Infertility

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercours.

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What is Infertility Sadness?

Most of us who have grappled with infertility will readily admit to hours of sadness, days of feeling rotten and even periods of being emotionally overwhelmed. We may believe that those feelings go with the territory of infertility. Given the built-in stress of infertility, some sadness is inevitable. Our dreams of parenthood have been up-ended and deferred. We may be on hormones that affect our mood. We now have an unanticipated lurch in our relationship with our partner that makes us both walk on eggshells, first trying to comfort and next suppressing our painful emotions. Many of us find our sad feelings are episodic, perhaps relating to our menstrual cycle, to hormone treatments, to test outcomes or to toxic situations such as baby showers or announcements of a friend's pregnancy. So on the continuum of sadness, situational sadness is the least serious, and profound depression is the most serious. However, the issue of sadness/depression reminds us that our psyches need more attention that they are getting. In that spirit, let me mention a few things to consider as you resolve to make your mental health a high priority during your treatment for infertility. This is especially urgent if you have symptoms of depression, including persistent sadness, guilt or irritability, sleep and appetite disruption, and the absence of pleasure. Depression is not only a mental disorder, so in addressing some of the physical symptoms you will want to be careful about what you eat and drink (avoid caffeine, which can make you anxious; avoid alcohol, which may worsen depressive symptoms). Since sleep disturbance is a common symptom of depression, it is critical to get an ample amount of sleep. So what if you are attentive to all of these things and your sadness/depression does not abate? Now is the time to alert your infertility specialist to the ways in which your mood is disrupting your functioning and your life satisfaction. If you receive infertility treatment in a clinic that employs mental health professionals on its staff, hopefully, you can consult with them. In addition, your infertility specialist may be able to change your hormone treatments to have a less disruptive effect on your mood. If your infertility clinic does not have mental health professionals on staff, it still is possible they can suggest names of people whom their patients have used. You will want to have a consultation with a psychiatrist, in an effort to determine what mood disturbances you are experiencing; it also is the time to identify a therapist who is skilled in strategies of cognitive-behavioral therapy, which is future-oriented, teaching mental skills that address negative thought patterns and challenge feelings of helplessness. Content Source: Feature Image Source:

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Common Causes of Infertility

Some women want children but either cannot conceive or keep miscarrying. This is called infertility. Lots of couples have infertility problems. About one-third of the time, it is a female problem. In another one-third of cases, it is the man with the fertility problem. For the remaining one-third, both partners have fertility challenges or no cause is found. Some common reasons for infertility in women include: Age – Women generally have some decrease in fertility starting in their early 30s. And while many women in their 30s and 40s have no problems getting pregnant, fertility especially declines after age 35. As a woman ages, normal changes that occur in her ovaries and eggs make it harder to become pregnant. Even though menstrual cycles continue to be regular in a woman's 30s and 40s, the eggs that ovulate each month are of poorer quality than those from her 20s. It is harder to get pregnant when the eggs are poorer in quality. As a woman nears menopause, the ovaries may not release an egg each month, which also can make it harder to get pregnant. Also, as a woman and her eggs age, she is more likely to miscarry, as well as have a baby with genetic problems, such as Down syndrome. Health problems – Some women have diseases or conditions that affect their hormone levels, which can cause infertility. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) rarely or never ovulate. Failure to ovulate is the most common cause of infertility in women. With primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40. It is not the same as early menopause. Some women with POI get a period now and then. But getting pregnant is hard for women with POI. A condition called luteal phase defect (LPD) is a failure of the uterine lining to be fully prepared for pregnancy. This can keep a fertilized egg from implanting or result in miscarriage. Common problems with a woman's reproductive organs, like uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease can worsen with age and also affect fertility. These conditions might cause the fallopian tubes to be blocked, so the egg can't travel through the tubes into the uterus. Lifestyle factors – Certain lifestyle factors also can have a negative effect on a woman's fertility. Examples include smoking, alcohol use, weighing much more or much less than an ideal body weight, a lot of strenuous exercise, and having an eating disorder. Stress also can affect fertility. Unlike women, some men remain fertile into their 60s and 70s. But as men age, they might begin to have problems with the shape and movement of their sperm. They also have a slightly higher risk of sperm gene defects. Or they might produce no sperm, or too few sperm. Lifestyle choices also can affect the number and quality of a man's sperm. Alcohol and drugs can temporarily reduce sperm quality. And researchers are looking at whether environmental toxins, such as pesticides and lead, also may be to blame for some cases of infertility. Men also can have health problems that affect their sexual and reproductive function. These can include sexually transmitted infections (STIs), diabetes, surgery on the prostate gland, or a severe testicle injury or problem. When to see your doctor You should talk to your doctor about your fertility if: You are younger than 35 and have not been able to conceive after one year of frequent sex without birth control. You are age 35 or older and have not been able to conceive after six months of frequent sex without birth control. You believe you or your partner might have fertility problems in the future (even before you begin trying to get pregnant). You or your partner has a problem with sexual function or libido. Happily, doctors are able to help many infertile couples go on to have babies. Infertility treatment Some treatments include: Drugs – Various fertility drugs may be used for women with ovulation problems. It is important to talk with your doctor about the drug to be used. You should understand the drug's benefits and side effects. Depending on the type of fertility drug and the dosage of the drug used, multiple births (such as twins) can occur. Surgery – Surgery is done to repair damage to a woman's ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. Sometimes a man has an infertility problem that can be corrected by surgery. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), also called artificial insemination – Male sperm is injected into part of the woman's reproductive tract, such as into the uterus or fallopian tube. IUI often is used along with drugs that cause a woman to ovulate. Assisted reproductive technology (ART) – ART involves stimulating a woman's ovaries; removing eggs from her body; mixing them with sperm in the laboratory; and putting the embryos back into a woman's body. Success rates of ART vary and depend on many factors. Third party assistance – Options include donor eggs (eggs from another woman are used), donor sperm (sperm from another man are used), or surrogacy (when another woman carries a baby for you). Finding the cause of infertility is often a long, complex, and emotional process. And treatment can be expensive. Many health insurance companies do not provide coverage for infertility or provide only limited coverage. Check your health insurance contract carefully to learn about what is covered. Some states have laws that mandate health insurance policies to provide infertility coverage. Content Source Feature Image Source

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What is male infertility?

Male infertility is any health issue in a man that lowers the chances of his female partner getting pregnant. About 13 out of 100 couples can't get pregnant with unprotected sex. There are many causes for infertility in men and women. In over a third of infertility cases, the problem is with the man. This is most often due to problems with his sperm production or with sperm delivery. What Happens Under Normal Conditions? The man's body makes tiny cells called sperm. During sex, ejaculation normally delivers the sperm into the woman's body. The male reproductive system makes, stores, and transports sperm. Chemicals in your body called hormones control this. Sperm and male sex hormone (testosterone) are made in the 2 testicles. The testicles are in the scrotum, a sac of skin below the penis. When the sperm leave the testicles, they go into a tube behind each testicle. This tube is called the epididymis. Just before ejaculation, the sperm go from the epididymis into another set of tubes. These tubes are called the vas deferens. Each vas deferens leads from the epididymis to behind your bladder in the pelvis. There each vas deferens joins the ejaculatory duct from the seminal vesicle. When you ejaculate, the sperm mix with fluid from the prostate and seminal vesicles. This forms semen. Semen then travels through the urethra and out of the penis. Male fertility depends on your body making normal sperm and delivering them. The sperm go into the female partner's vagina. The sperm travel through her cervix into her uterus to her fallopian tubes. There, if a sperm and egg meet, fertilization happens. The system only works when genes, hormone levels and environmental conditions are right. Causes Making mature, healthy sperm that can travel depends on many things. Problems can stop cells from growing into sperm. Problems can keep the sperm from reaching the egg. Even the temperature of the scrotum may affect fertility. These are the main causes of male infertility: Sperm Disorders The most common problems are with making and growing sperm. Sperm may: not grow fully be oddly shaped not move the right way be made in very low numbers (oligospermia) not be made at all (azoospermia) Sperm problems can be from traits you're born with. Lifestyle choices can lower sperm numbers. Smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking certain medications can lower sperm numbers. Other causes of low sperm numbers include long-term sickness (such as kidney failure), childhood infections (such as mumps), and chromosome or hormone problems (such as low testosterone). Damage to the reproductive system can cause low or no sperm. About 4 out of every 10 men with total lack of sperm (azoospermia) have an obstruction (blockage). A birth defect or a problem such as an infection can cause a blockage. Varicoceles Varicoceles are swollen veins in the scrotum. They're found in 16 out of 100 of all men. They are more common in infertile men (40 out of 100). They harm sperm growth by blocking proper blood drainage. It may be that varicoceles cause blood to flow back into your scrotum from your belly. The testicles are then too warm for making sperm. This can cause low sperm numbers. For more information please refer to the Varicoceles information page. Retrograde Ejaculation Retrograde ejaculation is when semen goes backwards in the body. They go  into your bladder instead of out the penis. This happens when nerves and muscles in your bladder don't close during orgasm (climax). Semen may have normal sperm, but the semen cannot reach the vagina. Retrograde ejaculation can be caused by surgery, medications or health problems of the nervous system. Signs are cloudy urine after ejaculation and less fluid or "dry" ejaculation. Immunologic Infertility Sometimes a man's body makes antibodies that attack his own sperm. Antibodies are most often made because of injury, surgery or infection. They keep sperm from moving and working normally. We don't know yet exactly how antibodies lower fertility. We do know they can make it hard for sperm to swim to the fallopian tube and enter an egg. This is not a common cause of male infertility. Obstruction Sometimes sperm can be blocked. Repeated infections, surgery (such as vasectomy), swelling or developmental defects can cause blockage. Any part of the male reproductive tract can be blocked. With a blockage, sperm from the testicles can't leave the body during ejaculation. Hormones Hormones made by the pituitary gland tell the testicles to make sperm. Very low hormone levels cause poor sperm growth. Chromosomes Sperm carry half of the DNA to the egg. Changes in the number and structure of chromosomes can affect fertility. For example, the male Y chromosome may be missing parts. Medication Certain medications can change sperm production, function and delivery. These medications are most often given to treat health problems like: arthritis depression digestive problems infections high blood pressure cancer Diagnosis Causes of male fertility can be hard to diagnose. The problems are most often with sperm production or delivery. Diagnosis starts with a full history and physical exam. Your health care provider may also want to do blood work and semen tests. History and Physical Exam Your health care provider will take your health and surgical histories. Your provider will want to know about anything that might lower your fertility. These might include defects in your reproductive system, low hormone levels, sickness or accidents. Your provider will ask about childhood illnesses, current health problems, or medications that might harm sperm production. Such things as mumps, diabetes and steroids may affect fertility. Your provider will also ask about your use of alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other recreational drugs. He or she will ask if you've been exposed to ionizing radiation, heavy metals or pesticides. Heavy metals are an exposure issue (e.g. mercury, lead arsenic). All of these can affect fertility. Your health care provider will learn how your body works during sex. He or she will want to know about you and your partner's efforts to get pregnant. For example, your healthcare provider may ask if you've had trouble with erections. The physical exam will look for problems in your penis, epididymis, vas deferens, and testicles. Your doctor will look for varicoceles. They can be found easily with a physical exam. Semen Analysis Semen analysis is a routine lab test. It helps show the cause of male infertility. The test is most often done twice. Semen is collected by having you masturbate into a sterile cup. The semen sample is studied. It can be checked for things that help or hurt conception (fertilization). Your health care provider will study your sperm volume, count, concentration, movement ("motility"), and structure. The quality of your sperm tells much about your ability to conceive (start a pregnancy). For instance, semen is normal if it turns from a pearly gel into a liquid within 20 minutes. If not, there may be a problem with the seminal vesicles, your male sex glands. Lack of fructose (sugar) in a sperm-free sample may mean there are no seminal vesicles. Or it may mean there is a blocked ejaculatory duct. Even if the semen test shows low sperm numbers or no sperm, it may not mean you are permanently infertile. It may just show there's a problem with the growth or delivery of sperm. More test may be needed. Transrectal Ultrasound Your health care provider may order a transrectal ultrasound. Ultrasound uses sound waves bouncing off an organ to get a picture of the organ. A probe is placed in the rectum. It beams sound waves to the nearby ejaculatory ducts. The health care provider can see if structures such as the ejaculatory duct or seminal vesicles are poorly formed or blocked. Testicular Biopsy If a semen test shows a very low number of sperm or no sperm you may need a testicular biopsy. This test can be done in an operating room with general or local anesthesia. A small cut is made in the scrotum. It can also be done in a clinic using, a needle through the numbed scrotal skin. In either case, a small piece of tissue from each testicle is removed and studied under a microscope. The biopsy serves 2 purposes. It helps find the cause of infertility. And it can collect sperm for use in assisted reproduction. Hormonal Profile The health care provider may check your hormones. This is to learn how well your testicles make sperm. It can also rule out major health problems. For example, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is the pituitary hormone that tells the testicles to make sperm. High levels may mean your pituitary gland is trying to get the testicles to make sperm, but they won't. Treatment Treatment depends on what's causing infertility. Many problems can be fixed with drugs or surgery. This would allow conception through normal sex. The treatments below are broken into 3 categories: Non-surgical therapy for Male Infertility Surgical Therapy for Male Infertility Treatment for Unknown Causes of Male Infertility Non-Surgical Treatment for Specific Male Infertility Conditions Many male infertility problems can be treated without surgery. Anejaculation Anejaculation is when there's no semen. It's not common, but can be caused by: spinal cord injury prior surgery diabetes multiple sclerosis abnormalities present at birth other mental, emotional or unknown problems Drugs are often tried first to treat this condition. If they fail, there are 2 next steps. Rectal probe electroejaculation (RPE, better known as electroejaculation or EEJ) is one. Penile vibratory stimulation (PVS) is the other. Rectal probe electroejaculation is most often done under anesthesia. This is true except in men with a damaged spinal cord. RPE retrieves sperm in 90 out of 100 men who have it done. Many sperm are collected with this method. But sperm movement and shape may still lower fertility. Penile vibratory stimulation vibrates the tip and shaft of the penis to help get a natural climax. While non-invasive, it doesn't work as well as RPE. This is especially true in severe cases. Assisted reproductive techniques like in vitro fertilization (IVF) and intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) are of great value to men with anejaculation. Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia (CAH) CAH is a rare cause of male infertility. It involves flaws from birth in certain enzymes. This causes abnormal hormone production. CAH is most often diagnosed by looking for too much steroid in the blood and urine. CAH can be treated with hormone replacement. Genital Tract Infection Genital tract infection is rarely linked to infertility. It's only found in about 2 out of 100 men with fertility problems. In those cases, the problem is often diagnosed from a semen test. In the test, white blood cells are found. White blood cells make too much "reactive oxygen species" (ROS). This lowers the chances of sperm being able to fertilize an egg. For example, a severe infection of the epididymis and testes may cause testicular shrinking and epididymal duct blockage. The infection doesn't have to be sudden to cause problems. Antibiotics are often given for full-blown infections. But they're not used for lesser inflammations. They can sometimes harm sperm production. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (such as ibuprofen) are often used instead. Inflammation from causes other than infection can also affect fertility. For example, chronic prostatitis, in rare cases, can also block the ejaculatory ducts. Hyperprolactinemia Hyperprolactinemia is when the pituitary gland makes too much of the hormone prolactin. It's a factor in infertility and erectile dysfunction. Treatment depends on what's causing the increase. If medications are the cause, your health care provider may stop them. Drugs may be given to bring prolactin levels to normal. If a growth in the pituitary gland is found, you may be referred to a neurosurgeon. Hypogonadotropic Hypogonadism Hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is when the testicles don't make sperm due to poor stimulation by the pituitary hormones. This is due to a problem in the pituitary or hypothalamus. It's the cause of a small percentage of infertility in men. It can exist at birth ("congenital"). Or it can show up later ("acquired"). The congenital form, known also as Kallmann's syndrome, is caused by lower amounts of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). GnRH is a hormone made by the hypothalamus. The acquired form can be triggered by other health issues such as: pituitary tumors head trauma anabolic steroid use. If hypogonadotropic hypogonadism is suspected, your health care provider may want you to have an MRI. This will show a picture of your pituitary gland. You will also have a blood test to check prolactin levels. Together, an MRI and blood test can rule out pituitary tumors. If there are high levels of prolactin but no tumor on the pituitary gland, your provider may try to lower your prolactin first. Gonadotropin replacement therapy would be the next step. During treatment, blood testosterone levels and semen will be checked. Chances for pregnancy are very good. The sperm resulting from this treatment are normal. Immunologic Infertility Scientists first showed that some infertility cases were linked to immune system problems in the early 1950s. There has been much research since then. Though steroids (by mouth) are sometimes used to lower antisperm antibodies, this rarely works. In vitro fertilization with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is now preferred for fertility problems caused by the immune system. This abnormality is very rare. Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) ROS are small molecules found in many bodily fluids. They are in white blood cells. They are also in the sperm cells in semen. ROS can help prepare the sperm for fertilization. But too much ROS can hurt other cells. Sperm are easily harmed by ROS. Recent studies have shown more ROS molecules in the semen of infertile men. Many compounds have been used to detoxify or "scavenge" (fix) ROS levels. The most studied of these, Vitamin E (400 IU twice daily), can work well as an antioxidant. Pentoxifylline, coenzymeQ, and Vitamin C have also been shown to lower sperm ROS. They're used much less often than Vitamin E. Retrograde Ejaculation Retrograde ejaculation, semen flowing back instead of going out the penis, has many causes. It can be caused by: prostate or bladder surgeries diabetes spinal cord injury anti-depressants certain anti-hypertensives medications used to treat prostate enlargement (BPH) Retrograde ejaculation is found by checking your urine for sperm. This is done under a microscope right after ejaculation. Drugs can be used to correct retrograde ejaculation. It is often treated first with over-the-counter medications like Sudafed®. If medications don't work and you need assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs), your health care provider may try to collect sperm from your bladder after ejaculation. Surgical Therapy for Male Infertility Varicocele Treatments Varicoceles can be fixed with minor outpatient surgery called varicocelectomy. Fixing these swollen veins helps sperm movement, numbers, and structure. For more information on varicocele treatments please refer to our Varicoceles page. Azoospermia Treatments If your semen lacks sperm (azoospermia) because of a blockage, there are many surgical choices. Microsurgical Vasovasostomy Vasovasostomy is used to undo a vasectomy. It uses microsurgery to join the 2 cut parts of the vas deferens in each testicle. For more information on this treatment please refer to our Vasectomy Reversal page. Vasoepididymostomy Vasoepididymostomy joins the upper end of the vas deferens to the epididymis. It's the most common microsurgical method to treat epididymal blocks. For more information on this treatment please refer to our Vasectomy Reversal Page. Transurethral Resection of the Ejaculatory Duct (TURED) Ejaculatory duct blockage can be treated surgically. A cystoscope is passed into the urethra (the tube inside the penis) and a small incision is made in the ejaculatory duct. This gets sperm into the semen in about 65 out of 100 men. But there can be problems. Blockages could come back. Incontinence and retrograde ejaculation from bladder damage are other possible but rare problems. Also, only 1 in 4 couples get pregnant naturally after this treatment. Treatment for Unknown Causes of Male Infertility Sometimes it's hard to tell the cause of male infertility. This is called "non-specific" or "idiopathic" male infertility. Your health care provider may uses experience to help figure out what works. This is called "empiric therapy." Because infertility problems are often due to hormones, empiric therapy might balance hormone levels. It's not easy to tell how well empiric treatments will work. Each case is different. Assisted Reproductive Techniques If infertility treatment fails or isn't available, there are ways to get pregnant without sex. These methods are called assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs). Based on the specific type of infertility and the cause, your health care provider may suggest: Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) For IUI, your health care provider places the sperm into the female partner's uterus through a tube. IUI is often good for low sperm count and movement problems, retrograde ejaculation, and other causes of infertility. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) IVF is when the egg of a female partner or donor is joined with sperm in a lab Petri dish. For IVF, the ovaries must be overly stimulated. This is often done with drugs. It allows many mature eggs to be retrieved. After 3 to 5 days of growth, the fertilized egg (embryo) is put back into the uterus. IVF is used mostly for women with blocked fallopian tubes. But it's being used more and more in cases where the man has very severe and untreatable oligospermia (low sperm count). Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) ICSI is a variation of IVF. It has revolutionized treatment of severe male infertility. It lets couples thought infertile get pregnant. A single sperm is injected into the egg with a tiny needle. Once the egg is fertilized, it's put in the female partner's uterus. Your health care provider may use ICSI if you have very poor semen quality. It is also used if you have no sperm in the semen caused by a block or testicular failure that can't be fixed. Sperm may also be taken from the testicles or epididymis by surgery for this method. Sperm Retrieval for ART Many microsurgical methods can remove sperm blocked by obstructive azoospermia (no sperm). The goal is to get the best quality and number of cells. This is done while trying not to harm the reproductive tract. These methods include: Testicular Sperm Extraction (TESE) This is a common technique used to diagnose the cause of azoospermia. It also gets enough tissue for sperm extraction. The sperm taken from the testicle can be used fresh or frozen ("cryopreserved"). One or many small biopsies are done, often in the office. Testicular Fine Needle Aspiration (TFNA) TFNA was first used to diagnose azoospermia. It is now sometimes used to collect sperm from the testicles. A needle and syringe puncture the scrotal skin to pull sperm from the testicle. Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) PESA, like TFNA, can be done many times at low cost. There is no surgical cut. More urologists can do it because it doesn't call for a high-powered microscope. PESA is done under local or general anesthesia. The urologist sticks a needle attached to a syringe into the epididymis. Then he or she gently withdraws fluid. Sperm may not always be gotten this way. You may still need open surgery. Microsurgical Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA) With MESA, sperm are also retrieved from the epididymal tubes. This method uses a surgical microscope. MESA yields high amounts of motile sperm. They can be frozen and thawed later for IVF treatments. This method limits harm to the epididymis. It keeps blood out of the fluid. Even though MESA calls for general anesthesia and microsurgical skill, it has a lower problem rate. It's also able to collect larger numbers of sperm with better motility for banking. After Treatment Male infertility can often be fixed with an outpatient procedure. These are done under general anesthesia or IV sedation. While pain after surgery is usually mild, recovery and follow-up vary. After varicocele repair, your health care provider should do a physical exam. This is to see if the vein is completely gone. Often the veins stay enlarged, since they are not removed during surgery but only closed off to prevent abnormal blood flow. Semen should be tested about every 3 months for at least a year, or until pregnancy. If your varicocele returns, or you stay infertile, ask your health care provider about ARTs. Vasectomy reversals cause only mild pain after surgery. But expect an out-of-work recovery of 4 to 7 days. The chance for pregnancy depends on many things. It mostly depends on the age and fertility of your female partner. The number of years between your vasectomy and reversal also affects success. The longer you wait, the less likely the reversal will be a success. content source

What Should one Look For In A Surrogate?

Surrogates are generally caring, generous, family-oriented women who feel very strongly about giving others the gift of family. Most are responsible, conscientious woman who are very devoted to the process of surrogacy. The majority of surrogates come from medium to low-income households. The relationship status of surrogates varies from single moms to married women, and education levels vary from GED’s to advanced degrees. What should intended parents look for in a surrogate? Clearly, the primary concern of any intended parent should be the surrogate’s general health and lifestyle and pregnancy history. That being in order, here are some things every intended parent should take into consideration:   • The support system the surrogate will have during the surrogacy (will she have the support of a partner, a parent, a roommate, her place of employment or a close friend)?   • Her responsiveness to requests from the agency, e.g. whether she has followed through with appointments, etc. (You can ask your agency about that.) • How her partner, husband and/or family feels about the surrogacy? • Whether or not she plans on dating during the surrogacy (assuming she is single). • Whether you and she agree on issues such as reductions or pregnancy terminations. • How your surrogate feels about invasive procedures such as amniocentesis, etc. • How much involvement you want in the surrogate’s life during (and after) the pregnancy/birth (e.g. phone calls, Skype, emails, appointments, through agency only, on-going relationship, etc.) • How important a surrogate’s diet is during the pregnancy and how willing she is to follow requested guidelines.   Also, don’t discount your own “Spidey Sense”. Sometimes you just get a vibe about someone, good or bad, and you should go with your instinct. What does an agency look for in a potential surrogate? As you can imagine, many factors go into deciding whether or not we should accept a potential surrogate into our program. Among the factors we consider are:   • Health history   • Criminal background check • Willingness to work with all types of families • Whether she responds to emails, calls, etc. in a timely manner • Her motivations for wanting to become a surrogate • Her level of openness about the surrogacy • Her ability to make it to her appointments (reliable car and/or form of transportation) • Her overall health, including:   o BMI   o non-smoker, drugs or alcohol o mental health o pregnancy history   • Current living situation:     o how many people she lives with and whom   o whether her environment is safe and clean o whether her home is close to medical facilities o how her partner and children feel about the surrogacy You mentioned the potential surrogate’s motivations—can you elaborate? There’s no question that compensation is a big motivator for potential surrogates. The funds often help with down-payments on a house, college education, children’s college funds and other major expenses. Additionally, surrogates tend to be women who enjoy helping others and love being pregnant. How do you screen your surrogates?   It depends how the surrogate finds or is referred to an agency, but generally the process is this:   • The agency has an initial phone conversation with the surrogate to discuss general requirements like height, weight, why she wants to become a surrogate, etc. • Assuming she meets the basic standards of surrogacy, she is then asked to fill out an application which delves deeper into her medical/personal history, etc. At this time, most agencies ask her for permission to conduct a background check for any criminal history she may have. • If everything, including the background check, looks good, a home visit to check her living situation, meet her children and partner (if applicable) and get a general overall view of her lifestyle is conducted. • It’s at that point that an agency will formally admit her into their program and start sending her profile out to intended parents for consideration. content source

Considerations for Choosing a Surrogate Mother

Whether you are a single man or woman or a couple, you may choose to use a surrogate to help bring your dreams of parenthood to reality. When you’ve decided to choose a surrogate mother to help you start a family, there are still further options to consider, like whether you’ll use traditional or gestational surrogacy. With a gestational surrogacy, the carrier becomes pregnant by means of in vitro fertilization (IVF) using the eggs of the intended mother or an egg donor. This means that the surrogate baby is not genetically related to the carrier. With a traditional surrogate, the surrogate’s egg is fertilized with sperm from the intended father or sperm donor through IVF or artificial insemination, making the carrier and the child genetically related. This form of surrogacy is less common than gestational surrogacy. Choosing a Surrogate If you do not already have a surrogate in mind, such as a friend or family member, you can contact an agency or fertility clinic who will help you find one. There are a number of important factors to consider when choosing a carrier for your surrogate baby including: The surrogate’s medical history—this should include a genetic profile (traditional surrogates only), blood tests and obstetric history. The surrogate’s lifestyle choices including their history of drinking and substance abuse. The cost of the surrogacy process—this includes surrogacy compensation, health and life insurance, legal fees, agency fees, psychological screening and monitoring, travel costs, medical expenses, and egg donation compensation and expenses (if applicable) . The legal issues—the laws on surrogacy vary from state to state, so the location of your surrogate is an important issue to consider. What kind of relationship you wish to have with the surrogate after the child is born—you may wish the surrogate to remain an integral part of your child’s life, or have the relationship complete upon delivery. When you are looking for a surrogate with whom you can entrust the first nine months of your baby’s life, you will want to find someone who will treat the pregnancy as if it were her own. If you do choose to find your surrogate through an agency, ask them about their screening process for surrogates, what they are like and why they do this to determine if the agency is able to provide you with the right surrogate for you. Ultimately, the key to making the right choice, is finding a surrogate that you can trust completely and with whom you can feel at ease. content source

Factors responsible for infertility

Some people with fertilityproblems never even know it until they try to have a baby. That’s because oftentimes infertility issues don’t have symptoms. So whether you’re actively trying to have children or just planning to in the future, it’s good to know if anything you or your partner are doing might reduce your chances of getting pregnant. While you can’t control everything that might affect your fertility, there are some things you can. Risk Factors for Infertility Men and women are equally at risk for fertility problems. In about one-third of cases, both partners have issues, or doctors can’t find the cause. Some of the factors that affect a couple’s ability to have a baby include: Age. A woman is born with a set number of eggs. That number drops as she ages, making it harder for her to get pregnant after she reaches her mid-30s. By 40, her chances of getting pregnant drop from 90% to 67%. By age 45, it’s just 15%. A man is less fertile after age 40. Can you lower your risk? Sort of. When you’re ready to have children, don’t wait. The younger you are the better. Smoking. If you smoke tobacco or marijuana, you’re less likely to get pregnant. Tobacco and marijuana can increase a woman’s chance of miscarriage, and decrease sperm count in men. Smokers also hit menopause about 2 years earlier than non-smokers. It can also cause erectile dysfunction(ED). Can you lower your risk? Yes. Don’t smoke or use tobacco products of any kind. Drinking alcohol. Doctors now say there’s no safe amount of alcohol women can drink during pregnancy. It can lead to birth defects. It may also lower your chances of getting pregnant and drinking heavily can decrease sperm count in men. Can you lower your risk? Yes. Men and women should avoid alcohol when trying to conceive. Weight. Women who are overweight can have irregular periods and skip ovulation. But women who are extremely underweight can also have problems -- their reproductive systems can shut down completely. Men who are obese can have lower-quality sperm or ED. Can you lower your risk? Yes. Talk to your doctor about how to exercise and eat to maintain a safe weight, especially if you’re over age 40. But don’t overdo it and strainyour body. Mental health. Both depressionand lots of stress can affect the hormones that regulate your reproductive cycle. Women dealing with these issues may not ovulate normally and men may have a lower sperm count. Can you lower your risk?- Yes. Try to reduce the stress in your life before and while trying to become pregnant. STDs. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for STDs. Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and fallopian tube infections in women, and epididymis blockages that can lead to infertility in men. Can you lower your risk? -Yes. Use a condom every time you have sex to reduce your chances of getting certain STDs. Environmental factors. There may be factors in your everyday life that are reducing your chances of getting pregnant -- especially if your job involves toxic substances or hazards. Some dangers include pesticides, pollution, high temperatures, chemicals, or heavy electromagnetic or microwave emissions. Radiation and chemotherapy treatments for cancer can affect both sperm and eggs, too. Her Risks There are certain things that apply only to women. Any one of the following could cause problems with ovulation, hormones, or your reproductive organs: Endometriosis Fallopian tube disease Chronic disease like diabetes, lupus, arthritis, hypertension, or asthma Two or more miscarriages History of irregular periods Early menopause (before age 40) An abnormally shaped uterus Polyps in your uterus Leftover scar tissue from a pelvic infection or surgery Uterine fibroids or cysts Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) His Risks Some factors are male-only, as well, and could affect sperm count, sperm health, or sperm delivery, including: A repaired hernia Testicles that haven’t descended An inflamed or infected prostate Mumps any time after puberty Prescription medications for ulcers or psoriasis Cystic fibrosis Premature ejaculation or a blockage in your testicles Enlarged veins in your testes content source

Symptoms of infertility

Infertility is when you cannot get pregnant after having unprotected, regular sex for six months to one year, depending on your age. The main symptom of infertilityis not getting pregnant. You may not have or notice any other symptoms. Symptoms can also depend on what is causing the infertility. Many health conditions can make it hard to get pregnant. Sometimes no cause is found. Signs of Potential Infertility in Women In women, changes in the menstrual cycle and ovulation may be a symptom of a disease related to infertility. Symptoms include: Abnormal periods. Bleeding is heavier or lighter than usual. Irregular periods. The number of days in between each period varies each month. No periods. You have never had a period, or periods suddenly stop. Painful periods. Back pain, pelvic pain, and cramping may happen. Sometimes, female infertility is related to a hormone problem. In this case, symptoms can also include: Skin changes, including more acne Changes in sex drive and desire Dark hair growth on the lips, chest, and chin Loss of hair or thinning hair Weight gain Other symptoms of disorders that may lead to infertility include: Milky white discharge from nipples unrelated to breastfeeding Pain during sex Many other things can be related to infertility in women, and their symptoms vary. Signs of Potential Infertility in Men Infertility symptoms in men can be vague. They may go unnoticed until a man tries to have a baby. Symptoms depend on what is causing the infertility. They can include: Changes in hair growth Changes in sexual desire Pain, lump, or swelling in the testicles Problems with erections and ejaculation Small, firm testicles When to See the Doctor If you are under 35 and have been trying to get pregnant without success for a year, see your doctor. Women 35 and older should see their doctor after six months of trying. Blood, urine, and imaging tests can be done to discover why you are having trouble getting pregnant. A sperm analysis can be done to check a man's sperm count and the overall health of the sperm. Your doctor may refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist. That's a doctor who specializes in infertility. You will be asked questions about your infertility symptoms and medical history. Before you go to the doctor, write down the following information and take it to your next doctor's appointment: All the medications you take, including prescriptions, vitamins, minerals, supplements, and any other drugs bought without a prescription How often you have unprotected sex, how long you have been trying, and the date of the last time you tried to get pregnant Body changes or other symptoms you have noticed Dates of any surgeries or treatments in the past, especially those involving the reproductive tract. Any radiation or chemotherapy you have had How much you smoke, how much alcohol you drink, and any illegal drug use Any history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) Any genetic disorder or chronic illness, such as diabetes or thyroid disease, in you or your family Listen to your body. Tell your doctor any time you notice a symptom. Early diagnosis of an infertility problem may improve your odds of getting pregnant. content source

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) - an overview

The first step in IVF involves injecting hormones so you produce multiple eggs each month instead of only one.You will then be tested to determine whether you're ready for egg retrieval. Prior to the retrieval procedure, you will be given injections of a medication that ripens the developing eggs and starts the process of ovulation. Timing is important; the eggs must be retrieved just before they emerge from the follicles in the ovaries. If the eggs are taken out too early or too late, they won't develop normally. Your doctor may do blood tests or an ultrasound to be sure the eggs are at the right stage of development before retrieving them. The IVF facility will provide you with special instructions to follow the night before and the day of the procedure. Most women are given pain medication and the choice of being mildly sedated or going under full anesthesia. During the procedure, your doctor will locate follicles in the ovary with ultrasound and remove the eggs with a hollow needle. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, but may take up to an hour. Immediately following the retrieval, your eggs will be mixed in the laboratory with your partner's sperm, which he will have donated on the same day. While you and your partner go home, the fertilized eggs are kept in the clinic under observation to ensure optimal growth. Depending on the clinic, you may even wait up to five days until the embryo reaches a more advanced blastocyst stage. Once the embryos are ready, you will return to the IVF facility so doctors can transfer one or more into your uterus. This procedure is quicker and easier than the retrieval of the egg. The doctor will insert a flexible tube called a catheter through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus, where the embryos will be deposited. To increase the chances of pregnancy, most IVF experts recommend transferring up to three embryos at a time. However, this means you could have a multiple pregnancy, which can increase the health risks for both you and the babies. Following the procedure, you would typically stay in bed for several hours and be discharged four to six hours later. Your doctor will probably perform a pregnancy test on you about two weeks after the embryo transfer. In cases where the man's sperm count is extremely low, doctors may combine IVF with a procedure called intracytoplasmic sperm injection. In this procedure, a sperm is taken from semen -- or in some cases right from the testicles -- and inserted directly into the egg. Once a viable embryo is produced, it is transferred to the uterus using the usual IVF procedure. content source

Infertility and In Vitro Fertilization

  Today, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is practically a household word. But not so long ago, it was a mysterious procedure for infertility that produced what were then known as "test-tube babies." Louise Brown, born in England in 1978, was the first such baby to be conceived outside her mother's womb. Unlike the simpler process of artificial insemination -- in which sperm is placed in the uterus and conception happens otherwise normally -- IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies. What Causes of Infertility Can IVF Treat? When it comes to infertility, IVF may be an option if you or your partner have been diagnosed with:   Endometriosis Low sprem counts Problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes Problems with ovulation Antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs The inability of sperm to penetrate or survive in the cervical mucus An unexplained fertility problem IVF is never the first step in the treatment of infertility except in cases of complete  tubal blockage. Instead, it's reserved for cases in which other methods such as fertility drugs, surgery, and artificial insemination haven't worked. If you think that IVF might make sense for you, carefully assess any treatment center before undergoing the procedure. Here are some questions to ask the staff at the fertility clinic: What is your pregnancy ratio per embryo transfer? What is your pregnancy rate for couples in our age group and with our fertility problem? What is the live birth rate for all couples who undergo this procedure each year at your facility? How many of those deliveries are twins or other multiple births? How much will the procedure cost, including the cost of the hormone treatments? How much does it cost to store embryos and how long can we store them? Do you participate in an egg donation program? content source

Your age and fertility

Fertility starts to decline for women from about the age of 30, dropping down more steeply from the age of 35. As women grow older the likelihood of getting pregnant falls while the likelihood of infertility rises. Most women will be able to conceive naturally and give birth to a healthy baby if they get pregnant at 35. After 35 the proportion of women who experience infertility, miscarriage or a problem with their baby increases. By the age of 40, only two in five of those who wish to have a baby will be able to do so. The average age at which women have in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment is on the upward trend too. This reflects the increase in infertility due to age. However, the success rates of IVF treatment for women over 40 are low and have not increased much over the past decade. From a purely biological perspective, it's best to try to start a family before you're 35. Men can remain fertile for much longer than women. Even though male fertility also declines with age, it tends to happen gradually for men. While many men remain fertile into their 50s and beyond, the proportion of men with sperm disorders increases with age. The decline in male fertility is more gradual for men than women. The decline in male fertility can affect the health of the children they may go on to have. Content Source Feature Image Source

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Can diapers cause infertility in boys?

The question of whether diapers can harm boys or make them or infertile has puzzled many a mom over the years. Your concern is understandable. Some even falsely say it may lead to low sperm count. This concern is unfounded at best. In the first place, your baby’s testicles will not be producing sperms just yet, until puberty when special cells in the testicles become active. The testicles are safe in the pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testicles should not be overheated and diapers do not get heated up to such levels that they can be harmful to the testicles. This applies to disposable and washable nappies used with an outer wrap. Just ensure that they are not tied too tightly around the baby. While there have been worries that if a boy’s scrotum stays too warm, his fertility may be affected, there has been no proof. No research has been conducted to verify these worries or validate them. There is a study that found that the scrotums were cooler than the body temperature even when they were covered with nappies. They remained cool whether the nappies were disposable or reusable. The effect on sperm quality cannot be determined, because at that age sperms are not being produced yet. We do know, however, that cooling the scrotum can improve sperm quality. But the effects are thought to be temporary. Some experts advise parents to use cotton nappies without an outer waterproof wrap instead. You don’t do away with nappies/diapers altogether, but instead keep your baby nappy-free for some time every day, especially when you are at home and you can attend to him when he soils himself. Most babies, in any case, enjoy kicking for a while every day without a nappy of any sort on. This even reduces the risk of a nappy rash. Petroleum jelly keeps the groin and nappy areas moist and protected from dryness and rash. Content Source Featured Image Source

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What is Male Infertility?

What is male infertility? Reproduction (or making a baby) is a simple and natural experience for most couples. However, for some couples it is very difficult to conceive. A man’s fertility generally relies on the quantity and quality of his sperm. If the number of sperm a man ejaculates is low or if the sperm are of a poor quality, it will be difficult, and sometimes impossible, for him to cause a pregnancy. Male infertility is diagnosed when, after testing both partners, reproductive problems have been found in the male. How common is male infertility? Infertility is a widespread problem. For about one in five infertile couples the problem lies solely in the male partner. It is estimated that one in 20 men has some kind of fertility problem with low numbers of sperm in his ejaculate. However, only about one in every 100 men has no sperm in his ejaculate. What are the symptoms of male infertility? In most cases, there are no obvious signs of infertility. Intercourse, erections and ejaculation will usually happen without difficulty. The quantity and appearance of the ejaculated semen generally appears normal to the naked eye. Medical tests are needed to find out if a man is infertile. What causes male infertility? Male infertility is usually caused by problems that affect either sperm production or sperm transport. Through medical testing, the doctor may be able to find the cause of the problem. About two-thirds of infertile men have a problem with making sperm in the testes. Either low numbers of sperm are made and/or the sperm that are made do not work properly. Sperm transport problems are found in about one in every five infertile men, including men who have had a vasectomy but now wish to have more children. Blockages (often referred to as obstructions) in the tubes leading sperm away from the testes to the penis can cause a complete lack of sperm in the ejaculated semen. Other less common causes of infertility include: sexual problems that affect whether semen is able to enter the woman’s vagina for fertilisation to take place (one in 100 infertile couples); low levels of hormones made in the pituitary gland that act on the testes (one in 100 infertile men); and sperm antibodies (found in one in 16 infertile men). In most men sperm antibodies will not affect the chance of a pregnancy but in some men sperm antibodies reduce fertility. Known causes of male infertility Sperm production problems • Chromosomal or genetic causes • Undescended testes (failure of the testes to descend at birth) • Infections • Torsion (twisting of the testis in scrotum) • Varicocele (varicose veins of the testes) • Medicines and chemicals • Radiation damage • Unknown cause Blockage of sperm transport • Infections • Prostate-related problems • Absence of vas deferens • Vasectomy Sexual problems (erection and ejaculation problems) • Retrograde and premature ejaculation • Failure of ejaculation • Erectile dysfunction • Infrequent intercourse • Spinal cord injury • Prostate surgery • Damage to nerves • Some medicines Hormonal problems • Pituitary tumours • Congenital lack of LH/FSH (pituitary problem from birth) • Anabolic (androgenic) steroid abuse Sperm antibodies • Vasectomy • Injury or infection in the epididymis • Unknown cause Content Source Feature Image Source

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