ASPIRE Study: COVID19 and Pregnancy

Vios Fertility Institute is proud to partner with the University of California-San Francisco to make patients aware of the ASPIRE study regarding COVID19 and pregnancy. ASPIRE stands for Assessing Safety of Pregnancy In the Coronavirus Pandemic.

ASPIRE study on COVID19 and pregnancy

ASPIRE is a nationwide prospective cohort study of pregnant women and their offspring during the COVID-19 pandemic. All Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) member clinics have been invited to share this study information with their pregnant patients, directing patients to register to participate at this website.

From ASPIRE, “The goal of this study is to help understand the spread of COVID-19 infection among pregnant women and how infection might affect the health and wellbeing of pregnant mothers and their babies, particularly when the infection occurs in early pregnancy or without any symptoms. The goal is for this knowledge to inform and empower pregnant women and their healthcare providers to provide the best possible care for their pregnancies and future babies. Also, women and couples planning pregnancies will gain important information to help make decisions for their families.”

ASPIRE is focused on the first trimester, a critical and vulnerable period when all of a baby’s organ systems form and the placenta – the crucial connection between mom and baby – develops.

Currently, there are no data about the effects of COVID19 infections in the first trimester. The ASPIRE study will provide critical information to:

(1) Guide the care of pregnant women
(2) Protect the safety of their babies and families
(3) Help those considering pregnancy in the future understand what it means to be pregnant in this new era

Becoming pregnant at any time is a personal choice and with the added uncertainty of a global pandemic, we realize this decision did not come lightly. We celebrate your pregnancy!

We’re also careful to counsel our patients at every step of their care journey about COVID19 and pregnancy considerations and safety guidelines so that you can feel informed and an active and empowered partner in your care.

Who can join the ASPIRE Study?
Anyone who is over the age of 18 and is between 4 – 10 weeks pregnant. Eligible participants will be compensated financially.

  1. You’ll be asked to:
    1. Submit frequent, quick (<1 minute each) symptom tracking reports using your mobile phone and/or computer.
  2. 2. Collect finger-stick blood samples from home at several points throughout your pregnancy. (A helpful how to video is here.)
  3. 3. Give permission to review medical records related to your pregnancy, delivery and baby’s development.
  4. 4. Complete questionnaires online about your health during your pregnancy and after delivery of your baby.

How to get started:

Visit https://aspire.ucsf.edu/ to learn more and register on their website here.

Do you have additional questions about COVID-19 and fertility treatment at Vios? Click here for our latest update.

Miscarriage Treatment Options: Dr. MacKenzie Purdy Answers Your Questions

Miscarriage is a heartbreaking reality for many as they try to conceive and, sometimes, a woman can experience multiple miscarriages in a row.

Recurrent Pregnancy Loss (RPL) is defined by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) as two or more consecutive pregnancy losses. We know this is a heartbreaking loss and we are committed to helping our patients find answers and treatment options to help.

The first step is a series of diagnostic tests to understand what may be causing the miscarriages. There are some common causes of RPL including genetic, hormone imbalance, uterine abnormality, and undiagnosed medical conditions. Some reasons remain unknown despite the myriad of available testing options.

Dr. MacKenzie Purdy, a Vios physician in our St. Louis region, spoke with FOX2 in St. Louis about miscarriage and recurrent pregnancy loss. Watch for more information about diagnosis and testing as well as various treatment options for RPL.

After the interview, Dr. Purdy answered patient questions on the topic during a Facebook Live.

Words of Hope When You’re Struggling With Infertility


At Vios Fertility Institute, we know struggling to build your family is tough. While we do everything we can to lessen the stress of fertility treatment for our patients, we know that the stress of uncertainty and lack of control often creeps in.

One of our favorite holiday traditions is our Tree of Hope. In each clinic waiting room during the holidays we put up a tree and offer paper “ornaments” to write words of encouragement and support for all to see. Our staff, our partners, our patients – anyone who would like to add to the tree is invited to and we hope that all who need a little “lift” can find it in at least one of the notes.

There’s no reason the encouragement should be contained to the holidays, though! So we’re sharing in this post for all to see anytime they need that little “lift”.

 

  • Always have your faith be bigger than your fear.
  • Celebrate the small victories.
  • You are stronger than you think!
  • Stay positive.
  • You are not alone.
  • You are capable. You are strong. You are resilient.
  • If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
  • There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Good things are coming.
  • Don’t give up on something you cannot go a day without thinking about.
  • There’s a future you who’s glad you never gave up.

What would you add to this list? Share in the comments below.

Tips for Handling the Holidays While TTC

2020 has been a difficult year so far and we are finally in the home stretch. Despite that, if you are someone struggling with infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss there is one more hurdle left – the holidays.

This time of year can be even more difficult for my patients when the pain and anxiety they feel day to day is exacerbated by the reminder that another year has passed without yet reaching their family goals.

Although celebrating this year will look very different for most of us, there will inevitably still be some small or virtual gatherings with family and friends that could lead to awkward questions from well-intentioned loved ones.

Questions like “Are you pregnant yet?” or “When are you going to start your family?” can seem innocent to the person asking the question but can be very hurtful to those who have been through fertility testing and treatment for months or sometimes years.

Another difficult scenario is the family member who tries to give helpful advice like “just relax and it will happen” or shares stories about how other couples achieved success that have nothing to do with your situation.

Despite this, there are ways to manage the stress of infertility during the holidays and make it easier to enjoy this time of year.

First, feel free to pick and choose who you spend time with. You are certainly not obligated to accept every invitation. Avoiding especially insensitive friends or relatives is okay.

Second, skip opening holiday cards with photos of others’ families and consider limiting your time on social media if those activities trigger negative feelings.

Third, take time to grieve if you need to. You may be grieving a miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or a failed treatment cycle. The bottom line is, you do not need to pretend to be happy every moment so give yourself space to feel your true feelings and allow your partner to do the same.

Finally, find time to take care of yourself. It might be a small gift for yourself, an experience like spending some time outdoors, or some “me” time like a massage or a virtual yoga class. Don’t forget to take time to do the things that clear your mind and restore your body.

The simple truth is that the holidays can be a struggle for those dealing with the stress and pain of infertility. I hope these tips make your holidays brighter and allow you to find joy as we say farewell to 2020. Hooray for 2021!

Blog post written by Dr. Ellen Hayes.

The future of egg and embryo storage: The TMRW Platform

Vios Fertility Institute is proud to partner with companies like TMRW to raise the standard of care for fertility patients.

This morning, Dr. Angie Beltsos, Vios CEO and Chief Medical Officer, along with TMRW Founder and Co-CEO Joshua Abram, spoke to Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network to share the unprecedented safety and innovation TMRW is bringing to the fertility industry.

Watch Joshua and Angie explain just how monumental this shift is on today’s Mornings With Maria here:

Dr. Angie Beltsos

Dr. Angie Beltsos on Fox Business talking about innovations in embryo storage

Fertility Preservation and COVID-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic female fertility preservation (aka “egg freezing”) has increased. This recent article highlights the trend in the United States.

At Vios, we’ve seen a similar increase in fertility preservation treatment.

Today, Dr. Roohi Jeelani of Vios Fertility Institute in Chicago shared her experience and expertise on the topic with Chicago’s ABC7.

Ovarian Reserve and Your Fertility

As fertility specialists, we’re asked a lot about ovarian health and ovarian reserve – specifically egg quantity and quality.

A woman is born with all the eggs she’ll ever have. At birth, a baby girl typically has about 1 million eggs and by puberty this number has declined to 500,000. Each month, a handful of eggs are eligible to become mature but only one will be ovulated. (For a detailed description of this process, click here.)

Ovary with ovulation

Age is one of the most important factors in a woman’s fertility potential. Yet, there is no “magic” age and recent studies show that genetics and the environment also play an important role in egg and reproductive health.

Anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) and antral follicle count (AFC) are the most useful predictors of the number of eggs a woman has remaining. Bloodwork and ultrasound tests – along with a conversation with a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist – can help you understand your current ovarian reserve.

Dr. Violet Klenov recently shared information about ovarian health, how to determine the number of eggs you may have, and how to improve egg quality with St. Louis’s Fox2. Watch the full story below.

Additionally, Dr. Klenov answered patient questions on this topic. Click below to watch the Q&A.

To schedule a consultation to take control of your fertility health, contact us today.

When Should You See a Fertility Doctor?

If you and your partner are unable to conceive, you may feel confused and frustrated. Although infertility is a common issue, you still deserve to know why you have been unsuccessful. Eventually, it may be time to seek help from a fertility doctor.

At Vios Fertility Institute, you can always count on our team of experienced doctors. We go the extra mile to understand your fertility health, and we provide you with a variety of treatment and testing options to help you conceive a baby.

Let’s Talk About Fertility and Ovulation

Fertility is 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 usually the day an egg released from the ovary (ovulation) and the five days beforehand.

According to the National Center of Health Statistics, about 12% of women have trouble getting or staying pregnant. If you are unsure about your ability to conceive, the following can provide insight into your fertility health:

  • Your age – Unfortunately, a woman’s fertility decreases with age. Women under the age of 35 are at their peak fertility. At the age of 35, your fertility begins to decline steadily and ends with menopause.
  • Healthy lifestyle – By eating a healthy diet, exercising, lowering stress, limiting alcohol intake, and refusing to smoke, you can improve your fertility.
  • Healthy weight – A low body mass index (BMI) causes ovulation to stop as the body tries to conserve energy. A high BMI disrupts hormone levels. Insulin resistance can inhibit ovulation and affect egg quality, as well as embryo and fetus development. A healthy BMI ranges from 20-24.
  • Pelvic pain – Long, heavy, painful periods or pelvic pain are potential signs of fibroids or endometriosis, which affects your ability to conceive. Pelvic trauma or past surgeries can also affect fertility.
  • Regular menstrual cycles – Regular menstrual cycles show hormones are in sync and that you are ovulating. If you are unsure about your cycle, consider using period tracker or fertility calendar apps like Glow, DuoFertility, or Clue.
  • Unchecked STDs – Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a byproduct of specific STDs, can damage your reproductive organs and decrease infertility. To increase your fertility health, practice safe sex, and use protection. If you think you have an STD, consult your doctor immediately.

What is a Fertility Doctor?

A fertility doctor is a reproductive endocrinologist, or a physician who practices a subspecialty of obstetrics and gynecology called reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI). They complete at least two years of training beyond their OB-GYN residency and specialize in the treatment of hormonal disorders that affect reproduction in men and women.

When Should You Seek Help from a Fertility Doctor?

If you’re unable to get pregnant after months of trying, you may want to consult a fertility doctor immediately. However, just as every individual is unique, the same is true of their fertility.

Before you seek help from a fertility clinic, there are specific factors you should consider:

  • You’re under 35 – If you are under 35, have been actively trying to conceive, and have not been using birth control for 12 months or more, you should make an appointment with a fertility doctor.
  • You’re over 35 – If you are over 35, you should only wait six months to call a fertility doctor. After 35, a woman’s fertility begins to decline until she reaches menopause.
  • You’re over 40 – If you are over the age of 40, you should see a doctor immediately. By the age of 40, a woman’s eggs drop in quality and quantity, which decreases the chance of conception and increases the risk for miscarriage.
  • Your BMI is high or low – If you have a high or low BMI, you should see a doctor before you start trying. By talking to your doctor and achieving a better BMI, you are more likely to conceive naturally.
  • You have a thyroid condition – If you have a thyroid disorder, you should see a doctor right away. A thyroid disorder (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism) can interrupt the ovulation process, resulting in irregular or missed periods. Normal thyroid hormone levels are required for a perm production. Through a medical evaluation, thyroid levels can be assessed and treated.
  • You have an infertility diagnosis – If you have a known reproductive issue such as PCOS or POI, you should see a doctor immediately.
  • You have experienced miscarriages – If you suffer from multiple miscarriages in a row, you should visit a doctor immediately. A single miscarriage is common, but repeated miscarriages are not.

Our Team of Fertility Doctors

At Vios, our team of board-certified and fellowship-trained reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialists understand the challenges of infertility. We strive to provide a customized fertility plan to suit the emotional, physical, and financial needs of every patient.

To learn more about our team of fertility specialists, visit our Meet the Providers page.

At Vios Fertility Institute, Conception is Our Life

At Vios Fertility Institute, our team of compassionate, caring physicians provide excellence in fertility care. We understand the unique needs of every patient, which is why we go the extra mile to make your dreams of parenthood a reality.

We have locations throughout Chicago, Northern Illinois, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. For a full list of our clinic locations, click here. All of our patient consultations are currently provided via telehealth.

While every patient is different, your initial consultation will include bloodwork, an ultrasound to measure eggs, and a semen analysis. You will also discuss treatment options with your fertility doctor. After you choose a treatment, your fertility journey will begin.

To schedule a consultation and take control of your fertility health, contact us today.

What is Infertility?

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

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

How is Infertility Diagnosed?

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

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

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

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

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

What is Infertility in Women?

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

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

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

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

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

Less common causes of infertility issues in women include:

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

What is Infertility in Men?

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

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

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

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

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

Unexplained Causes of Infertility

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

Lifestyle Changes You Can Make

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

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

Vios Fertility Institute Provides Hope and Help for Fertility

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

We have clinic locations throughout Chicagoland, Milwaukee, and St. Louis and patient consultations are available via telehealth.

To schedule your consultation, contact us today.

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

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

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

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

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

How to Prepare for IVF

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

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

The IVF Process

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

Preparation for Ovarian Stimulation

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

Ovarian Stimulation and Monitoring

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

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

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

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

Egg Retrieval Procedure

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

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

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

Egg Fertilization Through Sperm Injection

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

Monitoring of Embryo Development

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

Embryo Transfer Procedure

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

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

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

Freezing of Remaining Embryos

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

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

Pregnancy Test

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

Success Rates of the IVF Process

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

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

At Vios in Hoffman Estates, Conception is Our Mission

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

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

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