A cancer diagnosis can feel devastating and terrifying with a typically quick treatment plan put into place. Cancer treatments can take a toll on the body and can leave some women unable to conceive a child later in life. Oncofertility, the rapid preservation of eggs, sperm, and ovarian tissue prior to cancer treatment, provides those with this diagnosis options for their future family.
Survival rates among young women have greatly improved in the recent years, but infertility remains a common complication resulting from treatment.
Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy targets specific mutations in your DNA to keep them from multiplying. In high doses, this can cause permanent damage to your DNA.
Radiation therapy. Radiation to the pelvis, abdomen, spine or whole body can cause egg quality and quantity issues
Surgery. In some cases, reproductive organs may be removed, which can affect fertility.
For women of reproductive age who wish to have children in the future, it is important they know there are options to preserve their fertility. Many patients see remission and go on to live healthy lives, yet the cancer treatments required may have a significant and negative impact on egg quality and quantity.
Watch this Facebook Live with Dr. Erica Louden and Dr. Ismail Mert, Gynecologic Oncologist from Advocate Health Care, as they talk through early detection strategies and treatment options for women diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or uterine cancers.
September is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month. To close out this month we are sharing some information on PCOS.
PCOS is a common hormone disorder in women that is also the leading cause of female infertility. According to Resolve, due to the wide variety of symptoms, most women don’t get diagnosed until they begin trying to conceive and seek help getting pregnant. PCOS is one of the most underdiagnosed diseases in the world, with less than 25% of women with PCOS being diagnosed.
PCOS is characterized by three common characteristics: irregular or absent periods, excess androgens (elevated testosterone and androstenedione levels), and multiple cystic areas on the ovaries.
Other seemingly unrelated PCOS symptoms that patients might experience include:
Heavy periods and spotting between periods.
Pelvic pain during or between periods.
Fatigue, or low energy levels.
Excess growth on the arms, face, back, chest, abdomen or hands and feet (also known as hirsutism).
Hair loss or male pattern baldness on the head.
Insomnia or poor sleep.
Please contact Vios to schedule an appointment with one of our providers if you believe you have PCOS and need help conceiving.
Fertility is a very personal and often stressful experience. There is a lot of misinformation in our society about fertility, IVF, and fertility treatments in general. Here are some common fertility myths debunked.
Myth 1: Fertility treatments always mean IVF
Once you meet with a provider and test results come in, you and your provider will speak about the option that is best for you. IVF is a great solution for many but there are other options including: timed intercourse, oral medication, IUI, and InVoCell.
Myth 2: IVF is a sure thing
There are many factors that can impact IVF success. There are ways to up your odds by reducing some of the unknowns such as multiple rounds (2 is average), PGT testing to get the most info before a transfer, and more. At Vios, our live births and other success stats are higher than national average.
Myth 3: Age doesn’t matter
You can have issues at any age–even in your 20s or have great ease in your 40s. If you want a family in the future, protect your chances early on by taking steps like egg freezing. Statistically age does matter. Women are born with all their eggs and their eggs decrease over time.
The loss of a pregnancy is heartbreaking, but when this happens repeatedly, it can be devastating and confusing for the parents. A careful review of the circumstances and a comprehensive evaluation can often lead to a strategy with the outcome of a family.
Although random miscarriages are common, only 1-5% of people will suffer from repeated losses. According to American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is defined as having three or more consecutive miscarriages. According to ACOG, about 5% of women have two or more consecutive miscarriages and 1% will have three or more. The risk of recurrent pregnancy loss is higher in women who are over the age of 35 or who have had a previous miscarriage.
Most recurrent pregnancy losses result from chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. The abnormality may come from the egg, the sperm, or the early embryo. Ovarian aging can also be associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, which is due to poor egg quality. As woman age their eggs decrease in quantity and quality.
Another factor could be an abnormality in the uterus. Some women may be born with an irregularly shaped uterus and some women may develop abnormalities with their uterus over time. Another possibility is scar tissue that has developed from previous procedures.
If you have suffered two or more miscarriages, you should talk with your provider. Your doctor might suggest one of these treatments to help reduce your risk for miscarriage.
Surgery can fix some problems like extra tissue in the uterus, fibroids, or scar tissue. Correcting the shape of the inside of the uterus can often lower the chance for miscarriage.
In about 5% of people, one of the parents has a chromosomal issue. The parents’ blood can be analyzed to see if this is a factor.
According to Dr. Mackenzie Purdy, MD, 60-70% of patients will go on to have a live birth. You can learn more about recurrent pregnancy loss here.
Infertility is a common problem among couples, and while we talk about it as a women’s issue, men deal with it too. Infertility due to the male partner is known as “male infertility.”
Fertility issues are just as likely to come from problems in men as they are in women. According to the Dr. Shannel Adams MD, FACOG, it is estimated that 30-40% of couples struggling with infertility have a contributing factor of male infertility. While it is estimated 20% of couple’s struggling with infertility male infertility is the only factor. Male infertility is defined as abnormal sperm count and lack of pregnancy after one year of trying. Usually, that inability to sustain a pregnancy is a problem with the sperm count, motility, or morphology. In addition to the number of sperm a man has, the shape and movement or swimming of the sperm is also important. A problem in one of these three areas can cause male infertility.
A sperm sample should contain millions of sperm. Because of this, sperm is measured in ‘concentrations.’ Normal sperm concentration come in a wide range, but 15 million sperm per milliliter is a good benchmark.
A semen analysis will provide information on your sample discovering if there are any issues with count, motility, or morphology. A semen analysis is a laboratory evaluation of the semen after it has been collected at home or in the clinic. Learn more about a semen analysis and what a normal SA is here. Once results from the semen analysis are in, you and your physicians can discuss your options. Here are some available:
June marks the beginning of Pride Month, commemorating the Stonewall Riots and celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community. June 1 also is #LGBTQFamiliesDay, created for individuals, families, and allies to celebrate and support LGBTQIA+ families. Family comes in many forms and everyone’s path to their family is unique to their journey. No matter what your journey is, anyone who struggles to build a family should have the opportunity including the LGTBQIA+ community. According to Resolve, between 2 million and 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have a LGTBQIA+ parent.
For most LGTBQIA+ single people and couples, the journey to building your dream family can have a different path than what may be considered “traditional”. At Vios, we are far from “traditional” ourselves and are an ally for the LGTBQIA+ community, here to help those wishing to become parents.
Recently, in the state of Illinois a bill was passed changing the definition of infertility providing insurance coverage to the LGBTQIA+ community. HB3709 amends the IL Insurance Code to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility shall be provided without discrimination on the basis of age, ancestry, color, disability, domestic partner status, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, marital status, national origin, race, religion, Sex, or sexual orientation. It removes provisions stating that “infertility” means the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sexual intercourse or the inability to sustain a successful pregnancy. You can read more about this bill here.
There are three necessary components to make a baby: eggs, sperm, and a uterus. Thanks to improved medicine and technology, as well as generosity from third-party donors, same sex couples and single individuals have more options than ever to build the family of their dreams. From sperm donation and IUI, InVoCell for reciprocal IVF, egg donation, and gestational carrier Vios Fertility Institute can help bring the pieces together for all our patients. LGBTQ+ individuals and couples do not necessarily have a diagnosis of infertility so pregnancy rates per cycle are generally high in these cases.
If you need help financing your treatments learn more about our financing partners here!
There are also activities and mechanisms you can do at home to help cope. Having an arsenal of coping skills to deal with everyday stresses and anxiety can help with one’s mental health. Some coping skills are:
1. Surrounding yourself with people who can support you.
2. Meditating to relax.
3. Music to distract your mind.
4. Going to places that bring you joy.
5. Having mantras and phrases to support yourself.
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month and this condition affects up to 10% of reproductive-aged people. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), endometriosis is a condition where the tissue of the endometrial lining is found outside of the uterine cavity. These endometrial tissues grow and bleed just as the uterine lining does each month but this tissue outside the uterus has nowhere to go—it does not just shed from your body like your uterine lining does. This can cause scar tissue, irritation, and pain.
Many people who suffer struggle with being diagnosed so they can receive treatment.
If you suffer from endometriosis, it may be more challenging for you to become pregnant. Up to 50% of people with endometriosis may experience infertility. Endometriosis can effect fertility in several ways: diminished ovarian reserve, scarred fallopian tubes, inflammation of the pelvic structures, altered egg quality, and more. This doesn’t mean pregnancy isn’t possible though. Egg freezing and IVF are great options for people suffering.
Symptoms can vary from person to person; however, many people have reported experiencing:
Pelvic/back/leg pain between and during periods
Bladder frequency and/or pain when urinating
Painful bowel movements
Digestive problems including IBS
Immune related disorders such as allergies
Endometriosis can’t be confirmed through symptoms or simple tests, so it is frequently misdiagnosed. The most effective way to diagnose the endometriosis is through a laparoscopy. A laparoscopy is a procedure where incisions are made in the lower abdomen area, which is then inflated with gas so a small camera can be in inserted.
Endometriosis is still relatively misunderstood and under researched. Unfortunately, there is no current cure – the most common treatment is surgery and hormonal medication. If endometriosis is found during a laparoscopy, doctors will remove or destroy the affected areas.
Hormone treatment can be used to stop menstruation and as a result slow down the growth of endometriosis.
Other treatment includes pain killers and anti-inflammatories.
Egg freezing (vitrification) is an advanced reproductive technology that can offer women more flexibility with their future family planning. Egg freezing gives women the freedom and control to pause their “biological clock” until they are ready to start a family. Over the years, there has been a huge boost in the popularity of elective egg freezing and the demand for this service has only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The quantity and quality of eggs begins to decrease when a woman is in her early 20s. Over time, this reduction of the number of eggs could eventually lead to infertility and other problems conceiving.
Egg freezing, also known as vitrification, offers an opportunity to intervene with this decline. As a part of the retrieval cycle, eggs are extracted, frozen, and stored until the woman is ready to use them at a later point in life. Although many refer to this process as a fertility “insurance policy,” it is important to note that no medical intervention can guarantee that. Success rates are highly dependent on the individual, her age, and her overall reproductive health. Egg freezing can be seen as a way to optimize future fertility potential. It can also help provide real autonomy for women who are looking to focus on other aspects of their career and life.
What Do We Know About the Egg, Exactly?
There is currently no standard assessment tool for the oocyte (egg) that helps answer the question of whether an egg is of high enough quality to become a viable embryo in the future. Highly trained embryologists are unable to determine the potential of the eggs by looking at them. Now, there is new, cutting-edge technology available to provide a clearer idea of a patient’s personalized chances of conceiving in the future.
A New Solution Is Available.
Future Fertility has developed an innovative technology called Violet™, an AI-enabled software solution now available at Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago for women undergoing elective egg freezing. Future Fertility’s new tool, Violet™, provides patients who are seeking fertility treatment with more insight into the quality of their eggs, allowing them to work with their clinician toward a personalized, informed treatment plan. This non-invasive technology can predict the quality of the oocyte using an AI database that was developed using tens of thousands of images.
The result is a customized report – a physical document – that offers a comprehensive breakdown and image of each of the eggs retrieved from a patient. There is no comparable tool that offers transparency and scientific grading about the quality of an oocyte.
The report will assist physicians in personalizing future treatment protocols and providing a better scientific basis in patient counselling. Two recent validation studies showed a significant and robust advantage of the AI solution over all embryologists. Violet™ can predict the chances of an egg successfully fertilizing to the blastocyst stage with more accuracy than trained professionals.
Why Is Artificial Intelligence the Answer?
As mentioned, there is no standardized egg scoring system. Although embryologists can identify unique features of the egg, it is unclear about their significance. Essentially, the human eye is limited by what it can process in terms of resolution, shades of grey and pixel pattern recognition. When AI software is applied to the images of the eggs, new and important information is detected and recognized. AI is the key to unlocking the mysteries of the egg quality assessment. After the eggs are assessed, patients are provided with the Violet™ report, which includes both a summary of the viability of the cohort of frozen eggs and actual images of the eggs (a relatively rare opportunity). This is something a patient can physically keep and even share if she desires.
It is physically, emotionally, and financially demanding to preserve fertility for a later time. That is why Future Fertility has worked hard to improve the quality and transparency of fertility treatment by providing more personalized answers. Artificial intelligence allows for a more comfortable and accurate approach to fertility treatment.
At Vios, we are passionate about providing patient education and using innovative technology to help our patients achieve the fertility success they desire. Schedule a consultation with us today and ask how to add Violet™ to your fertility journey!
The average age of women having their first child has increased in recent years from 21-26 years old. What is causing the increase? According to Forbes, career goals, pursuing advanced degrees, and wanting financial stability are factors.
Having goals is important but women’s fertility depends greatly on their age. By the time a woman reaches 30 she has about 200,000 eggs remaining in her ovaries, and that number continues to decrease with age.
Egg freezing is a great option for those who want to extend their fertility. Egg freezing, also known as oocyte cryopreservation, is the process where eggs are removed from the ovaries and frozen for future use. The process begins by a woman taking medications before eggs are retrieved and frozen.
Who should consider egg freezing? According to Dr. Erica Louden, anyone! Egg quality and quantity decreases with age so if starting a family isn’t in your near future egg freezing is a great option for you. More specifically, women who will be undergoing cancer treatments, who have premature ovarian failure, and have chronic autoimmune diseases should consider egg freezing.
Assessing the quality of an oocyte before fertilization has, to date, been difficult as there is no standard assessment tool. At Vios Fertility Institute, we are one of the only fertility clinics currently offering Violet™, an AI-enabled software solution for women undergoing elective egg freezing. Learn more about Violet here.
Egg freezing is a great option for those “freezing” their fertility in time for either medical or personal reasons. Speak to a Vios team member about freezing your eggs today!