Fertility Struggles and Stigmas in the Black Community

Infertility affects 12% of all women up to age 44, but research suggests that black women are twice as likely to experience infertility as white women. However, only 8% of black women between the ages of 25-44 seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15% of white women.

To better understand this disparity, Fertility for Colored Girls hosted a webinar with black female endocrinologists including our Dr. Shannel Adams and Dr. Erica Louden to discuss fertility in the black community, the stigma of the diagnosis, and ways to improve egg quality before seeing a specialist.

Fertility is a difficult topic with a lot of stigma attached. This is especially true in the black community. The stereotype is that black women are more fertile than white women and that is just not true. This stereotype could keep black women from discussing their struggles with their doctors or seeing a fertility specialist. According to surveys, 21.3% of black women feel uncomfortable talking to their doctors about infertility issues compared to 13.5% of white women.

A lack of representation in the industry could be one factor. There are less than 50 black, female Reproductive Endocrinologists & Infertility specialists in the entire United states, representing less than 1% of REI physicians. This would make finding a doctor who has had similar experiences, stereotypes, or medical issues difficult.

Socioeconomic issues could also be a factor. Not being aware of financing options can deter people from moving forward in their fertility journey. To learn more about your financing options contact us and we will have a Financial Adviser help discuss your options.

There are things women can start doing now before seeing a doctor to optimize their fertility health. Some of these preempted steps are; no smoking, reduce alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy body weight, and taking supplements.

If pregnancy isn’t in your immediate plans egg freezing could be a good option for you.

Learn more about Dr. Shannel Adams and Dr. Erica Louden, fertility supplements, and fertility in the black community during this Instagram Live.

 

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Environment, Nutrients and Affects on Fertility: Dr. Amber Cooper Discusses

Age is an important factor in a woman’s ability to get pregnant, but lifestyle may also play a vital role.

Currently, research shows that certain chemicals in our environment could have negative effects on fertility but questions still remain on exactly what harms fertility, how much exposure is dangerous, or when the exposure is dangerous.

Types of chemicals in the environment which have the ability to affect fertility are called Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). These chemicals can be found in food, water, plastics, detergents and more. Once ingested, some of these chemicals may disrupt egg quality or quantity, decrease sperm count, or cause early menopause.

Dr. Amber Cooper, a Vios physician in our St. Louis region, spoke with FOX2 in St. Louis about how environment and nutrition affect fertility. Watch for more information about which chemicals to avoid and lifestyle changes that can help.

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

Patient FAQs: Egg and embryo storage in the TMRW platform

Vios Fertility Institute is proud to be the first fertility clinic in the world to offer the TMRW Platform to patients. The TMRW platform is the first and only automated technology platform that safely stores, manages, and identifies frozen eggs and embryos. (Read the official press release here.)

What does this mean for Vios patients? See some Frequently Asked Questions and their answers below:

What is the TMRW Platform?

Essentially, it is a high-tech embryo or egg storage tank. Typically, embryos and eggs are frozen and then stored in protective, highly sophisticated, tanks. The TMRW platform is all of this PLUS cutting-edge software – a platform – that continuously monitors and provides 1000s of data points every day to provide real time information about the precious cells stored within. This is the first and only automated platform for the management, identification, and storage of the frozen eggs and embryos used in IVF.

When will eggs or embryos first be stored in the TMRW platform?

The first embryos were moved into the TMRW platform in January, 2021. Patients who have embryos or eggs stored at Vios Fertility Institute through our Chicago IVF Lab will have their tissue placed in the TMRW platform from that point forward and we are transferring our existing inventory of eggs & embryos into the TMRW platform. We expect the TMRW platform to be available in our St. Louis region sometime in 2021.

If I want to move my existing stored embryos or eggs to the TMRW platform, how do I do this?

We are in the process of transferring ALL currently stored eggs & embryos at Vios Fertility Institute Chicago IVF Lab into the TMRW platform. There is no action needed from you, as a patient, to make this happen. We are as excited as you are! If you’d like to talk with your doctor about this, please call and make an appointment.

Does this mean my embryos or eggs aren’t safe where they are currently?

Your embryos and eggs have always been safe. Now, they will be even safer.

Vios has also always upheld the highest levels of safety and security for eggs and embryos stored with us. With the TMRW platform, we have an opportunity to utilize cutting-edge technology to continue to deliver on this promise and provide enhanced monitoring. We are proud to offer it to our patients.

TMRW has created the first and only automated platform for the management, identification, and storage of the frozen eggs and embryos used in IVF.

This does not mean, however, that the current storage system is subpar or ineffective. The standard storage system has been in place – safely – at clinics around the world, including Vios, for many years now. Any tissue stored in these tanks can be assumed to be safe.

The current practices used, however, are manual and labor intensive.

TMRW’s technology automates and digitizes the entire process, which helps reduce the risk for human error and more importantly, allows the clinic to individually track eggs and embryos 24/7 through remote monitoring, sensors and state of the art software.

This technology essentially digitizes an existing system and brings clinics up to speed with the rest of the medical field.

Will use of the TMRW platform increase my frozen egg or embryo storage cost?

The installation of the TMRW platform will not be the cause of a storage price increase.

Over time, storage costs may increase as standard operating costs increase. Information about storage cost is available and you always can discuss this with your healthcare team.

Vios Fertility Institute Patients Are First to Have Embryos Transferred to TMRW

As Egg Freezing and IVF Rates Hit New Highs, Vios Fertility Institute Goes LIVE with TMRW, the World’s First Technology Platform that Stores, Manages, and Identifies Frozen Eggs and Embryos

Chicago Couple is First to Have Embryos Transferred

 

CHICAGO, IL (February 3, 2021) – By the year 2100, approximately 300 million people will be born from in vitro fertilization (IVF), something that seemed impossible until the birth of Louise Brown in 1978. TMRW Life Sciences (“TMRW”) is determined to assist in those future births by effectively managing all frozen fertility specimens with the first and only automated technology platform that safely stores, manages and identifies frozen eggs and embryos. Today, Vios Fertility Institute – Chicago announces it is the first clinic to go live and begin storing patient specimens.

TMRW technology platform at Vios“No one undertaking IVF should ever have to worry about the safety of their embryos and eggs,” said Joshua Abram, Founder and Co-CEO of TMRW. “Three hundred million babies are expected to be born via IVF globally by 2100. With TMRW we have brought the safe storage and management of life’s most precious cells into the 21st Century.”

TMRW is the solution to a wide range of issues that have plagued fertility clinics through the years such as embryo mix-ups, incorrect transfers of embryos and catastrophic failures that resulted in the loss of thousands of irreplaceable eggs and embryos. While current methods are manual and labor intensive, they have remained unchanged since the advent of IVF. TMRW’s technology automates and digitizes the entire process, which helps reduce the risk for human error and more importantly, allows the clinic to individually track eggs and embryos 24/7 through remote monitoring, sensors and state of the art software.

Additionally, TMRW’s automated solution improves IVF by replacing the current archaic system of storage — which is not equipped to handle the soon to be hundreds of millions of fertility specimens — with a cryo-robot featuring secure, reliable technology that dramatically reduces risk and provides peace of mind.

“As we see a substantial increase in patients seeking IVF and in egg freezing – up 41% percent and 31.5% over the previous year – I am thrilled that Vios is the first fertility clinic in the world that offers TMRW to its patients,” explains Dr. Angie Beltsos, CEO & Chief Medical Officer of Vios Fertility Clinic. “IVF patients and those wanting to preserve their fertility deserve the most sophisticated care available, and there is nothing more powerful than combining our top-notch embryology services with TMRW’s game-changing technology. The peace of mind the TMRW platform offers extends to doctors, embryologists and patients alike.”

Chicago couple, Mayrav Dolgin and Renee Genova, have received fertility treatments at Vios Fertility Clinic resulting in two beautiful sons -Jonah age 2 and Elan 6 mos. They are the first patients of Vios to have their remaining embryos stored using TMRW’s new platform.

“The fertility journey can be difficult enough without having to worry about the safety of your embryos,” explains Dolgin. “Mayrav and I were ecstatic to learn that our precious embryos would be the first to be stored in the TMRW cryo-robot,” adds Genova. “Knowing that our remaining embryos will be cared for and looked after with the most advanced technology available gives us tremendous reassurance that our ability to continue building our family in the future is protected.”

The TMRW platform’s key proprietary features include:

  • A 24/7 state-of-the-art, cloud-based monitoring system that makes thousands of wellness checks on stored samples every day. TMRW’s onsite and remote communication system uses predictive analytics to proactively identify and address any safety or storage trends before they become issues.
  • Each patient is assigned an RFID tag with a unique identifier, enabling clinics to identify and track every fertility cell, dramatically reducing the possibility of mislabeled or missing samples.
  • An encrypted, HIPAA-compliant software system, providing the highest level of data privacy and security available.
  • Proprietary labware with thermal properties and proven storage freezer provides the ability to maintain safe cryogenic temperatures to safeguard eggs and embryos even without electrical power or human intervention for more than two weeks, in case of severe emergencies such as natural disasters.

Towards the end of the year, TMRW plans to launch an app that will allow patients to track their frozen specimens using a smartphone. By the end of 2021, TMRW’s platform will be used in leading fertility clinics comprising more than 30% of all IVF cycles in the U.S. The company hopes to expand into UK-based fertility clinics in summer of 2021.

About Vios Fertility:
Established in 2015, Vios Fertility Institute is one of the fastest growing fertility clinics in the U.S. with 11 locations in the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis regions. Woman owned, the Vios mission is to help patients find their way to fertility health with the highest chances of success. Vios offers innovative, scientific, and cutting-edge treatment options along with an unparalleled patient experience. www.ViosFertility.com

About TMRW Life Sciences:
TMRW has created the world’s first automated platform designed specifically for cryo-management of eggs and embryos used in IVF. TMRW’s RFID-enabled, complete digital chain of custody SaaS technology radically improves on the error-prone manual and analog methods that have gone unchanged throughout the history of IVF, significantly reducing the chances of implantation mix-ups or loss of eggs and embryos. The TMRW team includes many of the world’s most celebrated innovators in fertility, embryology, cryo-management, automation, software development and robotics to name a few of the disciplines involved. TMRW’s co-founders, Joshua Abram, Alan Murray, and Dr. Jeffrey Port, are serial tech and life sciences entrepreneurs. Their immediate prior ventures sold for a combined sum of more than $1 billion. To date, TMRW has raised $50 million. For more information, please visit TMRW.org.

 

COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility: What You Need To Know

Graphic of COVID-19 Vaccine and Fertility, What You Need to KnowLately, we hear many questions from patients about the COVID-19 vaccine and fertility and impact on pregnancy.

Vios Fertility Institute follows the guidelines from both the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in recommending that pregnant women, and women seeking to become pregnant, get the vaccine as it becomes available. These guidelines are constantly adjusted as new data is available and our team will continue to stay on top of the changes.

What else do you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine and its impact on fertility?

  • Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)-based and therefore do not contain the live virus. This means that the vaccine elicits an immune response so if the recipient were to get COVID-19 she would have some immunity over it.
  • The vaccine does NOT appear to interfere with fertility in men or women.

Dr. MacKenzie Purdy and Dr. Roohi Jeelani answered many questions on this topic during our Instagram Live this week. Click below to watch!

 

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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