Category: Female Fertility

Nutrition and Fertility

pregnancy dietIf you are currently trying to get pregnant or planning to try for pregnancy in the next several months, it’s time to start thinking about your nutrition. A healthy pregnancy diet can improve your chance for pregnancy as well as shorten the time it takes to get pregnant.

Importance of Body Mass Index

By now we have all heard that having a normal body mass index, or BMI, gives you your best chance for getting pregnant and your lowest risk for miscarriage. What you may not know is that regardless of your BMI, making healthy dietary changes can still have a very beneficial effect.

Standard American Diet

Unfortunately, most Americans eat what is called the Standard American Diet that includes high amounts of meat, dairy products, and processed foods while consuming too few fruits, vegetables, and whole grain carbohydrates. Over time, this type of diet and can lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body that is thought to be the starting point for many diseases. The Standard American Diet has led to not only obesity, cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes, but can also contribute to fertility problems in men and women.

Choosing the Best Pregnancy Diet Food

There are a few simple changes that you can make that can start you on the path to better health and improved fertility.

  • Increase your consumption of whole grains like whole wheat bread, quinoa, and brown rice
  • Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate and try to mix it up so you get a wide variety of colorful food for maximum phytonutrients
  • Try to get most of your daily protein from vegetables (yes, veggies have protein!) or low mercury-containing fish rather than from meat and dairy
  • Avoid processed foods and choose healthy snacks like nuts instead
  • Limit refined sugar and simple carbohydrates like white rice and white flour
  • Eliminate sugary beverages! This includes soda, sweetened tea or coffee drinks, and juices
  • If you’re craving a treat, 2 small squares of dark chocolate per day is good for you!

Prenatal Vitamins

Now of course one final thing to mention is the importance of starting a prenatal vitamin a few weeks before you conceive. Starting your vitamin early means that you will have the best chance for adequate folic acid levels to reduce the risk for certain birth defects that can start developing before you even know you’re pregnant.

Check my Instagram discussion of fertility nutrition and wellness @healthyfertilitymd

Common Causes of Infertility

causes of infertilityAccording to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine, infertility is defined as the inability of a sexually active couple who are not using birth control to get pregnant after one year of trying, and for women who are 35 or older, that window shortens to 6 months. Causes of infertility can be due to the woman, the man, by both the woman and man, or due to unknown problems.

Out of the 15% of couples that have trouble getting pregnant, female infertility affects about 10% of women of reproductive age and approximately 7% of all men.

Common Causes of Infertility in Women

The most common cause of infertility in women is due to ovulation disorders, accounting for about 1 in 4 infertile couples. Every month during the female menstrual cycle, an egg is released from the ovaries into the fallopian tubes in a process called ovulation. Prior to being released, follicles – each containing an immature egg – in the ovaries must grow and develop into mature eggs. While a woman’s body has many immature follicles, each month only one becomes the dominant follicle that matures and is released during ovulation. For conception to be achieved, ovulation must occur.

If you have an ovulation disorder, you may have irregular or absent menstrual periods, meaning there is no egg (or an immature egg) available to be fertilized.

PCOS

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is the most common cause of infertility in women and is responsible for 70% of infertility issues in women who have difficulty ovulating. The condition is caused by problems with the regulation of reproductive hormones that results in a series of small cysts on the ovaries. PCOS is defined by an erratic menstrual cycle, meaning your periods can be irregular or even no period at all for a few months at a time. According to the PCOS Foundation, 10 percent of women of childbearing age are affected, but less than half are diagnosed.

The ovulation-inducing oral medications clomiphene citrate (also known as clomid) and letrozole are the principal treatments used to promote ovulation. For women not responsive to these medications, even with diet and lifestyle modification, there are additional treatment options available such as stimulating the ovaries to produce eggs with follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) injections followed by an intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).

POI

Problems in the ovary can also cause ovulation disorders, such as with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), in which a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before she is 40. It’s less common than PCOS, affecting 1 in 100 women younger than 40, and the main cause is from hormonal imbalances. The first sign of POI is usually menstrual irregularities or missed periods. Additionally, some women with POI have symptoms like those experienced by women who are going through natural menopause.

For patients diagnosed with POI, the most common fertility treatment includes donor eggs. For young patients who are beginning to experience the symptoms of POI, fertility preservation may be an option.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a disorder where uterine lining tissue develops outside of the uterus on the pelvic organs. The uterine lining continues to function like it would in the uterus by thickening and breaking down with each menstrual cycle. However, this displaced tissue has no way to exit your body which leads to pain, adhesions, and scarring. Endometriosis can affect the fallopian tubes, ovaries and other pelvic tissue which can affect your chances of conceiving. This can also disrupt the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.

For women with endometriosis, there are different treatment options based on the severity of their disorder. It is also important to note that endometriosis may worsen with time and a consultation with a fertility specialist at a younger age can help guide the patient on their chances of success as they age.

Common Causes of Infertility in Men

Causes of infertility in men is usually due to deficiencies in the semen, such as low sperm production, abnormal sperm function or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. The following are some common male fertility conditions:

  • Varicocele – The most common (and reversible!) cause of male infertility is varicocele – a condition of swollen testicle veins that is present in about 15% of all men and in about 40% of infertile men.
  • Klinefelter Syndrome – a chromosomal defect that occurs in males early in the womb that results in smaller testes which reduces the levels of testosterone and sperm production that naturally occurs.
  • Immune infertility related to antisperm antibodies – when the immune system mistakes sperm for a harmful intruder cell and tries to destroy them is considered the cause of infertility in roughly about 20% of infertile couples.

There are several ways in which a male’s sperm production can be considered abnormal, the most common being:

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

While published statistics tend to focus on the woman, it is important to note that male infertility diagnoses are just as common. In most cases, there is no obvious sign that a man is infertile without testing.

Unexplained Causes

Approximately 1 in 4 fertility challenged couples will be told there is no explanation for why they can’t conceive. It may be important to note, however, that in many cases, the odds of conceiving on your own may be higher than it is for most infertility diagnoses.

At Vios Fertility, Conception is Our Life

At Vios, we are here to make your dreams of parenthood come true. Not being able to conceive a child can be stressful and frustrating, but a number of infertility diagnostic tests and treatments are available. We work with you to show you your chances of success utilizing different treatment plans based on your specific medical situation. During your consultation, we will discuss your goals for family building, your medical history, and review needed fertility testing to determine the best treatment path for you.

To understand your specific options concerning fertility diagnosis and treatment paths, schedule a consultation today.

Am I Fertile?

Fertility and Ovulation

fertileFertility is defined by the ability of a woman to conceive and bear children through normal sexual activity. Ovulation, on the other hand, refers to the actual day in a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible and occurs when hormone changes trigger an ovary to release an egg. A woman’s fertile window varies but is generally the day an egg is released from the ovary (ovulation) and the five days beforehand.

So, how do you know if you are fertile? The odds are with you because only about 12% of women have trouble getting or staying pregnant, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. However, it can be hard to know your fertility until you try to conceive. Here are some things that can give insight into your fertility health:

  • Your age – a woman’s fertility declines with age. Fertility is at it’s peak when we’re young adults with average fertility declines starting in the mid-30s and ending with menopause.
  • Regular menstrual cycles – show hormones are in sync and you are ovulating.
  • Healthy teeth and gums – research show those with gum disease take longer to conceive and good dental health reduces risk of miscarriage.
  • Pelvic pain – long heavy, painful periods or pelvic pain could be a sign of fibroids or endometriosis which can affect your ability to conceive. Pelvic trauma or past surgeries can also affect fertility.
  • Unchecked STDs – pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a byproduct of certain STDs, can damage your reproductive organs and increase your risk of infertility. Practice safe sex, and if you think you have an STD, see your doctor right away for treatment.
  • Healthy lifestyle – eat a healthy diet, get good exercise, lower stress, don’t smoke, and limit alcohol intake to help improve your fertility.
  • Healthy weight – a body mass index (BMI) that is too low can cause ovulation to stop as the body tries to conserve energy. A BMI that is too high can disrupt hormone levels. Insulin resistance can inhibit ovulation and affect egg quality as well as embryo/fetus development. A healthy BMI range is from 20-24.

Also, knowing about ovulation and the changes in a woman’s body will give clues about the best time to conceive. Here’s how you can recognize the signs that can indicate when you’re ovulating:

  • Cervical mucus – More estrogen causes cervical mucus to become stretchy and clear, like egg whites. This helps sperm survive and swim. After ovulation, cervical mucus becomes stickier and thicker.
  • Abdominal pain – A mild ache or pain in the lower abdomen that comes on suddenly, usually on the side of the ovary releasing the egg, called Mittelschmerz. This can occur just before ovulation when follicle growth stretches the ovary or when the follicle ruptures and the egg is ovulated.
  • Breast soreness/tenderness – This usually begins around ovulation and is caused by the rush of hormones.
  • Light spotting or discharge.
  • Increased sex drive

Some women find it helpful to use a fertility calendar to track their fertile days and ovulation. We recommend Glow, Fertility Friend, or Clue, apps for fertility and more. Other tracking tools are over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits like those made by Clearblue. These kits are designed to detect increased hormone levels in urine and signal when you’re most fertile.

Let’s Talk About Infertility

What is infertility? Infertility affects about 10% of women aged 15 to 44 and is defined as the inability of a sexually active couple who are not using birth control to get pregnant after one year of trying, according to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

For women who are younger than 35 and aren’t pregnant in a year or for women who are 35 or older and aren’t pregnant in 6 months, plan to see a fertility specialist. Around 85% of couples who are trying will be pregnant within a year, so if you can’t get pregnant now, it could be a sign that something medical is preventing you from conceiving and you may need extra help to achieve your goals of a family.

Of all cases, infertility can be due to the woman (33%), the man (33%), by both sexes, and due to unknown problems (33%), approximately.

The best way to know if your fertile is to get a fertility checkup to check your hormone levels and egg health.

At Vios, Conception is Our Life

Just as each individual is unique, the same is true of their fertility.  During your consultation, we will discuss your goals for family building, your medical history, and review needed fertility testing to determine the best treatment path for you.

To understand your specific options concerning fertility diagnosis and treatment paths, schedule a consultation today.

How Does Age Affect A Woman’s Ability to have a Baby?

Age and Fertility

age and fertilityWhen you are trying to conceive, it can be daunting to look at the charts that indicate your chances of getting pregnant in your 20s, 30s, and so on. But how do age and fertility go together to really affect a woman’s ability to have a baby?

“Your biological clock is ticking” is an unwelcome statement most women have heard at some point during their life. Unfortunately, your ticking clock is based on clear data and time will run out. However, just how much one’s chances fall as one ages can be unexpected. The undeniable truth is that age is the most significant factor that affects a woman’s fertility and chance to have a healthy baby, and it affects men too!

Best Years

A woman’s best, physical reproductive years are in her 20s. During this time, she has a 25-30% chance of getting pregnant each month. Even though the 20s are prime time for a woman’s body, that isn’t always the case when it comes to being ready to have a child. In fact, an increasing number of women are choosing to wait to have children.

In fact, when the Centers for Disease Control studied birth rates in 2016, they found that “rates for older women continued to rise, resulting in a higher birth rate for women aged 30–34 than for women aged 25–29 for the first time since 1940 when the data became available.”

Even though, most women reach peak fertility between the ages of 23 and 31, your chances of conceiving in your early 30s are only slightly lower than in your late 20s.

So, while a woman’s fertility starts to decline in her early 30s, that decline doesn’t start impacting most women until it begins to speed up after age 35. That means there is a big difference in try to conceive in your early 30s compared to your late 30s.

The Dreaded Decline

It’s a pretty well-known fact that age 35 is a significant milestone for women when it comes to fertility and starting or growing your family. By age 40, the chance of getting pregnant every month drops from 25-30% in your 20s down to just 5% every month, with about 25% of women over 35 experiencing difficulties becoming pregnant.

What Aging Does to The Body’s Reproductive System

For women, the number of eggs you’re born with are all the eggs you get. That set number of eggs age with you throughout your lifetime and decrease in quality and total amount over time. A newborn baby girl is born with 1 to 2 million eggs and by puberty, that number goes down to about 250,000-500,000 eggs. By early to mid-30s, a woman has around 25,000 eggs left. Just as leading a healthy lifestyle can slow the decline of egg quality, bad habits can age eggs faster. Unfortunately, you can’t reverse the damage once it’s been done.

As men get older, it is a decline in testosterone that affects fertility. Male fertility generally starts to decline around age 40 to 45 years of age. The volume, quickness (motility), and overall quality of the sperm declines as men age. While the decline of male fertility is subtler, it still presents increased risks for the health of the child.

Chance of Conception Decreases While Risks Increase

It’s important to understand the increased complications of advanced maternal age and be as proactive in addressing and mitigating these risks the best way possible. We know aging reduces the overall chances of pregnancy and increases time to pregnancy (how many cycles it takes to conceive), but aging on both the man and woman’s parts can negatively affect your pregnancy and the baby’s health.

Genetic abnormalities increase as the age of the parents rises, leading to a higher chance of miscarriage as well as pregnancy-related complications like an increased risk for an ectopic pregnancy. The rates of gestational diabetes, and high blood pressure. Furthermore, c-sections also increase for those over 35 compared with mothers in their 20s. Additionally, complications for the baby, including preterm birth, poor fetal growth, low birth weight, and neonatal mortality increase with advanced maternal age. Most significantly for aging men, fathers aged 40 or over are at increased risk of having children with mental health and developmental disorders.

Understanding YOUR SPECIFIC Risks

While this all may sound scary, it is important to note every couple is different. Try to keep in mind that most healthy women over the age of 35 have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. A consultation with a board-certified OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist (REI) will help you understand your specific risk factors based on a comprehensive overview of your medical history and overall health as a couple. Your physician can also review additional steps (like lifestyle changes) or tests (like genetic testing) that can be done to increase your overall chances for a successful outcome.

Ready or Not, You Have Choices

As with all things pregnancy-related, fertility is different for each individual woman, but experts say that women age 35 and older need to get serious if they want to have children and especially if they want more than just one child.

If you aren’t ready for children as you approach that 35-year milestone, you do have options if you still want children one day. Some women choose to freeze their eggs. This option literally freezes the eggs at the age the woman is at retrieval. With egg freezing you can pursue other goals without giving up your dreams of parenthood! While there are more options available the younger a woman is, women over 35 still have choices about building a family. A consultation with a fertility expert can give you more information on options that might be the right fit.

Help If You Need It – Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

Our mission, at Vios Fertility Institute, 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.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment,  and we can discuss options for achieving your ideal family!

Stress and Trying to Conceive

stress and trying to conceiveStress and infertility don’t go hand in hand, but stress can make it more difficult to conceive and even affects men too! So, what is it about stress and trying to conceive?

Having a hard time getting pregnant can be a real stress itself. While staying calm and letting nature take its course is much easier said than done, there’s certainly some truth to it.

Stress Triggers Hormone Production

While the exact link between fertility and stress remain a bit of a mystery, many doctors believe hormones like cortisol or epinephrine that flood the body during stress could play an important role.

What we do know is that stress can affect a part of your brain called the hypothalamus, which regulates your hormones, including the hormones required to release your eggs. Not just you either – it regulates your partner’s testosterone levels, too. So, the real issue is that stress can delay your ovulation AND if your partner is experiencing stress too, it can weaken his sperm.

Doctors may not know the exact links between stress and trying to conceive, but growing research shows that a connection is hard to ignore.

Some studies have found that when stress-reduction techniques were used, some women were able to get pregnant when they couldn’t get pregnant before. Other studies point to the idea that stress (and sometimes “trying too hard”) may play a role in up to 30% of all infertility problems. Additionally, some studies indicate that it’s possible that reducing stress may help enhance proteins within the uterine lining that are involved in implantation and may also increase blood flow to the uterus, which also affects conception.

Signs You May Be Stressed

If you’re trying to conceive and you’re under stress, your cervical mucus may indicate that something’s not right. As you approach ovulation, you would typically have an increase in cervical fluid wetness. However, during times of stress, you may find that typical wetness is disrupted by days of dryness interspersed throughout – almost as if your body is trying to ovulate but is getting thrown off by the stress that is delaying ovulation.

Different Kinds of Stress

It can be important to note that there is a considerable difference between constant and sudden stress. Your body can adapt to high, but consistent, stress levels. Once your body acclimates to consistent stresses, you will likely still ovulate each cycle. Sudden stress on the other hand, like a car wreck or an unexpected death in the family, is much more likely to interfere with your cycle and delay ovulation.

Everyone is Different

Of course, every woman’s experience with stress and fertility is unique. Some women find that the stress of going on a week-long vacation is enough to delay ovulation. Others have found that a severely traumatic incident like a close death didn’t impact their cycle at all. Some women found that positive stress, like that from planning a wedding, was enough to throw off their cycle. You’ve heard it all before, but everyone is different, and the reasons behind how or why stress impacts fertility may also be very individual.

Work Out What Is Stressing You and Make Positive Changes

Try making changes in your life so that you feel more relaxed and pick up healthy habits that help to reduce stress. Start by making little changes, like meditating or doing yoga for 5 minutes on Monday and work your way up to 30 minutes by the weekend. Give acupuncture a try. Eating healthy is always a given, as is exercising (even a short walk counts). Start keeping a journal. Even take a break if you need to.

Check out apps like Expectful Meditation that offer guided meditation for your fertility, pregnancy, and motherhood journey.

The Good News

The good news is that stress should not prevent you from getting pregnant, it just complicates things and makes it more difficult for some women. If you’re having sex every two to three days throughout your cycle, stress-induced delays to ovulation should not stop you from conceiving. A delayed ovulation simply lengthens your entire cycle.

You can confirm whether you have ovulated by tracking your basal body temperature. You should see a sustained rise about a day after ovulation, indicating the onset of your luteal phase, which lasts until the start of your next menstrual period.

Help If You Need It – Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

Everyone’s fertility journey is different. At Vios, our team approach focuses on helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality. If stress-reduction techniques don’t appear to be helping you conceive, it may be time to seek help.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment. With Vios on your side, we can help you find out if there are other reasons you may not be ovulating and recommend treatment options.

What Sexual Positions Are Best for Getting Pregnant?

A Conception Misconception

best positions for conceptionAccording to the experts, there’re not best positions for conception. In fact, different sex positions aren’t going to make much difference when you’re trying to conceive. Sperm typically reaches its target no matter the position. So just stick with what feels best for you and your partner!

Side Note About the Female Orgasm. Although mutual pleasure is important to a healthy sexual relationship, there is no evidence that the female must have an orgasm to conceive. Gentle contractions in the womb can help to move the sperm along, up into the cervix, but these happen with or without the female orgasm.

Real Advice for Getting Pregnant

Looking outside the best positions for conception, to optimize a woman’s fertility, nothing is better than a healthy lifestyle. Forming healthy habits before conceiving is a key to improving pregnancy and birth outcomes, while also increasing your chances of getting pregnant. But what else can women do to improve their odds of having a baby?

Timing is Everything: Ovulation Calculation

Ovulation refers to the days in a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible and is sometimes referred to as the “fertile window.” As with all things pregnancy-related, this varies from woman to woman and depends on the length of the menstrual cycle.

If you know your average menstrual cycle length, you can work out when you ovulate. Ovulation happens about 14 days before your period starts.

For example, if your average menstrual cycle is 28 days, you ovulate around day 14, and your most fertile days are cycle days 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14. Your egg can only be fertilized for up to 24 hours after ovulation. If it isn’t fertilized, the lining of the womb is shed along with the egg and your period begins, marking the start of the next menstrual cycle.

A Sexy Schedule

It’s important to note that research indicates that a lot of women (even ones that use ovulation tracking apps) tend to guess when they’re ovulating incorrectly. For this reason, it is recommended to have sex every other day during the fertile window. And having sex more than that won’t hurt your chances. Because sperm can live for up to 5 days after being ejaculated into a woman’s body, you can actually get pregnant from having sex before you ovulate. That’s why it’s possible to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex while menstruating. If you ovulate shortly after you finish your period, the sperm may still be alive and can fertilize the egg.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Reaching a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, creating and sticking to an exercise routine that works for you, and kicking bad habits before pregnancy can reduce or may even eliminate the risks of some birth defects that occur early in pregnancy. For more info, check out our blog article on Natural Ways to Increase Fertility.

Symptoms of Infertility & When to Seek Help

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive within 12 months if you are under 35 and the inability to conceive within 6 months if you are over 35. Extensive research shows that most couples (about 85%) will achieve pregnancy within one year of trying. Only an additional 7% of couples will conceive in the second year. That’s why we generally recommend seeking the help of a reproductive endocrinologist as early as possible.

Additionally, there are various scenarios when we recommend a fertility evaluation regardless of how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant:

  • Infrequent or absent menstrual periods
  • A history of pelvic infection or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Surgeries on the reproductive organs
  • Known uterine fibroids or endometrial polyps
  • Known male factor semen abnormalities
  • Problems with erection or ejaculation
  • Male partner undergoing testosterone treatment
  • Repeated pregnancy loss or miscarriage
  • Family history of genetic disease
  • Female partner approaching her mid-thirties and wants to multiple children

Help If You Need It – Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system that affects the body’s ability to reproduce. If you are unsure or think something might be wrong, come in for simple fertility testing to get a “pulse” or baseline of your fertility health. After all, knowledge is power!

While each patient is different, an initial workup includes blood work, an ultrasound to measure eggs (or ovarian reserve), and a semen analysis. Some additional test can be included, depending on a patient’s specific history.

At Vios, our team approach is to educate and bring awareness to your fertility health while helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment, discuss your options, and take control of your fertility health.

Getting My Body Ready for Pregnancy

getting ready for pregnancyWe all know that trying to keep healthy during pregnancy is important, but women’s health in the months (and even years!) before they become pregnant can have an impact on their health during pregnancy and fetal development.

Forming healthy habits before conceiving is a great way to improve pregnancy and birth outcomes, while also increasing your chances of getting pregnant. We’ve made a list of 5 things you can do to help prep your body for being pregnant. The sooner you start practicing a healthier lifestyle and kick those bad habits, the better it is for you, your pregnancy, and your baby.

#1 Diet

If you think being pregnant means nine months of unlimited cheat days, we’re sorry to disappoint! Studies show that many women’s diets are typically high in refined grains and sugars but lack important nutrients such as magnesium, folic acid, iron, iodine, and vitamin D. In fact, the intake levels for these important nutrients for the majority of women of reproductive age were below daily recommendations for pregnancy.

Research shows obesity and poor nutrition can increase the risk of pregnancy complications such as:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Pre-eclampsia

What helps? Research shows women with a healthy, balanced diet in the years leading up to pregnancy are less likely to suffer from the complications above.

Diet Influences Body Weight & Nutrition

Eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients is essential for both a healthy mom and a healthy baby.

Try limiting your intake of sugars, enriched grains, and red and processed meat while also increasing your intake of these healthy foods to balance your diet:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Legumes and nuts
  • Fish lower in mercury like salmon, tilapia, and cod

Additionally, taking folic acid supplements in the 2 to 3 months before and after conception can greatly reduce the risk of defects in the brain, spine, and spinal cord (with spina bifida being the most common). Because of this, folic acid supplements are part of established guidelines for women planning to have children.

#2 Exercise

If you’ve already begun planning your family, it’s also time to start working on your fitness routine. Take advantage of the protective role physical activity plays for women and their babies and cut your risk of pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes by incorporating the recommended levels of exercise into your lifestyle.

You don’t have to turn yourself into a fitness fanatic to glean the benefits of a healthy exercise routine – just 4 hours of low to moderate levels of exercise a week is enough to lower the risk of gestational diabetes. Another study indicated that you only have to meet the standard recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week can lower the risk of gestational diabetes by more than 20 percent – that’s only 2 and a half hours weekly!

Keep in mind that too much body fat (more than 28%), as well as too little (15-18%), can impair your ability to get pregnant. Too much fat produces too much insulin along with a host of other hormonal and stress-induced negative effects on your body. Losing just 5-10 pounds can make a difference. Too little body fat can inhibit ovulation.

#3 Hydration

While adequate hydration is especially important during and after pregnancy, it is also a good idea that women establish healthy hydration habits before pregnancy, as pregnant women have different hydration needs compared to non-pregnant women. According to the Mayo Clinic, women should consume about 10 cups of water each day during pregnancy to meet the increased demands of your baby.

If you find it hard to meet your daily water quota, try fruit and herb flavor-infused water for variety and to keep your taste buds interested. Some tasty flavors include mint, lime, cherry, strawberry, watermelon, and more.

#4 Rest & Relaxation

Doctors may not know the exact links between stress and fertility, but growing research shows that a connection is hard to ignore. Some studies have found that when stress-reduction techniques were used, some women were able to get pregnant when they couldn’t get pregnant before.

Although research on whether stress reduces your chances for success is inconclusive, studies have shown that stress does affect the dropout rate from fertility treatment. Most patients enter treatment feeling stressed, and those who continue to feel stressed tend to give up sooner.

Getting a full night’s rest is one of the best ways to control stress levels. Achieving a full 8 hours can be hard, but tracking your sleep habits and making sure you go to bed and wake up at consistently the same time is a great start. Finding a relaxation technique that works for you, such as exercise, yoga, acupuncture, family support, or psychological counseling, can help women get their stress levels under control.

#5 No Smoking, Drug Use, or Alcohol Consumption

It’s a well-known fact that smoking and high alcohol consumption are bad for you, but they both also make conception harder to achieve. Giving up cigarettes, vaping, and marijuana before you start trying to conceive is a great way to put you and your baby on the right track for a healthy life.

Most women don’t realize they are pregnant for several weeks – hence why cutting alcohol consumption from your diet before you try to get pregnant is ideal.  Additionally, some studies have revealed that women who drank between 1 and 5 alcoholic beverages when trying to conceive for the first time were considerably less likely to conceive within 6 months compared to women who consumed no alcohol.

Lastly, if you’re taking a prescription drug, let your doctor know right away. Before trying to get pregnant you must stop taking all Class D or X drugs.

Get a Head Start Today

Women need time to reach health or lifestyle objectives well before conception. Reaching a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, creating and sticking to an exercise routine that works for you, and kicking bad habits before pregnancy can reduce or may even eliminate the risks of some birth defects that occur early in pregnancy. The fetus is most vulnerable during the first trimester of pregnancy, so starting your pregnancy on a healthy foot increases your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Help If You Need It – Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

Everyone’s fertility journey is different. If the you’re less than 35 years old and you have been trying for 12 months, or if you’re older than 35 years old and you have been trying for 6 months, it may be time to seek help.

At Vios, our team approach is to educate and bring awareness to your fertility health while helping you navigate the journey and make your dreams of parenthood a reality. We believe that by understanding how your body works and your future goals for family building at a younger age, women and men can take control of their fertility health.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Understanding the Risk of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

ovarian hyperstimulation syndromeAre you experiencing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome with fertility treatment? As with any medicine or medical treatment, fertility medication comes with its own set of side effects that vary from person to person. In most cases, they’re on the minor side – issues like bloating, headaches, and mood swings, which are understandably uncomfortable, but nothing worse than what you’ve experienced around your period.

But in some cases, particularly with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), the side effects can be severe, putting your overall health at risk. OHSS, which occurs when medication overstimulates and enlarges your ovaries, requires monitoring by your physician to ensure symptoms don’t get worse and to relieve you of any pain and discomfort you may be experiencing.

While ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome sounds scary, there’s no reason to panic! Only 10% of patients experience OHSS, and in most cases, the symptoms are mild. Your physician will go over all the details of OHSS and monitor you from day one to reduce your risk. But doing a little research first on your own can help you prepare for the unexpected.

What is OHSS and What Are the Symptoms?

Fertility drugs like gonadotropins were developed to stimulate your ovaries in order to produce an egg. But sometimes they can do too good of a job. Overstimulation can lead to ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, causing the ovaries to swell and fluids to leak into the belly and chest. If you get OHSS, you may notice one or more symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Decreased urination
  • Problems breathing
  • Bloating and abdominal comfort
  • Nausea or vomiting

In severe cases, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome can lead to blood clots, kidney dysfunction, twisting of an ovary, fluid collections in the chest, stroke, and rarely death. But again, severe instances are uncommon with only one percent of OHSS patients requiring hospitalization or invasive treatment.

Women who have a low body weight, have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or have an excessive number of ovarian follicles develop are at a higher risk of developing OHSS.

What Happens When You’re Diagnosed with OHSS?

ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome symptoms appear a few days after ovulation is triggered and usually go away within a week or two unless  pregnancy occurs. If you do become pregnant, you can expect your symptoms to stick around for a few more weeks until they resolve on their own.

OHSS requires close monitoring by your medical team, which can include ultrasounds, blood tests and medical evaluations. If symptoms become too severe, certain medications can help treat the condition. If OHSS doesn’t resolve or becomes worse, treatment cycle will need to be canceled to protect the health of mom and her future baby.

How is OHSS Treated?

There’s no cure for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. The best way to alleviate the symptoms is good old rest and plenty of salty snacks. Before taking any of the following steps, it’s important to get clearance from your physician first:

  • This is one time where you can lose the eight glasses a day of water rule. Stock up on fluids with electrolytes and salt, such as Gatorade and V8, and salty foods like tomato soup, pretzels and (yes!) potato chips.
  • In addition to drinking plenty of fluids, eat raw fruits and vegetables and high-fiber cereals to avoid constipation.
  • Avoid bed rest during the day and do some light physical activity, such as taking a slow walk. Pass up activities like running or jumping, don’t lift anything over five pounds, and keep kids and pets from pushing on your stomach.
  • Maintain pelvic rest and skip out on sex for now. If you end up in the emergency room for any reason, do not allow anyone to perform a pelvic exam before talking to your physician first.
  • Keep an eye out for signs of severe OHSS, including extreme bloating, reduced or dark urine, constipation lasting three or more days, nausea and/or vomiting, shortness of breath, and pelvic pain.

The journey to become pregnant doesn’t always offer the easiest path. During your care, you may experience a variety of side effects along the way you can’t always control, but can possibly monitor and treat. To help prevent ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, be sure to follow all of your physician’s instructions and let them know right away if anything feels “off” once your medication kicks into action.

Ready for Help with Fertility?

If you still have questions, we are here to help and take away the uncertainty and stress that can make daily life challenging when you want a baby and it’s not happening. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Why Can’t I Get Pregnant Now?

get pregnant now

If you and your partner have been trying to conceive and feel frustrated and confused about you can’t get pregnant now, we’re here to help ease your stress by sharing valid medical information and helpful tips. We want you to know our family of fertility doctors is here for you if you need us.

If you’re panicking and asking yourself, “Why can’t I get pregnant now?” there are several factors that may give you some peace of mind. One is that even when both partners are young and healthy it’s not always easy to conceive.

There is a common misconception that it’s easy for women to get pregnant on the first or second try, and that is not the case. It takes the average couple six months to a year to get pregnant.

When to Seek Help

If the female partner is less than 35 years old and you have been trying for 12 months, or if she is greater than 35 years old and you have been trying for 6 months, or if there is reason to suspect an issue with ovulation, fallopian tubes/uterus, or sperm, it is recommended you seek a fertility evaluation. When seeking a fertility consultation, first, take a deep breath and know that there is hope – there are plenty of avenues to pursue in your quest to build your family. You are not alone on this journey.

Approximately 7.4 million women in the U.S. experience infertility. While published statistics tend to focus on women’s infertility, it is important to note that infertility diagnoses are split evenly between men and women.

Most Common Reasons for Infertility

Let’s examine the most common reasons behind why you may be having trouble getting pregnant. As you will see, many of these reasons pertain to men and women.

  • Irregular or absent periods
  • You don’t ovulate, or you have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which affects 5-10% of women
  • Being overweight, obese, or underweight
  • Endometriosis (causes infertility in 30-50% of women)
  • Prior fibroid diagnosis
  • A thyroid issue
  • Smoking and unhealthy lifestyle habits
  • Prior surgical history on the tubes, ovaries, or uterus
  • Age – egg counts are constantly diminishing, making it harder for a woman in her mid to late 30s or early 40s to get pregnant
  • Infection or inflammation in the prostate glands
  • Prior surgical history on the testes
  • Issues with erection or ejaculation
  • Family history of genetic disease
  • Male partner is undergoing testosterone treatment
  • Repeated pregnancy loss or miscarriage
  • A vasectomy or tubal ligation has been performed

Next Steps to Conception

In our practice, we recommend couples under the age of 35 keep trying for a year. There are ovulation calendars and kits that can help you track your cycle and know when to time intimacy. And, yes – it’s okay to have sex daily if you want, but it’s not necessary to conceive. There is a myth that daily intercourse lowers your chances, and it is just that – a myth.

Other options to optimize men’s and women’s fertility include:

  • Track your cycles – there’s an app for that! We recommend Glow, an app for fertility and more.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Get daily exercise.
  • Start folate supplements 2-3 months BEFORE you try to conceive.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • STOP SMOKING (associated with a list of infertility problems).
  • If you are overweight, losing just 5-10 pounds can make a difference.
  • Get a physical; check blood work for thyroid, anemia, or other issues.
  • Make sure vaccines are up to date.
  • Lower stress as much as possible

And lastly, try not to make everything about getting pregnant. It will create stress in your relationship and in your life. Go about your days as normally as possible, with an emphasis on self-care and spending quality time with your partner without it having to end in sex. Taking time to get a massage or treating yourself to a relaxing bath can go a long way to lowering stress so your body can function at optimal levels.

Ready for Help with Fertility?

If you are younger than 35 and aren’t pregnant in a year, over 35 and aren’t pregnant in 6 months, or if you’re having irregular cycles, plan to see your doctor. Around 85% of couples who are trying will be pregnant within a year, so if you can’t get pregnant now, it could be a sign that something medical is preventing you from conceiving and you may need extra help to achieve your goals of a family.

Fortunately there are fertility specialists, like all the physicians at Vios, who have received special training to help couples conceive. Treatments range from pills and shots to inseminations and in vitro fertilization. Most couples can conceive without IVF, so don’t let that be a barrier to seeking a medical evaluation.

If you still have questions about why you can’t get pregnant now, we are here to help and take away the uncertainty and stress that can make daily life challenging when you want a baby and it’s not happening. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

What’s the Difference Between a Traditional Surrogate and a Gestational Carrier?

gestational carrierMany people have heard the term “surrogate” when it comes to family planning, but few are familiar with the term “gestational carrier.” In both cases, a woman is using her uterus to carry a child for another family, but there’s a big difference between the two.

Surrogates and gestational carriers may be different, but they have two incredible things in common – a generous heart and extraordinary selflessness to grant a family facing infertility the gift of a child of their own.

Why a Family Needs a Surrogate

If a couple is unable to conceive or the woman is unable to carry a baby, a surrogate can step in to help them become parents. Prospective moms and dads may reach out to a friend or loved one to carry their child, but in most cases, they’re connected to a surrogate through an agency. All surrogacy agencies provide extensive screening of potential candidates through medical and psychological testing, and in fact, almost 98% of women who apply are rejected for various reasons.

What is a Traditional Surrogate?

The type of “surrogate” most people think of and a potentially more affordable option for parents-to-be is a traditional surrogate in which the surrogate donates her egg AND carries the pregnancy. With a traditional surrogate, pregnancy can often occur with intrauterine insemination (IUI), in which the male partner’s sperm is injected into the surrogate’s uterus.

The surrogate’s medical expenses are covered by the intended parents and, depending on the situation, she is compensated for carrying the pregnancy. While it can be less expensive, traditional surrogacy can open the intended couple up to heartbreaking legal ramifications. The surrogate is the biological mother of the child she carries, and if she decides she wants to keep the baby, the intended parents may have no legal recourse. Even if a legal contract is in place prior to conception (which we require), laws in many states may allow for the surrogate to fight for custody of the child. For this reason, we strongly advise patients to use a gestational carrier instead of a traditional surrogate.

What is a Gestational Carrier?

In a gestational carrier situation, the egg can come from the intended mother, be donated by a loved one, or acquired through an egg bank. The egg is fertilized with the male partner’s sperm or with donor sperm before it’s transferred to the carrier’s uterus through in vitro fertilization (IVF). Because the egg is another woman’s, the carrier has no genetic relation to the baby she is carrying.

More and more couples are turning to a gestational carrier to make their dream of parenthood come true. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART), the number of babies born to gestational carriers grew 116 percent between 2004 and 2011.

As with traditional surrogates, the gestational carrier’s medical expenses are covered by the intended parents and the carrier is usually compensated for carrying the pregnancy.

To protect all parties involved, we require all intended parents and gestational carriers to seek legal counsel from a reproductive lawyer. A contract is drawn up with the expectations and rights of each party, as well as details on the delivery and future contact. The reproductive lawyer will also provide guidance on what states have laws regulating surrogacy and what states should be avoided due to negative or non-existent statues. It is strongly encouraged that the gestational carrier and intended parents have separate reproductive lawyers to minimize potential conflicts of interest.

Ready for Help with Fertility?

If you have questions about surrogacy or would like to discuss your options with a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, contact us today to schedule a consultation.