Fertility Problems Linked to Thyroid Disorder

A new study supports what many doctors have observed for decades — that women with thyroid disorders can experience serious reproductive problems.


Dr. Tomer Singer

Dr. Tomer Singer, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Center for Human Reproduction notes that “For over two decades now, we have noticed a strong link between hypo- and hyperthyroidism and infertility as well as adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes.

Thyroid disorders can prevent patients from ovulating and is one of the leading causes of irregular menstrual problems,” Singer explained. “The treatment is simple and safe and results in resumption of the menstrual cycle within weeks.

Read more of Dr. Singer’s comments, and this story, at HealthDay.

Posted in Blog, News, Reproductive endocrinologist, Study, Thyroid, Tomer Singer

New Device for Taking Body Temperature

Colorado company Prima-Temp recently unveiled its new body temperature fertility device, called BLOOM, this past month. It has the potential to drastically help women pinpoint their most fertile times.

One way to decipher what stage of fertility your body is in is to take your temperature every morning when you wake up, before even getting out of bed. This temperature is called your Basal body temperature, or BBT. “How does measuring BBT help detect ovulation? A woman’s normal non-ovulating temperature is between 96 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the individual. Following the release of the egg, BBT increases by about half a degree in almost all women. The hormone progesterone, secreted by the ovary after ovulation, heats things up; it also prepares the uterine lining for a possible pregnancy. Body temperature will remain roughly half a degree higher until right before menstruation, when it will return to normal. Because the spike in body temperature at ovulation is so small, you need a special basal thermometer (available at drugstores for about $10 to $15) to measure it. A basal thermometer records temperatures in one-tenth of a degree increments instead of the two-tenth increments on fever thermometers.”

The point of BLOOM is to have an even more accurate reading. By having the device inside your body for a month at a time, it can constantly track and record your body’s vitals. The device is self-inserted into the vagina and it transmits information wirelessly to an accompanying app on your phone. When it detects a trend that points toward the possibility of the beginning of ovulation, it sends you an alert, notifying you to take advantage of this window of time!

Until BLOOM is widely available on the market, talk to your doctor about other ways to be aware of and track your fertility.

Posted in Blog, Improve your Fertility

ICSI Treatment Equally Effective for Male, Female Infertility

Dr. Avner Hershlag

by Dr. Avner Hershlag

ICSI, which is a procedure where a single sperm is injected into a single egg, is a cutting-edge IVF approach demanding significant technical expertise. The discovery that this could be done in the early ‘90s has revolutionized the treatment of male infertility. Whereas before ICSI, IVF was mainly a treatment for female infertility, ICSI has made IVF equally effective for males with abnormal sperm or even no sperm at all, where sperm has to be surgically retrieved from the testes. In the pre-ICSI days, couples with severe male infertility would frequently have to resort to donor insemination, thus eliminating the possibility of the man to be the genetic parent. There are now millions of children and adults whose fathers had deficient sperm, and it is because of ICSI that they have been created.

Egg-sperm-250Male infertility is complex. It is not just the sperm count that tells the story. In the pre-ICSI era, we would regularly have cases of no fertilization of eggs in IVF with seemingly normal sperm. In fact, early on, we published a study on ICSI-split in unexplained infertility. In that study, we compared two groups of patients with unexplained infertility. In one group, ICSI was not used, whereas in the other group the eggs were split: about half underwent ICSI and half insemination. What we found at that time, was that in the ICSI-split group, there were no cases of zero fertilization, while there were a few cases in the insemination-only group. Therefore, we concluded that the ICSI-split in patients without clear male infertility rescued IVF cycles from a total failure where no embryos were available to transfer, a pretty devastating end of a cycle for any IVF patient.

My explanation for this phenomenon is that there is a group of males with subtle infertility, whose sperm count looks normal according to the minimum criteria set by the World Health Organization (WHO), yet whose sperm has no capacity to fertilize eggs. ICSI allows us to bypass the sperm-egg interface and increases fertilization in select cases.

That being said, the JAMA study may point to over-use of the ICSI procedure in some couples. The problem remains: how do you distinguish between males who have normal fertilization capacity, and that much smaller group of males whose sperm test is normal but has lower fertilization potential?

In lack of a better test, IVF remains not only the most effective fertility treatment to date, but also the most powerful diagnostic test. Until IVF is performed, for patients who have never conceived before, there is no absolute certainly that the sperm will fertilize an egg. Until we have another test to prove that, patients with unexplained infertility with sperm normal by WHO criteria, will only find out if their sperm can fertilize the egg through IVF. The use of ICSI-split in unexplained infertility, where some of the eggs undergo ICSI, safeguards us against total fertilization failure. Given the physical, emotional and financial impact of an IVF cycle this is as important as the figures presented by this study, without a single embryo available to transfer.

Dr. Hershlag was asked to comment on the ICSI study, and the corresponding article and his comments can be found on news.health.com.

Posted in Avner Hershlag, Blog, ICSI, Infertility, IVF, News

How Sunlight Affects Your Fertility

A new study conducted in Norway has shown that excessive sun exposure as a child as well as while pregnant can have detrimental effects on your fertility down the line.

“Church records from 1750-1900 taken from two different areas of Norway and involving 9,062 people were assessed by the researchers. They examined several life history variables such as the age at which women had their children, how many children survived after birth and how many of them went on to marry and have children themselves. Gine Roll Skjærvø and her colleagues then compared this information with environmental data for the time periods in question. The researchers found that the lifespan of children born during years with high solar activity was an average of 5.2 years shorter than other children. Differences in mortality were greater during the first two years of life.”

One suggestion is that with higher solar activity comes more ultraviolet radiation (UVR); the more UVR, the more folate is degraded. Folate, or folic acid, is highly important for women while they are pregnant, especially in the prevention of spina bifida. Lesser quantities of folate might mean less healthy children, or even children born with birth defects. Another suggestion is that socioeconomic status also played a part—women on the lower end of the spectrum were more likely to be working outdoor jobs in fields, even while pregnant.

Doctors warn against too much sun exposure for anyone of any age in life, but with this new research we are finding out that is especially true for pregnant women.

Posted in Blog, Improve your Fertility, Lifestyle, Women's Health

Brains Win Over Good Looks

Preg-Woman-SillouetteThe number of new mothers over the age of 40 has increased dramatically over the past three decades. And the increase in egg donor availability, and the process becoming more socially acceptable, are two primary contributors. In so doing, the selection criteria seems to be trending away from donors who are genetically and physically similar, and more to donors who have favorable characteristics like advanced intelligence and athletic ability.

Read the full article, Women Increasingly Pick Brains Over Looks In Choosing Egg Donors, by  Robin Marantz Henig from NPR/Health News. This study was conducted jointly by Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and Reproductive Medical Associates of New York.

Posted in Blog, egg freezing, News

Could HPV Test Replace the Pap?

Doctors now know that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is thought to cause most cases of cervical cancer, and there is small but growing support to replace the traditional Pap smear with an HPV test. This is supported by a report from a committee comprised of experts from the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology and the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

However, some doctors caution that this might be a change of course that could cause undue anxiety and confusion. “So many women get HPV who will never, ever get cancer,” says Diana Zuckerman, who heads the National Center for Health Research, a research and advocacy group. Since neither test is definitive, the best practice is to keep using both, per your doctor’s advice.

Read the complete article by Rob Stein, from Morning Edition on NPR

Posted in Blog, Cervical Cancer, News

Data Confirms IVF Safe

DW In-RauschIt is very encouraging that the data points to what those of us in this field already know—that IVF is safe, and it is only getting safer with time. Surgical risks are certainly very rare, and there has been clear improvement in the other more common risks of IVF. With changes in stimulation and protocols, we are seeing fewer and less severe cases of OHSS (a condition which may occur after using injectable hormone medications during IVF treatment), the main medical risk of IVF. Finally, with improvements in the lab, an appreciation for the higher risks of multiple pregnancies and changes in guidelines to transfer fewer embryos, the rate of multiples are in decline. Less multiples makes IVF safer for both mom and baby.

Read the complete article from Reuters by Kathryn Doyle.

Posted in Blog, IVF, Mary E. Rausch, News, Study, Uncategorized

January: National Cervical Cancer Awareness Month

What is Cervical Health Awareness Month?

NCCC-logoThe United States Congress designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. During January, NCCC and its many local chapters across the country highlight issues related to cervical cancer, HPV disease and the importance of early detection. While NCCC chapters host events throughout the year, January is a month with a special focus as chapters celebrate Cervical Health Awareness Month and work to spread the word in the communities.

Did you know that HPV is a very common condition? Most sexually active individuals have HPV at some point in their life. At any time there are approximately 79 million people in the U.S. with the virus.

Certain HPV types are classified as “high-risk” because they lead to abnormal cell changes and can cause genital cancers, including cervical cancer. In fact, researchers say that virtually all cervical cancers — more than 99% — are caused by these high-risk HPV viruses. Whether you are sexually active or not, it is advisable to get a Pap smear on your annual medical exams. Find free/low cost Pap tests in your area.

Posted in Blog, Cervical Cancer, News

Can Too Much Exercise Hinder Your Fertility?

We are often told that a healthy diet and regular exercise is necessary for a person, male or female, to be able to conceive. However, does exercise also fall into the category of too much of a good thing being a bad thing?

“A recent study showed that women who were active most days of the week were three times more likely to have fertility problems compared with inactive women, regardless of their weight. Infertility specialist Dr. Philip Marcus said having low body fat and exercising excessively can sometimes cause fertility problems, but he said typically the person is also underweight.” Not all fat is bad—your body needs a certain amount to keep warm and sustain itself. Without that bit of fat, your body is going to struggle to support itself, let alone another life developing in the womb.

Taylor and Derek Pederson are a perfect example of this phenomenon. The Minnesota couple went through two miscarriages, both occurring before Taylor was eight weeks along. Doctors were stumped; here was an otherwise healthy couple with no obvious explanations for the miscarriages. Taylor started doing her own research and discovered it might be her intense Taekwondo regimen that was inhibiting her ability to carry a child to term. When she went from six hours of exercise a week down to almost nothing, she had no problem getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.

As with most things in life, everything in moderation. Talk to your doctor about your lifestyle and if anything should be changed to increase your chances of getting pregnant.

Posted in Blog, Improve your Fertility, Infertility Contributing Factors, Lifestyle

CES: New Fertility Awareness Sensor

Every January the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off another year with exciting promises of innovative technology that’s sure to make our lives better. And this year the medical industry is well represented, with everything from high-tech pharmacies to digital health to smart wearables that will monitor your blood pressure, heart rate and even your mood.
bloomtempOne company out of Boulder, CO is looking to enter the niche market of fertility assistance with their ground-breaking fertility awareness sensor. As the first U.S.-based company to offer a simplified sensor that continuously measures true core body temperature, Prima-Temp says their first product, Bloom, will be the most precise, accurate, effortless method for women to pinpoint their fertile window without having to actively engage in data collection. This self-inserted, wireless temperature sensor continuously and passively tracks a woman’s core body temperature, detecting the subtle changes that occur before ovulation, then sends an alert to her smartphone when she is most fertile.

The unveiling of our flagship product at CES will allow women to take charge of their fertility with less effort and greater confidence.Dr. Lauren Costantini, Prima-Temp CEO

Posted in Blog, News