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Fertility 360

Unexplained Infertility – What the hell is that?



Unexplained Infertility

When you realise it is taking longer than it should to get pregnant, the first thing you want to know is why you’re having difficulties. Conception is a complex business and there are any number of things that can go wrong, but doctors are usually able to pin down a cause after testing.

For a surprising number of fertility patients, however, no cause can be found despite extensive tests. The result – they are told that they have ‘unexplained infertility’.

Dr Said Daneshmand, Practice Director at the Fertility Center of Las Vegas, says the diagnosis of unexplained infertility is given to about 20-30 per cent of those who are undergoing fertility tests: “Unexplained infertility is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that if an infertility patient has undergone all four major diagnostic tests – ovarian reserve, sperm analysis, x-ray to assess Fallopian tubes and uterine evaluation – and all test results are normal, unexplained infertility is used as the diagnosis.

“In the majority of instances, the underlying cause is decreased ovarian reserve – a decrease in the quantity and quality of eggs. And a considerable factor in this is that the blood tests we use to assess ovarian reserve or egg quality do not always reveal subtle decreases in egg quality.”

Dr Daneshmand says that other common underlying causes for unexplained infertility may be related to endometriosis or previous infection. But whatever the reasons, not knowing why you can’t get pregnant can be difficult.

Susan Seenan, Chief Executive of the charity Infertility Network UK, which offers support to those affected by fertility problems, says this is something she is very aware of. “Unexplained infertility can be one of the hardest diagnoses to live with – the lack of a medical cause means there is nothing specific to focus on, and every month there is always the chance you might just be pregnant,” she says. “Often it helps to talk to someone who understands how this feels, and Infertility Network UK has a network of trained volunteers, many of whom have experienced unexplained infertility, as well as a free support line run by a former fertility nurse to help support you.

“And of course, there are countless other organisations in other countries which can offer similar services and support – it’s just a case of hunting out the network that’s right for you.”

Melissa and Robin are only too aware how difficult it can be. They have been trying to have a baby for two years, but despite an array of tests, there’s still no indication as to what’s wrong. They are now waiting to start Intra-Uterine Insemination, and Melissa says she has been determined to do all within her power to try to make a difference. “I have done and bought and experienced everything I can,” she explains. “I am a runner and I gave up running, I started Hatha Yoga, I switched my diet to mainly alkaline and I gave up caffeine and cow diary. I don’t drink much. We are very healthy and we eat well. On paper, there should be no issue.”

Her husband Robin admits that it was far easier for him, as the situation is very different for a man. “There’s just one test for guys and the doctors say ‘yes you are alright’ or ‘no you are not’, and then the focus is entirely on the woman,” he points out.

He explains that what has been most difficult for him was seeing the impact the diagnosis of unexplained fertility had on his wife: “One of the most worrying things for me was watching Melissa going through this, and saying ‘an expert has said this or that and on that basis I will give things up’. There’s all that pressure – are you eating right, doing the right things, are you too stressed – and then I think it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. People think they can ask women questions that they’d never ask a guy. It’s very hard for me to watch her going through that because I have so much less pressure.”

It’s inevitable that couples diagnosed with unexplained infertility are keen to do anything they can to make a difference, but given the rapid advances in science it seems surprising that so many people are still left uncertain as to why they can’t get pregnant.

Dr Sami David, a fertility specialist based in New York, believes that couples are often given a diagnosis of ‘unexplained infertility’ when doctors have not spent sufficient time working out the cause of the problem. “It’s all down to people not looking enough – it can be time-consuming and it doesn’t bring in a lot of money,” he says. “They say ‘why bother to make a diagnosis, let’s do in vitro and the couple will have a baby’. They are taking an easy approach for themselves but it’s more expensive and traumatic for the couple. No-one likes to take a long history anymore, but I like to be a detective. I say to patients, ‘let’s not give you drugs; let’s find out why you are not getting pregnant’.”

Hannah and her partner would certainly agree that there’s not enough time spent trying to work out what might be wrong. It took them five months to conceive their son, but Hannah hasn’t been able to get pregnant again. They have been trying for more than three years now, and have been told their problems are unexplained. Hannah was referred to a gynaecologist, but feels that doctors were not really interested in finding out why she is experiencing fertility problems. “Every time I went I saw a different person and I had to keep telling them the whole story, over and over again,” she explains. “They kept saying ‘you’ve had one child already so don’t worry about it, it will happen naturally again eventually’. They weren’t actually doing anything at all and I didn’t feel they wanted to help me. I asked for counselling but they said they couldn’t offer any.”

Trying to get pregnant was costing a lot of money. I can’t afford £50 a fortnight for acupuncture. I started to wonder if I was not better off spending the money enjoying myself with my husband.”

After trying Clomid unsuccessfully, Hannah and her partner were told they don’t qualify for any more help from the NHS in the UK as they already have a child. If they wanted further testing or treatment, they would have to pay for it themselves.

Hannah is doing what she can with healthy eating and lifestyle, but simply can’t afford all the therapies she might like to consider. “I’m trying reflexology and I would like to try acupuncture, but it’s between £60 and £90 for a session which is a lot when you are trying to save for IVF,” she says. “I could try acupuncture and it could work for me – but I could try it and it might not do anything, and then I would have wasted hundreds of pounds which I could have saved for IVF. I do find it hard not knowing why I can’t get pregnant.”

Professor Sheena Lewis, who is based at Queen’s University in Belfast, believes she has found one common cause for unexplained infertility. Her research suggests that in 80 per cent of couples who have unexplained infertility, there is sperm DNA damage. This isn’t something routinely tested for in clinics, but Professor Lewis says if men know there is DNA damage, they can take action: “We have now found a detectable cause,” she says. “This gives them an opportunity to address the problem, with lifestyle and dietary changes such as using antioxidant supplements, eating differently, giving up smoking, whilst also discussing ICSI with their fertility centre as an alternative to IVF.”

The idea that lifestyle can have an impact is something Dr Marilyn Glenville encourages couples to consider. The leading nutritionist specialising in women’s health and author of the book Getting Pregnant Faster. “I think that so many couples are given this diagnosis of unexplained infertility because the other causes such as diet, nutritional deficiencies and lifestyle factors have not been looked at,” she suggests. “By making changes in your diet and lifestyle and correcting nutritional deficiencies it can make a huge difference to your fertility. I know it works from clinical experience but it is also borne out by the evidence from medical literature.”

Dr Glenville says smoking, alcohol and caffeine are key culprits when it comes to fertility. She suggests supplements of other nutrients and vitamins, but explains it can take three months for lifestyle changes to start to have an impact.

The idea that diet and lifestyle can hold the key to unexplained infertility is something Dr Sami David investigates too. He finds small things can sometimes make all the difference for his patients. “Lifestyle changes are important,” he explains. “If people are doing Bikram or hot yoga, the body heats up as it’s very hot in the room. Eggs don’t do well when they are heated up and nor does sperm. I’ve had numerous patients who have stopped hot yoga and got pregnant.

“Then there’s the man – I sometimes talk to a husband who is out on the golf course and who is exposed to all kinds of herbicides and pesticides on the course. Or perhaps he is sitting with his laptop on his lap and that’s affecting his sperm – there are some easy fixes.”

The problem for couples with unexplained infertility is rarely a lack of advice though – but rather too much of it. When you don’t have a cause, it’s all too easy to start to blame yourself and to question everything that you do. Making sensible lifestyle changes is never a bad idea, but it can be hard to know where to stop. Melissa realised that her determination to do all she could to improve her fertility was starting to make her unhappy.

“I just got up one day and thought enough is enough,” she says. “It was really miserable. I like cheese and sometimes I just want some good old- fashioned cheddar. I love a pain au chocolat now and then on a Sunday morning – you have to keep it in perspective. Trying to get pregnant was costing a lot of money. I can’t afford £50 a fortnight for acupuncture. I started to wonder if I was not better off spending the money enjoying myself with my husband.”

Melissa hasn’t reached the end of her journey, but she has come to a place where she feels she can cope with what each day has to throw at her, and she’s doing that by thinking more positively about her situation. “It can become all-consuming and you have to take a step back and, as difficult as it feels, you have to get it into perspective,” she explains. “I have realised that I have a lovely life, a gorgeous husband, a dog, my own business. I live in the countryside and it’s a fantastic existence. Even if my dream doesn’t happen, I still have an amazing life.”

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Fertility 360

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



Adult Cryos Sperm Donors Photos

Viewing adult photos of Cryos sperm donors is now a reality. Visit 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



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!


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!


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.


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.


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.


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)?



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.


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


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


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


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


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

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