Friday, May 23rd, 2014
Couples–both women and men–who both have high cholesterol levels may find their fertility impacted, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. More from HealthDay News:
When both the prospective mom and dad had high cholesterol levels, it took longer to conceive compared to those with lower cholesterol levels. The study also found the highest cholesterol levels among the couples who didn’t achieve pregnancy during the year-long study.
“This is the first time that cholesterol levels have been identified as a factor in pregnancy along with known factors, such as age and weight,” said lead researcher Enrique Schisterman, senior investigator and chief of the epidemiology branch at the U.S. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that can build up in the body’s blood vessels, according to the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Genetics and your family history play a role in your cholesterol levels, but so too, do diet and exercise, the institute says.
Schisterman noted that when both the man and the woman have high cholesterol it takes much longer to conceive.
“If the woman has high cholesterol and the man has normal cholesterol, then it takes longer, but not as long as when both have high cholesterol,” Schisterman said.
“When only the man has high cholesterol and the woman has normal levels, it doesn’t seem to have an effect,” he added.
Schisterman noted that while this study shows an association between cholesterol levels and time to conception, what isn’t known is whether high cholesterol causes the delay.
It’s also not clear if taking drugs to lower cholesterol would shorten the time to conception. “We don’t know that yet. Our study was not designed to see the effect of statins,” he said. Statins are medications used to lower cholesterol levels.
Also, it’s possible that diet and exercise, which are known to lower cholesterol, might also reduce the time to conception, Schisterman said.
“Having a healthy diet, exercising and maintaining normal cholesterol levels will help couples become pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy child,” he said.
Image: Cholesterol, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, May 14th, 2014
A group of common chemicals called endocrine disruptors are being connected to fertility problems in men, as CNN reports:
Researchers found endocrine disruptors can interfere with human sperm’s ability to move, navigate and/or penetrate an egg. Their study results were published Monday in EMBO reports.
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with your endocrine system – the system in your body that regulates hormones. These hormones control everything from your metabolism to your sleep cycle to your reproductive system, so messing with them can cause serious issues.
Scientists have a long list of potential endocrine disruptors, including bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxin, mercury and perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). They can be natural or man-made and are virtually “omnipresent,” the study authors write, in our food and in common household and personal care products.
This isn’t the first time scientists have linked these chemicals with fertility issues in humans. For example, in 2010, a study of Chinese factory workers found exposure to BPA can reduce sperm counts. More recent studies have shown BPA and chemicals called phthalates can hinder a couple’s ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to full term.
Scientists in Germany and Denmark tested 96 endocrine disrupting chemicals on human sperm – both individually and in various combinations. Around one-third of the chemicals had a negative effect.
The researchers found these endocrine disruptors increased the amount of calcium found in sperm cells – although BPA was found to have no effect. Calcium ions control many of the essential functions of sperm, study author Dr. Timo Strunker explains, including the flagellum – the tail that propels sperm forward. So changing the calcium level in a sperm cell can impact its motility, or swimming ability.
Image: Sperm, via Shutterstock
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BPA, endocrine disruptors, fertility, infertility, male factor infertility, sperm, sperm quality, toxic chemicals | Categories:
Child Health, Must Read, New Research, Pregnancy, Safety
Thursday, May 1st, 2014
The multibillion dollar fertility industry tracks data on success rates and other measures of its work with women who are struggling to conceive a child, but the data–which tends not to get regulatory enforcement from the CDC and other agencies–may be difficult to decipher. More from The New York Times:
This is a multibillion-dollar industry, and there is financial pressure for clinics to claim frequent success. “Clinics are competing with each other based on pregnancy and live birthrates,” said Dr. Vitaly Kushnir, a reproductive endocrinologist in New York who researches success rates. The clinics do not want give out negative data that might drive away patients.
Nationally, the data suggest that a 38- to 40-year-old woman using her own unfrozen eggs has on average a 21.6 percent chance per cycle of having a baby by means of assisted reproductive technology. The average treatment cost per cycle rings in at $12,400, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
A cycle, which can take on average from 60 to 90 days from the time of the initial consultation, typically starts with hormone injections, followed by egg retrieval, fertilization and then embryo transfer. But the national success rate does not distinguish between pregnancies occurring in the first cycle or a second, fifth or later cycle. The number of cycles needed to achieve a successful pregnancy makes a big difference to would-be parents in terms of money, time and emotional strain.
The clinics also are not required to report babies born full-term or not, or those born with birth defects. “The outcome data should be included to reflect the most important goals and measures of success in I.V.F. — a healthy baby and healthy mother,” said Dr. Kushnir. Moreover, success rates at individual clinics may vary widely, depending in part on the populations they serve. Some clinics have been known to turn away women who may be difficult cases — older women or those with existing medical conditions, for example — to avoid depressing their success rates.
To potential patients browsing online, it may not be clear how these clinics define success. “Someone might think the success rate is the number of live births, when really the clinic is reporting the number of clinical pregnancies,” said Jim Hawkins, a law professor at the University of Houston who has studied the claims made on the websites of fertility clinics.
Dr. Kushnir and other researchers have pushed for more public information on the health of babies and mother after I.V.F. At the moment, potential patients can check reported success rates online, with the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies and the C.D.C., which separates the data by pregnancy and live births.
Image: Pregnancy test, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, April 17th, 2014
The protein mechanism that allows a sperm and egg to connect to each other and fertilize to become an embryo has been identified by British scientists. More from Reuters:
Fertilization takes place when an egg cell and a sperm cell recognize one another and fuse to form an embryo. But how they recognize each other in order to hook up had remained a mystery.
Researchers said on Wednesday they have identified a protein on the egg cell’s surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of a sperm cell, allowing the two cells to join.
This protein, dubbed Juno in honor of the ancient Roman goddess of fertility and marriage, and its counterpart in sperm, named Izumo after a Japanese marriage shrine, are essential for reproduction in mammals including people, they said.
This new understanding of the role of these two proteins could help improve the treatment of infertility and guide the development of new contraceptives, the researchers said.
“By identifying this interaction between Juno and Izumo, we now know the identity of the receptor proteins found on the surface of our father’s sperm and our mother’s egg that must interact at the moment at which we were conceived,” said Gavin Wright of the Welcome Trust Sanger Institute in Britain, one of the researchers in the study published in the journal Nature.
The researchers are now screening infertile women to try to determine whether problems with the Juno receptor are to blame.
“It is remarkable that about 20 percent of infertility cases have an unexplained cause,” said Enrica Bianchi of the Sanger Institute, another of the researchers.
“We are now asking whether Juno is involved in these cases of unexplained infertility,” Bianchi added.
Wright said that if defects in the Juno receptor are in fact implicated in human infertility, a simple, non-invasive genetic screening test could be developed to identify affected women.
“This then would allow us to guide the fertility treatment,” Wright said, letting affected women proceed directly to a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection involving direct injection of sperm into an egg obtained from in vitro fertilization.
Image: Sperm and egg, via Shutterstock
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Monday, March 17th, 2014
A major doctor’s group is urging obstetricians to have serious, often difficult conversations with their patients, telling them that being overweight or obese can have negative impact on both their fertility and their pregnancy health. More from Time.com:
The latest news about the negative effects of our nation’s obesity epidemic on everything from fertility to pregnancy and maternal mortality recently prompted the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) to urge doctors to talk with patients about the benefits of slimming down before trying to conceive. It’s part of an ongoing push to make chats about women’s “reproductive lifespan” as routine as an annual pap smear. Just as doctors have historically shied away from telling women that their eggs are getting too old, many haven’t been eager to point out that a woman’s size might come in between her and her dream of becoming a mother.
“For a woman who’s been trying for a year, the last thing she wants to hear is to take another year off to lose weight,” explains Dr. Jeanne Conry, ACOG president and assistant physician in chief at The Permanente Medical Group in Roseville, California. “But if a woman walks into my office who’s been trying to get pregnant and she has a body mass index of 30 or over [more than 180 pounds for a 5’5” woman] and she’s having an irregular period, the first thing we’re going to do is discuss a healthy diet and exercise program.”
Of course, doctors point out that the majority of the estimated 30% of obese women in the U.S. have no problems conceiving. But there’s a growing body of evidence that’s difficult to ignore. Obesity raises a woman’s risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension, premature delivery, miscarriage, and stillbirth. A mother’s chance of having to undergo a caesarian section is 34% if her BMI is over 30, and 47% if her BMI is over 35—compared to 21% for women with a BMI under 30, according to one study. There’s even evidence that babies born to obese women have a greater chance of suffering neural defects than those whose mothers are normal weight, and will be at greater risk of being obese themselves.
In one recent survey of more than 3,300 women, one-third responded they didn’t believe or were unsure whether a woman’s weight affected her chances of conceiving. The doctors’ organization hopes that encouraging ob-gyns to broach the topic will educate women about that connection, considering that about 6% of infertility is due to obesity (another 6% is due to being too thin), according to statistics by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (That goes for men, too, since a recent French study showed their excess poundage contributed to low sperm production.) The good news is that 70% of these women will get pregnant naturally after they lose or gain enough weight to get closer to a healthier BMI.
The other goal is to help patients set and achieve weight-loss goals, or even consider weight loss surgery if they’re severely obese. But adding those expectations on top of conceiving can feel daunting to many women, says Julie Friedman, PhD, a psychologist who directs a weight management program comprised of counseling, workshops, and support groups, at Insight Behavioral Health Centers, a chain of outpatient mental health treatment centers based in Chicago. “They’ve struggled with their weight their whole lives and now they’re going through something so stressful, saying ‘Now you’re telling me to lose weight when I’m this stressed out and trying for a baby?’”
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Image: Overweight woman, via Shutterstock
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