women Over 40

Many would argue that we’re already at crisis point when it comes to the provision of NHS funded fertility treatment in the UK. In 2016, over 50,000 women underwent IVF treatment and each year this figure increases. As the trend towards couples marrying and having families later in life is also on the rise – the average age for marriage has risen from 28 in 1972 to 36 in 2012 (Office for National Statistics) – it’s clear that IVF demand is likely to maintain an upward curve. There is a growing number of fertility clinics offering ‘Mini IVF’ to older women, whereby the woman pays to freeze embryos in the hope of transferring a good quality embryo at a later date. Some clinics will carry out this procedure up to the age of 50, advocating successful procedures of multiple births to women in their mid-40s.

With NHS resources already stretched, the access to free fertility treatment has become a postcode lottery in the UK. Currently only 40% of the 50,000 are undergoing NHS funded treatment and only 18% of NHS funded clinics that provide IVF are offering the minimum three cycles.

In addition, the supply of eggs and sperm in the UK is dwindling. The UK are one of a few countries that don’t legislate for donor anonymity. Many would-be donors are therefore unwilling to take the risk.

The result is the majority of couples have little choice but to seek private treatment, but many simply can’t afford it. The UK currently has some of the highest IVF treatment prices in Europe, in some cases more than 50% more expensive than in Spain, Greece, or Eastern Europe.

This is encouraging an unprecedented number of couples to seek treatment in Europe where a combination of low treatment costs, high success rates and access to new treatments are on offer.

Women who are 40 and over are faced with the highest IVF failure rates and therefore on average have to undergo more cycles than younger women. The prospect of a more affordable option abroad is a particularly attractive one. But finding the right clinic can be a daunting prospect, particularly one that offers specialist treatment and higher success rates for older women.

The team at Fertility Clinics Abroad have made the job just a little easier with their five steps to success for the over 40s.

STEP 1 – Choosing the right treatment

Deciding on the right treatment is the first and most critical choice in your fertility journey. As a first port of call, always seek advice from your local GP and/or NHS fertility specialist. Desktop research is also a quick and affordable way to access tons of information. There are plenty of resources out there such as Fertility Network UK or check out the forums on Mums.net or Fertility Friends. They’re a friendly bunch and always willing to answer your questions and share their experiences. Our website also features a list of European Clinics which may be useful during your search

In general, the majority of women over 40 opt for donor egg treatment which provides higher success rates than traditional IVF treatment. Donor eggs are typically provided by women under the age of 35, where there are fewer chromosomal abnormalities and therefore higher success rates.

STEP 2 – Which clinic?

If this is the treatment you have chosen, look for clinics that perform a high number of donor egg cycles per year. This is a good indicator that they have experience treating older women. A clinic that performs a lot of donor egg cycles is also likely to have a big donor database which is an advantage when looking for a good match. A clinic should always spend time discussing matching with you – the sophistication of matching is often down to the size and resources of the clinic in question. If it’s particularly important to you, it may be worth spending a little more on larger clinics that have a dedicated matching team.

When choosing a clinic, always ask for their success rate statistics. Most clinics have to or voluntarily submit this information to their country’s regulatory body, so it should be readily available. Be wary of clinics that publish high pregnancy rates for women over 40. For IVF treatment, the pregnancy outcomes are poorer for this age group. High pregnancy rates may also be an indication that the clinic may be transferring 3 or more embryos at a time, which can result in a multiple pregnancy. This can cause serious problems for mother and baby and should be avoided. Understanding statistics is about reading between the lines and always seek advice from a professional if you’re unsure.

N.B There are often restrictions to the number of embryo transfers and these vary from one country to the next.

STEP 3 – Monitor those embryos

If possible, look for clinics that offer embryo monitoring and preimplantation genetic screening or PGS. Embryo monitoring allows the embryologist to closely monitor a patient’s embryo as they develop in the incubator. This is important because it can tell them which embryos are not dividing properly and achieving their developmental milestones. For women over 40 who choose to have IVF treatment using their own eggs, embryos are more likely to have genetic abnormalities than a younger woman and so monitoring helps the embryologist select the best ones for transfer. PGS is a process whereby the developing embryo is checked for genetic abnormalities such as Down’s Syndrome – embryos from women over 40 are at a higher risk of these generic abnormalities.

STEP 4 – Don’t take unnecessary risks

It’s important to consider the financial and personal risks of IVF treatment. With this in mind, it’s worth having a look for clinics that offer a ‘shared risk programme’ to mitigate possible failures. This is more common for donor egg treatment. For example, some may allow you to pay for two cycles, and if they don’t work, offer the third round for free. At the very least this could save you some money.

Having surplus embryos which can be frozen is a bonus – but check to see if freezing them is included in your treatment price otherwise you will have to be prepared to cover this cost. Having frozen embryos means that you can go back if you want a sibling for your child, or if you were unsuccessful first time, you could go back just for a frozen embryo transfer which removes the reliance on synchronising with a donor.

STEP 5 – Stay healthy

It is important to be fit and healthy before your trip – make sure you stick to a healthy, balanced diet, take regular exercise and find the time to relax to keep your stress levels at a minimum. The healthier you are, the higher your chances of success – also make sure you have a mammogram done and get your blood pressure checked before you embark for your treatment. Some clinics may insist on seeing recent mammograms or indeed may do them at the clinic if they have the facilities. Similarly, good aftercare is paramount.

Women over 35 are at a higher risk of developing diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy and so it is important that you are monitored closely throughout your pregnancy.

STEP 6 – Be Zen

It’s important to point out that there are many women of 40 or over that go on to have successful pregnancies without any problems at all – understanding the risks are important, but don’t let scaremongering put you off from achieving your dream. If you plan well, stay healthy and make sensible choices you have every chance of going on to have a happy and successful pregnancy. Good luck on your fertility journey!

Check list:

  1. DO YOUR RESEARCH! Seek advice from your GP, do plenty of desktop research, consult with friends/contacts who have been abroad for treatment.
  2. SEEK OVER 40s SPECIALISTS: Find clinics who specialise in IVF for over 40s or who offer high number of donor egg cycles per year.
  3. UNDERSTAND SUCCESS RATES: Take time to understand what success really means – dig deep and question everything.
  4. EMBRYO MONITORING: Don’t forget embryo monitoring – it will increase your chances of success.
  5. MANAGE RISK: Find clinics that offer shared risk programmes to reduce risk/cost of failure.
  6. SEEK HIDDEN COSTS: Check for hidden costs – is embryo freezing part of the price?
  7. BE HEALTHY: Take regular exercise, have a healthy, balanced diet, reduce stress.
  8. STAY POSITIVE: A positive mental attitude goes a long way to helping you get through the challenges ahead.
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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 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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