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.

 

Getting Pregnant: How Long Does It Take?

Calculating How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant

how long does it take to get pregnant When you’re trying to conceive, you can’t help but wonder, “how long does it take to get pregnant?” Unfortunately, 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 15-18% chance of conceiving.

In fact, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine found that “a healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20% change of getting pregnant each month. Then, by age 40, her chance drops to only a 5% likelihood that she will conceive in a given month.”

While these percentages might seem daunting – especially as you age – on average, most couples conceive within six months to a year, with about 80% of couples getting pregnant after six months of trying. However, as you wait it’s perfectly normal to wonder how long it will take to get pregnant. The time may feel like forever with unsuccessful attempts along the way. Not to mention, many women may feel more pressure as they get older.

Increasing Your Chances for Conception

Timing & Ovulation. 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.

If you are overwhelmed, there are some helpful pregnancy apps like Glow that will help you calculate your “fertile window” and more. We also go into more detail about ovulation in our blog on How to Get Pregnant.

Factors That Contribute to Conception

Lifestyle Choices. Certain lifestyle choices like maintaining a healthy body weight, not smoking, moderate alcohol consumption, limiting caffeine intake, and reducing stress can all have a positive impact on your fertility health. For more information, see our blog What Causes Infertility in Women.

Age. Experts say a woman’s best reproductive years are in her 20’s, with most women reaching peak fertility between the ages of 23 and 31. Keep in mind, however, in your early 30’s, your chances of conceiving are only slightly lower than in your late 20’s.

This decrease is because the quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs decline with age. A girl is born with 1-2 million eggs. By the time she hits puberty, she has about 250,000-500,000. At age 30-35 a woman has around 25,000 eggs and enters menopause when she has less than 1,000 eggs. For some perspective, the following table highlights the success rates of healthy, fertile women after one year of trying by age:

how long does it take to get pregnant

As you can see from the table above, fertility starts to decline for women from about the age of 30, with percentages decreasing more rapidly from the age of 35.

When to See a Doctor

If you’re under age 35, it is recommended to try to get pregnant for at least a year before testing or treatment. If you’re between 35 and 40, discuss your concerns with your doctor after six months of trying, and if you’re older than 40, schedule a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist immediately.

In certain circumstances, it is best for couples to meet with a specialist immediately. These include:

  • 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

Conception is Our Life – Vios Expertise and Testing

Vios Fertility Institute offers you a team of compassionate doctors, patient-centered care, expertise, and testing to help you along your unique fertility journey. Diagnostic testing and infertility treatments can take on many forms. Our physicians work with you to understand your goals and develop a plan to meet them. Schedule an appointment today to learn more! You can also keep in touch by subscribing to our emails.

How to Get Pregnant

how to get pregnantThe answer to the question, how to get pregnant, may seem like an overly obvious, but how does a woman get pregnant? The human body is wonderfully complex, and conception is full of tiny, intricate steps that are contingent on many factors – from getting the timing just right to having all the components in working order to create life as we know it.

To understand how to get pregnant and how pregnancy occurs, it’s important to know how a woman’s menstrual cycle ties into the whole process of conception. It will help you to better understand how to calculate when you’re ovulating, the process of fertilization, and implantation, too!

A Woman’s Menstrual Cycle: 28 Days Explained

The menstrual cycle is the monthly hormonal cycle a female’s body goes through to prepare for pregnancy. Your menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of your period up to the first day of your next period.

how to get pregnant

The average menstrual cycle takes about 28 days and can be broken down into two parts:

First, the Ovarian Cycle which includes:

  • The follicular phase
  • Ovulation
  • The luteal phase

And second, the Uterine Cycle which consists of:

  • Menstruation (Period)
  • The poliferative phase
  • Ovulation
  • The secretory phase

Additionally, there are four major hormones involved in the menstrual cycle:

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • Luteinizing hormone (LH)
  • Estrogen (E2)
  • Progesterone

The Ovarian Cycle

The Follicular Phase

This phase starts on the first day of your period. During the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle, the following events occur:

  • The pituitary gland (area of the brain that produces hormones) produces FSH which signals the ovaries to prepare an egg to be released.
  • Depending on your age, several follicles (the “shell” that contains the egg) begins to grow.
  • Halfway through the follicular phase, the lead (largest) egg becomes the dominant follicle and continues to mature and begins to release E2.

Ovulation

During a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs during the midpoint of the cycle on day 14. For women with longer or shorter cycles it takes place 14 days before the start of their next period. During the ovulation phase:

  • Rising E2 levels from the dominant follicle triggers a surge in the production of LH in the brain.
  • Approximately 24-36 hours after the LH surge, the egg is released or ovulated from the ovary into the fallopian tube.
  • Once the egg is released there is a 12-24 hour window when it can be fertilized by sperm in the fallopian tube.

The Luteal Phase

The luteal phase of the menstrual cycle begins right after ovulation.

  • After it releases its egg, the empty follicle develops into a new structure called the corpus luteum, which secretes the hormone progesterone in preparation for a fertilized egg to implant.
  • If conception has occurred after intercourse has taken place, the fertilized egg (embryo) will travel through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus and the woman is now considered pregnant.
  • If the egg is not fertilized, it will dissolve and progesterone and E2 levels drop in preparation for menstruation to start.

The Uterine Cycle

At the same time the ovarian cycle is taking place, the uterus is cycling through different stages that support conception.

Menstruation & the Proliferative Phase

Menstruation and the proliferative phase occur at the beginning of your cycle during the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle.

  • If the egg is not fertilized or the embryo doesn’t implant in the previous cycle, your next cycle starts with menstruation. Your period is the shedding of old blood and uterine tissue that wasn’t needed to support a pregnancy.
  • The proliferative phase is the time after your period ends before ovulation occurs when the uterine lining (endometrium) thickens to support a potential pregnancy conceived during this cycle.

Secretory Phase

Following ovulation, the endometrium secretes chemical messengers.

  • PGF2a and PGE2 are two prominent prostaglandins chemical messengers that cause the uterus to cramp and help trigger your period when fertilization doesn’t take place.
  • If an embryo implanted, prostaglandins production is inhibited so that the uterine lining isn’t shed.
  • How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant? What Helps?

For those wondering how to get pregnant, most couples – on average – conceive within six months to a year, with about 80% of couples getting pregnant after six months of trying. That makes human beings one of the most inefficient mammals when it comes to reproduction! For more info, read our blog article Getting Pregnant: How Long Does It Take?

If you’re planning for a family, there are certain things that help – a balanced diet, exercise, and other healthy habits like not smoking and keeping stress levels down – to positively impact your fertility health and increase your chances of conceiving. For more info, check out our blog article on how to get your body ready for pregnancy.

There are also some apps that we recommend, helping track your periods, fertility, and more:

Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

Conceiving can take time. If you’re under 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least one year (or want more than one child) or if you’re over 35 and have been trying to conceive for six months, you should seek a fertility consultation. Additionally, if you have irregular periods you should seek consultation immediately, regardless of the time you’ve been trying to conceive.

At Vios Fertility, 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. If you are concerned or just want to know your fertility status contact us today to schedule an appointment.

What is Female Infertility?

What are Female Infertility Causes?

female infertility causesAs you research infertility, you have undoubtedly come across many answers to your questions about female infertility causes and still, you keep searching. Wanting a baby and not getting pregnant or being able to carry a child to full term can be devastating and life-altering, and lead to an unrelenting stressful search to “fix it.” Hopefully, after reading this, you will gain some peace of mind and can make a plan to ease the burden you’re carrying.

If you have been trying to conceive for over a year and you are under age 35, if you are over age 35 and have tried for six months, then you would be classified as having infertility. Furthermore, if you have known medical, menstruation, female organ issues, or male reproductive issues that may be impeding your success, you might also have an infertility diagnosis.

Infertility on the Rise

If you are struggling to conceive, you are not unusual. Millions of couples – at least 1 in 6 – have trouble conceiving. In fact, infertility is on the rise and is not just related to age, though that does play a factor.

There are many misconceptions out there about infertility and treatments; our caring fertility doctors at Vios Fertility Institute are here to help you understand the facts of female infertility and female infertility causes. Then, we are here to assist you with growing your family.

Factors That Affect Fertility

Many couples are waiting until their careers and finances are sound before starting a family, which usually means starting later in life, into their 30s and even early 40s. As we age, egg quality diminishes, as does the strength of our reproductive organs. However, waiting does not signal an end to fertility – it just may take longer to conceive.

Medical factors that play a part in female infertility include ovulatory disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, ovarian failure or primary ovarian insufficiency “POI,” recurrent pregnancy loss, and other medical issues.

Lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, smoking, excessive drinking, high levels of stress, diet and nutrition, and not exercising or getting quality sleep also play a large part.

With the help of your doctor or fertility specialist, medical and lifestyle factors can be addressed, managed, and in many cases, overcome for a successful pregnancy.

Fertility Myths

“Infertility” is such a final-sounding word, but dealing with infertility does not mean you cannot have a baby. It means you have issues that need to be addressed in order to conceive. We’ve listed some common myths and misconceptions here, but for more thorough information, download our “Common Misconceptions About Fertility” document to help ease your mind and give you hope moving forward.

I’ve been pregnant before, so I’ll get pregnant again – Just because you and/or your partner have had children previously does not mean your systems are functioning 100% properly in order to conceive again. The CDC estimates that 11% of couples have what’s called “secondary infertility” or difficulty getting pregnant despite having had a child previously. Infertility affects men and women, so we recommend you both get tested.

All the women in my family get pregnant at the drop of a hat – Whether your mother or grandmother had children easily or did not have children easily does not automatically guarantee the same results for you. Genetics are a good guide but not the be-all, end-all of what you will experience.

Smoking doesn’t matter that much – Recent research has found that smoking can be associated with up to a 40% lower fertility rate in both sexes. In fact, it is estimated that 13% of infertility in the United States is caused by smoking! We know that smoking prematurely ages eggs and decreases egg count, even in very young women. If you quit, fertility can improve.

Sex several times a week means we should be pregnant – This is not a guarantee that you will get pregnant. Women ovulate once a month and the egg can only be fertilized for ~12-24 hours after ovulation, so there is a very short window of time when the sperm and the egg can meet. The best time to have sex to maximize pregnancy is on the day of or day before ovulation which occurs about 2 weeks prior to your expected period. Sperm can actually stay in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days, so it’s always better to err with intercourse before ovulation rather than after ovulation. There are ovulation calendars/apps and predictor kits that can help pinpoint your timing.

Age doesn’t matter anymore – Though it’s true that age is not as big of a factor as before (thanks to fertility treatments), women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to have and once they are gone, they are gone. Because of exposures to such things as radiation, chemicals, smoking, and alcohol, eggs can be damaged as women live their lives which increases the risk of chromosome problems (like Downs Syndrome) as women age. Fertility treatments are MOST effective when they are begun early. Many women who are in their 40s will actually require eggs from a younger woman (in her 20s) for a successful pregnancy

There are other myths out there, like the fact that when you see a fertility doctor, he or she will automatically jump to IVF. This is most certainly not true, and in fact, it’s usually a last step after trying other options.

Infertility is not just a woman’s issue. Many men have fertility issues as well.

There is Hope and Help for Fertility

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for six months to a year without success or the ability to carry a baby, then it might be time to meet with a fertility specialist. Thankfully, in our wonderful world of science and technology, the majority of couples who see a fertility doctor and work together on solving infertility, succeed.

If you have questions about why you can’t get pregnant, female infertility causes, and would like to learn more about the many options in the fertility process, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Our experienced, caring physicians at Vios are here to help.

Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

recurrent pregnancy lossWhen most women think of fertility specialists, they about difficulty conceiving a pregnancy, but fertility specialists (also known as Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialists) also see women who can get pregnant but have difficulty staying pregnant because of miscarriage or recurrent pregnancy loss.

Egg Health

As women age, the number of eggs in their ovaries decreases and the quality of those remaining eggs can also decline. Eggs that are less healthy have a higher chance of fertilizing incorrectly, leading to an embryo that has either too many or too few chromosomes to produce a viable pregnancy. This change in the eggs over time is why miscarriage risk goes up with the age of the woman. The risk for miscarriage is approximately 25% of pregnancies in women age 35-39, 50% in women age 40-44, and as high as 90% in women 45 or older.

Diagnosing Recurrent Pregnancy Loss

Because having one miscarriage is so common, the diagnosis of recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) is made after a woman experiences two or more miscarriages that are far enough along to either see the pregnancy with an ultrasound or confirm the pregnancy by looking at the tissue under a microscope. This means that very early, or biochemical, pregnancies that stop developing before this stage don’t technically count toward making the diagnosis of RPL.

If a woman is diagnosed with recurrent pregnancy loss, it’s important to have a thorough evaluation done to check for preventable reasons for the miscarriages and improve the chance that the next pregnancy will be healthy. Some of the tests that may be done include blood tests for genetic, autoimmune, or hormonal issues as well as a 3D ultrasound of the uterus to check for any anatomic problems like a uterine septum or scar tissue in the uterus. If an infection of the uterus is suspected, testing for that will be recommended as well. It is also important to screen the male partner for certain genetic or sperm quality concerns that may be contributing to the pregnancy losses.

October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month and a good opportunity to discuss miscarriage openly. It is not something to be ashamed of or kept secret. In fact, once the miscarriage conversation is started, you realize how many women have been affected. Having a miscarriage can be incredibly difficult emotionally and having multiple miscarriages can feel devastating. It is important to know that help is out there and many reasons for miscarriage are treatable. Most women will go on to have a successful pregnancy! The first step toward success is seeking help.

There is Hope and Help

If you have questions about recurrent pregnancy loss and miscarriage and would like to learn more about the many options in the fertility process, contact us today to schedule an appointment. Our experienced, caring physicians at Vios are here to help.

Debunking the Myths: Top 5 Facts Men Should Know About Male Infertility

male infertilityMyths about male infertility are varied and widely believed. If you’re trying to become a parent, do you believe having sex daily with your partner will increase your odds of conception? Are you convinced boxers will boost your sperm production? Maybe you think difficulty conceiving is related to a female fertility problem.

The reality is that out of all cases, infertility can be due to the woman, the man, or a combination of the two. In fact, 1 in six couples have problems conceiving, and male infertility makes up about 50% of all infertility cases. However, most men don’t go in for a noninvasive diagnosis until their partner has  had extensive evaluations. Male comprehensive tests, including hormonal testing, semen analysis, and testicular ultrasounds, are painless and straightforward.

Here are some other facts that debunk other common myths. How many of them do you know?

1 – Daily Intercourse will not Improve the Odds of Conception

Most people believe that the more you try, the higher the odds of becoming pregnant. The truth is you should look at the timing. A man’s sperm can live for 48 to 72 hours inside a woman’s reproductive tract. For those trying to conceive timing intercourse to match a woman’s fertile window, the five to six days before ovulation, is vital

2 – Boxers or Briefs? It Doesn’t Matter!

The choice of underwear doesn’t affect male fertility. Research has shown that while the testicles need to stay a few degrees cooler than the body’s core temperature for proper sperm production, wearing snug underwear doesn’t seem to have much impact. On the other hand, experts recommend staying out of hot tubs to avoid unnecessary heat exposure.

3 – Not All Men Have Sperm in Their Semen

An absent sperm count affects approximately 1% of the male population. There may be a problem even if the ejaculate looks normal since most of the ejaculated fluid isn’t sperm. The best way to know for sure is to have a semen analysis, or sperm count, to test the health and vitality of the sperm. Testing is simple and painless and there are treatment options if a problem is diagnosed.

4 – Age Can Affect Your Sperm

While men can still procreate well into their later years, their sperm numbers decline along with their testosterone. Also, research has found older sperm can contribute to conditions like autism and schizophrenia in children who are conceived after their father turns 50.

5 – Self-Exams and Check-ups Are Important for Male Fertility

Examining your scrotum monthly not only helps you identify the early stages of testicular cancer but also possible varicoceles, enlarged veins in the scrotum that can cause future infertility. A yearly check-up with a urologist can keep you better informed about your reproductive health as well.

Although some causes of male infertility are out of your control, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition, exercise, and lower stress. By doing so, you will have a head start in addressing all the aspects of male fertility that you do have control over. Learn more in our articles: What is Male Infertility and What Causes Infertility in Men.

Conception is Our Life. Vios Cares About Making Your Dreams of Parenthood Come True

If you are struggling with male infertility, you are not alone. Comprehensive tests, including hormonal testing, semen analysis, and testicular ultrasounds, are painless and straightforward. Vios Fertility Institute offers you a team of compassionate doctors and state-of-the-art testing and treatment options to help you along your unique fertility journey.

Take control of your fertility health and contact us today to schedule a consultation!

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

What Causes Infertility in Women?

infertility in womenAn estimated 10 to 18 percent of couples have trouble getting pregnant, staying pregnant, or having a successful delivery. Female infertility, defined by a woman that is unable to get pregnant after one year of trying (or six months if a woman is 35 or older), effects as many as 6.1 million women according to the CDC.

Before understanding the causes of infertility in women, it can be helpful to understand what is needed for a woman to become pregnant. The following must occur, her:

  • Ovaries must release a mature egg during ovulation
  • Fallopian tubes must be open to allow the sperm to fertilize the mature egg, creating an embryo
  • Uterus must be healthy and unobstructed to allow the embryo to implant and to support the developing fetus

Causes of Female Infertility

Female infertility can be difficult to diagnose. In women, several factors can disrupt this process, resulting in infertility. The most common reason why women experience infertility is due to ovulation disorders. If you have an ovulation disorder, you may ovulate (a mature or immature egg) infrequently or not at all. Symptoms of ovulation disorders can include irregular or absent menstrual periods.

Problems with the regulation of reproductive hormones, such as with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), can also cause issues with ovulation. PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility. Problems in the ovary can cause ovulation disorders, such is the case with primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), in which a woman’s ovaries stop functioning normally before she is 40.

Less common causes of fertility problems in women include:

  • Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes – This can be due to several factors, including:
    • Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the uterus and fallopian tubes due to chlamydia, gonorrhea or other sexually transmitted infections.
    • Surgery in the abdomen or pelvis, including surgery for an ectopic pregnancy.
    • Endometriosis, when uterine lining tissue develops outside the uterus, which can damage the fallopian tubes. Surgery to remove tissue outside of the uterus to alleviate pain can also cause scarring. Endometriosis can also disrupt the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus.
  • Physical problems with the uterus or cervix, due to:
    • Uterine polyps or tumors (fibroids or myomas), which are non-cancerous clumps of tissue and muscle on the walls of the uterus.
    • Uterine abnormalities present from birth, such as an abnormally shaped uterus.
    • Abnormal cervical mucus which can hinder how sperm travels through the cervix into the uterus.
  • Unexplained causes – Some 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.

Small Changes Can Make a Big Difference

Risk factors that are a result of certain lifestyle choices may put you at a higher risk of infertility. You can increase your chances of conception by following advice regarding basic lifestyle choices. These include:

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Overweight and underweight women are at increased risk of ovulation disorders.
  • Exercise moderately. Overly excessive exercise has been associated with decreased ovulation.
  • Quit smoking. See Can Smoking Really Affect My Chances of Getting Pregnant for more info.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid illicit drugs.
  • Reduce stress. Stress can make it more difficult to conceive and even affects men too. For more, read our Stress and Conception.
  • Limit caffeine. Reduce consumption to 1 to 2 cups of coffee per day or eliminate completely.

The main risk factor that you can’t control? Age. The quality and quantity of a woman’s eggs begin to decline with increasing age. For more information, read our article How Does Age Affect A Woman’s Ability to have a Baby?

Conception is Our Life

At Vios, we care about making your dreams of parenthood a reality. Not being able to conceive a child can be stressful and frustrating, but we are here to help and have a variety of infertility diagnostic tests and treatment options available.

To understand what infertility treatments may be best for your situation, contact us today to schedule an appointment.