Category: Female Fertility

What is Infertility?

what is infertilitySo, what is infertility, and how do we cure it? Unfortunately, the answer is not so simple. Just as every individual is unique, the same is true of their fertility. Infertility is defined as the inability to achieve pregnancy after one year if a woman is under 35 years of age, and after six months if a woman is 35 or older.

At least one in six couples have trouble getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. In the United States alone, approximately 7.4 million women experience infertility. The average young couple without known reproductive issues has about a 20% chance of achieving pregnancy in any given month, and it is not uncommon for couples to try for six months before they become pregnant.

How is Infertility Diagnosed?

If you experience any signs of infertility, you should meet with a fertility doctor to discuss your chances of conceiving and available treatment options immediately. Common indications of infertility include:

  • Family history of genetic disease
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Issues with erection or ejaculation
  • The male partner is undergoing testosterone treatment
  • Prior fibroid diagnosis
  • Prior surgical history on the tubes, ovaries or uterus
  • Prior surgical history on the testes
  • Repeated pregnancy loss or miscarriage
  • A vasectomy or tubal ligation has been performed

After discussing your medical history and symptoms, your doctor will probably prescribe basic fertility testing. For a female, testing will involve an AFC ultrasound to assess ovarian reserve and fertility potential, as well as bloodwork to evaluate ovarian function and reserve.

The male partner will undergo a physical exam and a laboratory semen analysis to assess sperm count, shape, and movement.

Additionally, a doctor may choose to perform a saline sonohysterogram (SHG) or a hysterosalpingogram (HSH) on the woman to rule out blockages or masses in the fallopian tubes and uterus.

What is Infertility in Women?

Ovulatory disorders are one of the most common causes of infertility in women. If you have an ovulatory disorder, you may ovulate infrequently or not at all. The symptoms of ovulatory disorders include irregular or absent menstrual cycles.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of female infertility. In a regular monthly cycle, follicles develop, and one egg is released into the fallopian tubes during ovulation. In women with PCOS, the hormones that mature eggs are not present, which prevents ovulation and causes cysts to form on the ovaries.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as two or more consecutive miscarriages. Common causes of recurrent pregnancy loss include genetic disorders, hormone imbalance, uterine abnormality, and undiagnosed medical conditions.

Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) is the significantly diminished or absent ovarian function before the age of 40 and affects 1-2% of women. Signs and symptoms of POI are irregular or skipped periods, early ovulation, hot flashes, and mood lability.

Diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) refers to a decline in the number and quality of the remaining eggs in the ovaries or a poor response to ovarian stimulation. Causes of a diminished ovarian reserve include smoking, endometriosis, previous ovarian surgery, exposure to toxic chemicals, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Less common causes of infertility issues in women include:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Surgery in the abdomen or pelvis
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine polyps or tumors
  • Uterine abnormalities
  • Abnormal cervical mucus

What is Infertility in Men?

While published statistics focus on women, it is important to note that male infertility diagnoses are just as common. In most cases, there are no apparent signs of infertility in men without testing.

Generally, male infertility is caused by deficiencies in the semen, which include low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Common male fertility conditions are:

  • Varicocele – Varicocele is the most common reversible cause of male infertility. It is a condition of swollen testicle veins that is present in 15% of all men and approximately 40% of infertile men.
  • Klinefelter Syndrome – Klinefelter Syndrome is a chromosomal defect that occurs in males early in the womb. It results in smaller testes, which reduces testosterone levels and sperm production that naturally occurs.
  • Immune infertility related to anti-sperm antibodies – When the immune system mistakes sperm for a harmful intruder cell and tries to destroy them, it is considered a cause of infertility nearly 20% of infertile couples.

Male sperm production can also be abnormal. The most common reasons include:

  • Azoospermia – When there is no measurable level of sperm in the semen.
  • Necrospermia – When the sperm is either immobile or dead.
  • Oligospermia – When there is a low concentration of sperm in the semen. Typically, there is a higher percentage of abnormal sperm cells.

Unexplained Causes of Infertility

Unfortunately, both men and women experience unexplained causes of infertility. Approximately 1 in 4 couples will be told there is no explanation for their inability to conceive.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

Although there is no cure for infertility, you can make lifestyle changes that increase your chances of conception. The following changes apply to women and men:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid illicit drugs
  • Limit caffeine
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Reduce stress

Vios Fertility Hoffman Estates Provides Hope and Help for Fertility

If you have been trying to conceive for six months or a year, it may be time to meet with a fertility specialist. At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates and at our other locations, we provide cutting-edge treatment, led by an exceptional clinical team, combined with unparalleled patient experience in a nurturing environment.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To schedule your consultation, contact us today.

The IVF Process: A Step-by-Step Inside Look

ivf processIn vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology. It refers to a process of fertilization by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish.

After monitoring embryo development, one or multiple embryos are transferred to the uterus of a woman. If any resulting embryos remain, they are frozen through a process known as vitrification.

Typically, IVF is offered as a fertility treatment for women over the age of 40. It is also an option if you or your partner suffers from any of the following conditions:

  • Endometriosis
  • A genetic disorder
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage
  • Fertility preservation for health conditions or medical treatments
  • Ovulation disorders
  • Previous sperm production or function
  • Previous tubal sterilization or removal
  • Unexplained infertility
  • Uterine fibroids

How to Prepare for IVF

Depending on your unique needs, you and your partner may need to undergo fertility diagnostic testing before you undergo the IVF process. Common types of diagnostic testing include:

  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG) – An hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is a diagnostic X-ray that detects blockages of your fallopian tubes. It provides insight into any abnormalities on the inside of your uterus (uterine cavity).
  • Infectious disease screening – You and your partner should be screened for infectious diseases.
  • Ovarian reserve testingOvarian reserve testing provides a baseline of your fertility health. On day 2-5 of your menstrual cycle, a doctor will perform an AFC ultrasound and bloodwork to determine the quality and quantity of your eggs.
  • Saline Sonohysterogram (SHG) – The saline sonohysterogram (SHG) is a diagnostic ultrasound that detects abnormal structures on the inside of your uterus (uterine cavity). It provides insight into blockages of your fallopian tubes.
  • Semen analysis – A semen analysis measures three major factors of male sperm health: the count, the motility (movement), and the morphology (shape).

The IVF Process

After you undergo fertility testing and medical testing, you can begin the IVF process, which involves several steps. One cycle of IVF takes about two to three weeks, and more than one cycle may be required. Altogether, the process requires two to three months to complete.

Preparation for Ovarian Stimulation

To begin, a patient may be placed on birth control for one month. By doing so, patients can control the timing of their cycle, decrease the chances of cyst production, and synchronize follicle production.

Ovarian Stimulation and Monitoring

In a natural monthly cycle, the body usually releases one egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes. During an in vitro fertilization cycle, we increase the number of eggs produced to create multiple embryos for treatment.

Ovarian stimulation increases follicle production, which also increases the number of mature eggs within the ovaries for egg retrieval. To stimulate the ovaries, medication is administered daily through a tiny needle injection for 8-14 days.

While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests is required. Ultrasound monitoring measures egg follicle growth, as well as the increasing thickness of the uterine lining. Blood work monitors estrogen levels, which rise as follicles develop.

Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the final medication step is a trigger shot, which allows the eggs to develop to the final stage of maturation and begins the ovulation process.

Egg Retrieval Procedure

Approximately 36 hours after the trigger shot, the egg retrieval will occur. During the 15-minute procedure, a patient is placed under sedation. Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is guided into each follicle and aspirated for collection.

The number of eggs obtained during a retrieval will vary based on the patient’s response to stimulation, ovarian reserve, age, and other factors. Some patients experience spotting, blotting, and mild discomfort. However, most patients fully recover within one or two days.

Fresh or frozen sperm can be used to inseminate the eggs. If a fresh sample is being used, on the same day as the egg retrieval, a sperm sample must also be collected. Therefore, it is best to abstain from ejaculation for two or more days prior to sample collection.

Egg Fertilization Through Sperm Injection

The eggs and sperm are taken to an embryology lab, where they are placed in optimal conditions to foster growth. The eggs can be inseminated via two methods – conventional insemination or intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The eggs and sperm are placed in an incubator to facilitate fertilization and embryo development.

Monitoring of Embryo Development

Embryologists will closely monitor the growth and development of embryos, starting with the observation of fertilization. Due to various reasons such as genetic abnormality or inadequate embryo development, there will be fertilized eggs that do not develop into healthy embryos.

Embryo Transfer Procedure

Dependent upon embryo development, embryos are transferred anywhere from three to six days after fertilization. An embryologist evaluates every embryo and selects the most viable embryos for transfer.

To improve the chances of a healthy singleton baby, it is recommended to transfer one embryo, depending on the age of the patient and the quality of embryos.

Using a soft, ultra-thin catheter, under ultrasound guidance, an embryo is transferred into the uterus. Without the use of anesthesia, the procedure takes two minutes and is comparable to a pap smear in terms of discomfort.

Freezing of Remaining Embryos

The remaining embryos will be cryopreserved, or vitrified, using a fast-freezing and critical process called vitrification.

If the cycle does not result in pregnancy, the remaining frozen embryos can allow for future pregnancy opportunities. Due to scientific advances, the success rates of a frozen embryo transfer are compared to that of a fresh embryo transfer.

Pregnancy Test

Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, patients will undergo a blood pregnancy test to receive their test results.

Success Rates of the IVF Process

The success rates of the IVF process are higher than many other fertility treatments. However, the success rate is based on several factors, including reproductive history, maternal age, the cause of infertility, and other lifestyle factors.

In the United States, the live birth success rate for every IVF cycle ranges from 40-70%. Women under the age of 35 have a success rate of 40%.

At Vios in Hoffman Estates, Conception is Our Mission

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates and at our other locations, we aspire to make your dreams of parenthood a reality. During your initial consultation, we will discuss your medical history, your family building goals, and review available fertility treatments with you.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To learn more about the IVF process and other types of fertility testing, contact us to schedule your first appointment.

Infertility Treatments Don’t Always Mean IVF

infertility treatmentsAs a common form of assisted reproductive technology, in vitro fertilization is one of the most popular infertility treatments today. However, everyone has unique fertility needs and circumstances, which means IVF may not be for you.

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates or at one of our other locations, our team of physicians will work with you to understand your future fertility goals and develop a customized plan to meet them. With a variety of fertility treatments available, we will find a solution to optimize treatment success, achieve pregnancy, and preserve fertility.

Let’s Talk About In Vitro Fertilization

Since the first successful in vitro procedure in 1978, over five million babies have been born through IVF treatments.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is an assisted reproductive technology in which the eggs are retrieved from a woman and inseminated with sperm from a man in a laboratory to create embryos. After closely monitoring embryo development, one or more embryos are transferred to the uterus of the woman. If any resulting embryos remain, they are frozen through a process known as vitrification.

To learn more about IVF and how it works, contact the experts at Vios Fertility Institute Hoffman Estates, read our blog article “The IVF Process: A Step-by-Step Inside Look,” or visit our In Vitro Fertilization page.

Basic Infertility Treatments

Timed Intercourse and Ovulation Induction

Timed intercourse is the simplest form of infertility treatment a couple can receive. With a limited timeframe for fertilization to occur, it is important to have intercourse at the right time. Monitoring occurs to track ovulation so that you will have a better potential for fertilization.

If a woman is not ovulating, we use a combination of ovulation induction medications to grow follicles and time the release of the egg so that intercourse can be planned to increase the chances of fertilization.

While every patient is unique, we follow a timeline to prescribe medications and monitor progress to determine when ovulation will occur and plan for intercourse.

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often the first step in fertility treatment for many couples. It is a less expensive and more conservative infertility treatment option that is ideal for a lot of couples.

An IUI is accomplished by placing highly concentrated sperm directly into the uterus to facilitate fertilization and increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes.

IUI is a common treatment option for couples experiencing unexplained infertility issues, ovulation disorders, mild endometriosis, and mild male infertility issues with sperm or erectile dysfunction.

To learn more about the IUI process, contact Vios Hoffman Estates or visit our Intrauterine Insemination page.

Advanced Infertility Treatments

Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)

A frozen embryo transfer, or FET, takes an embryo cryopreserved from a previous IVF cycle or a donor embryo and thaws it before transferring it to a woman’s uterus. The advancements in cryopreservation techniques and the use of vitrification have allowed for increased success rates when using frozen embryos.

Once an embryo is cryopreserved, it can be stored indefinitely. A woman can use the embryos in the future at the age in which they are frozen. A frozen embryo transfer can occur:

  • After a successful fresh transfer when a woman wants to conceive her next child later
  • After an unsuccessful fresh transfer, anywhere from months to years later when a woman is ready to try again
  • When a couple decides to undergo genetic testing on their embryos, which results in the need for cryopreservation of the tested embryos
  • When a fresh transfer is not in the best interest of the patient

To learn more about frozen embryo transfer, contact Vios Fertility Institute Hoffman Estates or visit our Frozen Embryo Transfer page.

Genetic Testing (PGS and PGD)

As an additional and optional step in the IVF process, the genetic testing of embryos is incorporated after eggs are fertilized and have begun their development as embryos. By electing to do genetic testing, a patient can increase the chance of implantation and reduce the chance of miscarriage by transferring an embryo that has been tested for chromosomal abnormalities or genetic disorders.

Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS)

With PGS, select cells are removed from the embryo and are genetically screened for chromosomal abnormalities, such as trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome). PGS may be utilized if multiple miscarriages have occurred or if the female partner is of advanced maternal age.

PGS is available to all patients and can help increase pregnancy rates and decrease miscarriage rates. PGS also determines the sex of the embryo with nearly 100% accuracy.

Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD)

In PGD, select cells are removed from an embryo to test for a specific, known genetic condition. It is common for individuals or couples who have been diagnosed with or are carriers of a known genetic condition. After PDG, embryos without the genetic condition are transferred into the uterus for implantation.

The most tested genetic conditions are cystic fibrosis, spinal muscular atrophy, Tay-Sachs, sickle cell, and thalassemia. However, with advanced technology, PDG is available for most diseases, including rare genetic disorders.

Fertility Preservation

Fertility preservation is a perfect option for women or couples who want to wait until they are ready to start a family. Fertility preservation includes egg freezing, sperm freezing, or embryo freezing.

Apart from social reasons, men and women may also consider fertility preservation if they are undergoing medical treatments or procedures that harm fertility:

  • Cancer diagnosis – For men and women who have been diagnosed with cancer, fertility preservation protects eggs and sperm before chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, which can be toxic.
  • Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) – For women who with premature ovarian insufficiency, early menopause, or a genetic predisposition to early menopause, fertility preservation preserve viable eggs or embryos for future use.
  • Autoimmune disease – Women with chronic autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus may consider fertility preservation due to medications they use, which could potentially harm ovaries and cause infertility.

To learn more about fertility preservation, please read our blog Fertility Preservation & Fertility Options After Cancer Diagnosis, or visit our Fertility Preservation page.

A Variety of Infertility Treatments for You at Vios Fertility Hoffman Estates

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates or one of our other locations, our mission is to help our patients find their way to fertility health and treatment with the highest chance of success. We also provide a variety of innovative, scientific, cutting-edge infertility treatments along with unparalleled patient care.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

When you schedule a consultation with one of our compassionate doctors, you will learn which infertility treatments may be best for you. We also help you navigate your fertility journey by answering questions, offering financing options, and providing you with the support you need to achieve your dreams of parenthood.

To schedule your initial consultation, contact us today.

Getting Pregnant After 35: When to Get Help

getting pregnant after 35If you want to have a baby after the age of 35, you are not alone. Today, more women are focusing on their careers and finances before they start families of their own.

Although age affects female infertility, it is not impossible for women over 35 to conceive. Nonetheless, it is still important to understand the risks of getting pregnant after 35, how you can increase your chances of conception, and when to seek help.

How Aging Affects the Reproductive System

Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. Throughout your lifetime, the set number of eggs will decrease in quality and quantity over time. At birth, a girl is born with 1 to 2 million eggs. By puberty, between 250,000 to 500,000 eggs will remain. By the age of 37, you will only have about 25,000 eggs left.

The Challenges of Getting Pregnant After 35

The most common cause of infertility for women over the age of 35 is ovulation. When a woman ages, her menstrual cycles are regular (26 to 35) days until she reaches her late 30s to early 40s. As time passes, she begins to skip ovulation, which results in missed periods.

Other challenges of getting pregnant after 35 include:

  • It may take longer to get pregnant – Women are born with a limited number of eggs. As you reach your mid-to-late 30s, your eggs decrease in quality and quantity. If you are older than 35 and unable to conceive for six months, you should consult a fertility doctor.
  • You’re more likely to have a pregnancy of multiples – Due to hormonal changes that could release multiple eggs at the same time, the chance of conceiving twins increases with age. The use of assisted reproductive technology, such as in vitro fertilization, can also lead to a pregnancy of multiples.
  • You’re more likely to develop gestational diabetes – Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and is common as women age. It can cause a baby to grow significantly larger than average, which increases the risk of injuries during delivery. Gestational diabetes can also increase the risk of premature birth and high blood pressure.
  • You’re more likely to develop high blood pressure – According to research, high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy is more common in older women. Your fertility doctor will carefully monitor your blood pressure, as well as the growth and development of your baby.
  • You’re more likely to have a premature birth – Premature births are common in older women. Premature babies may be low in weight and have complicated medical problems.
  • The risk of pregnancy loss is higher – Due to pre-existing medical conditions or fetal chromosomal abnormalities, the risk of pregnancy loss (miscarriage or stillbirth) increases as women age. Women aged 35-45 have a 20-30% chance of miscarriage.
  • The risk of chromosome abnormalities is higher – Women over the age of 35 are more likely to have babies with a higher risk of chromosome problems, such as Down syndrome.

How to Increase Your Chances of Getting Pregnant After 35

If you want to have a baby after the age of 35, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself. While you cannot control your age or the quality of your eggs, you can control lifestyle factors that contribute to your fertility health:

  • Avoid drugs and alcohol – Heavy alcohol and drug use are associated with decreased infertility. If you want to have a baby, you should avoid drugs and alcohol at all costs. You should also clear any medications or supplements with your doctor ahead of time.
  • Eat a healthy diet – To conceive or carry a baby, you will need essential nutrients such as folic acid, calcium, iron, and vitamin D. You should also consider a daily prenatal vitamin a few months before conception.
  • Exercise regularly – Regular physical activity can boost energy levels and improve your overall health. It can also help you prepare for labor and childbirth by increasing your stamina and muscle strength. Before you start a new exercise program, consult your doctor.
  • Maintain a healthy weight – A low BMI stops ovulation as the body tries to conserve energy, while a high BMI disrupts hormone levels. Before you have a baby, you should focus on maintaining a healthy BMI.
  • Schedule a preconception appointment – If you are ready to have a baby or want to discuss your options for getting pregnant after 35, you should seek help from a fertility doctor immediately. Your doctor will address any concerns about fertility or pregnancy and suggest fertility treatment options if necessary.
  • Seek regular prenatal care – Once you become pregnant, you should schedule regular prenatal visits. Your fertility doctor will be able to monitor the health of you and your baby, as well as signs or symptoms that may concern you.

When You Should Seek Help

If you are under the age of 35, you should try to conceive for a year before seeking treatment. If you are between 35 and 40, you should seek help from a doctor after six months of trying. If you are older than 40, you should schedule a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist immediately.

What Vios Can Do for You

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates or at one of our other locations, we know that every fertility journey is personal. We are passionate about changing the stigma surrounding infertility and helping couples achieve their dreams of getting pregnant after 35.

We offer a comprehensive menu of services, ranging from ovarian reserve testing to in vitro fertilization (IVF). We also offer specific fertility treatment options that may benefit women over the age of 35.

Genetic Testing

Genetic abnormalities increase as the age of woman rises, which leads to a higher risk of miscarriage, pregnancy-related complications, and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

As an additional step in the IVF process, genetic testing of embryos is incorporated after eggs are fertilized and begin their development. At Vios, we offer three types of genetic testing:

  • Preconception Genetic Carrier Screening – A carrier screening analyzes the potential for genetic disease, especially patients at a higher risk for certain genetic diseases.
  • Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) – PGD is commonly used when one partner has been diagnosed with or both partners are carriers of a known genetic condition. The most commonly tested genetic conditions are Cystic Fibrosis, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Tay Sachs, Sickle Cell, and Thalassemia.
  • Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) – PGS may be utilized if a couple experiences multiple miscarriages or if the female partner is of advanced maternal age. The test determines if there are extra or missing chromosomes.

To learn more about genetic testing, contact Vios Fertility Institute Hoffman Estates or visit our page How Healthy Will My Baby Be?.

Fertility Preservation

If you approach the 35-year milestone and want to wait to have a baby, you should consider fertility preservation, which involves elective egg freezing. By freezing your eggs, you can use “younger” eggs when you are ready to conceive, which leads to easier conception and potentially healthier pregnancy outcomes.

To learn more about elective egg freezing, visit our Protecting Against Infertility page.

Vios in Hoffman Estates Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates or one of our other locations, conception is our life. We are on a mission to help our patients find their way to fertility health and treatment with the highest chance of success by providing them with innovative, scientific, cutting-edge treatment options with unparalleled customer experience.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

Our team of compassionate doctors is standing by ready to answer questions. To discuss your options for conceiving a family after 35, schedule your initial consultation today!

Elective Egg Freezing: Is It Right for You?

egg freezingOtherwise known as cryopreservation, egg freezing involves the freezing and storage of unfertilized eggs obtained by stimulation and egg retrieval. The procedure is ideal for couples who want to achieve pregnancy at a later date through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

The process begins with ovarian stimulation, which utilizes hormones that are self-administered daily by the patient for ten days. Next, the patient undergoes transvaginal (or trans-abdominal) egg retrieval. The unfertilized eggs are frozen and stored for potential future use.

Fertility Preservation

When it comes to fertility, age is an important factor. As women become older, their eggs diminish in number and quality, which makes it difficult to become or stay pregnant.

For women who are not ready to conceive but want to preserve fertility for the future, fertility preservation is a perfect option. It is also ideal for women who experience conditions that affect fertility or require treatment for cancer or another illness.

Cancer Treatments

For women and men diagnosed with cancer, egg freezing and sperm freezing protect eggs and sperm before cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. Unfortunately, cancer treatments are toxic and can negatively impact eggs and sperm.

At Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates and at our other locations, our team of reproductive endocrinologists works directly with oncologists to ensure optimal coordination of cancer treatments and fertility preservation. We understand the importance of cancer treatments, which is why we guarantee all oncofertility patients see a Vios provider within 24-48 hours of their first phone call.

After the initial consultation, we can begin the process of growing, freezing, or fertilizing eggs within two days and finish the process in two weeks. Depending on the type of chemotherapy regimen, the endocrinologist may not recommend fertility preservation.

For more information about cancer treatments and fertility, please contact the experts at Vios Fertility Institute Hoffman Estates or read our blog article Fertility Preservation and Fertility Options After Cancer Diagnosis.

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

Premature ovarian insufficiency, or premature menopause, refers to a significantly diminished or absent ovarian function before the age of 40 and affects 1-2% of girls and women. If a female has diminished or absent ovarian function, they will not produce normal amounts of hormones or release eggs regularly, resulting in infertility.

If you experience the symptoms of premature ovarian failure, you should consider fertility preservation to preserve viable eggs or embryos for future use. The signs and symptoms of POF include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Irregular or skipped periods
  • Irritability
  • Mood lability
  • Ovulating early in the menstrual cycle or not ovulating at all
  • Shortening menstrual cycles or pre-cycle spotting

Autoimmune Disease

Women with chronic autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, should consider fertility preservation. The medications that treat autoimmune diseases possess ingredients that harm ovaries and cause infertility.

However, like chemotherapeutic agents, some medications do not harm ovaries. If you are unsure about the effects of your medication, you should consult your doctor immediately.

How Does Fertility Preservation Work?

Fertility preservation is the freezing of eggs or embryos for future use through the process of in vitro fertilization (IVF). In a normal menstrual cycle, women grow multiple eggs every month, and 1-2 eggs develop bigger than the rest and are selected for ovulation.

Next, medications called gonadotropins are injected into the stomach to grow the eggs. Typically, you will undergo multiple injections per day for about two weeks, or until the eggs can be removed.

The egg retrieval is performed under anesthesia (so the patient is asleep) using a vaginal ultrasound probe with a tiny needle attached. The needle moves through the wall of the vagina and directly into the ovary, so you will not notice any incisions when you wake up. The fluid is removed from the ovary with a needle, which is given to an embryologist. They will identify the eggs under a microscope.

Who is Eligible for Egg Freezing?

Elective egg freezing is ideal for post-pubertal to pre-menopausal females (ages 15-45). However, it is recommended that women take advantage of their body’s fertility in their 20s or 30s.

Future Use for Elective Egg Freezing

When you are ready to have a baby, the frozen eggs are thawed and fertilized. The resulting embryos are transferred to the uterus of the patient or a gestational carrier. If the patient does not have adequate ovarian function at the time, she can take hormones for approximately three weeks before transfer and three months after to support the pregnancy.

Fertility Preservation for Men

While a male produces millions of new sperm every day, there are situations in which a man may prefer to freeze sperm.

During the simple process, a man ejaculates into a sterile container, which is frozen through the process of vitrification. A man can produce multiple specimens over a short period of time until the desired number of frozen sperm has been reached.

At Vios Fertility in Hoffman Estates, IL and at Our Other Locations, Conception is Our Life

At Vios Fertility Institute in Hoffman Estates and at our other locations, we are on a mission to help you achieve your dreams of parenthood. Whether you are unable to conceive a child, or you want to learn more about fertility preservation, our team of compassionate doctors is here for you. We will help you find your way to fertility health and conception with innovative, cutting-edge treatment options along with unmatched patient experience.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To learn more about your specific options concerning fertility diagnosis and treatments, schedule a consultation today.

Signs of Infertility in Men and Women

signs of infertilityWhat is Infertility?

According to The American Society of Reproductive Medicine, infertility is defined as the ability of a sexually active couple to get pregnant after one year of trying without birth control. For women aged 35 or older, the window shortens to six months.

Although it is a common issue, infertility is a complicated subject to understand. It can be caused by the woman, the man, by both the woman and man, or unknown reasons.

Fortunately, there are a variety of fertility treatments, opportunities, resources, and support available to you. If you are unfamiliar with the signs of infertility and want to learn more, you can always count on our team of compassionate doctors at Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates.

Common Signs of Infertility in Women

If you are a woman struggling to conceive, you are not alone. In the United States, approximately 7.4 million women have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. Despite a variety of available treatments, female infertility is stressful and devastating for couples who dream of parenthood.

Whether you or your partner struggle with infertility, it is important to understand the causes of infertility before you speak with your doctor. To become pregnant, a woman should experience the following:

  • Ovulation – To become pregnant, your ovaries must produce and release a mature egg. To evaluate your menstrual cycles and confirm ovulation, consult your doctor.
  • Sperm – For most couples, sperm count is not an issue. However, if your partner has a history of illness or surgery, a doctor may need to run simple tests or a semen analysis to evaluate the health of their sperm.
  • Regular intercourse – To become pregnant, you must have regular sexual intercourse during your fertile time. To understand when you are most fertile, consult your doctor.
  • Open fallopian tubes and a healthy uterus – When the egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tubes, the embryo needs a healthy and unobstructed uterus to implant and support the developing fetus.

Factors that Affect Female Infertility

Various factors can affect a woman’s ability to conceive, which means female infertility is difficult to diagnose. The most common cause of infertility in women is ovulation disorders, which account for infertility in 25% of couples.

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)PCOS is the most common cause of infertility in women of reproductive age. In a woman with PCOS, the necessary hormones for an egg to fully mature are not present, which prevents ovulation from occurring and causing cysts to form on the ovaries. PCOS is associated with insulin resistance, obesity, abnormal hair growth, and acne.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) – POI refers to the significantly diminished or absent ovarian function before the age of forty. Caused by hormonal imbalances, the first sign of POI involves menstrual irregularities or missed periods.

However, there are other signs of infertility in women, such as:

  • Endometriosis – Endometriosis is a disorder where uterine tissue lining develops outside of the uterus on the pelvic organs. The uterine lining continues to function as it would in the uterus by thickening and breaking down with every menstrual cycle. The extra tissue growth can cause scarring, which blocks the fallopian tubes and prevents the egg and sperm from uniting.
  • Hypothalamic dysfunction – Every month, the follicle-stimulating and the luteinizing hormones are produced by the pituitary gland and responsible for stimulating ovulation. Excess physical or emotional stress or recent weight gain or loss disrupts the production of these hormones and affects ovulation, resulting in irregular or absent periods.

To learn more about the causes of female infertility, please contact Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates or read What is Female Infertility? and Common Causes of Infertility.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

If you are a woman and ready to have a baby, you should follow specific steps to optimize fertility:

  • Avoid alcohol. Heavy alcohol use is linked to decreased fertility. Whether you plan to become pregnant or you already are, you should avoid alcohol at all costs.
  • Exercise moderately. You should practice regular exercise, but excessive exercise can result in infrequent periods or affect fertility.
  • Limit caffeine. If you want to become pregnant, you should limit your daily caffeine intake to less than 200 milligrams a day. Caffeine can impact the amount of time it takes to conceive naturally.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Overweight and underweight women have an increased risk of ovulation disorders. If you need to lose weight, consider moderate exercise.
  • Quit smoking. Tobacco has adverse effects on fertility, as well as the health of you and your fetus. If you smoke and plan to become pregnant, you should quit immediately.
  • Reduce stress. If you or your partner are experiencing psychological stress, you may be unable to conceive. If you can, find a way to relieve stress before trying to become pregnant.

Common Signs of Infertility in Men

While you usually hear about infertility in females, male infertility is also a common issue. Although there are no apparent signs or symptoms of male infertility, it makes up 50% of all infertility cases in couples.

If you want to conceive a child with your partner, you must achieve the following steps as the male counterpart:

  • Healthy sperm production – At least one of your testicles must function correctly, and your body must produce testosterone and other hormones to trigger and maintain sperm production.
  • Sperm and semen must mix after the testicles produce sperm – Once the testicles produce sperm, delicate tubes transport them until they mix with semen.
  • There must be enough sperm in the semen – If your sperm count is low, it decreases the odds that one of your sperm will fertilize the egg.
  • Sperm must be functional and able to move – If the movement (motility) or function of your sperm is abnormal, the sperm may not be able to reach or penetrate the egg to fertilize it.

Factors that Affect Male Infertility

Typically, male infertility is determined by semen deficiencies, such as low sperm production, abnormal sperm function, or blockages that prevent sperm delivery. Common signs of infertility in men include:

  • Antibodies that attack sperm – Anti-sperm antibodies are immune system cells that mistakenly identify sperm as harmful invaders and attempt to eliminate them.
  • Klinefelter Syndrome – As a chromosomal defect that occurs in males early in the womb, Klinefelter Syndrome results in smaller testes, which reduces testosterone levels and sperm production.
  • Tumors – Cancers and nonmalignant tumors affect the male reproductive organs directly through glands that release hormones related to reproduction. In some cases, radiation or chemotherapy to treat tumors also affects male fertility.
  • Varicocele – As the most common reversible cause of male infertility, a varicocele is the swelling of the veins that drain the testicle. It is present in about 15% of all men and about 40% of infertile men.

However, there are other factors that affect male infertility and impact sperm production:

  • Environmental causes – Overexposure to environmental elements such as high temperatures, radiation, and industrial chemicals can overheat testicles and reduce sperm production or sperm function.
  • Drug and alcohol use – If you take anabolic steroids to stimulate muscle strength and growth, you can decrease sperm production and shrink your testicles. Alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction, and decrease sperm production.

To learn more about infertility in men, contact Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates or read What is Male Infertility? and Common Causes of Infertility.

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

Although there are types of male infertility that are unpreventable, you can increase your chances of conception with these specific lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol can lower testosterone levels, cause erectile dysfunction, and decrease sperm production. Excessive drinking also leads to liver disease, which results in fertility issues.
  • Avoid drug use. Anabolic steroids may stimulate muscle strength and growth, but they also shrink testicles and decrease sperm production.
  • Eat healthy foods and exercise. Obesity increases the likelihood of abnormal sperm cells, which means you should maintain a healthy weight and eat a diet consisting of foods high in antioxidants to improve sperm health.
  • Quit smoking. Men who smoke have a lower sperm count than those who do not smoke. Secondhand smoke also may affect male infertility.

Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates, IL Provides Hope and Help for Fertility

Whether you have been unable to get pregnant for six months to a year, it may be time to seek help. Fortunately, with advanced reproductive technology, it is possible for many couples to achieve their dreams of parenthood.

If you want to learn more about the signs of infertility and available treatment options, Vios Fertility Institute at Hoffman Estates or one of our other locations is here for you. We will help you navigate the journey and take control of your fertility health.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To learn more, contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

IUI vs. IVF: What’s Right for You?

iui vs. ivfWondering the difference between IUI vs. IVF? As two of the most popular fertility treatments available, intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) are similar but have significant differences. IUI is a simple procedure where the sperm is placed in the reproductive tract. IVF is more complex and involves sperm and eggs, which are combined to form an embryo in a laboratory setting.

What is IUI?

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is oftentimes the first step in fertility treatment for couples experiencing infertility. Otherwise known as artificial insemination, it is a less expensive and less invasive fertility treatment option with success in numerous patients.

To accomplish an IUI, a specialist places highly concentrated sperm into the uterus at the time of ovulation, which boosts fertilization by increasing the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes.

Apart from helping couples with unexplained infertility, IUI is also common for couples experiencing ovulation issues, mild endometriosis, and male infertility issues with sperm, or erectile dysfunction.

Intrauterine insemination is more affordable than other fertility treatments, which is why many couples may choose to begin with it. Other benefits of intrauterine insemination include:

  • The enhancement of sperm quality with the washing procedure
  • It is performed with or without fertility drugs
  • Less invasive than other fertility treatments
  • Provides gentler conditions than other treatments
  • Shorter in length than other treatments

Intrauterine insemination is a simple procedure that is minimally invasive and requires a minor time commitment over the course of a woman’s monthly cycle.

Stimulation and Monitoring of Egg Growth

To begin, a woman takes oral or injectable medications to stimulate the growth and maturation of her eggs and prepare for ovulation.

Typically, the woman is given fertility medications for a time period of 5-14 days. While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests will occur every 2-3 days. Ultrasound monitoring measures egg follicle growth as well as the increased thickness of the uterine lining. Blood tests monitor estrogen levels related to egg growth and ovarian function.

Trigger Shot

Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the woman is given a trigger shot that places eggs in the final stage of maturation and causes ovulation. Once the shot is administered, the IUI procedure will take place within 12-36 hours.

Sperm Collection and Washing

On the day of the procedure, the male partner provides a fresh sperm sample or a previously collected vial that will be thawed, then processed by our laboratory for insemination. In a process called sperm washing, the sperm is separated from other semen components, creating a highly concentrated sample for the procedure.

Insemination

For the intrauterine insemination procedure, washed sperm are placed directly into the uterine cavity using a thin, flexible catheter. The procedure only takes a few minutes to complete.

What is IVF?

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective form of assisted reproductive technology and a process of fertilization where eggs are retrieved from a woman and inseminated with sperm from a man to create embryos. After monitoring embryo development, one or multiple embryos are transferred to the uterus of a woman. The remaining embryos are frozen through a process called vitrification.

In vitro fertilization treats infertility and other genetic issues, such as blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, ovulation disorders, premature ovarian failure, or decreased sperm count.

As one of the most popular fertilization treatments, in vitro fertilization provides multiple benefits, including:

  • Diagnoses fertilization issues
  • Helps patients who would otherwise be unable to conceive
  • More successful than other forms of assisted reproductive technology
  • You can use donated sperm or eggs
  • You have control over the timing

Overall, in vitro fertilization is an extensive process that requires two to three months to complete.

Prepare for Ovarian Stimulation

A patient may be placed on birth control for one month to control the timing of their cycle, decrease the chances of cyst production, and synchronize follicle production.

Ovarian Stimulation and Monitoring

In a monthly cycle, the body releases one egg from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes. During an in vitro fertilization cycle, the number of eggs is increased to create multiple embryos for treatment. With ovarian stimulation, we increase follicle production, which increases the number of mature eggs within the ovaries for egg retrieval. Medication is administered daily through a tiny needle injection for 8-14 days to stimulate the ovaries.

While on stimulation medication, regular monitoring via ultrasound and blood tests are required. Once follicle development and estrogen levels reach optimal numbers, the final medication step is a trigger shot, which allows the eggs to develop to the final stage of maturation and begins the process of ovulation.

Egg Retrieval Procedure

Fresh or frozen sperm can be used to inseminate the eggs. If a fresh sample is being used, on the same day as the egg retrieval, a sperm sample must also be collected. It is best to abstain from ejaculation for two or more days prior to sample collection.

Approximately, the egg retrieval will take place 36 hours after the trigger shot. During the 15-minute procedure, a patient is placed under sedation. Using ultrasound guidance, a needle is guided into each follicle and aspirated for collection.

The amount of eggs obtained during a retrieval will vary based on the patient’s response to stimulation, ovarian reserve, age, and various other factors. Some patients experience spotting, bloating, and mild discomfort. However, most patients fully recover within one or two days.

Egg Fertilization Through Sperm Injection

The eggs and sperm are taken to an embryology lab, where they are placed in optimal conditions to foster growth. The eggs can be inseminated via two methods – conventional insemination or interact plasmic sperm injection (ICSI). The eggs and sperm are then placed in an incubator to facilitate fertilization and embryo development.

Monitoring of Embryo Development

To start the observation of fertilization, the growth and development of the embryos will be monitored. Due to various reasons, there will be fertilized eggs that do not develop into healthy embryos.

Embryo Transfer Procedure

Dependent upon embryo development, embryos are transferred anywhere from three to six days after fertilization. The embryos will be evaluated, and the most viable embryos will be selected for transfer.

Using a soft, ultra-thin catheter, the embryo will be transferred to the uterus under ultrasound guidance. The procedure takes two minutes and can be compared to a pap smear in terms of discomfort.

Freezing of Remaining Embryos

The remaining embryos will be cryopreserved, or vitrified, using a fast-freezing and critical process called vitrification.

If the cycle does not result in pregnancy, the remaining frozen embryos can allow for future pregnancy opportunities. Due to scientific advances, the success rates of a frozen embryo transfer are compared to that of a fresh embryo transfer.

Pregnancy Test

Approximately two weeks after the embryo transfer, patients will undergo a blood pregnancy test to receive their test results.

IUI vs. IVF: What is Right for You?

If you are ready to conceive a child, both IUI and IVF are effective fertility treatments. However, the procedures affect everyone differently, so there are multiple factors to consider.

IUI, for example, is an ideal starting point for couples experiencing unexplained infertility or ovulation issues. It is not an effective treatment for specific diagnoses and conditions, including:

IVF, on the other hand, is recommended for couples who experienced a lack of success with IUI, advanced endometriosis, or diminished egg supply. However, it is more expensive and invasive than IUI.

At Vios Hoffman Estates, We Make Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

If you are considering IUI vs. IVF, we are here to help. At Vios Hoffman Estates as well as our other locations, we provide you with a team of compassionate doctors, patient-centered care, expertise, testing, and solutions. By understanding how your body works, you can take control of your fertility health and jumpstart your dreams of becoming a parent.

While we have other locations in Northern Illinois, Vios Hoffman Estates is most convenient to Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Elgin, Elk Grove Village, Des Plaines, Northbrook, Palatine, Rolling Meadows, and Mount Prospect.

To discuss your options and learn about our treatment options, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Infertility: What to Expect

infertility treatmentsYou’ve just gotten an infertility diagnosis from your doctor, and you probably have a wealth of questions. What does it mean? What can you do? What’s next? What kind of infertility treatments are available? Discover answers here.

Here, we’ll discuss what to expect following your diagnosis. First, we’ll define infertility as being unable to achieve pregnancy after one year if a woman is under 35 years of age, and after six months if a woman is over 35 years of age. Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile.

Don’t Panic!

Being diagnosed as infertile does not definitively mean that you will never have children. It only means that it can be more difficult or timely for you to do so. It’s important to keep in mind that human beings are the most inefficient mammals when it comes to reproduction. In any given month, a perfectly healthy couple (good eggs and sperm, a healthy uterus and open fallopian tubes) only has a 15-20% chance of conceiving.

But don’t give up hope!

Infertility Treatments

Many women don’t want to wait it out, especially older women. Whether you’re 35 or older, or if you’re simply ready to start exploring your options for infertility treatments sooner than later, there are many treatment options to choose from, ranging from basic to advanced ones. Basic treatments include:

  • Timed intercourse
  • Ovulation induction
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)

More advanced fertility options include:

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)
  • A frozen embryo transfer (FET)
  • Genetic testing (PGT)

The causes of infertility vary widely, so it’s important to consult a fertility specialist in order to narrow down which infertility treatments may be best for your situation.

Be Kind to Yourself!

It’s an emotionally taxing experience to struggle with pregnancy. There is nothing that can make you feel more alone, exhausted, frustrated, and all-around stressed out than trying to conceive without success. It is a disappointment that can’t be described unless you have experienced it. It’s normal to feel anxious during this trying time.

What Helps Along the Way?

Here are some coping mechanisms to help you through:

  • Journaling
  • Read inspiring success stories
  • Take turns carrying the burden with your partner
  • Talk about it. Seek support from those you trust.
  • Feel your feelings – you’re allowed to be frustrated and disappointed during the lows of trying to conceive. Let yourself be sad, and then pick yourself back up.
  • Focus on what you do have – like a spouse or family member who is willing to stand by you during this hardship.
  • Believe in the “impossible.”

Vios is Here to Support You Every Step of the Way!

Pregnancy isn’t always the journey you expected. Sometimes it takes longer than you’d hoped to get pregnant, especially if age or physical issues are factors. It is never too early to get a reproductive check-up. You should be empowered to ask questions and get answers sooner rather than later. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with getting checked out no matter where you are in the process of trying to conceive.

At Vios Fertility Institute, our mission is to help our patients find their way to fertility health and treatment with the highest chance of success by providing them with innovative, scientific, cutting-edge treatment options along with an unparalleled patient experience.

Fertility health, infertility treatments, and starting with a new medical practice all lead to many questions. We’ve compiled a list of the questions we get most frequently. Hopefully, these will help set your mind at ease. If you still have questions before you are ready to schedule an appointment or come in for your first appointment, just let us know. We are here to support you every step of the way!

If you still have questions, or if you’re ready to start getting some answers, schedule your consultation today!

Infertility Emotional Support: How to Find Emotional Balance

Infertility emotional supportDo you need infertility emotional support? It is normal to experience a wide variety of feelings and emotions during the pursuit of getting pregnant. At first there’s excitement and hope and even acceptance when it’s not happening for the first few months. Then, doubt, fear, frustration, anger, and sadness start to creep in as the months wear on without conceiving, or even worse – with the experience of a miscarriage.

Once the emotional rollercoaster turns into a state of constant stress, your chances of conception lower even more. We know it’s very challenging, that’s why we are here to offer infertility emotional support and recommend actions to help with your emotional wellness during your journey.

Common Emotions with Infertility

At Vios Fertility Institute, we understand how difficult dealing with infertility can be. All of our patients (and even some of us) have experienced the stress and fear that comes with the possibility of not being able to conceive when all you want to do is have a baby.

If you’re feeling any of the following emotions, we want you to know that it is okay to have these feelings and there is infertility emotional support help available to see you through this tough time.

  • Overwhelming stress
  • Frustration
  • Sadness
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Jealousy
  • Emotional (and physical) fatigue
  • Constant worrying
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Disappointment
  • Doubt
  • Hopelessness
  • Shame; feelings of failure
  • Depression
  • Feelings of isolation

Keep reading to learn how infertility emotional support can alleviate your emotional and spiritual concerns (which also help with physical well-being too!).

How to Find Emotional Balance

Finding emotional balance can be easier said than done, but it is imperative to creating a physical environment that helps you conceive and have a healthy pregnancy. Following these practical and calming recommendations can provide a more emotionally balanced journey.

1. Learn Your Options

One of the first things we recommend to ease your mind and put hope back into your days is learning about your fertility options from a fertility doctor. If you’ve been trying to conceive for six months to a year without success, speaking with a specialist about your options will alleviate worry and take a huge load of uncertainty off your shoulders.

You can research fertility options online all you want, but until you know your specific options based on your medical profile and history and the possible costs involved, it will be hard to put your mind at rest.

Often, couples avoid seeing a doctor because they assume fertility treatments automatically mean IVF and that they can’t afford treatment. There are many affordable options available long before we even consider IVF.

At Vios Fertility Institute, we hear it all the time, “We wish we had talked to you sooner!” There is palpable relief when our couples know they have help and a plan. And that relief lessens the stress, allowing for a more favorable environment for conception.

2. Communicate

Communication with your partner, friends, and family about how you’re feeling will go a long way to feeling less isolated, minimizing the self-doubt and self-blame that adds to your fear, and alleviating loneliness and frustration.

If you are sad, afraid, or hopeless, it’s important to tell someone and share that burden. You’re not “bothering” your partner or your best friend – when we love people, we want to be there for them and help them. Don’t be afraid to communicate.

If you’re feeling really low and unable to cope, we recommend seeing a therapist. There can be an amazing sense of relief when speaking with a professional who can give you coping mechanisms and objective emotional support.

3. Set Boundaries

It’s also important to set boundaries with everyone. Kindly ask those who continually ask about your pregnancy status to stop asking and giving advice. Let them know you appreciate their excitement and will share your news with them when you’re ready.

4. Find an Infertility Emotional Support Group

This option may not be for everyone, but it can be a tremendous comfort to have someone in a similar situation to talk to and share experiences with. Support groups can be found on social media, at church, or by searching online for a local group near you.

5. Acupuncture

If you have been trying to conceive, acupuncture may be helpful in nurturing and increasing the chance of conception during fertility treatments. Treatments can focus on a variety of issues that may be preventing conception, such as stress, immune system weaknesses, hormone imbalances, and more.

6. Emotional and Spiritual Activities

We know it’s easy to say, “Take time for yourself!” But finding 10-20 minutes a day to meditate, do yoga, take a walk, and just disconnect from the stimulus of our busy lives is vital to good emotional, spiritual, and physical health, and ultimately – conception. One way to ensure that you get “me-time” is to schedule it as if you would schedule a meeting or a doctor’s appointment.

Despite how it feels, it’s important not think about down-time as selfish or slacking – the most successful people in the world all schedule “me-time.” The goal is to calm the mind-chatter that never seems to stop and allow room for healing.

If you choose to walk, take deep breaths and concentrate on the world around you – the trees, the birds, the landscape or architecture – and try to stop thinking about work or having a baby.

At first, it’s really hard to stop the chatter but after many days of consistency, you will be able to push your thoughts to the side and say to yourself, “I’ll think about that in 20 minutes,” and revel in this precious time that gives your brain and your body a break.

If you wish to learn guided meditation, there are many wonderful apps that can ease you into it and help you learn how to let go, even if it’s for ten minutes at a time. And, this becomes very handy once you have that little bundle of joy!

Whether you’re sitting in a yoga pose officially meditating, taking a hot bath and reading a good book, or getting out in nature, the release for your brain and body is like having a clamp around your midsection removed allowing you to breathe again. Your hormones will benefit dramatically from this daily break, often creating little blips of joy and priming your body for the opportunity to conceive.

Resources & Support

Are you already starting to feel better? We’re certain that if you learn what your specific fertility options are and create a plan, keep communication open and set boundaries for those around you, connect with a support group or a friend going through the same thing, and take time daily to meditate and/or get a little exercise, your emotional state can improve and so will your chances of conceiving.

Our goal at Vios Fertility Institute is to provide resources and support to reduce the stress associated with the infertility journey from a medical, emotional, and financial perspective.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment and learn about your options so you can rest easy.

Fertility Preservation & Fertility Options After Cancer Diagnosis

fertility preservationRecently, I was thinking about Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I thought I would take a moment to answer some important questions when it comes to fertility after cancer and about fertility preservation.

Did you know that breast cancer is the most common cancer affecting women with 1 in 8 women developing breast cancer at some point in their lives? It is also the most common cancer among reproductive aged women with about 15% of breast cancer cases occurring before the age of 40. Given how common breast cancer is, it is very likely that you or someone you know will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point. As a fertility doctor, whenever I hear “cancer,” I always think about life AFTER cancer as up to 91% of women diagnosed with breast cancer are still alive at 5 years. (1)

How does chemotherapy affect fertility?

Well, it depends on the kind of chemotherapy being used. In general, the most common chemotherapies used for breast cancer age the ovaries by about 10 years. The earlier you are when you start the chemotherapy, the more likely you will be able to conceive after chemotherapy, but there is no guarantee. The BEST option to ensure future fertility is to freeze eggs or embryos for use later which is called fertility preservation.

How long does fertility preservation take?

At Vios, we make oncofertility patients a priority and will make sure any cancer patient can get in to see a Vios provider within 24-48 hours. After the initial consult, we can usually start the process growing eggs to freeze or fertilize within 1-2 days of seeing a patient and finish the process in as soon as 2 weeks. We understand the importance of moving forward with cancer treatment as quickly as possible, so we do everything in our power to minimize the delay before moving through with treatment.

What is involved in fertility perservation?

Preserving fertility for the future involves freezing either eggs or embryos for use later through the process of IVF or in vitro fertilization. In a normal menstrual cycle, women start to grow numerous eggs each month and 1 or maybe 2 eggs grow bigger than the rest and are chosen to be ovulated. When we do IVF, we try to get as many eggs as possible to grow and we take them out of the body just before ovulation.

To get the eggs to grow, we give medications called gonadotropins in the form of injections in the belly. There are usually multiple injections a day for about 2 weeks until the eggs get to the point where they are ready to be taken out of the body. An egg retrieval is done under anesthesia (so you are asleep) using a vaginal ultrasound probe with a tiny needle attached. The needle goes through the wall of the vagina and directly into the ovary, so you will not notice any incisions when you wake up. The eggs are floating in fluid in the ovary so we remove the fluid with the needle and give the fluid to the embryologist who identifies the eggs under the microscope.

If we are planning on freezing eggs, we do so within hours of the retrieval. If we are planning to make embryos, we use sperm from the patient’s partner or a sperm donor to attempt to fertilize the eggs. We find out how many eggs fertilized the day after the retrieval and we watch the eggs that do fertilize (now called embryos) for up to 7 days to see if they can make it to become a blastocyst which is the stage where we freeze the embryos. An embryo that makes it to the blastocyst stage has the best chance of becoming a baby, but is not a guarantee of a baby.

Some women/couples choose to do genetic testing of the embryos to see if the embryos have normal chromosomes which further increases the chance the embryo will be a baby, but still does not guarantee success.

What is the difference between freezing eggs and freezing embryos?

When we are doing an egg retrieval, we have the option of removing eggs and freezing them immediately or attempting fertilization and creating embryos. If eggs are frozen, they will need to be fertilized in the future before they can become an embryo and then a baby. In order to fertilize eggs, we need to have a sperm source.

Whenever a retrieval is done, we get a certain number of eggs, but not every egg that is retrieved is a good egg. We can only work with mature eggs. Of the eggs that are mature, we expect about 70% of them to fertilize and about 50% of those eggs that fertilize to make it to the blastocyst stage where the embryo can be frozen or transferred. At each stage in the process, you lose quantity, but gain quality.

When you freeze eggs, we expect about 90% of the eggs to survive when we thaw them. After thaw, we still expect around 65-70% to fertilize and 50% to make it to the blastocyst stage. Now, those numbers are averages and you never know how many embryos are going to make it to become a blastocyst until you attempt to fertilize them. It is recommended that a woman freeze 15-20 eggs for each child that she desires (again averages).

On the other hand, when we fertilize the eggs immediately after retrieval and create embryos, we will know how many eggs fertilize, how many made it to the blastocyst stage, and the quality of those embryos which allows us to predict much better the chances those embryos could become babies. While you may need 15-20 eggs for a good chance of a baby, you might only need 2-3 embryos if they are good quality embryos. Embryos also survive the freezing and thawing process a little better than eggs and it is expected that 95% of embryos frozen will survive.

If a woman has a partner with whom she would like to create embryos, it is generally recommended to create and freeze embryos rather than eggs because we will know up front if the eggs fertilized normally and have a better idea of the chance of pregnancy in the future

I have a lot of expenses right now, how much will this cost?

For many women/couples who are interested in infertility treatment, they have time to save up funds in order to pay for the treatment, but this is not usually the case with cancer patients. Moving forward with fertility preservation usually needs to happen rapidly so that cancer treatment is not delayed. Fortunately, there are many programs available to help with the costs. LIVESTRONG and EMD Serono both have programs to help cancer patients obtain fertility medications for FREE. These programs do require an application and verification of the cancer diagnosis, but the applications are processed quickly and do not require too many hoops to jump through. Those programs may not cover all the medications needed for fertility preservation, but they do cover most of them.

At Vios Fertility Institute, we offer deeply discounted fertility preservation treatments. Our financial team can also work with patients on payment plans or loan options depending on the situation. We do not want cost to be the reason someone chooses not to pursue fertility preservation.

Can I just do IVF or fertility treatments after I have my cancer treated?

You can absolutely pursue fertility treatment after cancer treatment, but because the cancer treatment can age the ovaries, you may be less likely to have success if you wait until after the cancer is treated. It is impossible to know for sure how much your fertility will be impacted by cancer treatment. Some women are able to conceive spontaneously after treatment, but others, even those who were very young when they had treatment, may never be able to have genetic children even with aggressive fertility treatment.

There is Hope and Help for Fertility Preservation

If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with cancer and has any desire to have a child or children in the future, I encourage a consultation with a fertility specialist BEFORE cancer treatment. You are under no obligation to pursue any kind of fertility preservation treatment, but a fertility specialist can make sure that you have all the information you need to make the best choice for you.

To schedule an appointment at Vios Fertility Institute, you can call 866.258.8467 or reach us on our website at viosfertility.com.

References

  1. Effects of chemotherapy and hormonal therapy for early breast cancer on recurrence and 15-year survival: an overview of the randomized trials. Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group (EBCTCG). 2005, Lancet, pp. 365:1687-717.