sperm

Sperm selfies?

Testing for male fertility on your smartphone: Princeton IVF blog

Could your smartphone replace a semen analysis?

At home, iphone and android based sperm test kit

 

Can this device replace a semen analysis with your doctor? Maybe in the future.

Based on research from Harvard University, engineers have developed a new device for an at home "semen analysis." There are already at home sperm test kits available in stores, what is so unique about this one? Simply put, it is the smart phone. This device attaches to and taps the power of your iphone or android device through it's app, to analyze the data and give you a visual display of what the laboratory folks would see under the microscope.

The pros:

  • low cost
  • quick results
  • can be done at home without the awkwardness
  • you get to see what the actual sperm look like

The cons:

  • lacks the details your doctor may need (actual sperm concentration and motility)
  • unable to accurately determine morphology (another important part of the semen analysis)

The idea is a good one.

Reliable, inexpensive testing in a comfortable setting, and a way to determine when it's time to visit the fertility doctor or urologist. The reality is not quite there yet. The information is not quite enough to replace the formal semen analysis at a clinic, but with improvements in the software, it may well be in the future.

Sperm counts are dropping

Sperm counts are declining across the west: Princeton IVF blog

A recent publication suggests that sperm counts may be declining all across the western world

Research suggest sperm quality is going down across the western world.

It is been all over the news lately.  Some in the media have even suggested this may bring our doom as a species. So, what's the real story behind this...


A recent paper published suggests that sperm counts may be declining in Western countries.  


While this is not entirely new, it is a continuation of a trend that has been noted for years.  This there has been a decline in sperm quality noted in the United States and other western nations. The authors compiled studies done over a number of years including:

  • 185 studies
  • over 42,000 men
  • between 1973 and 2011
  • from US, Europe, Australia and New Zealand

Over the 39 years, the sperm concentration dropped 52.4% and the total sperm count went down 59.3%, a hugh decline.

While this is concerning, it raises even more questions:

  • Have the counts really declined or is it just the techniques used to count the sperm?
  • If the counts are going down, is it actually affecting male fertility?
  • Is this a problem in the developing world or just in the west?
  • If this being caused by increasing obesity?
  • Is this being caused by something in the environment?

 

Only time and further research will answer these questions.

Your weight and your fertility

Your weight can affect your fertility: Princeton IVF blog
Being overweight can make it take longer to get pregnant in both men and women.

If either partner is overweight, it can harm your fertility

It has been know for for years that women who are overweight have a lower chance for success for IVF, and most fertility specialists encourage their patients who are overweight, to lose weight if possible, before treatment. So, the next logical questions is this: Does being overweight affect your chances of getting pregnant on your own even if you do not have infertility?

A study by National Institutes of Health (NIH) addressed that particular issue. The study was called the Longitudinal Investigation of Fertility and the Environment (LIFE) Study and they looked at couples who were both normal and with various degrees of being overweight to see how long it took them to conceive, commonly referred to as TTC. They looked about 500 couples from Texas and Michigan  and broke them down into 4 groups, normal weight (BMI 18-25), overweight (BMI 25-25), class I (BMI 30-34.9) and class II (BMI 35 and higher).  

The researchers found that in couples with class II obesity ( BMI > 35), it took 55% more time to conceive, than in normal weight couples.

It means that being significantly overweight not only affects your chances for pregnancy with fertility treatments such as IVF, it also makes it more difficult to conceive on your own.

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.

Caffeine, vitamins and miscarriage

Can caffeine affect your miscarriage risk: Princeton IVF blog
Caffeinated beverages and risk of miscarriage

It may be time to cut back on coffee before pregnancy...

An new study from the National Institutes of Health suggests that the morning pilgrimage to Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or your favorite coffee may not be such a good idea, at least if you or your partner are trying to get pregnant.  In the past, it was thought that small amounts of caffeine intake were not an issue, but researchers have now found that the as little as 2 drinks a day may almost double the risk of a pregnancy ending in miscarriage. Furthermore, this risk was present not just during pregnancy but when a woman drinks caffeinated beverages even several months before conception, and was even true when the male partner consumes caffeinated drinks. The risk of miscarriage was just as high when the male partner used caffeine.

So, does that mean caffeine causes miscarriages?

Not necessarily. The study was small so this could just be a statistical fluke and it is quite possible that people who drink more coffee have other unrelated issues that make them more prone to miscarriage.  Still, prudence would suggest  avoiding caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda are a good idea when planning pregnancy.

But, there is a bright side to the study...Vitamins.

It turns out that women who took multivitamins actually had a lower miscarriage risk, by about 50 %.

Abnormal sperm and healthy babies

The advent of ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) two decades ago has enabled men with very low sperm counts to father children through IVF.  Prior to this, as fertility specialists, we could offer these couples only donor sperm. Despite this "miracle" of modern medicine, one of the lingering concerns was as to whether using sperm from men with very low counts might lead to a more birth defects. Adding to this concern, were some studies suggesting that ICSI or even regular IVF might result in a higher than normal rate of abnormalities. Some good news, however.  A recent study from the NIH suggests that this is not a concern. The researchers found that  couples who conceived with very low sperm counts did not have children with more birth defects.