Coping with secondary fertility can be tough. Endless doctor appointments, tests, procedures, and medications. Sleepless nights. Time and energy away from your little one. Guilt over wanting another pregnancy when many women are struggling to have just that. Stress between you and your partner. Sadness when you get invited to yet another baby shower — and guilt for even feeling that way.
First, you take medication that makes several of your eggs mature and ready for fertilization. Then the doctor takes the eggs out of your body and mixes them with sperm in a lab, to help the sperm fertilize the eggs. Then they put 1 or more fertilized eggs (embryos) directly into your uterus. Pregnancy happens if any of the embryos implant in the lining of your uterus.
Since each couple is unique in the cause of infertility, the answer as to whether ICSI or conventional IVF is more beneficial could vary. A retrospective cohort study published in 2015 is the most comprehensive study so far comparing the two strategies with different infertility factors, which will be the focus here1. A few other smaller-scale studies will also be discussed.
In July 1978, Louise Brown was the first child successfully born after her mother received IVF treatment. Brown was born as a result of natural-cycle IVF, where no stimulation was made. The procedure took place at Dr Kershaw's Cottage Hospital (now Dr Kershaw's Hospice) in Royton, Oldham, England. Robert G. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010. The physiologist co-developed the treatment together with Patrick Steptoe and embryologist Jean Purdy but the latter two were not eligible for consideration as they had died and the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.
Availability of IVF in England is determined by Clinical commissioning groups. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends up to 3 cycles of treatment for women under 40 years old with minimal success conceiving after 2 years of unprotected sex. Cycles will not be continued for women who are older than 40 years old. CCGs in Essex, Bedfordshire and Somerset have reduced funding to one cycle, or none, and it is expected that reductions will become more widespread. Funding may be available in "exceptional circumstances" – for example if a male partner has a transmittable infection or one partner is affected by cancer treatment. According to the campaign group Fertility Fairness at the end of 2014 every CCG in England was funding at least one cycle of IVF". Prices paid by the NHS in England varied between under £3,000 to more than £6,000 in 2014/5. In February 2013, the cost of implementing the NICE guidelines for IVF along with other treatments for infertility was projected to be £236,000 per year per 100,000 members of the population.
Alternatives to donating unused embryos are destroying them (or having them implanted at a time where pregnancy is very unlikely), keeping them frozen indefinitely, or donating them for use in research (which results in their unviability). Individual moral views on disposing leftover embryos may depend on personal views on the beginning of human personhood and definition and/or value of potential future persons and on the value that is given to fundamental research questions. Some people believe donation of leftover embryos for research is a good alternative to discarding the embryos when patients receive proper, honest and clear information about the research project, the procedures and the scientific values.
Ovarian stimulation with hormonal medication is performed over a period of around 10-14 days. During this time, progress is monitored through ultrasound scans and blood tests. When enough oocytes (eggs) have developed in the ovaries, a final hormone injection triggers the maturing of the oocytes. Thirty-six hours later, egg retrieval is scheduled to take place in the fertility clinic.
Hashimoto's thyroiditis or chronic lymphocytic thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder causing inflammation of the thyroid gland. Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a type of hypothyroidism, and is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the US. Symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis may include dry skin, fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, excessive sleepiness, dry skin, dry coarse hair, difficulty swallowing, a lump in the front of the throat, muscle cramps, mood changes, vague aches and pains, problems concentrating, leg swelling, constipation, and depression. There is no cure for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Diet changes, natural supplements, vitamins, or other natural products will not treat Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Treatment for the autoimmune disorder is with thyroid hormone replacement therapy, which will be necessary for the rest of the person’s life.
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.
Secondary infertility is a secret club and one, I've discovered, with permanent membership. I was in a supermarket the other day and ahead of me in the cereal aisle was a woman with a boy of about nine and twin babies in the trolley. As I passed, she turned and looked at us. I saw her clocking my children and their age-gap and she saw I was doing the same with hers. We looked at each other for a moment; she smiled and I smiled back and then we walked on.
Heavy, as in a pad and a tampon still doesn’t feel like enough. Certain medical conditions, like thyroid problems or kidney disease, can cause excessive menstrual bleeding, medications (such as anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulants) may as well; or the reason may be a condition linked to infertility. In a normal menstrual cycle, the hormones estrogen and progesterone work together to regulate the buildup of the lining of the uterus—that’s the stuff that sheds during your period. But if, for example, your ovaries don’t release an egg, the dominoes are tipped: your body produces less progesterone, hormones become imbalanced, the lining in your uterus over-develops, and you end up bleeding extra heavily. Fibroids in your uterus can also cause heavier or longer-than-normal periods; some types of these benign tumors can block fallopian tubes or interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg. Up to 10 percent of infertile women have fibroids, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you soak through at least one pad or tampon an hour for more than a few hours, see your doctor. This is the worst health advice gynecologists have ever heard.
The major complication of IVF is the risk of multiple births. This is directly related to the practice of transferring multiple embryos at embryo transfer. Multiple births are related to increased risk of pregnancy loss, obstetrical complications, prematurity, and neonatal morbidity with the potential for long term damage. Strict limits on the number of embryos that may be transferred have been enacted in some countries (e.g. Britain, Belgium) to reduce the risk of high-order multiples (triplets or more), but are not universally followed or accepted. Spontaneous splitting of embryos in the womb after transfer can occur, but this is rare and would lead to identical twins. A double blind, randomised study followed IVF pregnancies that resulted in 73 infants (33 boys and 40 girls) and reported that 8.7% of singleton infants and 54.2% of twins had a birth weight of less than 2,500 grams (5.5 lb).
Assisted hatching. About five to six days after fertilization, an embryo "hatches" from its surrounding membrane (zona pellucida), allowing it to implant into the lining of the uterus. If you're an older woman, or if you have had multiple failed IVF attempts, your doctor might recommend assisted hatching — a technique in which a hole is made in the zona pellucida just before transfer to help the embryo hatch and implant. Assisted hatching is also useful for eggs or embryos that have been previously frozen as the process can harden the zona pellucida.
Problems with the uterus: There are many conditions related to the uterus that can cause secondary infertility. Scarring can occur during a dilation and curettage (D&C) or Cesarean delivery that can create adhesions inside the uterus that interfere with future pregnancies Fibroids or polyps are benign (non-cancer) growths inside the uterus that can impair pregnancy. A retained placenta can cause infection and uterine scarring.
Though there are some risk with older women pregnancies, there are some benefits associated with caesareans. A study has shown that births over 40 have a lower rate of birth trauma due to increased delivery by caesarean. Though caesarean is seen to benefit mothers over 40, there are still many risk factors to consider. Caesarean section may be a risk in the same way that gestational diabetes is.
For five to six days following fertilization, the developing embryos are cultured in the laboratory until the blastocyst stage of development has been reached. This represents growth of about 200 cells. We at RMA culture embryos exclusively to the blastocyst stage, because published data demonstrates that extended embryo culture results in improved implantation rates and pregnancy outcomes. This means we will never do an embryo biopsy – or an embryo transfer – at three days, or anything less than the blastocyst stage.
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.
A body mass index (BMI) over 27 causes a 33% decrease in likelihood to have a live birth after the first cycle of IVF, compared to those with a BMI between 20 and 27. Also, pregnant women who are obese have higher rates of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, hypertension, thromboembolism and problems during delivery, as well as leading to an increased risk of fetal congenital abnormality. Ideal body mass index is 19–30.
Low weight: Obesity is not the only way in which weight can impact fertility. Men who are underweight tend to have lower sperm concentrations than those who are at a normal BMI. For women, being underweight and having extremely low amounts of body fat are associated with ovarian dysfunction and infertility and they have a higher risk for preterm birth. Eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa are also associated with extremely low BMI. Although relatively uncommon, eating disorders can negatively affect menstruation, fertility, and maternal and fetal well-being.
Nowadays, there are several treatments (still in experimentation) related to stem cell therapy. It is a new opportunity, not only for partners with lack of gametes, but also for homosexuals and single people who want to have offspring. Theoretically, with this therapy, we can get artificial gametes in vitro. There are different studies for both women and men.
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): This procedure involves direct injection of a single sperm of the male partner into the eggs of the female for fertilization. Just like IVF procedure, in ICSI, the sperm and egg are collected from both the partners. The only difference is the fertilization process as in IVF the sperms and egg are mixed naturally, and in ICSI the sperms are injected into the egg using a needle.