Cancer. Although some early studies suggested there may be a link between certain medications used to stimulate egg growth and the development of a specific type of ovarian tumor, more-recent studies do not support these findings. There does not appear to be a significantly increased risk of breast, endometrial, cervical or ovarian cancer after IVF.
The AMIGOS study suggested that clomid provided the best balance of a high pregnancy rate with a reasonably low multiple rate among couples with unexplained infertility. However, the authors of the Huang study concluded that on balance letrozole was better. From our vantage point, given that clomid more commonly causes multiple eggs to be ovulated, it seems like the slightly better option between the two because the whole point of treatment in unexplained infertility patients is to increase the odds of delivery by increasing the number of eggs ovulated.
As with any medical procedure, there are some risks to keep in mind. When choosing between IUI and IVF, the risk is certainly something to consider. The chances of experiencing either a miscarriage or multiples are concerns many have when deciding to undergo fertility treatments. So let’s take a look at the odds of either of these things occurring, plus a few other risks to be aware of.
Obesity: The obesity epidemic has recently become is a serious issue, particularly in industrialized nations. The rising number of obese individuals may be due in part to an energy-rich diet as well as insufficient physical exercise. In addition to other potential health risks, obesity can have a significant impact on male and female fertility. BMI (body mass index) may be a significant factor in fertility, as an increase in BMI in the male by as little as three units can be associated with infertility. Several studies have demonstrated that an increase in BMI is correlated with a decrease in sperm concentration, a decrease in motility and an increase DNA damage in sperm. A relationship also exists between obesity and erectile dysfunction (ED). ED may be the consequence of the conversion of androgens to estradiol. The enzyme aromatase is responsible for this conversion, and is found primarily in adipose tissue. As the amount of adipose tissue increases, there is more aromatase available to convert androgens, and serum estradiol levels increase. Other hormones including inhibin B and leptin, may also be affected by obesity. Inhibin B levels have been reported to decrease with increasing weight, which results in decreased Sertoli cells and sperm production. Leptin is a hormone associated with numerous effects including appetite control, inflammation, and decreased insulin secretion, according to many studies. Obese women have a higher rate of recurrent, early miscarriage compared to non-obese women.
All pregnancies can be risky, but there are greater risk for women who are older and are over the age of 40. The older the women the riskier the pregnancy. As women get older, they are more likely to suffer from conditions such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia. If older women do conceive over the age of 40, their offspring may be of lower birth weight, and more likely to requires intensive care. Because of this, the increased risk is a sufficient cause for concern. The high incidence of caesarean in older mothers is commonly regarded as a risk.
Alcoholism is a disease that includes alcohol craving and continued drinking despite repeated alcohol-related problems, such as losing a job or getting into trouble with the law. It can cause myriad health problems, including cirrhosis of the liver, birth defects, heart disease, stroke, psychological problems, and dementia. Counseling and a few medications can be effective for alcoholism treatment.
Twenty-eight days is the average length of a menstrual cycle, though anything between 21 and 35 days is considered normal. Fluctuating a little from month to month is one thing, but if your period is so irregular that you don’t even try to track it anymore, it could indicate a problem producing eggs, or ovulating. Ovulation disorders (meaning you ovulate infrequently or not at all) account for infertility in about 25 percent of infertile couples, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the most common causes of female infertility is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—a condition characterized by longer than normal stretches between periods, or even skipping cycles for months in a row. (Get the silent signs of PCOS here.) Irregular periods may also result from excessive physical or emotional stress, which can mess with the hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation each month; being too heavy or too thin, or gaining or losing a lot of weight quickly may also have the same effect. Talk to your doctor; he may be able to prescribe fertility drugs to help induce or stimulate ovulation.
In IUI, this natural sequence of events is given some assistance. A sample of sperm is prepared in the laboratory so that only the best moving sperm are concentrated together. This sperm is then deposited directly into the uterus without having to swim there on its own, which can be challenging, especially if the sperm do not swim well. IUI places a higher concentration of moving sperm closer to the ovulated egg. Often a woman will have taken medication prior to the IUI procedure to ensure she will ovulate around the time of the procedure, so egg and sperm can meet.
Our team here at the Center for Human Reproduction has recently developed an infographic explaining one of the most common causes of female infertility: unexplained infertility. This diagnosis is given to 30% of infertility cases and yet, we believe it really is a non-diagnosis. In our clinical experience, with proper testing, up to 90% of unexplained infertility diagnoses can be attributed to treatable causes.
Treating secondary infertility, like primary infertility, will depend largely on any underlying medical conditions. Through the Couples Clinic at UW Health's Generations Fertility Care, both members of the couple undergo a routine evaluation. Since infertility is not simply a woman's problem, evaluating both members ensures the most effective treatments can be recommended.
Impaired sperm production or function. Below-average sperm concentration, weak movement of sperm (poor mobility), or abnormalities in sperm size and shape can make it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg. If semen abnormalities are found, your partner might need to see a specialist to determine if there are correctable problems or underlying health concerns.
While many cases of infertility remain unexplained, there may be answers in the epigenome. Unlike one’s genetic code, the epigenome is dynamic and can be modified by environmental factors and lifestyle choices. Fertility in many cases is a state which changes throughout one’s life. Given the lack of clear genetic or physiological causes of unexplained infertility, the epigenome is thought to be altered in this subset of patients. As a result, looking into the epigenetic basis of infertility can help clinicians inform treatment.
Along with being physically demanding, fertility treatments can also spark a roller-coaster of emotions each month, including hope, anger, disappointment, sadness, and guilt. Just the sight of a pregnant woman can evoke strong negative and stressful feelings. During this time, those struggling with infertility may pull away from friends and family who remind them of their difficulty with reproduction; some of their closest relationships may suffer.
Risk of multiples. IUI with fertility medication carries a significant risk of multiple pregnancies, including higher-order multiples (triplets or more). A good clinic will carefully monitor your follicles to make sure that only a safe number are mature before the IUI, but they cannot entirely eliminate the risk. Recent advances in IVF (including blastocyst transfer) mean that most modern fertility clinics now transfer only one or two embryos per IVF cycle. As a result, the risk of multiple pregnancies for IVF patients is much lower than it used to be.
For women, intake of antioxidants (such as N-acetyl-cysteine, melatonin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, folic acid, myo-inositol, zinc or selenium) has not been associated with a significantly increased live birth rate or clinical pregnancy rate in IVF according to Cochrane reviews. The review found that oral antioxidants given to men in couples with male factor or unexplained subfertility may improve live birth rates, but more evidence is needed.
When you face secondary infertility, you’re dealing not only with the typical ups and downs of TTC, but also with the additional emotional fallout that is unique to those having difficulty getting pregnant with baby number two. In addition to feeling disappointed and upset, you may also be feeling shock (“I got pregnant so easily the first time, there’s no way I could have infertility problems”), guilt (“I already have a child, so I should be happy”) and even isolation (“I can’t connect with the people facing primary infertility and I can’t connect with my friends who have multiple kids”). How do you reconcile these conflicting emotions — and how do you tackle them while trying to raise the child you already have?
A genetic disorder. If you or your partner is at risk of passing on a genetic disorder to your child, you may be candidates for preimplantation genetic testing — a procedure that involves IVF. After the eggs are harvested and fertilized, they're screened for certain genetic problems, although not all genetic problems can be found. Embryos that don't contain identified problems can be transferred to the uterus.