IVF

Eight million IVF babies

World welcomes the 8 millionth IVF baby: Princeton IVF blog

2018 sees the number of IVF babies top 8 million

IVF is a now a common treatment for infertility

It’s been 40 years since Louise Brown, the first IVF baby, was born in the United Kingdom. At the time, it was both a miracle and controversial. Now in 2018, it has become a common medical procedure, not just in Britain and the US, but around the world. Now we have reached a new milestone.

2018 marks the birth of the 8 millionth IVF baby

So what is IVF all about?

IVF means in vitro fertilization. In vitro literally means in glass. The eggs and sperm are removed from the body, fertilized in a dish (it’s plastic, not glass though) and returned to the womb.

Why has IVF become so common?

Because it works. While IVF is not always successful, it is the only fertility treatment that has higher pregnancy rates than those of normal fertile couples. The technology has improved, and as the developing world has become more prosperous, these technologies have spread outside the US and Western Europe. IVF is now largely accessible to infertile couples worldwide.

Why do IVF instead of other medical procedures?

IVF is not necessarily the first treatment we try. Many patients will conceive with other lower tech ways such as intrauterine insemination or fertility pills and don’t need IVF. Some couples, such as those with damaged fallopian tubes or with very poor quality sperm, cannot conceive without IVF.

Fewer complications in IVF pregnancies?

New research suggests IVF pregnancies could have lower rates of some complications

Surprisingly, some complications might actually be less common in pregnancies that result from assisted reproductive technology such as IVF

This seems to go against what fertility doctors, obgyns and midwives have been telling their patients for years, namely that women with IVF pregnancies are more likely than "regular" pregnancies to experience pregnancy complications.

What complications were actually less common in IVF pregnancies?

A group looking at IVF outcome data submitted through the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that risk of perinatal mortality (the risk of stillbirth or newborn death) in very premature births was lower in women who conceived with IVF than those who did not. They found this to be true with both single births and multiple births (twins triplets, etc.) This informations was recently presented at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Does this mean getting pregnant with IVF is actually safer than getting pregnant on your own?

Probably not. Women who conceived with IVF were less likely to lose a premature baby than those who got pregnant on their own. We have no idea why this is the case. It could be due to more careful prenatal care with IVF pregnancies, or a higher socioeconomic level in couples doing IVF, rather that a results of what is actually going on with the pregnancy. 

Why is this surprising?

There are many studies show a higher rate of complications in pregnancies that result from assisted reproduction such as IVF, and some others that show no effect. It was surprising to find out from such as large database, that at least one serious complication was less common.

Is the traffic outside affecting your chances of having a baby?

Living near a highway and IVF pregnancy rates: Princeton IVF blog
Women who live in high traffic areas are more likely to miscarry

Living in a high traffic area may hurt your chances for success with IVF

Research from Harvard presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine suggests that women with a higher exposure to automotive traffic have lower IVF success rates than other women.

The researchers looked at 660 IVF cycles done over a 14 year period and compared their success rates to  how far they lived from a class A roadway. A class A roadway means an interstate, state or US highway. 

Women who lived more than a kilometer (0.6 miles) from a major roadway were 70% more likely to have a baby than those who lived within 200 meters (about 2 football fields) of a major roadway.

Interestingly, both groups of patients had similar pregnancy rates, but the those who live closed to the highway were more likely to miscarry.

Does this mean moving to a low traffic area will improve your chances  of having a baby?

Not necessarily. It does show what we already know, that the environment we live in and the air we breathe plays a role in reproduction, as it does in other aspects of health.

 

When is it time to give up on IVF?

Couples continue to get pregnant with IVF put 8 cycles.
When is it time to stop IVF: Princeton IVF blog

Any couple who has gone through IVF knows what a rough and wild ride it can be, both physically and emotionally. For that reason, many couples give up on IVF early on, perhaps too early.

Why do women drop out of IVF treatment?

The reasons why women quite IVF are usually financial, when their insurance coverage or access to funds to pay for treatment run out, or emotional, when the thought of going through another cycle and the prospect of all the drugs, office visits and prospect of disappointment becomes overwhelming.

But, what happens to couples who persist and continue to go through IVF treatment cycles?

Fertility doctors in Bristol in the UK, sought to answer that question and what they found was encouraging. In their program, 1/3 of patients conceived on the first IVF cycle. In the next 3 cycles (1-4) the pregnancy rate was about 20% per cycle. While the rates were lower in cycles 5 and 6, they were not zero. Pregnancies continue to happen.

After 6 cycles of IVF, the cumulative pregnancy rate was 68%. In women between 40 and 42, there were successful pregnancies through the 9th cycle.

We've failed a few cycles of IVF. Should we give up?

Only you and your partner can answer that question. IVF tends to be more successful on the first round, but successful pregnancies do continue to happen with repeated attempts, sometimes even when it seems futile.

 

Live birth after uterine transplant

Live birth after uterine transplant: Princeton IVF blog

Doctors at Baylor University deliver the first US baby born following uterine transplantation

A few years back, doctors in Sweden performed the first successful uterine transplant. Several academic fertility centers in the US have tried to replicate this here, and doctors at Baylor announced they were the first to do so.

Why would one want to transplant a uterus?

It is impossible to carry a baby without a uterus, also known as the womb. The early embryo implants itself into the wall the uterus about a week after conception and through the placenta and umbilical cord, its interface to the uterus, the fetus gets all of the nutrients and oxygen it needs to grow and even to survive.

Some women are born without a uterus (such as in the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) syndrome), some have scar tissue in the uterus and others have had their uterus removed (a hysterectomy) for fibroids, cancer or some other reason. While there have been many many cases of ectopic pregnancies, where a pregnancy implants outside the uterus, these pregnancies nearly always need to be terminated early on since they can result on the death of the mother, and almost never results in a live birth of a baby. There is also interest in using a transplanted uterus in transgender women.

Are there alternatives ways to have baby without a uterus?

Currently, there is a very effective way of having a baby without a womb, and it is called Gestational Carrier IVF.  The eggs are harvested from the intended mother, sperm is collected from the intended father, and fertilization is performed in the IVF laboratory. The embryos are grown and transfered into the uterus another woman, referred to as a gestational carrier after her uterus is prepared for pregnancy using hormonal treatments. This can be costly (but much less so than a uterine transplatation), is illegal in some states and most importantly, the pregnancy is carried and delivered by someone else other than the intended mother.

How is a uterine transplant performed?

The uteri used for transplantation can be obtained from living donors or women who have recently passed away and offered their organs up for donation. Using an open incision (laparotomy in medical jingo), the donor uterus is attached the various blood vessels to ensure it has good supply and to attached to nearby structures to hold it in place. It is not attached to the fallopian tube.

How does a woman get pregnant after uterine transplantation?

IVF (in vitro fertilization) is required to achieve pregnancy since without a connection between the tube and uterus, pregnancy would otherwise be impossible. In years past, fertility surgeons, connected fallopian tubes to the uterus, but that operation has been abandoned since it rarely worked. IVF bypasses that problem and offers the best chance for pregnancy.

Are more uterine transplant babies coming?

The doctors at Baylor have another woman pregnant after uterine transplantation and IVF, a few more attempts planned. A number of women undergoing the procedure have not been successful. Other centers are trying this as well, but the costs are so high and it is not covered by insurance, so it not clear how widespread this will become.

Twin sons from another mother: a true story

A gestational carrier with twins finds out one of the twins she was carrying was her own

Surrogate mom gives birth  to twins boys, but one only was from her IVF cycle, the others was her own.

How is that possible?

When a couple uses a gestational carrier (what most people think of a surrogacy), embryos are produced from the eggs from the intended mother and sperm from the intended father. Sometimes the eggs or sperm are from a donor instead. Regardless, the embryos are placed in the womb of the gestational carrier, the woman who will carry the pregnancy and give birth for the intended parents. The carrier will take hormones to help prepare her uterus for pregnancy. This process has been done for years by fertility specialists, is highly successful and despite its complexity usually goes off without a hitch.

Not this time though...

A California woman agreed to be a gestational carrier for another couple. They did a form of IVF and the procedure seemingly went well. The carrier became pregnant and on ultrasound they saw twins.  Since one embryo was transfered, the doctors naturally assumed the twins were identical. The pregnancy went well, the twins were delivered by cesarian section and went to live with the intended parents.

A month later, genetic testing revealed that the twins were not identical, and that the child's genetic parents were actually the gestational carrier and her husband.

How could this happen...

In a process called suprafecundation, a women who is already pregnant, or this case, in the process of becoming pregnant, can ovulate again.

When this happens, a woman who is pregnant would conceive a second pregnancy when she ovulates a month later. So, the second baby would be due a month later than the first. This type of event is exceedingly rare, but it looks like this is happened here, but on a shorter time frame.

 

IVF no longer covered where it all started

IVF-insurance-coverage-in-UK.jpg

The first IVF baby Louise Brown was conceived near Cambridge, England over 3 decades ago...

Now it turns out that National Health Service in Cambridgeshire will no longer cover IVF treatment in the place where it all began.

It is sad but true according the BBC...

The UK with its single payer government health system, like all other health systems, has limited funds and been forced to make a decision on where to cut. In Cambridgeshire, coverage for IVF was one of those cuts even though ivf treatment is recommended by the nhs' own guidelines.

In the United States, where we have a more fragmented system, some states such as New Jersey where we are located, mandate coverage. While the law remains intact and recently was amended to expand the definition of infertility, health care reform laws such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA, Obamacare) has actually reduced the number of women in our state who are covered for fertility treatment. When faced with multiple mandates, employers and insurers are forced to make decisions where to cut to control their premiums.

While there is plenty of talk these days about advocating a single payer government controlled system, it is not clear that such a change will benefit couples with infertility. While some countries with national health care systems do cover IVF and other treatments, it is often the first item on the chopping block when costs are getting out of control. It is certainly the case in Britain.

For those who advocate for the availability of treatment of infertile couples, be careful what you wish for. Increased access to medical care does not necessarily mean increaseD access to fertility care.

A spoonful of sugar may may the medicine go down, but will it harm your chances for pregnancy?

Sugary drinks, articifical sweeteners and fertility: Princeton IVF blog
sugar-drinks-ivf-pregnancy.jpg

Recent studies suggests that sugary drinks, even those with artificial sweeteners may harm the chances for pregnancy.

Although it is far from conclusive, several recent studies suggest that sweet drinks may have an adverse effect of a woman's chance for pregnancy, including...

  • Harvard doctors found that drinking one sugary drink a day can lower the success rate of IVF by 12% and more than one sweet drink a day by 16%

  • Brazilian researchers found that consuming sugary or artificially sweetened drinks reduced embryo quality and the chances for an embryo to implant. interestingly

Interestingly this effect did not occur with unsweetened coffee.

The reason for this is not totally clear, though we know both obesity and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which are both associated with infertility and miscarriage, and associated with changes in how the body handles sugar, can lower the chances for pregnancy.

So, what should I do?

It is a good idea to keep sugary products to a minimum when you are trying to get pregnant, and to minimize artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Equal or Sweet-and-Low. These sugar substitutes may be just as harmful as sugar itself.

Don't panic. Women who use artificial sweeteners and drink sweet drinks still get pregnant all the time, even if the chances are a little lower. There are many factors that go into your fertility, so it is far from clear that consuming these drinks is actually harms your chances for pregnancy.

Ready to give up after IVF? It's not time to give up.

Many couples with unsuccessful IVFs get pregnant on their own
Upto a third of couples who failed to get pregnant with IVF may get pregnant on their own.

IVF treatment can be incredibly stressful, even when it is successful. Imagine how difficult IVF can be when it is not? That is likely why so many couples give up after an unsuccessful IVF cycle.

According to reasearchers in the UK, almost a third of couples who are not successful at IVF and stop treatment will conceive on their own, although that might take up to 2 years.

Surprisingly, many of the couples who did conceive this way were not as thrilled as one might expect. Some couples have moved on in their life situations, and others were felt that maybe they never needed IVF in the first place.

Can having a miscarriage increase your chances of having a baby?

Miscarriage after IVF may mean a better chance for future baby

An unsuccessful IVF cycle can be downright devastating to couples going through fertility treatments, particularly when the cycle results in a miscarriage. Between the guilt, the disappointment and the "if I only had's," many couples leave the experience totally devastated.  But are those concerns really warranted?

Probably not.

Fertility specialists have known for years that women who miscarry, are actually more likely to have a baby, even though most patients are a understandably somewhat skeptical about this.

To look further into this fertility specialists at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland looked at well over 100,000 IVF treatment cycles performed between 1999 and 2008. They were particularly interested in women who had a first cycle at that was unsuccessful, whether that was there was a miscarriage or no pregnancy at all. What they found was not surprising considering what we already know.

Women who had miscarried had a higher 49% chance of livebirth in the subsequent IVF cycle as compared to only a 30.1% chance had the first cycle not resulted in a pregnancy.

So, what does this all mean? 

  • Don't be in a rush to give up. Lots of women conceive on subsequent cycles.
  • Having a miscarriage from IVF, and likely from other treatments, means you are more likely to have a baby, not less likely.

Editing embryos- fiction, science fiction or both?

Designer babies and gene editing: fiction, science fiction or both: Princeton IVF blog
Researchers in Oregon 

A recent report from Oregon describes how researchers edited the genes in a human embryo.

To many of us, myself included, it sounds a bit scary.

An article in the NY times argues that it is huge leap from gene editing to designer babies, since most human traits require the interaction between a number of genes and the environment

There are thousands of what are called single gene mutation disorders that this gene editing technology may be able fix. Examples of this include Cystic Fibrosis, Tay Sachs disease and Sickle Cell Anemia. These types of diseases are due to a single gene mutation which could potentially be repaired using this technology. Many of these disorders can currently be screened for and diagnosed (if anticipated) during the IVF process using Preimplantion Genetic  Diagnosis (PGD)

Picking out your child's height, or athletic or intellectual abilities are another story. Height alone is likely to controlled by tens of thousands of genes, of which less than a thousand have been identified. Even if all of the genetics could be worked out, the task of editing those genes would be enormous.

So, for now at least, designer babies are the stuff of science fiction.

Rhode Island mandates fertility preservation

First state mandates egg freezing insurance coverage: Princeton IVF blog

First state requires fertility preservation coverage from insurers

Egg freezing insurance coverage

What is fertility preservation?

It refers to obtaining, freezing and storing eggs, sperm or embryos for future use. 

Why would one want to preserve fertility?

There are several reasons:

  • If you are undergoing treatment for cancer or other diseases that require treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery which are likely to cause infertility.
  • If you need to defer having a baby but are concerned you may be too old when you are ready
  • If you do not have a partner, are concerned about waiting but not ready to use a sperm donor.

What is the signIficance of the Rhode Island law?

This is the first time in the US that fertility preservation insurance coverage has been mandated by law. A number of states do require treatment for infertility but not necessarily fertility preservation. That could change in the future.

Where can I learn more about the mandate?

Here is a link to the Rhode Island law.

What do I do if I am about to get chemotherapy and want to learn more?

This is a discussion you need to have ASAP with your oncologist and a reproductive medicine specialist. Ideally the process should happen before cancer treatment starts, and your oncologist will want to delay treatment as little as possible. If you are in our area and would like to see us at Princeton IVF, please call at 609-896-4984 or 609-896-0777 to set up an appointment.

 

AMA calls Infertility a disease

AMA agrees Infertility is a diesase: Princeton IVF blog

It's official now. Infertility is now what we know it has been for years, a disease, not a problem or an inconvenience.

At the encouragement of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Medical Association has voted to call infertility a disease.

According to the ASRM, 

Infertility is NOT an inconvenience; it is a disease of the reproductive system that impairs the body's ability to perform the basic function of reproduction.

Now the AMA has accepted this fact.

New Jersey updates Infertility Law

New Jersey fertility coverage mandate expanded: Princeton IVF

Governor Christie signs updated NJ fertility mandate

At least in the past, New Jersey has had among the most generous insurance coverage for infertility treatment in the US. The legal mandate for this, the New Jersey Family Building Act, passed over a decade and a half ago, required NJ employers with certain exemptions, to cover fertility treatment up to and including IUI and IVF.

Unfortunately, changes in the health care system, such the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have affected coverage. Fortunately, New Jersey state employees and most NJ teachers continue to be covered under the mandate. There are some gaps in this coverage, particularly for single women and those in single sex/lesbian relationships.

With an act of the NJ state legislature and the signature of Governor Christie, that has changed. The infertility mandate has been updated to reflect the new ASRM definition of infertility and includes the following:

  • A male is unable to impregnate a female;
  • A female with a male partner and under 35 years of age is unable to conceive after 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse;
  • A female with a male partner and 35 years of age and over is unable to conceive after 6 months of unprotected sexual intercourse;
  • A female without a male partner and under 35 years of age who is unable to conceive after 12 failed attempts of IUI (intrauterine insemination) under medical supervision;
  • A female without a male partner and over 35 years of age who is unable to conceive after 6 failed attempts of IUI under medical supervision;
  • Partners are unable to conceive as a result of involuntary medical sterility;
  • A person is unable to carry a pregnancy to live birth; or
  • A previous determination of infertility pursuant to the law.

This update in coverage becomes effective in August 2017 and only applies to New Jersey state employee and teacher plans.

At Princeton IVF, we participate in the affected New Jersey State Health Benefits Program and School Employees Health Benefits Plan that are affected by these new rules, including NJ Direct  from Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna for NJ state employees.

One millionth IVF baby born in the US

One millionth IVF baby born in US: Princeton IVF blog

In Vitro Fertilization US reaches a new record.

The one millionth IVF baby was born in the United States in 2016

The one millionth IVF baby was born in the United States in 2016

This year, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology announced that the 1 million IVF baby was born in the United States.  IVF has been around for over 30 years, and performed successfully at multiple clinics in the United States and worldwide since then.  Worldwide, there have been millions of babies born from IVF, but limited coverage in the United States has delayed reaching this milestone.

Israeli couple has a live birth after 18 attempts

Couple has baby on 18th attempt at IVF: Princeton IVF blog

When is it time to give up on IVF?

Israeli couple has triplets on 18th attempt at IVF

Most couples give up on In Vitro Fertilization if it fails after a few attempts, but not this Israeli couple.  

While research does show that most couples who do not give up will eventually be successful with IVF, many give up due to some combinations of physical, mental or financial exhaustion. In a testament to determination, an Israeli couple tried a total of 18 IVF cycles. On that final cycle, the Hanans became pregnant delivered triplets at 32 weeks of pregnancy at a hospital near Tel Aviv, Israel.

The man who showed the secrets of human life to the world

Photographer who revealed the origins of life: Princeton IVF blog
Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson pioneering embryo images

This year, someone who revealed the secrets of human reproduction quietly passed away, and you probably never heard of him... 

The Swedish photographer Lennart Nilsson is not exactly a household name, but his photographs adorn the offices of many fertility clinics across the world and his images of human reproduction and early human life are known throughout the world.

Those pictures, such as the one above, were first published in a Life Magazine article in 1965 called “The Drama of Life Before Birth.” and later on in a book entitled “A Child Is Born.” His photos were even shown in the PBS series NOVA, in an episode entitled, "The Odyssey of Life."

Nilsson developed techniques for microphotography that enabled him to produce stunning images of something was at one time invisible, the origins of human life. Today we live in a world where IVF is widely available, images of human embryos, eggs and sperm can downloaded to your phone in seconds and every OBGYN has an ultrasound in his or her office.  These are just things we take for granted.

In 1965, what Nilsson did was truly amazing. He revealed to us a hidden world, and what he shared with the world was even more amazing than fiction, a glimpse of the world that fertility specialists and embryologists see every day.

Dr Derman discusses IVF and Assisted Reproduction with the Princeton Packet

HEALTH MATTERS: Assisted reproductive technologies available

By Seth G. Derman

What is in vitro fertilization with Dr. Seth Derman

 

This article previously appeared in the Princeton Packet  

Infertility – the inability to get pregnant or stay pregnant – is a common problem in the United States, affecting about 10 percent of women of childbearing age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fortunately, many couples can still realize their dream of having a child with the help of assisted reproductive technologies (ART), most commonly in vitro fertilization.

Princeton IVF in Lawrenceville, provides care for couples struggling with infertility and enables many women to deliver happy and healthy babies.

How does IVF work?

When most people talk about ART, they are referring to in vitro fertilization or IVF. IVF has been used for decades to help women get pregnant. In fact, the first IVF baby is now over 30 years old and has a child of her own.

With IVF, eggs are surgically removed from the body, fertilized with sperm and allowed to grow in the laboratory. In vitro literally means “in glass,” as the fertilization and early development happens in a laboratory dish.

Fertilization can occur naturally with the sperm selecting the egg or in cases where there are problems with the sperm, can be assisted with doctors inserting the sperm directly into the egg. After 3-6 days the embryos are inserted directly into the uterus.

While IVF was first developed to help women with missing or damaged fallopian tubes, it is now routinely used to treat infertility caused by many different problems such as sperm problems, endometriosis, unexplained infertility and any other type of infertility that does not respond to more conventional treatments.

Other methods of ART include gamete intra-fallopian tube transfer (GIFT), zygote intra-fallopian tube transfer (ZIFT) and tubal embryo transfer (TET). With these, the embryo is transferred to the fallopian tube through laparoscopic surgery instead of into the uterus, except with GIFT in which the eggs and sperm are inserted into the tube and fertilization occurs inside the body. With ZIFT and TET, fertilization occurs outside the body. These procedures are rarely performed today as their advantages in terms of pregnancy rates have been overcome by modern laboratory technology and improved methods of embryo transfer.

ART also refers to use of donor eggs and gestational carriers, which are variations of IVF.

Who is a candidate for IVF?

The majority of patients who are candidates for ART suffer from tubal problems, sperm problems, unexplained infertility or certain inherited genetic diseases, according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART). Candidates for ART generally have:

  • No evidence of premature menopause
  • At least one accessible ovary, and
  • A normal uterus

Menopause and ovarian function are irrelevant for candidates using donor eggs. SART recommends that all ART candidates should be in good health and have no medical conditions that would pose a serious health risk to themselves or the children they would carry.

How successful is IVF?

Success rates vary and depend on many factors. Some factors that can affect the success rate of ART include the following:

  • Age of the partners
  • Reason for infertility
  • Type of ART
  • If the egg is fresh or frozen
  • If the embryo is fresh or frozen

In addition, the clinic itself can have an impact on success rates, according to the CDC. Princeton IVF's affiliated Laboratory takes advantage of the latest in “clean room technology,” to help improve pregnancy rates.

A specialized ventilation and HVAC system allows for improved air quality, flow and temperature control. Air quality is further enhanced by the use of eco-friendly, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints and building materials. This type of technology can have an enormous impact on embryo quality, survival and clinical outcomes of IVF treatment, research has shown.

What are risks of IVF?

The biggest risk factor associated with ART is multiple fetuses, but that can typically be prevented or minimized in many different ways. Other risk factors include surgical risks from the egg retrieval, side effects of the fertility drugs for mom and risks associated with pregnancy.

And while ART can be expensive and time-consuming, it has enabled many couples to have children that would have otherwise not been conceived.

What is pre-implantation genetic testing?

Pre-implantation genetic testing (PGD) and pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS) can be used following IVF to diagnose genetic diseases prior to implanting the embryo in the uterus. Doctors can test a single cell from the embryo to determine chromosomal abnormalities that, among other things, can lead to miscarriage and birth defects.

Talk with your doctor

If you are one of the millions of couples struggling with infertility, talk with your doctor about ART. For many, it is a promising option that can help couples realize the joy of parenthood.

To learn more about Princeton IVF or to our physician from Princeton HealthCare System, call 609-896-4984 or visit www.princetonivf.com.

   Seth G. Derman, MD, FACOG, is board certified in gynecology and reproductive endocrinology. He is a fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and a member of the medical staff at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

Dr Derman featured in Princeton Packet

Infertility causes and solutions in the Princeton Packet: Princeton IVF blog

YOUR HEALTH: Infertility: causes and solutions

By Stephanie Vaccaro

Dr. Derman talks about the causes and treatments for infertility

This article recently appeared in the Health Matters Column of the Princeton Packet...

   So You Want to Have a Baby?

   Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after engaging in unprotected sex for one year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

   What causes fertility problems?

It can be a number of factors. Dr. Seth Derman of Princeton IVF and Delaware Valley OBGYN, said that approximately 40 percent of the fertility issues he sees are due to male problems, 40 percent are due to female problems, and 20 percent a combination of both partners.

   ”The exact cause of male infertility is a little harder to diagnose because it’s not well understood,” Dr. Derman said. “With female infertility, the most common cause is ovulation problems, which usually show up as irregular cycles. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the most common of these.”

   Fertility problems can be caused by endometriosis. They also can be linked to damage to the fallopian tubes, which can be caused by previous sexually transmitted diseases. This is particularly a problem in women who have had prior Chlamydia infections.

   And sometimes infertility has no identifiable cause.

   What options exist for treatment?

   ”Well, it depends what’s wrong,” Dr. Derman said. “If there’s an ovulation problem, usually the treatment is fairly simple with fertility drugs. These are medications that induce ovulation, such as clomid or letrozole.”

   ”For tubal problems — the treatment is usually surgery or IVF (in vitro fertilization),” Dr. Derman said. “IVF is clearly the most effective treatment for these problems.”

   Oftentimes the most effective option involves treating the female partner. IVF allows for the sperm to be injected directly into the egg, and is the most effective treatment for male infertility. “The poorer the husband’s sperm the more likely the couple will need more invasive treatment such as IVF,” Dr. Derman said.

   A less invasive alternative to IVF is insemination, in which sperm is injected up into the uterus. In contrast, IVF involves fertilization of the egg outside of the body, and the transfer of that embryo into the woman’s womb. It is also much more effective than insemination. When patients have unexplained infertility, insemination is oftentimes done first, and if that doesn’t work then they may try IVF, Dr. Derman said.

   What are the odds of success?

Typical fertile couples have a 20 to 25 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. Infertile couples have a 3 percent chance when trying on their own. IVF increases the odds of having a child to twice what it would be in a fertile couple. Those numbers can vary based on age.

   IVF is very often successful in the first or second cycle, particularly in young women. If it isn’t successful, it’s not unusual for a couple to try three or four times, according to Dr. Derman.

   Who pays for IVF?

In New Jersey, the Family Building Act (August 2001) requires companies with more than 50 employees to cover fertility testing and treatment, including IVF. There are exceptions in the law, and since the passage of healthcare reform, those exceptions have gotten even larger.

   Some of the other treatments can be relatively inexpensive. “For instance, treatment using fertility pills and some monitoring is not terribly expensive,” Dr. Derman said.

   When should you go see a fertility doctor?

   ”Generally, over 35, we recommend coming after six months,” Dr. Derman said. “If they are under 35, one year is the right time.”

   What should you expect when you go see a fertility doctor? When patients go to see Dr. Derman for the first time, the first stage in the process is to try to understand why they are unable to conceive. After getting a detailed history, tests will be ordered, which include testing to make sure their eggs are not running out, to make sure their tubes are open, to make sure the ovulation process is going well and that the sperm is normal. After getting a clearer picture of what is going on, they can better determine the next steps.

   ”Not everybody with infertility needs IVF, even though it is the most effective treatment out there,” Dr. Derman said. “IVF is the last thing that we do, not the first thing.”